Ice bucket challenge is cultic and eradicates free will

From ‘Ice bucket dare a scary social trend’, 30 Aug 2014, Mailbag, ST Life!

(Oh Jen Jen): The ice bucket challenge smacks of peer pressure, herd mentality and narcissism. I am from Singapore and a recent newspaper article mentioned how people here also donated to the ALS Association in the United States (Donations Pour In, Bucket By Bucket, SundayLife!, Aug 24).

We do not even have a local version of the association and I cannot find any statistics on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients in Singapore. Yes, the end is good, but I question the act itself. The stunt may lead other organisations to do the same thing. What if 10, 20 or 50 charities launch campaigns simultaneously? Do the ones which need the most assistance get ignored because they are not considered fun or cool enough?

It is a dangerous precedent for fund-raising efforts and as long as celebrities propagate the trend and their fans follow blindly, it is going to backfire. While performing stunts to raise money is not a new concept, the ice bucket challenge takes it to a different level because of the way it encourages exhibitionism and instigates blind compliance.

The act itself may seem harmless, but the response is cultic in magnitude. It is a frightening indicator of the combined powers of social media, fame and egotism, resulting in the eradication of logical thought and free will.

Teo Ser Luck getting wet and wild

It’s a Dunk-Your-MP session

MP Teo Ser Luck was bullied by his residents into taking the ‘ice bucket challenge’, so it wouldn’t be fair to say that it breeds a ‘cultic narcissism’ in some instances. More like ice bucket sadism. Some netizens have even dared PM Lee to do it for the nation. I wonder if this letter would still be published if that actually happened.

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.23.54 AM

Pouring ice over someone’s head is the kind of prank you find during university orientation camps, drunkard parties or in a Three Stooges episode, and when I initially read the title of this letter I thought the writer was expressing concern about the health hazards of being doused in ice, like hypothermia for example. Or how an over-creative delivery could lead to head injuries, just like how ‘selfies’ led to people plummeting to their deaths in their misguided enthusiasm. Yes, a ice bucket dunk can be potentially dangerous, but it turns out that the writer’s fears were more apocalyptic than I thought.

This is Steven Lim after pouring ice over himself in the shower. Yes, this looks very scary indeed. For concerned fans, yes the man is still alive.

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I’m not sure how many among the ice bucket ‘cult’ actually know what ALS is, or who Lou Gehrig and Stephen Hawking are. Or even wondered what a bucket of ice has anything to do with a rare disease. If you read scientific papers on ALS, you’d encounter explanations like these which will give you a ‘brainfreeze’ of a different sort altogether:

Studies done by Carpenter have shown the late onset of ALS with abnormal neuro filament accumulation in the G93 SOD1 mutant mouse model (Carpenter, 1968). Findings have suggested the cause to be due to the deregulation of Pin 1 in its involvement with the neurofilament phosphorylations, where it catalyzed the extensive phosphorylation of the neurofilaments in the perikarya by kinases by converting neurofilaments to a more stable trans form, causing the fully unraveled neurofilaments in the cell body being unable to be transported down the axonal length and accumulate in the perikarya, forming inclusions that are responsible for the disruption of the transport system and ultimately result in neuronal death (Kesavapany et al., 2007)

AGH. GIMME THAT ICE RIGHT NOOOW!

If I started a trend of pouring a bucket of my own diarrhoea over my head in support of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, I doubt anyone would follow. Not even my own mother. Imagine if you had to hold a BBQ party and you realise that the store’s ice cubes were all swiped clean by companies holding a ‘IBC’ parade faster than the sale of N95 masks during the haze. Damn you social media!

Scoot: Cool as ice

I wouldn’t consider doing an IBC myself, not so much that I think it looks ridiculous or that I risk transforming into an automaton without a mind of my own, but because the ice cubes could be put to better use. Like in an glass of Kickapoo or as a prop for kinky sex. Patrick Stewart would agree with me.

Some celebrities think it’s a bloody waste of water, while I believe those who subscribe to it may have forgotten about the drought we experienced some months back, or that there may be people out there running a 42 degree fever and need a bathtub of ice stat but can’t because of an out of stock situation. The typical retort from a IBC believer to me would be ‘So what have YOU done for ALS?’, to which I’d say I’ve donated blood at least 10 times, saving the lives of people, ALS or no ALS. And then I’ll ask back ‘What do you know about neurofilament phosphorylations?’ just to savour a blank look. The only reason to dunk my head in ice is if my hair caught fire.

There are many other associations or causes in need of some insane ‘viral marketing’ to boost awareness without causing bodily harm, like dyslexia or breast cancer for example. If you wanted to educate mothers on the benefits of breast-feeding you could organise a flash mob. If the plight of the poor in Singapore needs to be highlighted to the masses, you don’t go to Speakers’ Corner anymore. You live on the streets for a week living off the generosity of strangers and Instagram it. There was a time charities had to resort to putting monks on a tightrope just to raise money for a hospital, or endanger the lives of celebrities by having them lie on a bed of broken glass, and someone else freakin’ JUMP on them. Thank God we didn’t have social media then. How ironic it would have been if your kidneys got ruptured in a stunt gone wrong for a foundation that supports end stage renal disease.

The reason why the IBC spread like wildfire is that people are not urging you to trek barefoot in the hot sun for 5km for a good cause. It’s accessible, it’s fun (supposedly) and anyone can do it without training for an Iron Man triathlon. Yes, we are generally suckers for trends with a high ‘hip quotient’, but the IBC isn’t the only fad guilty of encouraging ‘exhibitionism’ and ‘blind compliance’. I hesitate to use the term ‘compliance’ which implies ‘reluctance’, like doing it because your Mommy told you so. In simpler terms, it’s just ‘copying’.

We have pointless memes like planking, online protests like blacking out your profile pic to make a political statement, and then there’s the phenomenon known as Cook a Pot of Curry day. Need I mention selfies, hipster cafes, marathon running, zumba or even bubble tea? In this age of social media you don’t need ministers or celebrities to kickstart a viral campaign anymore, just a friend of a friend of a friend on Facebook would do the trick. I’d say we have benefitted more from ‘blindly copying’ each other and succumbing to ‘peer pressure’ than having our free will ‘eradicated’ just because of one viral stunt. We’ve been doing it for millennia, from the moment one proto-human tribe observed another making fire and followed suit. And look where copying each other has brought us today. We shouldn’t overlook the benefits of ‘following the crowd’ just because occasionally we latch onto something, for lack of a better word, stupid, and then complain about it online through a Xiaomi phone.

The IBC is probably funny the first time round, but after a while it becomes the stunt equivalent of Pharell’s ‘Happy’ song. Overdone, overplayed, and overstaying its welcome no matter how you remix it. How many times do you want to see people get wet anyway? The craze will die a natural death eventually like Gangnam style has, but the human tendency to mimic and one-up each other won’t. To quote a famous hip hop artiste in the 90’s:

All right stop, Collaborate and listen
Ice is back with my brand new invention

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ACS chartering 5 MRT trains for rugby match

From ‘SMRT acknowledged prior approval should have been sought: LTA’, 27 Aug 2014, article in Today online.

Transport operator SMRT has explained to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) why it let Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) charter five of its trains to transport students and staff to a rugby match yesterday (Aug 26) at the National Stadium. SMRT has also “acknowledged that prior approval should have been sought”, said an LTA spokesperson in a statement today.

“The operator is required to obtain LTA’s approval to run trains for non-public transport purposes because as regulator, LTA is responsible for ensuring that train services to the public are provided as scheduled, and that any additional trips in the network do not adversely affect such services,” the spokesperson added.

ACS(I) had chartered the trains to transport 3,000 of its students and staff to the Schools National C Division rugby final match, which was the first school final to be held at the new National Stadium at the Sports Hub. Yesterday, the LTA said it was looking into the appropriate action to take against SMRT after the public transport operator failed to seek the necessary approval from the authorities before letting the school charter its trains.

They've got a ticket to ride

They’ve got a ticket to ride

When asked about why they supported this private entourage, SMRT said that they believed in ‘supporting local education’ and ‘national initiatives’ without compromising core service delivery (Rugby: ACS(I) to charter five MRT trains…25 Aug, ST). This was a rugby championship match between rival schools, not a mass deployment of martyrs to the battlefront. It’s MRT playing host to a private event, where instead of your favourite restaurant or theatre being closed off for some company party, it’s 5 entire trains. I doubt LTA would have said NO anyway even if SMRT had asked for permission. The alternative would be 80 buses clogging up the roads and this is one premier school which is more than able to afford hiring a Zeppelin or cruise liner if they wanted to. Better to inconvenience some lowly train commuters than aggravate those car-drivers, eh?

Still, when you see ACS’s motto being flashed on the LED scroller in the image above, you can’t help wondering if SMRT the public transport provider is sidelining as a party organiser here. If a school like ACS could hire MRT trains to bring their students to a sports competition, what’s stopping a multimillion, Government-endorsed company from doing the same to bring their employers to a Dinner and Dance, or from office to Changi Airport for an overseas AGM? If I’m very influential, could I hire one train just to ferry people to my gala wedding in style, complete with buskers and champagne? After all, it’s cheap, eco-friendly and SMRT has given us the assurance that normal passenger service would be minimally affected. Imagine if traditional rivals like RI or Hwa Chong followed suit with their own mass events. Hwa Chong even wanted an MRT station named after them for God’s sake. In fact, managing director Lee Ling Wee went on to ENCOURAGE more schools located near the CCL to charter trains during off-peak hours because it seems that they could afford it. You know, just to dispel the notion of MRT chartering being the sole right of elite institutions. Maybe SMRT should have an online booking system too, and exclusive themed trains like ‘Summer Wedding’ or ‘Ruggers’ Fiesta’ which you can choose to upgrade to.

I think if the event had been a charity fundraiser or a Big Day out for pioneers or the handicapped, few would complain. But this was for a select group with no noble intentions outside of flying some school flags or chanting slogans for a sport that only gets screened live in dingy Irish bars. I for one would rather watch a Bonsai pruning competition than the Rugby World Cup final. ACS’s private joyride had no philanthropic, ‘educational’ value or ‘national’ objective worthy of inspiration or pride. So why does rugby warrant this special privilege? Vivian Balakrishnan could have skimmed his YOG budget had he thought of chartering for volunteers and participants back in 2011. If you accept the argument that this is ‘cost effective’ then anybody can justify using the MRT as their grandfather’s train to move thousands of people for other frivolous reasons. Does SMRT have any qualification criteria at all?

As for that LED marquee screen that otherwise no one ever gives a shit about, now there’s an idea for a wedding proposal, guys.

Pink Run banned by Police in the interest of public order

From ‘Pink Run permit rejected in interest of public order: Police’, 14 Aug 2014, article in Today

The police have explained why they rejected an application for a Pink Run event at Marina Promenade Park, slated for this Saturday (Aug 16). A statement from the police today said: “The purpose of the event as stated by the applicant is related to LGBT advocacy, which remains a socially divisive issue. The application has been rejected in the interest of public order.

“Those who wish to advocate for potentially divisive cause-related issues can do so at the Speakers’ Corner, which is the designated public place for such activities, to avoid inconveniencing the general public, or leading to contention or potential public order issues,” the police advised.

The Pink Run was organised by Mr Nicholas Deroose, as part of IndigNation, advocates for “LGBT pride season in Singapore”. He posted a note on Facebook saying “people are still free to show up and run in their own personal capacity. There are no laws against running. You just won’t be a participant of the Pink Run”.

Before there was Pink Dot, a member of the gay community had planned a Pink Picnic in 2007 along with a 5km dash in the Botanic Gardens. NPARKS put a stop to that of course, citing such an event as ‘politicising a cause’. When they changed the venue later, they were confronted by the police for having an illegal gathering. You can run for many ’causes’ without the Police sticking their stubby noses into your business; for hope, breast cancer, ex-convicts, family, or even God, but if you’re an LGBT group out for a jog decked out in the most stigmatised colour this decade, you will be shut down for ‘disturbing the peace’ faster than you can say ‘Little India Riot’. The issue of foreigner import is also ‘socially divisive’, yet the Police were fine with pinoys celebrating their Independence Day in Orchard Road, though that eventually never happened.

To the cops who said nay to the organisers, gay people don’t just ‘fun-run’ like the rest of us. A running event for gays would look exactly like a flamingo blitzkrieg in their mind. Children could get traumatised. Just like if they chanced upon picture books about penguin fathers hatching an egg. Or maybe they were just trying to avoid an all out epic battle should some other groups decide to have Family Runs or White Marches at the same time, soaking the Marina Promenade in a sea of RED.

In that case, the Police should also look into the upcoming COLOR run, because it involves people getting plastered with rainbow powder. And we all know what rainbows signify. That event also brands itself as the HAPPIEST 5K on the Planet, and what’s another three letter word for Happy? I’ll give you a clue, it starts with G and rhymes with Hooray! Public order? How about Public CLEANLINESS?

Consider another popular run that involves you getting hunted down by zombies. Isn’t the Police worried about ‘Race the Dead’ or ‘Run for your Lives’ at all? I personally know a participant who paid money to get carried out on a stretcher for a leg injury after a mock zombie swarm went wrong. The chances of you getting injured in a chaotic zombie scuffle is higher than being dealt a vicious clothesline from a gay couple running hand in hand, or getting smothered by a stray feather boa.

There used to be more to the colour Pink than just a convenient, overused LGBT theme. ‘Pink eye’ meant conjunctivitis and not a lusty gay gaze. A ‘pink slip’ was a termination notice and not an accidental divulging of your homosexuality. If you’re in the ‘pink’ of health, you were in tip top shape, not ‘feeling gay all over’. With the resurgence of Pink Dot and a likely petition in support of Pink Run, we may see more pink themed events following suit, like Diner en Pink , Pink Fest, Pink Nite or God forbid Pink DAY. Parents may start to monitor cartoons like ‘Pinkie and the Brain’, the ‘Pink Panther’ or coming-of-age classics like ‘Pretty in Pink’ for hints of LGBT agenda. We’d get confused between Pink Dots and Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer walks. You’d think Pink Floyd is the name of a hot gay porn star instead of a seventies avant-garde rock band. You can’t use ‘I’m tickled pink!’ without someone giving you an awkward sideways glance.

Maybe it’s not so much ‘Indignation’ that’s needed here, but Imagination as well.

Red Dot Family Event not allowed at Padang

From ‘Refusal to allow pro-family event at Padang puzzling: Khong’, 10 May 2014, article by Joy Fang, Today

TOUCH Community Services founding chairman Lawrence Khong yesterday criticised the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s (MSF) move to reject an application by an affiliate of his organisation to hold a pro-family event at the Padang. Responding to TODAY’s queries, Mr Khong — who has regularly spoken out against homosexuality — said he was disappointed with the ministry’s move. He added: “I am puzzled by MSF’s restrictions on TOUCH to organise (the event) and also confused with their position on family.”

As part of the organiser’s proposal, participants had been asked to wear red to the event which was to be held on June 28, the same day as Pink Dot — an annual event held at Speakers’ Corner in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, where participants wear pink. The organisers had considered calling the event Red Dot Family Moment 2014 but it settled on #FamFest 2014.

On Wednesday, the media reported that the MSF had rejected the application by TOUCH Family Services as it deemed the event unsuitable for the Padang. The ministry proposed alternative sites, but the organisers declined as they felt that the alternative locations, which were in the heartlands, were less accessible.

Mr Khong, who is also a senior pastor at Faith Community Baptist Church, stressed that the event was meant to promote family values. He said: “#FamFest 2014 is about defending the family against the onslaught of sexual infidelity, divorce, family violence and media that promotes sexual immorality including the homosexual agenda.”

…TODAY understands that TOUCH Family Services had booked the venue with the Singapore Recreation Club and applied for approval from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the police to hold the event. The voluntary welfare organisation also tried to engage the MSF as a partner for the event. The proposal was rejected by the URA last month.

The organisers had rejected suggestions that the event was pitted against Pink Dot. The red theme was inspired by Singapore’s national colour and the SG50 tagline Celebrating The Little Red Dot, while the date had been chosen because it is the last Saturday of the June school holidays and also the weekend when the annual National Family Celebrations traditionally culminate, they said.

The Padang has been traditionally used for sporting events and other activities which are generally FUN by nature, whether it’s a Zombie Run or a Justin Bieber concert. Even the organiser for this year’s waterless Songkran festival managed to book the place, but withdrew due to poor ticket sales. How did a celebration of the Thai New Year get the green light but not TOUCH’s Family extravaganza?

If there’s one similarity between Red Dot and Pink Dot it’s that both themes are inspired by national colours. Pink Dot explains that pink is the colour of our ICs, and it’s what you get when you mix red and white. Due to constraints of the venue, however, Pink Dot only allows foreigners to ‘observe’ the event but not participate in the highlight: The formation of a pink circle. I wonder what formation #Famfest had planned for, maybe a heart shape, or better still an outline of Singapore with a heart at its centre. Maybe our PAP can hold their own party to celebrate more than 50 years of total supremacy and call it White Dot to complete this trilogy of colours.

Lawrence Khong describes #Famfest as if it were a war campaign to defeat the enemies of his Church – sexual immorality and gay activism – rather than what should really be a relaxed carnival atmosphere. If they had lightened up on the ‘Values’ and war analogies, #Famfest would have just been deemed as a typical fun day out, for kids to run about with their parents rather than sitting around hearing some pastor ranting about the virtues of a heterosexual marriage like a general rousing his troops for battle.

But what’s more puzzling than the hashtag in #Famfest is the number of parties you need to seek permission from if you need to host any event at the Padang, whether it’s an atas mass picnic or a seniors’ game of rounders. According to the Terms and Conditions on the SRC website, you need to seek a total of up to SIX agencies  and  get 3 licences/permits  even PRIOR to getting approval from the SRC itself.

a) Urban Redevelopment Permit/s if applicable. (URA)
b) Public Entertainment Licence (PELU)
c) Composers & Authors Society of Singapore Ltd (Compass)
d) Artist impression of type of set-up and layout
e) Fire Safety Bureau (FSB) Licence
f) Building and Construction Authority Permit/s if applicable (BCA)
g) Singapore Land Authority (SLA)
h) Land Transport Authority (LTA) if applicable

And that’s excluding the MSF and the POLICE which TOUCH took extra steps to notify.

Interestingly, one of the conditions is that the event must not be political or religious in nature, and TOUCH’s chairman is both a pastor and an unabashed supporter of S377A. But ultimately it was URA and the Ministry who rejected the application, for reasons unclear. Isn’t it SRC’s call to decide if an event is ‘unsuitable’ for the grounds? To be fair, I would demand an answer myself looking at the amount of time and effort I had to waste just to book the damn place. If you made it so difficult to secure the Padang, why even allow third party events to be held there at all. No wonder the NDP is held only every 5 years at the venue. It probably takes the same amount of time to get the necessary permits as to plan the entire parade, full dress rehearsal included.

 

 

 

Singaporeans ‘saying No’ to Philippine Independence Day

From ‘Filipino group gets online flak over event’, article by Royston Sim and Amelia Tan, 16 April 2014, ST

The Pilipino Independence Day Council Singapore (PIDCS), a group of Filipino volunteers, put up a post on Facebook about the event last weekend and drew fire almost immediately. Negative comments from Singaporeans flooded in, with Facebook page “Say ‘No’ to an overpopulated Singapore” urging locals to protest on the PIDCS page.

The page, which has 26,000 “likes”, is against the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day here and said that festivities should be confined to the Philippine Embassy compound.

It took issue with the PIDCS for using the Marina Bay skyline in a logo for the event, which is meant to celebrate the Philippines’ independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. It also opposed the PIDCS using the terms “two nations” and “interdependence” in posters for the event.

The PIDCS decided to take down the Facebook post after it drew hundreds of anti-Filipino comments, with many slamming the PIDCS for holding the celebration in Orchard Road.

…Ms Cecilia Lim, 28, a self- employed Singaporean, felt some of the online comments were excessive. She said: “People should have the right to celebrate their independence day if they are granted the permits, just as we celebrate Singapore Day overseas.”

Our Intolerance

The first thing I noticed about this article is whether ‘Pilipino’ was a typo or just how Filipinos pronounce their own nationality. Turns out that Pilipino is the official name for the national language, or an enhanced variant of Tagalog. And what about the missing ‘s’ from ‘Philippine Independence’? How many of those celebrating it spell ‘Philippines’ as ‘Phillipines’? A LOT, judging from this Twitter feed and the hashtag #phillipines.

Your spelling pail

Your spelling pail

This weekend, Filipinos (not Philippinos, or Pilipinos) will be celebrating another holiday that most Singaporeans are unaware of, and it’s apt that in the light of the online kerfuffle over their Independence Day, 19 April 2014 (this Saturday) is known as BLACK SATURDAY. PIDCS intends to celebrate Philippine Independence Day on June 8th, which happens to be a SUNDAY. I’ve been to Orchard Road on a Sunday, and to me, it doesn’t make a difference if it’s Independence Day or Ninoy Aquino Day. It feels like crowds of Filipinos are ALWAYS celebrating something on Sunday anyway, whether they’re having a roadside picnic or dancing outside Ion. With Orchard being the default Pinoy haunt, it’s just going to look like any other weekend really, except with maybe flags, buffet lines and ‘cultural dances’.

One of the first reported local celebrations of such a holiday took place in 1946, where ‘100 representatives from all communities’ joined with hosts ‘Mr and Mrs Anciano’ at a cocktail party at the Far Eastern Music School. Philippine ‘Independence Day’ then was in commemoration of the formation of the Republic, when the US granted the islands ‘true’ independence (4 July 1946). The number of Filipinos in Singapore then hovered around the 500 mark.  Today, that’s the estimated number you’ll find in the stretch between Lucky Plaza and Ngee Ann City alone on a Sunday. According to the website ‘Positively Filipino‘, that number has risen to almost 180,000 in 2013, with 100,000 of those as professionals and executives.

In the 50’s, Filipinos dressed in their national costumes to attend church, and began having outdoor picnics at places like Pasir Ris. In 1962, the date was changed from 4 July to June 12, when General Emilio Aguinaldo led the revolution for independence from the Spanish in 1898. (Some commentators believe that this was a mistake, that the Treaty of Paris signed then really ceded the country to the US as an American ‘commonwealth’, and that PIDCS is in fact celebrating a misnomer of a holiday). At a Hyatt hotel reception attended by bigwig PAP politicians like Richard Hu and S Dhanabalan in 1987, guest performers from the Philippines sang ‘lusty’ renditions of the national anthems of BOTH countries, a typical Pinoy gesture of warm, fuzzy diplomacy. More recent celebrations include song-and-dance festivals at the Singapore Art Museum and Hong Lim Park last year. Hong Lim, ironically, being the same place where the people behind ‘Say No’ will be having a 1 May protest about 6.9 million again. Why didn’t they make a puss, I mean, FUSS, over the Filipino ‘invasion’ of their ‘territory’ then?

So people, top PAP brass included, have been celebrating Philippines Independence Day in Singapore for LONGER than our very own National Day. The last event in 2013 was even jointly sponsored by household brands like Singtel, Starhub and Singapore Post. Are angry Singaporeans going to boycott both telcos for ‘betraying’ the nation? As for the unhappiness over the word ‘Interdependence’, I wonder how many of those in the petition have never ‘depended’ on a Filipino maid or nurse in their lives, celebrated the success of Ilo Ilo or laughed at Leticia Bongnino’s jokes.

Instead of voicing our displeasure at foreigners staking their claim over our motherland through the use of a MBS backdrop and sitting around our shopping areas eating lechon (a pork dish), how about putting your patriotism into action by giving some love to the nation on 9 Aug, outdo the PIDCS event with a riot of national colours and jubiliant song-and-dance, instead of planning a protest only to go on a quickie overseas vacation like some whining Singaporeans would?

UPDATE: Both Tan Chuan Jin and PM Lee had strong words for the ‘bigots’ and ‘trolls’ who complained about the event. TCJ thought the response was ‘repulsive’, while PM called it a disgrace and lowered our ‘standing’ in the eyes of the world. The latter went on to cite London as an example of the warm hospitality shown by countries who hosted the Singapore Days of the past, i.e treat your guests as you would like to be treated overseas. We forget, however, about what happened at Singapore Day 2013 in Victoria Park, Sydney, when an Australian named ‘James’ accused organisers of being RACIST for not allowing Caucasians in, even though it’s a public place, on National Radio. I wonder if there were Australian ministers as eager as ours to come out and slam him for making a shameful nuisance of himself. Unlike having to register for Singapore Day and there being a limit to how many non-citizens you can bring,  the PID organisers have declared that ANYONE is free to join the 10,000 strong crowd at Orchard Road if they so wish. Or should I say, Little Philippines.

UPDATE 2: Organisers decided to withdraw their application to hold the party at Ngee Ann City (Filipino group drops plan to hold Orchard Road event, 26 May 2014, ST). Xenophobes everywhere rejoice.

Schoolchildren spending too much time on CCAs

From ‘Review time spent on CCAs’, 24 March 2014, ST Forum

(Lee Hui Ling): …My daughter studies at an independent secondary school. She is required to stay back after school for her CCA three days a week, each time for up to four hours. If there are forthcoming performances or competitions, she may need to stay back on additional days for practice.

Many of her schoolmates who take public transport wake up as early as 5.30am to make it in time for school at 7.20am. Lessons end around 1.30pm and, following lunch, CCA starts at 2.30pm and ends at 6.30pm. Taking public transport home sets them back by another one to 11/2 hours and some manage to reach home only after 8pm. Following a quick dinner and wash-up, they start on their heavy homework load or revisions after 9pm. By the time they go to bed, it is way past midnight or 1am.

They wake up a few hours later at 5.30am, with barely five hours of sleep, to start another long, tiring day.

…In their quest to excel in not only academics but also CCAs, some schools may have imposed gruelling hours on students. In the process, students, and the teachers who stay back for equally long hours, get caught up in a system that drains them mentally and physically. The primary purpose of CCA is to develop the interests and talents of students; winning accolades is secondary and this should not be done at the expense of students’ health.

I urge the Ministry of Education and the Health Promotion Board to look into this issue.

In 2008, 15 year old ACS student Tan Wen Yi wanted to get out of track and field and switch to drama as his CCA. He was made to stay back 4 times a week as punishment for skipping training to play football. When his parents refused to have any of it, he headed for his bedroom, climbed onto the ledge of the window and jumped to his death. Right in front of his hapless mother. No one saw it coming.

Of course most kids don’t resort to such drastic tactics to get out of CCAs, but added pressure and long hours during competition season is part and parcel of school life. What parents are really worried about, other than sleep deprivation or sudden suicide, is whether this preoccupation with ‘winning accolades’ would have any impact on their child’s studies. If you’re a Type A go-getter and extrovert who thrives on CCAs and little sleep and want to be the Prime Minister when you grow up, then good for you. If CCA is a dreary chore and you would rather spend the time writing Chinese composition, then there should be flexibility to cut back, like ‘days off’ after intense training or medal success, or the choice to take a less hectic CCA.  The problem is some schools may deprive you of a CCA which may be the best fit for you for purely ‘business’ reasons, like an under-performing team which can’t deliver results. Not to mention kiasu parents who think some bonus points would do you good and forbid you from joining any ‘unprofitable’ CCA that seems, well, FUN.

Add homework, tuition and piano lessons to the mix and you’ll produce ‘well-rounded’ kids who hardly have time for themselves or family, victims of the national philosophy that children can only grow up to be productive cogs in the machine if they excelled in at least 1 CCA. Kids who’re ‘team players’ but lack the spark of creativity, fail to develop spiritually, or don’t get to experience the world outside school or even the country. Kids who don’t know what it’s like to help out at their parents’ hawker stall, how to climb a tree, or do something nice for a needy stranger.  In 2007, a survey revealed that only 2.6% of teens had at least 9 hours of sleep every night, a deficit that they can’t even make up for during week long holidays which are often stuffed with even more CCA activities, homework, enrichment classes or group projects. We’re producing kids who can’t, both literally and figuratively, DREAM.

During my time, competitive sport taught me the sour taste of humiliation and defeat and I have no regrets, but I never felt like I was cheated of my personal time, nor put in a pressure cooker environment like what kids these days seem to be immersed in.  So now we know where this epidemic of ‘busyness’ in the working world comes from. We were groomed from young to be madly rushing, always behind time, and everyone believes that this constant stress as a driver for excellence can only be a good thing. Until someone breaks and does the unthinkable that is, which by then would be only too little, too late.

 

No water splashing allowed at Songkran festival

From ‘Singapore’s 1st Songkran water festival goes dry’, 25 March 2014, article by Melody Zaccheus, ST

There will be no water pistol fights, celebrity dunk stations, or really, any kind of water fun at Singapore’s first Songkran water festival on April 12 and 13. The organisers of Celebrate Songkran 2014 at the Padang have taken heed of the national campaign to conserve water and nixed the water-based activities.

Instead, they will host a Water Conservation and Water Heritage Exhibition in conjunction with national water agency PUB. The organisers said this was appropriate in view of the recent dry spell and current moves to cut back on water usage.

Though lighting designer Sanischaya Mankhongphithakkul, 25, agrees with the rationale, it still feels a little odd. “What’s a water festival without water?”

The whole point of traditional Songkran is to get soaking wet, as dousing is symbolic of washing away bad luck. It’s also the Thai New Year, usually accompanied by Buddhist activities such as prayer sessions, as what took place back in 1999 during Singapore’s first open-air Songkran near Paya Lebar MRT. In 1988, Songkran was held at the now defunct Big Splash, where other than getting wet and wild, participants would be expected to burn joss sticks and bathe statues of Four Face Buddhas. Otherwise, Golden Mile Complex is the place to be if you want to mingle with Thai workers ringing in their New Year with water fights. It’s a religious festival, not an excuse to get fashionably drunk and watch Far East Movement.

No wonder Thailand’s Ministry of Culture, Ms Yupa Taweewattanakijbaworn, had reportedly (according to the ST article) threatened to sue festival organisers for ‘undermining the values’ of the Thai festival, not so much that we’re cutting out the real star of the show for conservation reasons, but because we’re twisting the agenda to suit our needs and flying in entertainers, turning it into yet another outdoor pop music festival that’s really a B-grade cousin of the F1 megaconcerts, headlined by a band who’s not even Thai to begin with. How would you feel if Westerners adopted our version of Chinese New Year, but just went around eating dim sum, making fortune cookies or ‘lo hei-ing’ over meatballs and spaghetti instead of yusheng?

The ‘CelebrateSongkran’ website continues to run misleading images of drenched people with Supersoakers, oblivious that the banning of water activities has, in a manner of speaking, rained on everyone’s parade. Conservative Christians who refuse to fold paper ingots at their grandmother’s funeral should not attend by the way because of its religious (i.e ‘paganistic’) origins.  Yes you can’t have water fun because your God forbids it.

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Dampnation!

Songkran in Singapore used to be an intimate, simple, even holy affair, celebrated only within a niche community, now commercialised and rebranded as a pseudo rave party like how the Indian ‘festival of colours’ Holi has turned into a rainbow powder orgy. I wouldn’t be surprised to find Water Wally prancing around on stage either, blind to the irony that by completely overturning the theme toward water conservation just to avoid cancelling the damn thing, you forget that you’re also splurging on electricity and raking up carbon miles flying in celebrities. I mean, we could just run another ‘Keep it to 5′ campaign rather than bullshit our way through someone else’s New Year celebration, and with the $60 price tag for 2 nights of partying, you’re more likely to see rich teens and expats there than the folks who appreciate the true meaning of Songkran, the homesick Thai workers. The only sprinkling of any sort you’ll see there will be drunkards taking a piss by a bush, or the buckets of sweat produced by the people cleaning up after your mess when the night’s over.

It also sets an awkward precedent for future events which have the slightest implications on the natural environment. Should we stop people from burning incense during Qing Ming because of the haze? Stop circulating new $2 notes or printing ang pows in the event of worsening global deforestation? Scrape F1 during an oil crisis? Ban St Patricks Day or Oktoberfest when there’s an epidemic of hops infestation? Put a stop to Hungry Ghost Festival offerings during a famine? If you want to enjoy REAL Songkran without some event organiser messing it up and turning it into a poor man’s foam party (without the foam of course), yet don’t want to be seen wasting water, you can do it at a pool or beach where you can splash all you want. More importantly, it’s FREE, and you don’t have to listen to bloody annoying Far East Movement while at it.

 

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