Society will lose out without a natural aristocracy

From ‘PM tackles questions on S’pore system, freedom of speech at IPS conference’, 4 July 2015, article by Joy Fang, Today

…On the dominance of countries such as the US, Sweden and Israel in innovation, science and technology, Dr Zakaria said these communities are common in that there is a culture of a lack of respect for or challenging authority.

“You spent six hours yesterday in a court trying to do this, to instil a culture of respect. And isn’t it exactly the opposite of what you need for your economic future?” the US journalist asked.

In response, Mr Lee said: “You want people to stand up, not scrape and bow. But if you don’t have a certain natural aristocracy in the system, people who are respected because they have earned that and we level everything down to the lowest common denominator, then I think society will lose out … If you end up with anarchy, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be delivered with brilliance.”

A BBC article in 2004 addressed our PM Lee as a ‘philosopher-prince‘ when he ascended ‘to the throne’, so to speak, following in the footsteps of his late father, who is also no stranger to being compared to royalty. In 1961, David Marshall lamented that workers were in the grip of fear under the rule of ‘Emperor’ Lee Kuan Yew, a title used again by ex Malaysia-PM Mahathir to describe LKY’s interventions into Malaysian politics.

When the founding PM passed away, the outpouring of tributes and grief was without doubt a grand farewell ‘fit for a king’. Granted, our leaders don’t go around asking people to kiss their feet or wear crowns, robes or wield sceptres, but if there’s one thing similar between our ‘socialist democracy/meritocracy‘ and any form of ‘aristocracy’, it’s that any dissent towards the elite, the ‘creme de la creme’, will not be tolerated, even if the target of the insult is dead. It’s like Thailand’s lese majeste, just with a lot more beating around the bush before you finally punish the bugger.

Which inevitably leads to, ironically, a paternalistic ‘bowing and scraping’ culture because people are afraid to throw eggs at their supreme leaders. This despite some members of this ‘aristocracy’ sending conflicting messages and assuring us that nobody will sue you if you call him a ‘stupid fool’. Nonetheless, our PM has no qualms about queuing up with everyday people for chicken wings, like a lord coming down to the village for a taste of hearty rat broth.

Ex president Devan Nair, in a 1983 speech at a President’s scholarship award ceremony, had this to say about ‘natural aristocracy':

..And as in sports, there is a NATURAL ARISTOCRACY of talent in all the departments, disciplines and professions of public life. To abolish the natural aristocracy of talent would be to acknowledge the right of butchers to take over surgical wards in hospitals, or to have your teeth pulled out by carpenters rather than by qualified dentists.

Meaning, as one Total Defence song goes, ‘there’s a part for everyone’, whether you’re a serf, a general, a scientist, or the guy chopping pork at a wet market, and the only way to move up the social ladder is to prove your worth through hard work, sometimes with a stroke of luck.

In PM Lee’s context, however, it’s about ‘respect’, showing who’s boss, that one shouldn’t ‘play games’ and mess around with DA AUTHORITY, otherwise we’d all fall into a state of hellish anarchy, a situation which I suppose includes people not queuing up in an orderly manner for chicken wings anymore. Back in the old days, any duke or baron who got his pride wounded would challenge the offender to a gentleman’s duel. Today, our natural ‘aristocrat of aristocrats’ uses not a sword, nor a pistol, against the likes of Roy Ngerng, but a Davinder Singh.

MDA’s ban on TRS draconian and excessive

From ‘TRS’ bid to stoke social tension unacceptable’, 7 May 2015, ST Forum

(Ann Chan, director of Communications, MDA): THE Media Development Authority (MDA) strongly disagrees with Ms Braema Mathi’s assertions that our actions are “draconian” and “excessive” (“Regulating online space: Engaging stakeholders in dialogue much better”; yesterday).

Based on information that has come to light, The Real Singapore’s (TRS) editors Yang Kaiheng and Ai Takagi were deliberately fabricating articles and inserting falsehoods to stoke anti-foreigner sentiments and undermine Singapore’s national harmony.

They did this to attract more readers to TRS, and thus, generate more advertising revenue for themselves. They were, in effect, lining their pockets at Singapore’s expense.

Suspending TRS’ licence was necessary to ensure Yang and Takagi did not do more damage with their deceitful reporting. In suspending TRS’ licence, the MDA had provided Yang and Takagi our grounds for doing so, including specifying the offending articles that contravened the Internet Code of Practice, and giving them seven days to explain why their licence should not be cancelled. They can also appeal against the suspension. Due process has been followed.

We agree with Ms Mathi that the diversity of Singapore’s populace should be reflected in the diversity of opinions online. But accepting diversity does not mean we also have to accept deceit, fabrications, plagiarism and distortions – all just to make a quick buck.

Unlike human rights activists like Braema Mathi, media experts have lauded the TRS ban by MDA as an example of the authority’s ‘light touch’ approach because TRS was considered an ‘extreme’ site among other platforms with similar content. In other words, the MDA was ‘magnanimous’ enough to leave the less popular, but equally offensive, sites alone, sites that weren’t milking the eyeballs of gullible Singaporeans and ‘making a quick buck’.

Apparently a ‘light touch’ is also an inconsistent, cherry-picking one, one that does nothing more that make the xenophobe poster-child that is TRS a scapegoat and hope that the rest of the wannabes clean up their act out of fear. It’s as ‘light-handed’ as a mob boss burying someone alive for not paying his dues ‘as a lesson’ to anyone who even thinks of screwing him over. There’s no evidence that this approach is even effective. A ‘Straits Times Review’ site (renamed States Times Review to avoid legal tussles with ST) with a similar bent as TRS has come online as we speak. MDA believed it had lopped off the Medusa’s head like Perseus when all it did was snip off one of the Hydra’s.

No details were given by MDA as to how much TRS makes from posting these evil ‘fabrications’ to qualify the ‘quick buck’ claim, nor exactly the level of ‘damage’ the site has caused to warrant a total shutdown since its inception.   This explanation in defence of their ‘draconian’ web content-slaying seems to be flip-flopping between TRS as a threat to national harmony and their unscrupulous profiteering. If ‘due process’ had been followed, then it seems rather at odds with this whole ‘light touch’ policy given that some sites get hit, while others, like TRE or the aggressive Blood Stained Singapore blog, do not.

The internet, of course, is full of deceit and distortions. Influencers are paid to write negative reviews of telcos, for example. A famous blogger who supposedly cured her brain cancer by eating ‘wholefoods’ recently admitted that it was all a damn sham. Unlike the alleged ‘damage’ that TRS has caused, following a quack’s advice instead of seeking medical attention actually kills you in the long run. Other authors exaggerate, sensationalise and frame their content whichever way they see fit to get readership, some of international standing earning the wrath of our own leaders for slanted journalism. I could create an entire fantasy blog about how I’m actually 100 years old and that the secret to my longevity is watching porn and masturbating 3 times a day and there WILL be suckers who buy into it. Between a site that tells you lies about PRCs vs another that says bulimia and anorexia are good for you, I think there would be stronger justification to ban the latter, when actual lives are at stake.

Speaking of lies, STOMP should be grateful to MDA for their ‘light touch’ policy then, especially after the SPH-owned portal posted a fake article about a faulty MRT door, and ‘making a quick buck’ out of such fabrications at the expense of our beloved SMRT. Instead of adopting a ‘slash-and-burn’ approach to weeding the internet of pesky sites, the authorities should embark on a proper literacy program to cultivate critical thinking and discretion when reading online material. Shutting down entire sites just because you disapprove of some of the content is simply caveman enforcement, the kind that thumps you into submission first before involving any higher brain activity to prevent future victims from falling for such nonsense elsewhere i.e without planning ahead.

People for centuries have been, and will always be, seduced by all kinds of fictitious bullshit for as long as the written word exists, whether it’s on papyrus or on an iPad. Today, we call most of these ‘advertisements’. TRS already has its fair share of vocal opponents, including ministers dying to file defamation suits. Purging it entirely without giving users the chance to critique and challenge its content like one trading blows with a sparring partner is, in government-speak, a ‘missed opportunity’ for internet literacy, and MDA itself, to evolve. We should learn how to tame the growing beast of social media without cracking a thicker whip every time it roars.

Amos Yee getting a tight slap in the face

From ‘Amos Yee assaulted on way to court, now in remand’, 30 April 2015, article by Eileen Poh, CNA

There was drama at the courtroom as blogger Amos Yee was struck in the face as he walked to the State Courts for a pre-trial conference on Thursday (Apr 30). As Yee walked to the court house, a middle-aged man in a red shirt, ran up to him and hit him, while shouting. The man then ran off. The teenager’s left eye looked slightly bruised after the attack.

…Yee was remanded after the pre-trial conference, as he refused to set his blog posts to private. He had earlier flouted bail conditions by publishing two posts on his blog. His lawyer Alfred Dodwell said the teen feels very strongly that he has not done anything wrong with his posts.

It was a slap that was heard all around the internet. The assault was vicious, but awkward at the same time, and it appears that both Amos and his assailant both need psychiatric assessment in IMH, one for oppositional defiant disorder and the other for psychosis. Maybe the boy should have defended himself with a half-eaten banana, and give the attacker the slip. Or you could say the attacker was preparing Amos for the hard life to come behind bars if he persists in disobeying the law, hence doing him an actual favour.

Contrast the treatment of Amos outside the courts to how others flocked to support and shield a certain millionaire pastor some years back, protecting the man from anyone wanting to strike him in the face for unleashing ‘China Wine’ into the world. Amos had nobody to stave off random attacks. Not his compassionate bailor, not his pro-bono lawyers, not the reporters blissfully recording the entire scene on their phones, not even his own parents. Random slapper, have you no shame? Are you the kind of guy who goes around flashing and massaging your genitals in front of women and then scurry away? If you go up and kick a Mediacorp reporter in the butt, will he turn around and film the entire ordeal in place while you skip away giggling?

Law Minister Shanmugam has clarified that the charge of making disparaging remarks against the late LKY were to be ‘stood down’, meaning that Amos will be judged firstly for his Christianity rant and obscene posting of LKY and Margaret Thatcher in a cartoon tryst. If the boy were to write an autobiography, it would probably be called ‘Breaking Bail’, and I have no doubt that it would be a bestseller, either by his closet fans, or extremist Christians who’ll purchase them in bulk just so that can burn it. Amos, try penning your thoughts in a draft for a future book rather by publishing them on a blog for a change. It’ll probably work better than begging kind hearted strangers for money through ‘crowdfunding’. People are bound to feel cheated if they had donated to your legal funds only for you to screw things up, so no surprise if someone vents his frustration on you in the most bizarre way possible.

Slapping the face isn’t going to wake Amos up, that’s for sure, even if many commentators felt it was ‘long overdue’. Others condemn it as child violence. You can’t take either side without sounding like a hypocrite though; for example, one may cringe in horror at the child-beating scene in Ilo Ilo, but get a Schadenfreude orgasm just watching a stranger smack the shit out of the foul-mouthed, Jesus-mocking twerp that is Amos Yee Pang Sang. Or you could be the sort who would call the police if your kid’s teacher physically drags him out of class, yet cry foul when Amos is beaten around like a ragdoll. Imagine how LKY would feel witnessing this media circus from above, shaking his head at how Singaporeans are fixated with the antics of a very naughty boy, rather than going to the National Museum to stare at his red box.

Let’s hope the slapper gets hauled in nonetheless. If you can get charged for spitting at people, I’m sure you’re not getting away with random slapping. Let this also serve as a warning to anyone looking to infiltrate the state courts grounds with a pair of garden shears. Yes, I’m talking to you, Cookie Tan. (Ironically a police report has been filed against Cookie for threatening to emasculate Amos…a now Famous Amos).

UPDATE 1May 2015: Amos’ attacker was arrested on May Day. At 49, the guy is almost as old as Singapore #SG50.

TRS creators charged with sedition

From ‘The Real Singapore duo slapped with 7 charges under Sedition Act’, 15 April 2015, article in CNA

The couple behind socio-political website The Real Singapore (TRS) – a 26-year-old Singaporean man and a 22-year-old Australian woman – were on Tuesday (Apr 14) each charged with seven counts of sedition.

Yang Kaiheng and Ai Takagi allegedly published seditious articles on the website between October 2013 and February 2015. One of these articles falsely claimed that an incident between police and some members of the public during a Thaipusam procession on Feb 3 had been sparked by a Filipino family’s complaint that the drums played during the procession upset their child. The contributor of the article posted on another website that the allegations made in the TRS piece were untrue.

Yang is Singaporean, while Ai Takagi is Australian. According to the charge sheets, the particular articles have the “tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different groups of people in Singapore, name, between ethnic Indians in Singapore and Philippine nationals in Singapore”.

…Under the Sedition Act, the duo are liable, on conviction for a first offence, to a fine of up to S$5,000 or to imprisonment for a term of up to three years, or to both. As for the charge under the Penal Code, they are punishable with imprisonment of a maximum of one month, or a maximum fine of S$1,500, or both.

From St article 15 April 15, Couple behind TRS website face sedition charges

From St article 15 April 15, Couple behind TRS website face sedition charges

The ‘seditious’ articles are still online as we speak. In the Thaipusam article, it is alleged that the provocative but flawed eye-witness account ‘asserts’ that a Filipino family CAUSED the clash. Since instruments are banned during the festival, I would imagine the police confronting the musicians anyway, with or without a crying Pinoy child. But if anyone tries to push the argument of cause vs correlation they may just find themselves at the receiving end of a contempt of court charge.

If it weren’t a Pinoy family but say an Indian family of another caste, would that constitute ‘sedition’? What about the xenophobic backlash against the celebration of Philippine Independence Day in Orchard? Shouldn’t those Singaporean bigots who fumed against the event get slapped with sedition charges as well? Or the PRC family who complained about the smell of curry from their Indian neighbours. When does a symptom of xenophobia become deadly ‘seditious’?

In the other offending article on Filipino employers, Pinoys are described as ‘relentless backstabbers’ and generally ‘share the same traits’. This guy was basically stereotyping a particular race/nationality, just like how some Facebooker complained about the smell of a certain race on the MRT, or some ex-presidential candidate thought he was in Bombay while on a bus. If I say ‘those damned Americans are a bunch of redneck hillbillies’, would I be accused of inciting hostility among groups? When Amos Yee derided Christians, he was ‘causing distress’ and ‘harassment’ but not ‘promoting ill-will’. If he had insulted another religion would he be slapped with sedition? We were all even called ‘dogs’ once by PRC scholar Sun Xu. I doubt he was bitten by a single charge. Anton Casey flew to Perth before anyone thought about whether his remarks were deemed seditious because some Singaporeans got so insulted they wanted him to pay dearly with his life.

Does hiding racial stereotypes behind ‘stand-up comedy’ protect you from sedition charges, like if you mimic an Indian accent for example? If Kumar says ‘You Chinese buggers all only know how to gamble’, do I have a case against him?  The acronym ‘PRC’ is particularly offensive. In the ‘pee in a bottle’ article, the writer simply assumed that the woman who let her grandson drop his pants and wee in public was a ‘PRC’. Nothing else was mentioned about how she wanted to sabotage all hotpots in Geylang and blow up all the PRCs eating from it. PRC is the ‘n**ger’ of Chinese nationals. Just like when Edz Ello called us ‘stinkaporeans’, we couldn’t take it and demanded that he join the Sedition Squad.

Likewise, the PRC stripper article was about how ‘the majority’ of Chinese women come here on bogus work permits to steal other people’s husbands. Nothing new here. People have been harbouring negative stereotypes about ‘China women’ for more than a decade. Do we see people rounding them up and hanging them from trees and poke them with hot skewers? No. Do people make wild empty threats against the entire community on Facebook? Of course. Do we need to bother with what they say? I guess it depends. The Sedition laws seem to guard against the possibility that people take such comments so seriously they would brandish a flaming pitchfork over it. In the past, ‘seditious literature’ was serious business. They were documents specifically designed to instigate a mutiny against British imperialists, not some rant about why you think people from a certain country suck.

If the TRS offends you, you have the moral obligation not to read or share its articles. If you experience discrimination at work, you can take formal action with the authorities without dehumanising the entire race online. Let’s not kid ourselves that racial/foreigner tensions don’t exist. We are an island of tribes and little cosy enclaves getting the job done in spite of our differences, not a ‘It’s a Small World After All’ theme ride.

Amos Yee charged under the Protection from Harassment Act

From ‘Youtube Amos Yee charged, bail set at $20,000′, 1 April 2015, article in CNA

Amos Yee Pang Sang was on Tuesday (Mar 31) charged in the State Courts with multiple charges. The 16-year-old, who was arrested on Sunday, had his charges read out to him in Court, and asked for a lawyer to represent him. The three charges were under Section 298 and Section 292(1)(a) of the Penal Code, as well as Section 4(1)(b) of the Protection from Harassment Act.

For the first charge under Section 298, the charge sheet stated that the YouTube video created by Yee “contained remarks against Christianity, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of Christians in general”.

As for the Protection from Harassment Act charge, Yee’s video “contained remarks about Mr Lee Kuan Yew which was intended to be heard and seen by persons likely to be distressed” by the clip, according to the charge sheet.

The Court also granted him a bail amount set at S$20,000, under the condition that he will not post, upload or otherwise distribute any comment or content, whether directly or indirectly, to any social media or online service or website, while the current case against him is ongoing. The amount has been posted, and Yee is out on bail.

According to section 298, it is an offence to insult someone else with the intention of wounding the religious feelings of that person, meaning if I tell you in the face that I do not think it’s physically possible for Jesus Christ to walk on water and the Bible is a silly pack of lies, and you’re offended by the remark, it means that your ‘religious feelings’ have been hurt, and I’m liable to get charged under the Penal Code although I’m merely presenting an argument based on current scientific knowledge. It’s a different story, though, if I decided to put a pig on the Kaaba. That would be an act of sedition, meaning I’m promoting ‘feelings of ill will and hostility’ among the races.  How does the law draw the line here? Has FHM been charged for depicting Jesus with a shotgun? What does Christianity say about ‘turning the other cheek’?

The more intriguing charge, however, is the one under the protection from harassment act. My idea of harassment is an obsessed fan stalking me outside my doorstep, and sending death threats to my spouse out of jealousy. The victim of the act here is, specifically, ME. Who, exactly, was Amos Yee ‘harassing’? Did he send his link to specific people and force them to watch it? Was he causing trouble to a dead man by loitering around his casket threatening to jump on it? Did he go up to the Lee family and prance around with a party hat and a trumpet going ‘Hooray your dad is dead!’?

If the harassment charge is equivalent to ‘insulting’ a fellow human because you have the ‘intention’ of doing so and it causes them ‘distress’, then we’ll have to round up a whole bunch of attention-seeking netizens and bloggers who so much as declare that a minister’s wife looks like a sack of shit, or influencers attacking other influencers with obscenities or death threats. Hell, I’ll charge the Pizza Hut guy for calling me a pink fat person because he hurt my feelings and I can’t sleep because I’m crying all night long. Amos’ parents have been called ‘useless’ by Facebookers because they can’t control their kid. Maybe they should take action against such unfair accusations as well.

Since when have we become so fragile to, for lack of a better word, MEAN things people say about us, or our dead parents? Come on, give our police a break. They just spent an entire week securing the biggest funeral of all time. Now we expect them to drag a naughty boy to court who hasn’t yet learnt how to toss a grenade or shoot a rifle. (Soon, Amos, soon). It’ll be less taxing on our psychological well-being if we just brushed off such insults, and not go ballistic on a kid like how the Thais would punish people for mocking their almighty King. Like, chill, people. Are we serving justice, or appeasement?

Amos’ crime here is being pathologically ‘insensitive’ to the occasion, and for that I personally think a jail term is too harsh. To be fair, he makes observations, one-sided as they may be, about the country and its leadership at an age when most adolescents are hopelessly apathetic about the state of the nation, spending more time at tuition or playing video games than downloading charts and statistics about how miserable Singaporeans are under LKY’s so-called ‘dictatorship’. Some uncles 3 times his age don’t even bother with the research and continue hating on the Lee legacy because their friends are into it too.

He’s 16. He’s barely growing hair on his balls, and what he needs now is learning from this and grow some ‘perspective’, ‘objectivity’ and ‘tact’, and hopefully he may mature into a formidable political commentator, channeling the eloquence and fury into something beyond acting like a spoilt brat in a Jack Neo movie.  The seeds of discontent have been planted, all he needs is some pruning. That includes the hair.

Gushcloud influencers influenced by Singtel

From ‘Gushcloud bloggers apologise for negative Singtel marketing campaign’, 18 March 2015, article by Lim Yi Han, ST

At least two bloggers have apologised for posting negative comments in a Singtel marketing campaign. Mr Xavier Ong, 20, and Ms Eunice Annabel Lim, 21, and others managed by social media marketing firm Gushcloud were allegedly asked to complain about telcos M1 and StarHub‘s services to promote Singtel’s mobile plan for youth.

Mr Ong was first to say sorry in a lengthy blog post on Wednesday. “I…apologise to anyone affected for posting negative comments towards M1 (while on a Singtel campaign) and not explicitly stating or revealing that I was on a campaign with Singtel,” he wrote. But he added that he had not lied, and that he had been “unhappy” with his service provider, M1.

Screen shots of Mr Ong’s posts on his Twitter account criticising M1 were put up by blogger Xiaxue, whose real name is Wendy Cheng, along with what she called “leaked” documents allegedly asking bloggers to complain about the services of M1 and StarHub.

Earlier this year, ST ran a feature about ‘influencers’ (Influencers hold court, but how credible are they?4 Jan 15), defined as people who have a substantial ‘reach’ and following on social media platforms, trend-setters who shape the opinions and behaviour of their fans. One of these web celebrities gave this telling soundbite: ‘With great influence comes great responsibility’. That ‘influencer’ is none other than Xavier Ong himself. Interestingly, the ST refrained from using the glamorous term in the article above, preferring to relegate Ong and his fashionable ilk to the more mundane, Roy Ngerng division of ‘bloggers’. You know, the kind that gets sued more than they’re paid.

Ong’s ‘disguised’ Singtel advertorial is still up as we speak, and it’s painfully obvious that he was in the telco’s payroll from the get-go, using old-timey marketing phrases like ‘It’s just as simple as that!’ and copy -and-pasting the charts and infographics wholesale. You’re not fooling anyone kiddo, and despite your massive ‘following’, it’s likely that people (like myself) only knew of your existence when you got yourself ‘influenced’ by $ingtel’s devious marketing strategy. Not so ‘influential’ now, eh?

You see the same ruse used in Eunice Annabel’s blog. Complain about M1’s reception, give some perky backstory about how you came across Singtel’s FANTASTIC offer, and then sell the shit out of it. Sorry I don’t buy it, but probably because I can’t make it halfway through the pretentious product placement before opening another tab in my browser to watch vastly more entertaining cat videos. Nope, not even if they do naked selfies for the sake of the goddamn Youth Plan.

Poor Starhub. Lifestyle blogger/model/actress/Starhub hater Lydia Izzati was merciless in her shaming of the rival telco, saying ‘Screw You Starhub‘, only to go on to praise the Singtel Youth Plan to the heavens. I couldn’t find the Gushcloud logo anywhere on her blog though, but any site that requires me to scroll down for eternity through the most trivial artifacts of your life story and giving me finger abrasions doesn’t warrant any form of ‘influence’ in my opinion.

As for the masterminds behind this fiasco, tapping ‘influencers’ as part of your smear campaign seems like  a desperate tactic following some abject failures previously, like the mRemit ad with painted-on throbbing man-boobs. The marketing honcho explained that this was an ‘isolated incident’ and the campaign was a ‘niche’ one, ‘targeted at a narrow customer segment’. Let’s see, two pretty faces, both early twenties, with around 10 million site hits between them, a YOUTH plan. You’re not exactly selling frozen yogurt to elderly people with dentures, Singtel.

Singtel got it sorted out eventually, with Gushcloud’s partnership and the staff in charge getting terminated on 19 March 2015 (Singtel CEO Chua Sock Koong apologises to M1, Starhub, employee in Gushcloud campaign no longer with Singtel). Maybe the work of some attention-seekers wanting to earn an extra buck doing the dirty work for a telco giant has brought about the eradication of this ‘influenca’ virus once and for all. Incidentally, the telco recently unveiled a new logo and a slogan called ‘make everyday better‘. By paying clueless narcissists to bitch about your competitors I suppose.

As for Gushcloud, or should I say Blushcloud, you could still reinvent yourselves after this embarrassment, not as a ‘social media talent agency ‘ but maybe an underground fetish network for like-minded individuals to socialise via a ‘niche’ genre of ‘watersports’.

This article was not brought to you by Singtel, Starhub, M1 or MyRepublic.

Spornosexuals showing off on Instagram

From ‘The rise of the spornosexual’, 1 March 2015, article by Gurveen Kaur, Sunday Life!

With his six-pack abs, bulging biceps and tanned, smooth skin, Mr Edwin Kon looks every bit the fitness model. The flight attendant, 29, has been snapping topless selfies ever since he began hitting the gym regularly seven years ago. Initially, the snaps served merely as a visual chart for him to track his physical development. Two years ago, however, he began posting them on Instagram.

“I’m proud of the way I look,” he says. “And there is nothing wrong with posting photos of myself in swimming trunks on social media.” Since then, he has amassed close to 37,000 followers with photos of his ripped physique – images that leave little to the imagination.

Nearly all of them are tagged: #spornosexual.

Coined last year by British journalist Mark Simpson (the same man who gave the world “metrosexual” in 1994), the term refers to a more hardcore, body- obsessed version of the noughties’ appearance- and fashion- conscious man.

Think football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, pop star Justin Bieber and local actors Allan Wu and Zheng Geping.

If you’re wondering why there’s ‘porn’ in the term, ‘sporno’ is actually a portmanteau of ‘sport’ and ‘porn’, though I don’t see how that applies to Justin Bieber. Lest we forget, the singer used to look like a floppy muppet. I’m also not sure if gym counts as a sport at all. It’s like calling torture a hobby, or walking on broken glass tap dancing.

Bae Bae Bae ooooh

‘Porn’ is apt, in the sense of how these narcissists flood Instagram with their ripped torsos, or ‘torso-porn’. Like porn, sporno hunks objectify the male anatomy, reducing it to money shots of glistening abs, throbbing waxed pecs and bulbous biceps. The first thing you notice is their He-Man boobs, not their personality or their faces.  If you wear a very uncomfortable T-shirt over your sculpted body however, it sometimes looks like you’re hiding an alien trilobite underneath. Which explains why spornosexuals are often topless because the beast needs to breathe.

While ‘food porn’ gets your digestive juices flowing, ‘sporno’ makes you hate your flabby self and contemplate spending your money on ‘ab sculpting’ to fit in with the ideal of a ‘manly man’. It makes you look at your creepy fat uncle during CNY dinner and ask him: ‘Why can’t you do something about yourself and become more like Zheng Guoping, dammit!’ For some, it stimulates more juices than just salivation.

The idea of masculinity has been in flux ever since the first caveman began dragging his mate by her hair. Greek warriors and immortals like Adonis were fetishised and worshipped, similar to how our spornosexuals idolise the perfect body. Before Instagram, we already had buff, ripped men posing naked on canvas. Note the precision used in creating the shadow over his wondrous butt-crack. #greciosexual

In the 1950’s-60s, we aspired for the ‘Hollywood leading man’ look, the cool cat who didn’t think it was necessary to wear tight fitting shirts. All you needed were dreamy blue eyes, a sexy stare and wind-blown hair. Think classics like James Dean, Paul Newman or Robert Redford. Looking good was supposed to be EFFORTLESS, not spending your time pumping goddamn iron. Your face, that smooth pout, that intensity, did the talking, not your biceps. These men made the girls surrender to their irresistible indifference, hairy nipples or not. #dreamboatsexual

The 70’s had its ‘macho man’, and the Village People even made a song out of it.  These beefcakes were not afraid to show off their armpit hair, or sport porno moustaches. The 70’s man indulged in vices loud and proud, sexualising beer, cigarettes and illicit drugs. The spornosexual on the other hand, is often as hairless as a baby’s bottom, in more places than you can imagine. He champions a ‘healthy lifestyle’, owns more wrist monitors than I’ve had watches in my lifetime, and probably has never heard of disco. #hirsutesexual

Hey Girl

The 80’s was the era of the ‘action hero’, in the spirit of the machismo carried over from the decade before. Heartthrobs like Jean Claude Van Damme, Sly Stallone and Arnie were the real deal, and could smack today’s spornosexuals around with their pinkies while curling 10 kgs with the other hand. Conan the Barbarian FTW. Brawn mattered more than brain, and that was just fine.  They graced B-grade movie posters and the covers of Mills and Boons romance novels. Hair started disappearing from chests and faces and migrated in droves to the scalp. In the early 90’s it was Highlander ‘himbo’ chic. You could be a garbage man in overalls and still exude glorious Fabio levels of manliness. You are Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers running in slow motion. #barbariosexual

Me sword very big

Red Hot

Guys started to soften since. From lusty lumberjacks or stately warriors they became dandy princes on horses and pasty-faced vampires, and what used to be grease on their faces is now replaced by a more expensive form of emollient known as moisturiser. The new man was confident, well groomed, dapper and was ‘in touch’ with his feminine side. In short, they became richer but ‘gayer’. They’re not handy with power drills or axe to chop wood, but know exactly which button to unbutton to look absolutely ravishing. Cue the #metrosexual.

He’s a dish. Best served cold

But it didn’t stop there. The masculine identity hit its pinnacle with the UBERSEXUAL. George Clooney became the man of the decade. The ‘Sexiest men alive’ as voted by People Magazine became less rugged and grimy over time, from Mel Gibson and Nick Nolte (?!) to more recent winners like Adam Levine and Ryan Gosling who fit the ‘uber’ bill. The latest winner, however, is grog-guzzling Thor himself Chris Hemsworth, who embodies more of the throwback Conan the Barbarian archetype than the fitspo-addicted spornosexuals of today, guys who swing a mighty hammer like a woman twirling a hula hoop. There is hope.

An interesting trend is the evolution of James Bond, who has traditionally been a sleek, not too muscular ladykiller who epitomised the definition of ‘dashing’. Sean Connery was the classic ladies’ man, before he morphed into the more girly Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Today’s 007 comes in the unlikely hunky -doriness of Daniel Craig. Craig is roast beef to Brosnan’s turkey bacon. Or look at Superman. Then and now. All tight and buff but still afraid of Kryptonite. #supersexual

It’s a bicep, it’s a plane.

The rise of celebrity chefs led the way for the invasion of the GASTROSEXUALS. Men who like to imagine themselves conquering Hell’s Kitchen, who know exactly what’s the best spatula or egg timer to use when baking a souffle. Never have we seen the Y-chromosome subject to so much sexual selection over time. It’s more straightforward for the ‘ideal’ woman. They become fatter or skinnier, their hair and skirts get longer or shorter. One moment our girl-crush is Kate Moss, the next it’s Kim Kadashian. Sexy women are just ‘sexual’, without us having to compartmentalise them by their penchant for facial products or whether they post pole-dancing videos on Facebook.

Maybe it’s time to look beyond the physique and glamour and reflect on what society (by society I mean women) finds alluring in a man again. Wit, intelligence, a sparkle in the eye? A man who impresses not with his pectorals but his poetic sense of humour and charm, with an endearing beer-belly body type that suggests mirth and a devil-may-care attitude. Think anti-sporno characters like Jonah Hill, or Ricky Gervais. Comedians basically, with as much brain as belly, not so much brawn. #flabbosexuals

But on a serious note, maybe we need to see if such spornosexualising is even healthy to begin with. You may be fit as a fiddle, but fall prey to a gym addiction and obsess over your body-image. You may collapse into a nervous wreck every time someone makes a passing remark of your weight, or the size of your chest, or fall into depression if someone else got more ‘Likes’ than you did on Instagram. You decide to hit the gym past midnight because you feel guilty about having half a pineapple tart. You spend an hour touching up your pic just to get the right hue on your six-pack and aureolae before making it your icon on Whatsapp. People who nod off on your shoulder on the MRT get concussions because you’re built like a German tank.

That’s no longer ‘pride’ anymore, dude.  It’s body dysmorphic disorder.

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