Singapore always has a surprise waiting for you

From ‘Tourism video to promote S’pore in Philippines slammed’, 9 April 2014, article by Carolyn Khew, Raul Dancel, ST

A VIDEO to promote Singapore in the Philippines “could have been done better”, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) admitted yesterday, after it was slammed for its “bad script” and “sloppy production”.

The three-minute video features a couple from the Philippines visiting attractions such as Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands. At one stage, the woman gives the man a gift – a pregnancy test kit indicating she is pregnant. The shocked man remarks: “Singapore always had a surprise waiting for me.

…Netizen Evonne Sim criticised the video for its “low-cost production” adding that it felt “so 80s”.

Filipino travel writer Stella Arnaldo said: “I couldn’t get past the ‘Honey! Look!‘. Bad acting turned me off already. The major advertising firms have regional headquarters in Singapore, and STB comes up with this?”

Cheesy, awkward acting has always been the bane of tourism videos, and so are takeaway catchphrases whether it’s ‘Get LOST!‘, or ‘SHIOK’. The problem with STB’s latest Pinoy pitch is that its catchphrase (Honey, Look!) has nothing to do with Singapore, and what we’ll remember it by is not the Supertree Grove or expensive dining in a cable car, but the image of a pregnancy test kit in a box at the twisty shock ending.

Having a baby is a reason to celebrate no doubt, except that this could your last anniversary trip not just to Singapore, but ANYWHERE in the world once Baby is out. I can only imagine mixed emotions in the hubby, though what I saw from his expression was surely nothing but pure ecstasy.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 9

So what we have here is not so much sloppy production or bad dialogue, but a case of excessive ‘storytelling’ and not enough scenes to showcase Singapore, or rather, the REAL Singapore. The Merlion was brutally snubbed in this video and not a single face of a smiling Singaporean was featured. The only food you see here is some atas salmon dish, not satay, durian or chicken rice. And the couple didn’t even look like they were enjoying it, more engrossed with surprising each other than relishing the sights of Singapore from above.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 9.33.22 AM

Singapore: Baked Salmon Paradise

Here’s a uniquely Singaporean tagline for the ad since it sorely needs one. CANNOT MAKE IT LA.

 

 

Netizen Evonne Sim criticised the video for its “low-cost production” adding that it felt “so 80s”.

Filipino travel writer Stella Arnaldo said: “I couldn’t get past the ‘Honey! Look!’. Bad acting turned me off already. The major advertising firms have regional headquarters in Singapore, and STB comes up with this?”

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/top-the-news/story/tourism-video-promote-spore-philippines-slammed-20140409#sthash.TLqi7rPj.dpuf

The advertisement was uploaded to STB’s Facebook page for the Philippines last month. It was also shared on its YouTube channel and featured on TV there. Mr Chong said it was withdrawn because “it was not resonating well with audiences”. – See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/top-the-news/story/tourism-video-promote-spore-philippines-slammed-20140409#sthash.TLqi7rPj.dpuf

A VIDEO to promote Singapore in the Philippines “could have been done better”, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) admitted yesterday, after it was slammed for its “bad script” and “sloppy production”.

The three-minute video features a couple from the Philippines visiting attractions such as Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands.

At one stage, the woman gives the man a gift – a pregnancy test kit indicating she is pregnant. The shocked man remarks: “Singapore always had a surprise waiting for me.”

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/top-the-news/story/tourism-video-promote-spore-philippines-slammed-20140409#sthash.TLqi7rPj.dpuf

A VIDEO to promote Singapore in the Philippines “could have been done better”, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) admitted yesterday, after it was slammed for its “bad script” and “sloppy production”.

The three-minute video features a couple from the Philippines visiting attractions such as Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands.

At one stage, the woman gives the man a gift – a pregnancy test kit indicating she is pregnant. The shocked man remarks: “Singapore always had a surprise waiting for me.”

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/top-the-news/story/tourism-video-promote-spore-philippines-slammed-20140409#sthash.TLqi7rPj.dpuf

Tourism video to promote S’pore in Philippines slammed

STB admits ad could be better after netizens call it ‘bad’ and ‘sloppy’

Published on Apr 9, 2014
 0  0

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/top-the-news/story/tourism-video-promote-spore-philippines-slammed-20140409#sthash.TLqi7rPj.dpuf

Tourism video to promote S’pore in Philippines slammed

STB admits ad could be better after netizens call it ‘bad’ and ‘sloppy’

Published on Apr 9, 2014
 0  0

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/top-the-news/story/tourism-video-promote-spore-philippines-slammed-20140409#sthash.TLqi7rPj.dpuf

Tourism video to promote S’pore in Philippines slammed

STB admits ad could be better after netizens call it ‘bad’ and ‘sloppy’

Published on Apr 9, 2014
 0  0

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/top-the-news/story/tourism-video-promote-spore-philippines-slammed-20140409#sthash.TLqi7rPj.dpuf

Tourism video to promote S’pore in Philippines slammed

STB admits ad could be better after netizens call it ‘bad’ and ‘sloppy’

Published on Apr 9, 2014
 0  0

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/top-the-news/story/tourism-video-promote-spore-philippines-slammed-20140409#sthash.TLqi7rPj.dpuf

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LKY on death and mediocrity

From ‘Singapore’s Lee says he wants a quick death’, 7 Aug 2013, AFP article in insing

Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, who will turn 90 next month, said in a new book published Tuesday that he feels weaker by the day and wants a quick death.

“Some time back, I had an Advanced Medical Directive (AMD) done which says that if I have to be fed by a tube, and it is unlikely that I would ever be able to recover and walk about, my doctors are to remove the tube and allow me to make a quick exit,” he wrote in the book “One Man’s View of the World”.

…”There is an end to everything and I want mine to come as quickly and painlessly as possible, not with me incapacitated, half in coma in bed and with a tube going into my nostrils and down to my stomach,” he wrote.

…Singapore’s low birth rate has forced the government to open the country to foreigners, who now comprise a third of the population. The influx, however, has sparked protests from citizens and prompted the government to tighten immigration flows in recent years.

Lee pointed to the example of Japan, which he said is on a “stroll into mediocrity” as the ranks of its elderly swell due to young couples not producing enough babies.

Well, I suppose everybody desires a quick and painless death, including founding fathers, though for LKY he may choose to succumb to it only if he’s willing to let go of his baby, our Singapore. In 1988, he famously declared at the National Day Rally that:

Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up.

A quote that has often been misinterpreted as LKY RISING from the grave. Like a zombie. Our ex MM has been the victim of a couple of hoax deaths himself, none of which imply a ‘quick and painless’ one as he so desires, though some opponents would wish him the exact opposite.

Today, he appears to want to spend as little time on a ‘sick bed’ as far as possible. To LKY, death is, in other words, Retirement and playing Scrabble, while most of us look forward to the end of work as a reason to rejoice, to LIVE. In 2008 after suffering from an atrial flutter, he said that he would not live beyond 94 as his father did, and attributed longevity to his parents’ genes in addition to an abstemious lifestyle of repetitive exercise and spartan eating, a routine some would deem to be worse than death itself.

Despite his intolerance for mediocrity like one’s revulsion of the plague, there’s every possibility that LKY’s inevitable demise will be as ‘mediocre’ as the rest of humanity. In 1976, he set out his criteria on Government job candidates:

…I don’t defend rudeness. I don’t defend arrogance. I don’t defend mediocrity. I don’t defend the desire to do the minimum and get by.

In 2007, he even used mediocrity to justify why First World Nordic countries like FInland and Denmark paid their ministers less than those in Singapore.

…He (Low Thia Khiang) has compared Singapore as if it were Denmark, Finland or Switzerland. Their systems and governments never produced the kind of transformation that we have, and their system and government have a broader base and can afford a mediocre government.

So much for this medicore ‘Swiss standard of living’ then. Naturally you would have Scandinavians retorting to LKY’s remark with the ‘Nokia’ argument.

He kept up the defence of his stance of only having the best in 2008, when he said:

If they (Government) do not find talented people with the drive, energy, integrity and passion, then the future is in doubt. The system cannot cope with inadequate, mediocre men. You need top men, able men.

Alas, you can’t have a functioning society without mediocre people taking up mediocre work to serve the cream of the crop. To us it’s a ‘normal’, even ‘average’, day job, be it operating cranes or running a hawker stall. To LKY, mediocrity is a euphemism for physical and intellectual laziness. From the way he describes Japan’s ‘elderly swell’ like a fetid tumour, it appears he has little faith in the ‘silver economy’ as well.

Mediocrity may also be defined as being nothing ‘out of the ordinary’, so if Japan is ‘strolling towards mediocrity’, then Singapore, if she continues with the same system of government, policies, education, housing and arcane laws,  is steadily ‘brisk-walking’ towards it.  A template city with a makeshift citizen core that has lost its soul, a mediocre shell of what it aspires to be, that even she herself would commit seppuku just to get it over and done with.

It’s unlikely that ‘One Man’s View’ will be the elder statesman’s swansong and he may be waiting out for that ultimate autobiography of autobiographies to deliver his final chapter on himself, on Singapore. If he’s right about the 94 year deadline, then that last book, a potential record-breaking blockbuster (especially if unfinished), will be 4 years in the making. Fifty Shades of Lee, perhaps?

Abortion destroys families and the nation

From ‘Abortion destroys nation building’, 2 April 2013, Voices, Today

(Edmund Leong Meng Tsi): It is indeed “Time again to review abortion laws” (April 1), considering the long-term emotional harm on post-abortive women. Some of them are adversely affected and are easier to identify, as they suffer visibly. Much is known about the treatments for them.

Literature on abortion suggests that “unaffected” women harden their hearts instead. Cognitive dissonance hinders their ability to love properly because they had denied love to their closest kin through abortion, and yet must continue to extend love and show compassion to others throughout their lives.

They feared a tiny human so much as to eliminate it, and will subconsciously guard against bigger humans by building walls around their hearts. I believe that when the heart of the family is compromised, the entire family is affected. Emotional strains can tear families apart, and the effects can be passed to future generations.

Singapore’s nation-building efforts are inadvertently being foiled not only because 12,000 babies are aborted annually, but because women are offered an easy way out of adversity.

Abortion is biased towards self-interest by eliminating another’s interest, thereby destroying families and the nation. We must instead utilise all means to keep babies and their mothers alive, physically and emotionally. Adoption is the better choice.

The issue of legalised abortion has been fought over by pro-lifers, pro-choicers, feminists, religious folks, moral philosophers, doctors and politicians for ages, and we will probably never understand enough about the human consciousness or even what ‘life’ means to come to a consensus on the ‘rights and wrongs’ of terminating a ‘potential’ human being. So instead people focus on abortion as a matter of disrupting the natural order of how society traditionally grows. Even more so now that we’re facing a dearth of babies and on surface it would seem logical to assume that one unaborted baby equals to +1 population. If only it were that simple.

In the eighties, loss of babies who could be borne of educated couples was deemed a shame and a loss of productive citizenry. A writer known only as PGT lamented the loss of ‘educated genes’ which would have given rise to ‘smarter babies’. Husbands whose wives went for revenge abortions decried them for ‘the break up of an otherwise happy marriage and family relationship’. Our ‘over-liberal’ abortion laws would also supposedly encourage more people to ‘change bed-partners without any sense of responsibility’. The fact is we have been promiscuous and having unwanted babies way before surgical abortion even existed. The difference is being skewered with a blade on an operating theatre vs drinking some awful tasting folk remedy concocted by your witch-doctor that would scramble your foetus into a bloody pulp before you shed its mushy corpse out through your genitalia. Even today, you’d find dead or barely alive infants in toilets, rubbish chutes or buried in the ground. We always had a means of killing the unborn if we wanted to, with varying success, but nations didn’t get ‘destroyed’ and families still thrived.

If one could ‘destroy’ a nation by depriving it of babies and have abortion turning us all into promiscuous devil-may-care lunatics who scrimp on condoms, neither is it a good idea to have children borne out of mothers who wanted them eliminated out of their uteri in the first place. The simplistic answer to unloved babies would be adoption, but that’s assuming every rejected baby will automatically be shuffled away from a ‘hardened’, emotionless mother and nurtured in a warm, loving home where stepparents make them Eggs Benedict for breakfast everyday.

There are as many complications of reluctant birth as there are to terminating pregnancies. What if no one wants your baby? If your chronically depressed mother told you she had wanted to abort you but was forced to relent at the last minute, and she couldn’t find anyone to take over maternal duties because you were such an ugly infant with all sorts of respiratory problems, how would that make you feel? Even if you found yourself a home, what if your foster parents, though initially enthusiastic about the whole adoption thing, turn out to be really terrible people who wish they had picked someone else from the orphanage? What if you found out that you were conceived after your mother was gang-raped and she couldn’t bear to put you down? Neither choice is, as the writer proclaimed, an ‘easy way out of adversity’, nor do women who face the abortion dilemma necessarily FEAR that tiny human like it was the devil’s spawn. Tell that to the rape victim, the single unemployed mom with quintuplet foetuses, or the mother who realises her baby’s got a monstrous physical defect or severe Down’s syndrome.

We can do little about sex-starved teenagers and religious attitudes towards contraception, but it’ll take more than a nasty pre-abortion video, or haranguing anti-abortionist men who speak about post-abortion psyche as if they’ve been through it themselves, to keep the deaths of the unborn in check.

Work-life balance a slogan with little reality

From ‘Work-life balance: A reality check’, 13 Sept 2012, Voices, Today

(Shafie Halim): We need to turn over every stone to create a conducive environment for procreation. In our fast-paced society, it takes more than dangling baby bonuses, housing carrots, maternity and paternity leave for couples to start a family.

Typically, Singaporeans work more than 44 hours a week, a benchmark set during Singapore’s industrialisation, when factory production lines were emerging and much of the workflow was manual. This has not been reviewed for almost 30 years. Today, many work processes are no longer tied to the number of hours spent at the desk.

Yet, many companies still have a 5.5-day work week. In some developed countries, it is 40 working hours or fewer a week, which makes us appear like an ancient civilisation. At present, work-life balance is a slogan with little reality. Flexible working hours should not be misconstrued as a contribution to work-life balance, as the hours clocked remain status quo.

While ‘ancient civilisations’ did spend more time physically toiling in a day than what we do in the office for an entire WEEK, most of their activities that we no longer define as ‘work’ revolved around finding food, shelter, or harvesting stuff. The rest of it is waiting, sleeping, singing, dancing, killing or having sex with each other. Our ancestors could afford to be poets, bards, monks, barbarians, nomads or the guy who goes around town shouting the latest gossip or putting out the street lamps. Before the invention of the light bulb, they could do nothing at night other than huddling around the fire, creating their own god-stories, mending loincloths, swatting flies, making babies, or training their children to become savage warlords. Some of us aren’t ashamed to ‘work around the clock’, our phones on 24 hours waiting for business or for the boss to text at 3 am in the morning. In a way, with their nasty, brutish, short lives, they achieved more ‘work-life balance’ than any of us will ever have, if you define ‘life’ in Old World terms, which is mostly staying alive and breeding. With all our technology, relative free time and longevity, we’re still having trouble with the latter.

No developed nation is willing to forsake that insatiable drive, that contagious work ethic that has become a First World addiction, for some touchy-feely concept like ‘work-life balance’, which takes the fire out of the ‘striving’ to get where we are today. It’s as distant from reality as a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, the happy ending of a cannibalistic Grimm fairy tale, there only to give the warm and cuddly illusion that organisations actually treat their workers as human beings rather than cogs in a machine, like wardens giving prisoners a whiff of freshly brewed coffee in the morning, while they line up waiting to be dispensed a glob of liquid tar in their mugs instead.

‘Busyness’ is a badge of honour. To appear hurried and drained is a peacock’s display of passion and enthusiasm. People stack their files like gladiators showing off battle scars. We vie to be the office ‘workhorse’ and organisations can’t help but reward ‘workaholic’ attitudes. No testimonial of an ‘employee of the month’ is complete without the recipient ‘going beyond’ his scope of work, ‘going the extra mile’,  or ‘working even when he had SARS’. We fight tooth and nail for such awards so that we can use these to move on up to the next better job, where we’ll subject ourselves to the same, unyielding, masochistic pleasure of HARD work again. In our job interviews everyone has an anecdote about how they put in long, severe hours to get a project done. You’re not likely to beat the workaholic to the job if you rave about your appreciation of  ‘work-life balance’ to your future employer. Most employers only ask about your family out of courtesy, or slyly assess the likelihood of you going on maternity/paternity leave, not to sit entranced by how fulfilling and invigorating your Sunday family picnics are.

We’ve been slogging so long and hard that taking a day off just to ‘do nothing’ elicits yelps of fake envy from your colleagues, when deep down inside they console themselves knowing that they’ve done more in one day than you. But it seems that we have been grumbling about the 44-hour work week for decades. In the eighties, you already hardly had time for the ‘finer things in life’, like music, painting, or even PRAYING. We realised that we’re all working ourselves to death but calming this fever didn’t mean taking LESS hours of work, but rather people telling us HOW to do it better without sacrificing the 44 hour metronome. S Dhanablan told us how to work ‘smarter’, and  5 day work weeks were the stuff of office-drone wet dreams. In the nineties, ‘flexible’ working hours was all the rage, and we started to recognise the importance of a ‘parent-friendly’ workplace. In 2002 came scintillating buzzwords like ‘flexi-hours’, ‘flexi-place’, ‘family friendly’ and the Gaia-like ‘work-life HARMONY’. It’s also sadly ironic that to in order to achieve that ‘harmony’, the MCDS had to create ‘WORK’ groups to look into it, calling its main arm the ‘Work Life Unit’. I’d imagine these people as cherubs who play harps all day long.

To sugarcoat a ’24 hour economy’ with bits and pieces of soothing catchphrases is like sticking smiley faces on a charging bull. We can’t change our attitudes overnight, when working the late shift, burning midnight oil, being ‘too busy to eat’ are among other neurotic habits that our workers are compelled to engage in to feel relevant and on par with their peers. Where management sees effort as a compensating factor for innovation, skill, expertise or even intelligence. Where ‘giving it your all’ feeds that gaping chasm in your soul with the nourishing milk of temporary achievement. You might say you can ‘do no wrong’ working yourself to death. The least you could be is a ‘solid worker’. And for some, that says a lot. Work is a 4 letter word, but like the OTHER 4 letter word, we can’t get enough of it. So it’s not so much unturning stones anymore, as it is pushing a boulder up a hill like Sisyphus, only for it to roll back down to square one again.

Malay men more romantic than Chinese men

From ‘Do Malay husbands know something that Chinese husbands don’t?’, 15 Aug 2012, ST Forum

(Ivan Goh): THE total fertility rate of Malay Singaporeans last year was 1.64, followed by Indian Singaporeans at 1.09 and Chinese Singaporeans at 1.08 (“Get married, have babies”; Sunday).

Most incentives – maternity leave, maid levies and discounted taxes – are aimed at women, and may be working better for the Malays than for the Chinese. Perhaps the Government should find out why Malay women are more willing to have babies.

Are Malay men more romantic, persuasive and less stressed out by life’s perceived demands than Chinese men? Do Malay couples have a more viable network of caregivers?

I would like to believe that a man with confidence is attractive to women. He can better influence his wife to have more babies, especially if he believes he can adequately provide for the family. How can Chinese Singaporean men attain more confidence? In this modern age, the ability to provide translates into how much a man earns and his job security.

Greater confidence may well encourage Singaporean men to take the plunge earlier, and increase the potential for having babies sooner.

The statistics speak for itself and few have dared to ask why the Chinese are lagging behind our Muslim community, until the writer decided to broach a sensitive topic that has always been muddied by almost-taboo factors such as educational level, genes, status, religion, culture, diet and libido. There are exceptions in both races of course, with Chinese families who produce up to quadruple the national fertility average, and Malay families who stick to one child or none at all, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why Malay families are, on average, bigger than Chinese ones without stumbling into some form of stereotyping and risk accusations of racism. By saying that Malay couples have ‘more free time and are less stressed’ is insinuating that they don’t ‘work as hard’. By saying that they’re ‘persuasive’ is suggesting that Malay men are born sex machines. Such arguments are loaded with negative, unhelpful connotations and without a thorough, nationwide sex survey on the habits and appetites of the typical Chinese or Malay spouse, it’s all guesswork for now. I’m pretty doubtful, though, whether the writer’s claim of the Chinese man being less adept in the skills of seduction has anything to do with our miserable TFR. In this age of reproductive technology, you can father a child as long as you can afford it, even without bothering to pleasure your wife at all. There’s also an inherent contradiction in correlating confidence with earning power and hence more babies. Surely if a man spends most of his time making money, he’d have less for the Mrs, or children.  Or he would apply his gleaming confidence and hence sex appeal anywhere else other than at home and put their entire family unit at risk.

It’s also reasonable to ask if Chinese women place more emphasis on their careers hence put off childbearing compared to Malay women, rather than whether Malay men are Lotharios and Casanovas compared to the Pee Wee Herman Chinese. A husband can sweet serenade his wife all night long but will still fail if she’s not in the mood. Maybe it’s not Chinese men who are not ‘confident’ enough, but their women who are too ‘gung-ho’ when it comes to chasing their careers, to the point that sex becomes a 2 minute formality or non-existent and babies are pushed to the bottom of the ‘to-do’ list. Maybe it’s nothing at all to do with how career-minded Chinese couples are, but a case of poor time management. Maybe being a housewife and marrying early is more socially acceptable to a Muslim family than a Chinese one. Maybe people bring more babies into the world because they were born into big fertile families themselves, with the ‘extended family network’ being an incentive for raising a child, along with the passing down of ‘baby-making’ genes, which pretty much condemns the fate of traditionally small Chinese families to a self-limiting vicious cycle.

No one would profess to have the answer and maybe no one wants to know what it is because anything that you hypothesise is bound to be discriminatory in some way or other, but picking on the Chinese male’s personality flaw is probing the bark of a tree without seeing the forest.

LKY and the ‘folding up’ of Singapore

From ‘Get married, have babies’, 12 Aug 2012, article by Leonard Lim, Sunday Times

…In his annual National Day dinner speech to residents of Tanjong Pagar GRC and Tiong Bahru, Mr Lee kept his message on population simple: The country’s citizens are not reproducing enough, and migrants are needed as a temporary solution. But in the long run, mindsets must change, and the trend of declining birth rates needs to be reversed.

“If we go on like that, this place will fold up because there will be no original citizens left to form the majority,” he said. And we cannot have new citizens, new PRs settle our social ethos, our social spirit, our social norms.

“So, my message is a simple one. The answer is very difficult, but the problems, if we don’t find the answers, are enormous.”

Oh boy are we in trouble. According to the CIA Factbook, we are down in the doldrums in terms of total fertility rate at a miserable 0.78, which is way below the minimum number to replace ourselves. But what’s interesting about LKY’s exhortations to procreate is not what’s being said, but what’s NOT. For example, he did not say that educated women with pHDs should get boyfriends and settle down. He also did not specifically urge the Chinese to pick up the slack. What can only be inferred, from how he social-engineered the Singapore population experiment over the years and from the number of PRCs working here, is that it’s the faltering Chinese Singaporeans that he’s really concerned about.

Racial composition is rarely mentioned these days, but it seems that the old man built this nation using his own golden ratio of how each ethnicity should make up the population, even if it meant staunching its growth at certain critical periods in Singapore’s history, and to see his formula for success fail in the face of ‘personal choice’ is like God stomping his feet because his creatures are not sucking on the sweet nectar of the fruits that he created for them. I would feel the same way if I’m playing Simcity and my little people refuse to reproduce themselves. Anyone would be tempted to push the reset button rather than see your piece of work destroy itself. You get the feeling that LKY’s lament is more an emotional one than one that involves deep, probing reflection or acceptance of the fact that where we are now is the result of an abject failure of balancing First World ambitions with First World problems. We are having it faster, stronger, better but weaning ourselves off the face of this earth while at it, like tireless, naive male spiders trying to get it on with the Black Widow of progress.

The last time LKY mentioned ‘racial balance’ was in relation to the SAF and the tenuousness of our position in the region in terms of defence.

‘If we continue this way without the new immigrants and PRs and their children doing national service, the composition of our SAF will change. So please remember that…..It is in Singapore’s interest to have immigrants who can be integrated without upsetting the racial balance.

In response to the influx of Hongkongers in the eighties, he expressed a resolute fondness for the ‘status quo’:

Let us just maintain the status quo. And we have to maintain it or there will be a shift in the economy, both the economic performance and the political backdrop which makes that economic performance possible…..You look at the educational levels of the performers. It has got to do with culture, nature and so many other factors. But year after year this is the end result. Let’s leave well alone. The formula has worked. Keep it.

‘Nature’, of course, is a euphemism for RACE. A UMNO MP did not mince his words when taking the cue from LKY regarding the fate of the Malay majority in Malaysia, saying that LKY’s coercions were to ‘strengthen the dominance of the Chinese on the island’. When you mention ‘racial mix’ and optimal ‘performance’ in the same breath, it becomes quite obvious that you’re hinting that a certain group is driving the success of the country, though that looks set to change at the rate we’re welcoming Caucasian billionaires with open arms, not to mention plying foreign income off our two casinos. LKY wouldn’t want to mess up the HDB ethnic quota too. The Ethnic Integration Policy, by capping the proportion of races in housing estates, was intended to ‘maintain a healthy racial mix’, without specifying what an ‘unhealthy’ composition is. In 20 years when our homegrown population will presumably halve in size, the EIP and its secret ratios will need some revisions as well. I mean, you don’t want your neighbours rioting and burning the flat to the ground over curry smells would you.

We have no data on the proportion of races among Singaporeans renouncing their citizenship, erstwhile pretending that emigration doesn’t exist. If making couples have sex more often is an insurmountable hurdle, how about trying to figure out what’s making Singaporeans want to LEAVE? It’s likely that the answer would partially explain our reluctance to have children. Chan Chun Sing and the MSF have their work cut out for them, and if he’s serious about pushing our TFR up, perhaps he should come clean with the numbers, examine the reasons why people abandon their Home, and let us all know of the gravity of the situation, instead of hiding painful facts from Singaporeans like sweeping broken glass under the carpet. If all else fails, be wary when our NEWwater starts tasting funny and you feel tingly sensations in all the wrong places after drinking it.

But it’s not just a freak census that LKY’s terrified of. It’s the PM’s position and PAP leadership itself. In 1988, LKY remarked that Singapore ‘was not ready’ for an Indian Prime Minister, that he would have considered S Dhanabalan if not for his ‘Indian ethnicity’. Our cabinet still holds a majority of Chinese ministers, and remains a reflection of the ground demographics. So when it looks like that precious ‘formula’ is on the brink of shattering and LKY’s worst nightmares are on the verge of coming true (though he probably wouldn’t live long enough to witness it), we have an ENORMOUS problem on our hands, and it’s not just a matter of the EXTINCTION of the Singaporean, but the fall of a NATION, when the house that is our little red dot is no longer a home. In the spirit of the business parlance used by LKY, Singapore Inc may have to ‘close shop’ if nothing is done. And it takes more than a cheeky Mentos ad  (National night, hip hop or hip flop?) and a Ministry playing the role of Love Guru to do it.

Toddlers in ‘preparatory’ classes

From ‘First to prep classes, then to Pri 1′, 29 April 2012, article by Jane Ng, Sunday Times

For some parents, kindergarten is not enough to get their children ready for primary school. They are enrolling their six-year-olds in special ‘preparatory classes’ that claim to give children a head start for going to Primary 1.

So on top of attending kindergarten classes five days a week, the six-year-olds attend English, mathematics and mother tongue classes once or twice a week. Parents are forking out $100 to $275 a month for these so-called enrichment classes provided by private centres.

Popular centres like Berries, Learning Lab and Learning Point have waiting lists of up to a year for these weekend classes. Given the growing demand, other schools, like Young Champs Eduland, have jumped on the bandwagon. Another, Enfant Educare, has nine of these programmes for everything from phonics to abacus and hanyu pinyin.

‘Enfants’, not infants

Prep class is basically TUITION for toddlers, and ‘giving a head start’ is being KIASU. It’s OK, we’re Singaporeans, no need to pussyfoot around terms like ‘enrichment’, when all this is really an arms race among parents pitting their kids against each other to the death, sometimes literally.  Tuition for pre-schoolers is almost a half-century old practice, or rather RITUAL. In other societies kids have to endure genital mutilation without anaesthetic or engage in bloody combat with the neighbours to earn their place. Here, parents chuck them into pre-school and pre-pre schools, supplementing with weekend/holiday tuition or cram school under the benevolent guise of ‘enrichment’. It also helps if you have a French name (Petite Papillon), sound like a fashion brand (Julia Gabriel) an Italian restaurant (Montesorri), or a haunted house (House on a Hill).    These are no longer ‘nurseries’; one centre even calls itself ‘Little Uni’ , making no pretense at all that they’re really gearing up children for the long and winding educational superhighway. The greatest trick these businesses have pulled  is convincing parents that children actually enjoy attending these things, rather than, you know, SLEEPING or playing with/eating sand at the beach.

Some centres, like Del Care Edu Centre, even provide lessons for 2 to 18 MONTH old BABIES. Which means we have children among us who recognise flashcards before their own uncles’ faces. Did I say ‘children’? I meant zombies brain-harvested to battle it out in primary school who can speak Japanese and French before crafting a proper Knock-Knock joke, or even walk. Before you know it, our kids would have evolved with brains bigger than their gastrointestinal systems and instead of ‘playing’ with them you are compelled to engage in a lively dialogue about phonics. No more trading goos and ga’s, funny faces or catching ball anymore. ‘Play’ has to be ‘purposeful’, ‘sensorial’ and ‘exploratory’ and they have to ‘self-discover’ or ‘self-actualise’ while at it. They no longer just read or write or doodle, but must nurture ‘creative thinking’. Nothing so useless as a tickle should deter a child from ‘achieving their fullest potential’. It’s politically incorrect to call your boy a ‘little monster’, he’s just ‘over-expressing his self-worth’. What these centres have successfully done is turn the wild manic beast that is childhood into a lab rat with electrodes and meters strapped to its brain. Which explains The Learning ‘Lab’, though another has the audacity to call itself the ‘Playground Preschool’, both an insult  to actual playgrounds and an oxymoron too. You probably have to do mental sums while going down the slide, or discuss Newton’s Law of Motion on the see-saws. In the Little Gym, parent-bonding physical activities are outsourced to the professionals, where you have pay a fee just to let your baby ‘tumble’.

Thank god we still have pets for what’s left of the fun things in life. With all the spatial skills and street smarts sapped in exchange for preparatory ‘knowledge’ and ‘grooming’, I’ll be amazed if our kids today can even pass a marble through a hoop, or even tell their parents apart from PRC kidnappers for that matter. I wonder just how ‘prepared’ these kids are for the REAL world, where you have this thing called PEOPLE to deal with; bullies, bosses, customers, friends, family, strangers etc, not just caged up kids grilled in the latest scientific educational methods. Just browsing through the various ‘philosophies’ of these centres reveals an unsettling trend, the premature quest to turn our kids into tiny, confident adults, all this in the constraints of a controlled facility which purveyors of patented techniques and ‘programs’ like to call a ‘creative environment’. Mandarin educators Berries refer to kids as ‘the most important people in the world’. Young Champs Eduland submits their clients to ‘leadership training, complete with character building skills to create individuals with a difference’. You see the same objectives for adult business courses. Why are these parents in such a hurry to see their babies turn into typical rat-racers, and why are these tuition centres inflating the child’s ego to the moon, fostering a sense of bloated entitlement that they are natural born champions, leaders or abacus wizards? Our kids want to be astronauts, pilots and ninjas, not business negotiators or politicians. Let them live already, just for once.

PM Lee wants more Dragon babies

From PM Lee: Singapore’s fertility rate up last year, 22 Jan 2012, article by Judith Tan/Lydia Lim, Sunday Times

Singapore’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) picked up slightly last year to 1.20, up from a historic low of 1.15 in 2010. The Prime Minister announced the figure on Saturday in his Chinese New Year message, which focused on the central role of families as anchors for identity and sense of belonging, and sources of support in good times and bad.

Mr Lee Hsien Loong also said: ‘I fervently hope that this year will be a big Dragon year for babies.‘ Historically, Singapore enjoys a baby boom every Dragon year, which comes round every 12 years.

…Singapore’s TFR has been on a downward trend and is way below the replacement level of 2.1. It fell from 1.60 in 2000 to 1.20 last year, despite government measures to encourage couples to have more children. The TFR for Chinese Singaporeans is lower, falling from 1.43 to 1.08 over the same period.

Whether there’s a spike in Dragon babies born or not, the general trend is a fertility decline. 1988, two Dragon Years ago, saw a  high of 1.98, a figure that seems unattainable now unless someone flushes our reservoirs with  fertility drugs. Baby booms alone, of course, will not guarantee population growth over time, no matter how many baby-friendly packages are promised by the PM every CNY. It was recently revealed that an average 1000 Singaporeans pack their bags for greener pastures EVERY YEAR. Making Singapore family-friendly isn’t enough, you need to make baby-boomers happy enough to want to stay, or at least not kill themselves. Which means a total revamp of the educational, labour, political and leisure scene to keep citizens stimulated and proud to be Singaporean, not just expanding maternity wards or building more kindergartens.

Lee Kuan Yew kickstarted the CNY baby wish-list in the 80′s after the Dragon boom in 1988.  While encouraging couples to ignore the Zodiac, he also refuted the long-held belief that the Dragon year was auspicious for China’s Chinese at all, citing the great Tangshan earthquake in the last dragon year in 1976.

We should not decide the birth of our children by animal years. Have your babies in any year, including the Snake Year.

And if that year has less babies than Dragon Year, there will be the advantage of more places in good schools and at universities.

The latter statement was a catch that his son refused to elaborate on 24 years later, just as I suspected. But that was 1988, and even though we were just below the 2.1 replacement mark then, we could afford to temper the Dragon craze with a healthy  dose of reality.

Here’s a sample of PM’s baby urgings during CNY speeches over the years, and whether what he wished for actually came true.

2011 (Rabbit), Lee Hsien Loong, TFR increased by 0.05 to 1.20 :

I hope more couples will start or add to their families in the Year of the Rabbit. Chinese New Year is the time for families to come together in celebration, and more babies can mean only more joy in the years to come.

2010 (Tiger), Lee Hsien Loong, TFR dropped from 1.23 to 1.15:

It is one thing to encourage ourselves with the traditional attributes of the zodiac animals…But it is another to cling on to superstitions against children born in the Year of the Tiger, who are really no different from children born under other animal signs.

2009 (Ox), Lee Hsien Loong, TFR dropped from 1.28 to 1.23 (Official stats cite the latter TFR as 1.22)

Even in hard times, we should not neglect the need to bring up a new generation. If you remember, every time there was a recession, birth rates went down. But I hope this time we can buck the trend and keep the birth rate steady. We have implemented many measures to encourage marriage and help you in supporting and bringing up your children. There is also a lag time in procreation, so with luck your babies will arrive in time to enjoy the upswing.

2008(Rat), Lee Hsien Loong, TFR dropped from 1.29 to 1.28.

The government is studying the practical arrangements carefully, to see how we can create an even friendlier environment for having and raising children. We want Singapore to be a great place to bring up families and children.

Looking at his track record since 2008, it’s either PM Lee’s mild exhortations are falling on deaf ears, or the family initiatives are simply not working. To sum up, here’s the TFR trend since 2004:

1.24 (2004), 1.25 (2005), 1.26 (2006),  1.29 (2007), 1.28 (2008), 1.22 (2009), 1.15 (2010), 1.20 (2011)

Which suggests a slow positive creep of TFR up to the point of 2007-2008, when the recession hit, followed by a Tiger year double-whammy barely 2 years later. Meanwhile, the media continues to bombard us with fascinating who’s-who trivia of Dragon personalities, from Li Ka-Shing to Keanu Reeves, when they should have done the same for the Tiger year instead of perpetuating the bossy Tiger female stereotype. But is it truly a race effect? Let’s break it down.

In the 2010 Tiger year, the Chinese TFR hit 1.02, the Malays dipped rather dramatically to  1.65, while the Indians held steady at 1.13. Which means there was nothing special about the drop among the Chinese in 2009-2010 compared to the previous year ( a rate of -0.06); something else was amiss. In the last Dragon year in 2000, the reverse happened, but surprisingly not just for the Chinese. The other races seemed to respond to the Dragon’s roar as well, according to a ‘crude rate report’ charting birth rates from 1997 to 2006. But then it wasn’t just a Dragon year, it was the start of a new MILLENNIUM, and it would be interesting to see if any birth spike occurred 9 months post-Y2K.

Dragon spike for all 3 races

Only time will tell if 2012 breathes fire into the wombs of our women, whether Chinese, Malay or Indian. Meanwhile, the government should focus not just on generating babies or allowing the media to suggest that Dragon babies can grow up to become just like Professor X (Patrick Stewart), but retaining them when they grow older.

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Dragon babies are ‘incapable of hypocricy’

From ‘Enter the dragon babies’, article by Judith Tan, 8 Jan 2012, Sunday Times

Claris Ong and Alexandra Chin, both 11 years old, are ‘Dragon babies’….The girls are outstanding by virtue of being very driven and independent – both qualities true to the nature of those born under that Chinese zodiac sign.

…Since ancient times, the Chinese have always thought a ‘Dragon child’ would bring luck to the family. This is because dragons symbolise traits such as dominance and ambition. According to geomancers, ‘Dragon children’ prefer to live by their own rules and, if left to their own devices, are usually successful.

They are also said to be passionate, driven, unafraid of challenges, and willing to take risks. But this same passion and enthusiasm can also leave ‘Dragons’ feeling exhausted and even unfulfilled. On the plus side, they are said to be sincere and incapable of hypocrisy. They can also be very persuasive, with an ability to wear down resistance through their intuitive and diplomatic nature. But they are also known to be very sensitive, sometimes cutting and stubborn, or even wilful and vindictive.

…The last Dragon Year in 2000 saw more than 46,000 births – up from an average 42,000 live births in 1999 and 2001. And in 1988, there were 52,957 babies born here, compared with 43,616 in 1987 and 47,669 in 1989.

There’s little tolerance  for science and logic when it comes to grounded tradition and mythology. It’s unlikely that people born in the Year of the Dragon are necessarily more successful or driven than people born in any other year, and anyone embarking on such a study would face a daunting task, not to mention suffer brickbats from geomancers whose very livelihood depends on telling Dragon baby parents what they’d love to hear. Of course any birth spike is music to our government’s ears, even if this was borne out of unrealistic expectations resulting in increased competition from maternity beds to nursery, school and job placings. It would help if Dragon baby parents were Dragons themselves to give their kids a headstart, assuming that all the character traits are true. So even if by celestial order Dragon babies are genetically programmed to lead by example and boss other zodiac animals around, the environmental pressure would put the NURTURE element of the ‘nature vs nurture’ argument to the ultimate test.

The opposite to the Dragon Baby boom effect is the Year of the Tiger, which saw dips in births over the past 3 Tiger years.  Which is strange since the attributes that lead to a Tiger baby’s success are similar to those of a Dragon. It’s also sexist to think less favourably of a Tiger woman, stereotyped as being fierce and wilful, than a Tiger Man, who’s courageous and dominating and would have been indistinguishable from the stereotype of his Dragon counterpart. Marriages are also down during Tiger years, and with our already dismal fertility rate, the last thing we’ll need is horoscope predictions turning into self-fulfilling prophecies. Our PM (A dragon himself) made a plea to parents to act normal during the inauspicious Tiger year in 2010, and not ‘cling on to superstitions’, but will probably remain silent about the exaggerated faith placed on Dragon children this CNY, no thanks to ST celebrating living proof of clever Dragon children and enticing gullible couples to rush headlong into marriage or birth without considering more practical issues like whether they have a roof over their head or not.

If you read horoscopes closely, you’ll realise how inconsistent and vague their personality attributes are, and often you’d find a bit of yourself in every zodiac animal, though we’re usually not interested in what other horoscopes have to say. It’s a classic mind-reading trick, relying on our tendency to agree furiously with one thing that speaks true of ourselves and forgetting about the others that don’t. In the 1950′s, a Dragon was considered ‘benevolent and lovable‘ and it would be a blessing to marry one. Today’s dragons can be too sensitive, wilful or even vindictive, though it doesn’t really matter if the shortcomings of a dragon change from one era to another. It’s still a DRAGON after all, worshipped to demigod status by Emperors of centuries past.

If you’re aiming to debunk such superstitious hokum, the first parameter that you may want to examine is how many gifted leaders out there actually belong to the Dragon cohort, in proportion to all other animals in the zodiac. Using this helpful Wiki on Dragon birthdates, I carried out a premonitory survey of my own, using prominent Chinese Singaporean figures (politicians mainly) as a very narrow gauge of what we define as success:

Past and president PMs, presidents

  • LEE HSIEN LOONG, PM of SINGAPORE (10 Feb 1952, WATER dragon). Even his name has a dragon character in it, adding to the divine mystique of his auspicious birth. Incidentally his father Lee Kuan Yew, born in Sept 1923 (PIG), wasn’t. Tony Tan Keng Yam, the current president of Singapore, missed the Dragon year by a SINGLE DAY (7 Feb 1940). Neither are Goh Chok Tong (1941, SNAKE), Ong Teng Cheong (1936) or Wee Kim Wee (1915).

Past and present ministers/MPs/politicians

  • KHAW BOON WAN, National Development Minister (8 Dec 1952), TAN CHENG BOCK, ex MP and presidential candidate (26 April 1940). But not George Yeo (1954), DPM Teo Chee Hean (1954),  Chee Soon Juan (1962), Tan Jee Say (1954), WP MP Chen Show Mao (1961) or Wong Kan Seng (1946).

Past and present women ministers/MPs/politicians

  • GRACE FU, Senior Minister of State (29 March 1964, WOOD dragon) This dragon lady  has been heckled recently for her comments on ministerial pay cuts. Firebrand Nicole Seah of NSP (1986) isn’t one, nor is Tin Pei Ling (1983), Lee Bee Wah (1960), late wife of LKY Kwa Gek Choo (1920), WP MP Sylvia Lim, or prolific author and critic Catherine Lim (1942).

Tycoons

  • KHOO TECK PUAT (13 Jan 1917)
  • NG TENG FONG (Unconfirmed, but he was born in  1928, a dragon year)

Miscellaneous celebrities who make unlikely dragons

  • STEVEN LIM, eyebrow stylist, dancer, all round entertainer (30 Aug 1976, FIRE DRAGON) and HENRY ‘ALAMAK’ THIA (25 Feb 1952, same birthday month as PM Lee).

Without going into formal statistics I think it’s quite fair to say that there’s nothing special about Dragon babies and any Dragon baby that emerges as the leader of a generation or a multi-billionaire is pure coincidence and any success alluded to one’s date of birth suffers from post-hoc fallacious reasoning, conveniently ignoring all the other little dragons who fail to live up to their parent’s expectations, as well as other factors accounting for one’s fortune. Of course if a dragon happens to fail miserably in life or becomes a YouTube laughing stock, then feng shui masters would put the blame on the actual DATE of birth, if not the time you emerged from your mother’s womb down to the millisecond.

It’s worth exploring, however, if the very selective pressure of dealing with the dragon baby boomers in school or work is itself a factor in driving dragons to excel, not so much because they’re born in a certain way, but because of a consequence of a belief in them performing in a certain way. Note that among all the zodiac animals, the Dragon is the only one that exists only as a figment of our imagination. The media getting all pumped up celebrating brilliant children who SO HAPPEN to be Dragon babies is perpetuating a deep-seated symptom of magical thinking, just like the magical creature behind it. You won’t see the same coverage for RAT babies, that’s for sure.

Postscript: It turns out that there has been a misconception of what makes a Dragon baby. According to a 29 Jan 2012 Sunday Times article, you’re not a Dragon baby this year until the ‘Li Chun’, or start of Spring festival, on Feb 4. AT 1824 HOURS. Which means there are people who’ve been associated with dragons, embellished with all the positive traits of dragons, but are actually RABBITS. This, of course, simply disproves the myth of zodiac signs influencing character.  Also thanks to ‘CY’ for pointing out that Tony Tan is in fact a dragon.

Big strollers blocking MRT entrances

From ‘Monster wheels’, 9 Oct 2011, article by Jane Ng, Lifestyle Sunday Times

Supersized strollers are getting on the nerves of commuters and shoppers. Fed-up folk have to dodge bulky baby buggies rolled out by pushy parents who at times behave like they and their little princes and princesses own the road.

These are not the slim-built push prams you see at the neighbourhood centre, but are rugged three or four-wheelers which can scale rough terrain with ease, if need be. But they seem to be the rage among modern mothers, never mind that their prices can go to more than $2,000 for a Stokke, a lifestyle stroller by a Norwegian company.

One commuter tired of push coming to shove is Ms Helen Lim, 63, a headhunter who takes the MRT to work every day. She sometimes finds her way blocked by big strollers at the entrance of a carriage. Ms Lim politely asks the parent to move the stroller aside, or shoos other passengers away from the carriage area designated for wheelchairs, so the pram can move there.

Although she takes the initiative to solve the problem, she is losing patience, and feels the situation is worsening. Speaking to LifeStyle, Ms Lim, who is not married, said she is ‘annoyed’, both at pram users and inconsiderate commuters.

‘Strollers are a hindrance when you don’t fold them up. They take up standing room and block entrances. Then there are passengers who are inconsiderate and don’t take the initiative to move in, so it makes the situation worse,’ she said.

Strollers or Stompers?

The futuristic Stokke pram looks like an all-terrain military-grade armed mobile unit that could transform into a battle exoskeleton out of Avatar, while the Bugaboo Bee stroller (see below) is a space-age utility vehicle that should have been featured in a Transformers movie. Both state-of-the-art baby accessories make parents heaving their kids around in a sling or backpack look Neanderthal in comparison. Ironically, prams models are given twee names like the Bugaboo ‘donkey’, ‘cameleon’,  ‘bee’ when in reality, ‘Goliath’ or ‘Devastator’ would be more fitting, judging by the number of toes being crushed by these marauding, mechanical beasts.

Bugaboo Autobot

Strollers are no longer ‘baby carriages’ like what they used to be in the past, now  sleek, portable cribs equipped with sexy, NASA-endorsed features that could also describe the specifications of a luxury sedan. I’ve no problem with parents  bringing infants around in these little makeshift trailer homes, but what’s really annoying is if they transport kids old enough to walk about on their own, more so if they are playing with Daddy’s iPhone in the comfort of the pram instead of sleeping. Prams are also formidable obstacles if they hoard aisles at a restaurant or food court, not just because they make  it completely inaccessible for you to get a table, but trying to move it would provoke an  angry, overprotective parent into calling the police on you for infant assault. You also don’t want some creepy design out of a horror movie like Rosemary’s Baby.

Evil burps

Even in the late forties, baby carriages were a relative luxury, with pram-beds available from $50. For the ‘Loveliest baby in the world’, you could get a Marmet folding pram for a bargain of $179 in the early sixties, though design-wise it looked rather similar to a wheelchair (see below). In the late eighties you could get a ‘Geometric Convertible Stroller Bed’ for $239.95 at Toys R Us.

Hospital grade

Today, for a cool $2k you can get a Stokke pram/stroller which not only fulfills the basic function of baby ambulation, but also aids the ‘healthy development of bones, joints and muscles’. It comes with a ‘cocoon visor’ too. So, it’s not just any ordinary stroller/pram, it’s an ergonomic growth-accelerator and incubator that looks like a cyber-nanny as well. Being accused of helming Mad Max- style battering rams by irate commuters is a hefty price to pay when you’re a busy parent and bulldozing your way through the crowd is the only way to get things done. If the government won’t do anything about overcrowding or baby-friendly spaces we only have technology to look to if there’s any hope of miniaturisation, or at least putting our kids on robotic walkers with intuitive (and safe!) parent-obeying AI. Unfortunately, when it comes to baby comfort and safety, bigger does seem to be ‘better’, to kiasu parents at least. Or you could blame Battleship Potemkin, a 1925 classic which features a scene of a renegade baby carriage tumbling down the stairs, scaring parents the world over into buying more expensive, and presumably safer, prams. Also, nobody wants to be seen with the pram equivalent of a newspaper pick-up van next to a monster truck.

Baby makes Contact

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