LKY antagonising an entire generation of Chinese

From ‘Life after Cabinet…and death’, 11 Aug 2013, excerpts from ‘One Man’s View of the World’, Think, Sunday Times.

…Occasionally, when I disagree strongly with something, I make my views known to the Prime Minister. There was an instance of this when the Government was looking to reintroduce Chinese dialect programmes on free-to-air channels.

A suggestion was made: “Mandarin is well-established among the population now. Let us go back to dialects so the old can enjoy dramas.”

I objected, pointing out that I had, as prime minister, paid a heavy price getting the dialect programmes suppressed and encouraging people to speak Mandarin. So why backtrack?

I had antagonised an entire generation of Chinese, who found their favourite dialect programmes cut off. There was one very good narrator of stories called Lee Dai Sor on Rediffusion, and we just switched off his show.

Why should I allow Cantonese or Hokkien to infect the next generation? If you bring it back, you will find portions of the older generation beginning to speak in dialects to their children and grandchildren. It will creep back, slowly but surely…

When the Speak Mandarin Campaign brought its War on Dialect to radio in 1982, clamping down on dialect broadcasts over Rediffusion, that didn’t stop master storyteller Lee Dai Sor from producing his own albums, TWELVE of them in fact. That’s more albums than all the Singapore Idols combined. His bestseller cassette, Ru Chao San Bu Wen, was a folk legend about incompetent Qing emperors. In 1983, he rejected SBC’s invitation to perform at a New Year show because he had to speak Mandarin. In the media, he reportedly ‘retired from broadcasting’, but now we have confirmation from LKY himself that the plug was pulled on his show because it was in Cantonese.

This was a man who could sell the Singapore Story better any million-dollar NDP, but had to pursue his passion working for Radio Australia and Rediffusion Malaysia when his own country turned him away. Celebrated as a folk hero, drama company Toy Factory produced a play about Lee’s life, titled ‘Big Fool Lee’, a homage to Lee’s influence as the voice of a generation who refused to be muted by LKY’s social engineering. ‘Big Fool’ died in 1989, but his spirit, like dialect, lives on today.

Dialects have already crept into mainstream consciousness and pop culture, ‘slowly but surely’ no matter how LKY tried to suppress it with the same vigour as SARS. As late as 1990, Cantonese ‘patriotic’ songs like Sparrow With Twigs were banned from airplay and only recently reinstated. In a big way too, being featured in local movie ‘That Girl in Pinafore’. It’s not just the older generation ‘threatening’ to make dialect fashionable again. Local rapper Shigga Shay boasts about being a ‘Limpeh’. Mr Brown’s ‘Lekuasimi’ was a spoof of an NDP song. Royston Tan’s 881 made us (the English-educated included) all sing ‘Che Lang Che Pua’ in KTVs again.

We continue to order ‘kopi siew dai’, not ‘coffee, less sugar’, and order ‘har gao’, not ‘prawn dumplings’. Dialect has already been embedded in our social fabric, gone beyond the days of ‘Wah Lau’, and there’s nothing a 90 year old Hakka politician can do about it. Especially when his own PAP successors are using it as rhetoric. Goh Chok Tong used ‘pah see buay zao’ in reference to ‘stayers’. You could use the same phrase for Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hainanese and what have you. If there’s anything that needs a resurgence it’s Mandarin itself, our general grasp of it left a lot to be desired, though we have more than enough PRCs moving here to help us, well, ‘keep up’ with the language.

Unlike Mandarin, dialect doesn’t exist in textbooks nor does it appear in listening comprehension tests.  It lives only in the hearts, minds and mouths of Singaporeans, young or old, proud enough to speak it and keep it alive, campaign or no campaign, a glorious artifact that binds us to our roots. Anyone can be a polyglot or Chinese scholar if they train hard enough, but only in Singapore can one be a true master of the dialects, like the late Ah Nan was. Those who agree, please Kee Chiu.

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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?

SAF offering citizenship to Malaysian enlistees

From ‘ Knuckledusters era over, says former ST editor’, 20 Oct 2012, article by Amir Hussein, CNA

In 1973, a reporter at the now-defunct New Nation broke a story about how the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) was inviting Malaysians to enlist, with Singapore citizenship as an incentive. The reporter got the story after spotting a small classified advertisement put up by the SAF in The Straits Times.

On the same day that the story was published, plainclothes police officers turned up at the newsroom and whisked him away for interrogation.  A week later, on a Sunday, the reporter was personally served with an enlistment notice – even though he had completed four years of National Service in the Vigilante Corps.

Detailing the episode in his book OB Markers: The Straits Times Story, former Singapore Press Holdings English and Malay Newspapers Division Editor-in-Chief Cheong Yip Seng said that, until now, the episode was not publicised and was known only to the newsroom, the reporter’s family and friends.

…Among the chapters is one on the “Knuckledusters Era” of the 1970s where Mr Cheong, 69, recounts the Government’s “tough treatment of the Singapore media”, including crackdowns on newspapers.

“I have seen newspapers closed when they fell foul of the government, and friends lose their jobs. Journalists have been detained. I did not suffer their fate, but many were the times when I was at the receiving end of Lee Kuan Yew’s fury,” he writes.

Bringing non-locals into the armed forces with the carrot of citizenship isn’t so shocking when you consider how we dangle incentives in front of foreign talent these days, especially when it comes to our Olympic Table Tennis players. However it’s one thing to have a foreigner win medals, and another to have one bear arms for the country. I just had to find out for myself if such enlistment ads by SAF actually existed. It didn’t take long to dig the online ST vaults to uncover one in 1974, which was out to recruit non-combat staff like mechanics, armourers and storemen.

Zooming in, you can see that ‘non-citizens who are successful in their applications will be offered citizenship’.

You can also refer to a 1973 ad which may be the one mentioned in Cheong’s book, where in addition to those listed above, foreigners may serve as a combat medical orderly. There was, however, no specific mention of Malaysians. Even the NAVY was offering foreigners the same reward. Where one’s loyalties lie was secondary to the urgency of building up military numbers. Shoot first, integrate later. You could apply the same analogy to the current state of ping-pong. Paddler first, Singaporean second.

So how different are things these days? Check out this Navy recruitment brochure, where one prerequisite other than being Singaporean is that you’re a Singaporean PR ‘intending to take up citizenship’.  According to the QnA, you will need to be a Singapore citizen, however, before putting your ink on the contract. You also have to serve NS if you’re a second generation PR. Although there are no explicit terms and conditions guaranteeing citizenship after 2 years of wasting your life, there are subtler ways of nudging you into becoming Singaporean. In 2010, a $9000 payout to NSmen was withheld from PRs, only to be handed out once they become citizens,  serving as both reward (for citizens) and BAIT (for PRs). However, there are still many who would rather give up the PR status than submit themselves to conscription. Minister of Defence Ng En Hen revealed in 2011 that a third of male foreigners who became PRs under the sponsorship of their parents renounced their PR status just before enlistment.

The government has since been juggling between having enough men in the SAF to defend the country vs retaining enough countrymen (and PRs) itself. But it’s not just prospective Singaporeans who are repelled by NS,  many born and bred here are equally reluctant to bear arms for the nation. Ng Eng Hen recently revealed an increased number of Singaporean and PR defaulters (those who failed to register or went AWOL after going abroad) this year compared to last. A sagging birth rate isn’t helping either; we can be discharging all the state of the art missiles our inflated military budget can buy, yet fire nothing but blanks in our bedrooms. You can roll in the mud, hurl a grenade or assemble a rifle in less than 30 seconds, but fail in the most basic task of replacing yourself.

But back to knuckle-dusting. It wasn’t just the 70’s that was a thugs’ life for journalists who question the status quo. The last reference about ‘knuckle-dusters’ came as late as 1994, when LKY wrote in his memoirs his affection towards political writer Catherine Lim.

Supposing Catherine Lim was writing about me and not the prime minister . .. She would not dare, right? Because my posture, my response has been such that nobody doubts that if you take me on, I will put on knuckle-dusters and catch you in a cul de sac . . . Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle dusters.

Strong words, but you’d have little to fear really; Knuckle-dusters are banned here and we’re getting too crowded to be caught alone and defenceless in ‘cul de sacs’. But here’s what they look like, for the benefit of those who think LKY’s referring to sparring mittens. You can see it’s far too deadly a weapon even for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Your knuckles are dusted

Eve Tan calling Malays low educated and lazy

From ‘Disgust over Eve and Ivy cyber rants’, 10 Oct 2012, article by Ian Poh, ST

INTERNET users are calling for action to be taken against two other people who posted controversial comments on Facebook. They said the posts’ authors should be dealt with in a similar way to Ms Amy Cheong, the woman fired on Monday for making racially offensive remarks about the Malay community.

One of the two Facebook users, who called herself Eve Tan, also posted derogatory comments about Malays, branding them “low educated” and “lazy”. They were apparently made last month in response to a question on the Health Promotion Board’s profile page. When others challenged her, she replied: “Get real, just see the truth.”

Another Facebook user calling herself Ivy Lim has also come under scrutiny for comments posted on the site. She had written: “Looks like all th(e) Malays can’t get over it. Poor thing!”

…Mr Nazry shared a screenshot of Ms Tan’s controversial comment and captioned it: “A fine example of complete ignorance portrayed by our very own Singaporeans.

“It truly, truly disappoints me that some of us are no longer sensitive and tolerant to the feelings of other races. Whatever happened to racial harmony/tolerance?”

Close call for those who ‘Liked’ this

Hence ‘$50 void deck weddings’

I do agree that this is a ‘fine example of complete ignorance’, because you’d have to be a complete moron to post such things on Facebook in light of how ‘netizens’ react to touchy race issues these days. In a separate post, Eve Tan gave some dubious statistics about how Malays make up the majority of prisoners and underaged smokers. Facebookers like her aren’t the only Singaporeans caught expressing the ‘hard truth’ about local Malays. There’s another more important and renown personality who knows a thing or two about the Malay psyche, and if he had a Facebook account, I wonder if he would be publicly slammed in the media or summoned by the police for ‘investigations’ as well.

Last year, LKY’s Hard Truths was branded as ‘haram‘, or forbidden to Muslims, by the Malaysian government (You may still get a copy from the nearest bookstore). According to Wikileaks, he called Islam a ‘venomous’ religion. He also urged Muslims should let go of some strict religious observances and be more sociable when eating with others, a statement regretted by both his own son and Minister Yaacob who had to apologise on his behalf. The AMP (Association of Muslim Professionals) criticised him for implying that Malays are lagging behind in terms of educational levels compared to Chinese and Indians. But like Amy Cheong’s comment on Muslim marriages, perhaps we should step back and reflect before grabbing the flaming pitchfork and raze Eve and Ivy’s houses to the ground.

In 2009, a 10 year report on PSLE maths reported a plunge in performance for Malays in that subject from 1999 to 2008, along with poorer results overall compared to Chinese and Indians. Teachers cited the reason for poor math as Malay students seemingly resigning to this as a ‘personal flaw’ by nature, as well as their not being able to afford tuition like the other races. Even with free tuition sponsored by Mendaki, there were ‘indifferent’ parents who did not bother sending their kids for classes. PSLE may not the most reliable marker for the success of an ethnic group, but this does highlight the complex interplay between educational level, family income, a system that has become heavily dependent on tuition and a perceived less-than-enthusiastic attitude towards academic performance.

It’s not so easy to back up ‘facts’ about Malays committing crimes though. The Singapore Prison Service Annual Statistics offers no data on ethnic proportion in jails in 2012, although in 2004, the Chinese still made up the majority of inmates (> 40%) with Malays in second place. What has been reported, though, is that the number of Malay drug abusers arrested has increased by 6.8% compared to drops among Chinese and Indian addicts in the first half of this year (vs the first half of 2011). In 2010, stats were released to Khaw Boon Wan showing that the number of Malay smokers aged 30-39 was DOUBLE that of Chinese or Indians. You can also find data to justify your claim that ‘Malays are too fat’ or have more births out of a wedlock, but I wouldn’t expect to get reliable information on teenage pregnancies, violent crime or PSLE/O Level failures, and perhaps for good reason.

All this talk about ‘lazy Malays’ reinforces the  ‘Relac one corner’ stereotype and racist jokes about chauffeurs named Ahmad, and it is one that is entrenched deep in Singapore-Malayan history. In the 20’s you could write freely about how the Malays are ‘cursed with the lazy spirit’ and have a ‘marvellous ingenuity of avoiding work’.   Malays continued to defend themselves against the ‘cruel epithet’ that is ‘The Lazy Malays’ into the 50’s. They were described as a ‘leisure-loving, lazy people contented with what little success they have’, formed the bulk of ‘grass cutters, drivers, PEONS and clerks’ and were struggling in school because of laziness and ‘lack of willpower’. It even appeared in school humanities textbooks in 1956, where Malays were described as ‘lazy and indolent’. Malayan historian Sir Richard Winstedt was accused of writing an entry in the Encyclopedia Brittanica that they were ‘lazy, dishonest and immoral’. It was later attributed to an anonymous correspondent and another white fellow called Sir Hugh Clifford (of whom Clifford Pier was named after). Half a century later and despite societal advancements, this mindset about certain races or classes remains as narrow as before.

In 2004, a motivational guru from Malaysia delivered a reality check on the state of the Malays, which he believed was ‘rotting':

The Malays are hardworking, but not as consistently hardworking like other races. They are only hardworking in things they are passionate about. The successful races are hardworking in whatever they do.

Malay-bashing isn’t just limited to Singaporeans. A Malaysian-Hainanese rapper named Wee Meng Chee, or Namewee, ranted against the Cantonese, Singaporeans and ‘Bumi’ Malays in a song called ‘Kawanku’ in 2007, where Malays ‘ tak suka kerja’ (don’t like to work), ‘tiap hari tidur’ (sleep everyday) and would regret if there were no Chinese in Malaysia because of one less holiday (CNY). Namewee is considered a seditious troubemaker to the Malaysian authorities, and if anyone came up with something similar in Singapore, they would spend a few weeks hanging out in a cell with people who have sex with underaged prostitutes, while their racist rap goes viral on Youtube.

Well, we are all hardworking in things we love doing. Perhaps the Malays love doing some stuff more than others, and even if they’re lagging behind in terms of what we traditionally view as academic success or an illustrious career, look no further than our fertility rate by ethnicity to see what the Chinese and Indians are lagging behind the Malays in. What really matters now, an issue of national EMERGENCY, is being hardworking in an activity that is the complete opposite of ‘work’ altogether.

I haven’t watched Avenue Q at MBS, but I wonder if this song is still on the playlist after recent events.

Archbishop’s letter harming social harmony in Singapore

From ‘Archibishop slams Alex Au, anti-ISA organisers’, 20 Sept 2012, article by Teo Xuanwei, Today

The head of the Catholic Church here has criticised a blogger and the organisers of a rally against the Internal Security Act (ISA) over a blog post which suggested that he was pressured by the Government into retracting a letter he had sent expressing support for the event. The flap arose from Mr Alex Au’s lengthy critique on his blog – posted on Tuesday – of what he described as the Government’s “arm-twisting” of Archbishop Nicholas Chia.

Mr Au wrote that based on “second-hand” accounts, Archbishop Chia had sent a “warmly-worded” letter to the event organisers – civil society groups Function 8 and Maruah – only to later send a second letter to withdraw his statements, purportedly after pressure from the Government. Archbishop Chia said yesterday that he had decided to withdraw his letter because “on reflection, its contents did not accurately reflect my views on the subject, and if used in a manner that I did not intend, may inadvertently harm the social harmony in Singapore“.

According to Alex Au’s blog Yawning bread:

…In the warmly-worded letter, the archbishop expressed his support for the rally and, I am told, endorsed the call for the abolition of the law in question.

The blogger, who previously was coerced into removing posts for criticising the Law Minister and the AGC’s verdict on Woffles Wu, did not reveal who his sources were, and later claimed in his article that His Grace was called up to ‘lim kopi’ with DPM Teo Chee Hean. No one will know for sure if that ever happened, but it appears that past spats with members of Parliament and the authorites have failed to stop Alex from delivering scoop after scoop of incendiary insider news, undeterred by the possibility of being brought to task for ‘serious allegations’. One can still wonder, though, what exactly the Archbishop wrote that made him do a double-take, failing which his letter, once publicised, would have detrimental effects on our SOCIAL HARMONY. At most, you’d imagine a man of God asking for compassion and enlightenment in meting out hard and swift ‘justice’ on political firebrands, be they Marxists or what not. Nothing wrong with that, and I would expect a religious man to apply the same grace of God whether or not it’s ISA detainees or the man on the street, without ‘crossing the line’ into politics or stirring up a frenzy all over the country.

In the last GE, it was often the POLITICIANS themselves treading the fine line through their visits to places of worship, yet  nobody tells them off for mixing their dirty work with religion. Which makes separating religion from politics like keeping a dog away from a lamppost, especially when you’re giving a sermon on what some might refer to a crime against humanity. The Catholic Church indeed has an embittered history with the ruling party for sympathising with the said detainees, though the MHA refers to the relationship as a ‘long-standing’ one. In 1987, a mass was held for victims at the Church of the Risen Christ, at which, according to some fellow Catholics who were riled by the event for transgressing the political sphere, were supporters wearing ‘T-shirts with slogans’. According to a ST report on the 400-strong event, the shirts were yellow and bore the biblical quote ‘The Truth Will Set You Free’. Nothing will happen to you today if you wore such cliches out on the street, other than a wink and nod from fanboys of conspiracy theories and the X-files. It also sounds like a typical lyric from a K pop song with bits of English chorus in it.

Father Edgar D’Souza, one of the organisers of such masses, caught the attention of then PM Lee Kuan Yew, who had terrifying words for this ‘emotional’ show of support for individuals he deemed as violent terrorists.

If this is carried on, it may not be the next mass, it may not be the next statement but if feelings were aroused, if the agitation continued, THERE MUST BE A COLLISION.

The priest, along with 3 others, were later summoned by LKY to the Istana in a ‘closed-door’ meeting and reportedly threatened with arrest under the ISA for seemingly ‘subversive’ activities in invoking the name of God to rouse their clergy. LKY had also complained to the Archibishop Gregory Yong to keep his priests in check and not ‘engage in jousting’ on Government policies. Following the fateful meeting, the Archbishop suspended the 4 priests to avoid a ‘conflict or collision between the Church and State’, apparently under pressure by the PM. It then transpired that LKY had unleashed a litany of criticisms levelled at the Church and the Archbishop, and did not show due respect to the holy chief of churches. When a joint statement was read out by His Grace during the Istana meeting, LKY looked at his watch and asked ‘how long he was going to take’. But losing his frock wasn’t all for D’Souza; he was later embroiled in scandal with a ‘woman lawyer’. A certain Father Joachim Kang who spoke out on how the Archbishop was ‘cornered’ by the PM would be the same priest later arrested and jailed for misappropriating church funds worth $5 million.

So the current Archbishop’s withdrawal could certainly be a change of heart and playing it safe, bearing in mind what the previous Archbishop went through with LKY and the PAP, or, as Alex Au suggests, there was a touch of government nudging to ward off any ‘social disharmony’ that may arise from influential men speaking out on a ‘sacred cow’, a cow so old you could strip its leathery hide off its back and use it to whip people into submission immediately. His Grace later clarified that his first ‘letter’ was intended as ‘private communication’.  You’re the HEAD of the Catholic Church, and you’re writing to an activist group. Unless you’re inviting them to tea at church, anything written in the official capacity of a religious heavyweight to a group that names itself after a button on a keyboard is perhaps too BIG a deal NOT to get leaked, especially if it’s an E-mail. Let this be a lesson to all: If in doubt, use the ‘Recall’ button.

Of course the government understands the power of religion to sway the masses into irrational groupthink. There were probably more prayers whispered for Kong Hee than a decade’s worth of tsunami victims combined, and any force that could propel pastor Sun Ho into superstardom has the power to overturn archaic laws as well. In their fear of whipping up unwanted support for activist groups like Function 8, the Government’s hush-hush sessions with religious leaders on ‘sensitive issues’ have whipped up nothing but curiosity and speculation instead.

Lee Wei Ling and LKY are dyslexics

From ‘The long and short of rules’, 2 Sept 2012, article by Lee Wei Ling, Think, Sunday Times

…Ryan’s mother, however, reacted melodramatically. She went to the press with her son’s story and lodged a police report. She claimed that Ryan “could not leave home for two days because of the way he looked”. Then she arranged for him to have a $60 haircut.

She excused her son’s disobedience by saying he was dyslexic, and that dyslexics were forgetful. Both my father and I are dyslexic. We are no more forgetful than other normal people.

…Ryan’s mother’s reaction to the teacher cutting her son’s hair was, I am afraid, close to hysterical. How do we bring up our children with the right values when parents and schools send such conflicting messages?

I wouldn’t doubt a famous neurologist’s analysis on the symptoms of dyslexia, and I fully concur with her diagnosis of HYSTERIA in Ryan’s mother. But what’s interesting about this week’s Lee Wei Ling column is not so much her stand on hair rules or teachers playing barber (which is not surprising since she fancies a shorn crop, probably one that’s even shorter than Ryan’s), but her admission that both herself and LKY are dyslexics. Wei Ling herself once confessed that she didn’t really pay attention during GP lessons, which could be related to her undiagnosed dyslexia then. Despite that, she did well (an ‘A’ too) and look where she is now.

In a 2009 article ‘Morals and Morale’, Wei Ling was candidly honest about her problems with spelling in English, but did not shy away from boasting about how good she was at Chinese ‘mo-xie’, a test in which you had to regurgitate an entire essay or poem entirely by memory.

Those who know about moxie might be surprised to hear that I enjoyed memorising the classics, and I never got less than 90 marks for moxie. It was English spelling that I had problems with.

Since I had no difficulty with written Chinese, I blamed my problems with English spelling on the strange spelling rules of the language. It was only many years later that I discovered I was dyslexic in English. To this day, I sometimes cannot decide whether to use a ‘d’ or a ‘t’, a ‘v’ or a ‘z’. I have even more difficulty with vowels. Fortunately, my e-mail and word-processing programs have spell checkers.

In 1995, the good doctor was kind enough to sign up as Advisor to the DAS (Dyslexic Association of Singapore), an acronym which I’ve come to realise is a smart wordplay on how dyslexics tend to ‘mirror-write’ (DAS backwards is SAD). Wei Ling also spent some time in the 80’s as registrar at TTSH working with ‘under-achieving’ kids, a euphemism for ‘slow learners’ or ‘backward’ children. In the 60’s, experts were quick to discount myths that children who suffer from ‘word-blindness’, as it was formerly known, were ‘necessarily STUPID’. In the 70’s you would see headlines in the ST like ‘The bright kids who just cannot write; first in a two-part series on ABNORMAL children’. In the tradition of making disorders less dreadful than they sound by making them harder to read or spell, dyslexia has been rebranded recently as Developmental Reading Disorder (DRD).

Looking at the language standards of Facebook posts and Twitter feeds, you would think dyslexia, despite affecting up to 10% of Singaporeans, is still relatively under-diagnosed here. Perhaps the rate would have been higher if spellcheck and Autocorrect were never invented. There’s also a chance that with the stigma removed and dyslexia being erroneously tied to genius like how bipolar mania has become a ‘fashionable’ disease, normal people who write undecipherable emails may abuse the ‘dyslexia’ label by claiming they are ‘dyslexic’ when they’re just TERRIBLE, LAZY spellers. I hope DAS never has to change their name to DRDAS.

In a 2007 interview with the New York Times, LKY mentioned that an unnamed grandson was dyslexic as well (without saying that he had it himself), further supporting the observation that it runs in families and is more common in boys than girls. No signs of it in PM Lee so far, though he has the occasional lapse in mistaking one hawker food for another.

I’ve got one grandson gone to MIT. Another grandson had been in the American school here. Because he was dyslexic and we then didn’t have the teachers to teach him how to overcome or cope with his dyslexia, so he was given exemption to go to the American school. He speaks like an American. He’s going to Wharton.

It was Lee Wei Ling herself who revealed to the media that her daddy suffered from ‘mild dyslexia’ in 1996 (SM Lee has mild dyslexia, says daughter who’s dyslexic, 18 Jan 1996, ST), just like how she told the whole world last year he had peripheral neuropathy. Still, dyslexia didn’t seem to stop the elder statesman from publishing bestselling autobiographies showing a strong command of the written word, though I doubt he said anything about the disorder in ‘Hard Truths’. In the HongKong Journal of Paediatrics 2005, LKY was cited as a case study of highly successful dyslexics, where he submitted himself to testing only when he realised that ‘he couldn’t read fast without missing important items’. Proceeds from sales of a CD-ROM of his life were donated to the DAS (You can still buy it from e-bay but not sure where the money goes now). LKY’s affliction is proof that some dyslexic individuals not only function just as well as their ‘normal’ peers in society, but far exceed their abilities in all other aspects. The list include visionaries like Richard Branson and Albert Einstein, famed Scientologist actor Tom Cruise, Mickey Mouse creator Walt Disney, light bulb inventor Thomas Edison and internet sensation ‘Dog Bless You’ Dr Jia Jia.

And how could I forget Derek Zoolander and Homer Simpson.

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.

We’re not ready for a world without LKY

From ‘Singapore heaves huge sigh of relief at Lee Kuan Yew’s NDP appearance’, 10 Aug 2012, article by Melissa Aw, Yahoo News.

…In the past week, rumours swirled online and offline that the former Singapore Prime Minister’s health was fading quickly. Day by day, the speculation grew stronger and wilder.

…Although a quick check by Yahoo! at Lee’s Oxley Road house on Wednesday showed nothing out of the ordinary, rumours continued to grow online and offline. Soon, the health of Lee became a topic of national debate and the “will he or won’t he appear at NDP?” question grew into a audible chorus ahead of National Day.

Even members of the media were not immune to the frenzy.  The Straits Times’ political journalist Tessa Wong addressed the rumours on Twitter, dismissing claims of a cover-up and that Lee was alive and well.  Channel NewsAsia editor and presenter Glenda Chong also stepped up to clear the rumours on her Facebook wall on Wednesday.

Without mentioning names, she wrote, “So a lot of people have been asking me a question! He’s alive and please watch NDP tomorrow… Trust me he’s alive, otherwise I will be extremely busy!”

The reporter above was kind enough not to pose the REAL question on everyone’s minds this past week leading up to NDP. Did LKY DIE before the parade? Then there are the conspiracy theorists and their ‘body double’ explanations for his miraculous appearance. The truth turned out to be stranger than the fiction one sees in typical Dictator stereotypes or madcap movies like Weekend at Bernie’s; the old man’s still alive, though to say that such rife hearsay kept everyone tense on the edge of their seats and emitting a huge gaseous sigh of relief is probably pushing it. The nail-biting twisty climax to what appears to be a bad M Night Shyamalan political thriller is an apt image of LKY looking dapper in red, giving a victorious double thumbs up. It could have been two middle fingers instead.

Leader in Red

Don’t these internet gossips know that if they’re trying to start a fire online they’re equally likely to get burnt? Yaacob Ibrahim just added one more reason to this list of ‘Reasons to Regulate the Internet’ in his push for a Code of Conduct. But what’s interesting about the Yahoo article is not so much its content, but the title of its weblink in full:

Which raises the question: What will become of us when LKY is dead and gone? Will we be like sheeps without a shepherd? A rock band without a drummer? A brothel without a mama-san? Sewer rats without the Pied Piper?

It’s not surprising that LKY has ‘used up’ one of his 9 lives before. In 2010, ex-Singaporean and now American lawyer Gopalan Nair admitted in his Singapore Dissident blog to publishing a hoax that LKY had ‘suffered from a massive heart attack':

Even though I made up everything I said about Dear Leader about his heart attack, and none of it is true, I can assure you that the scenario that I painted assuming that he dies is completely correct.

So what scenario was Nostradamus here talking about? According to his original tall tale, ‘such a happening can destroy the business confidence and cause total destruction in the small island city state.’ There were also ‘peaceful protesters and demonstrators… holding placards reading “Democracy” and “Down With the Dictator” and chanting slogans.’ As far as I’m aware there were no ‘Hurry up and Die already’ campaigns going on in the build-up to NDP aside from the scatterbrained hullabaloo and white noise in social media. If the sources were in fact reliable, I would think most of us would have been stunned at first, but gradually come to accept and carry on with our lives. We wouldn’t be thinking of packing our bags and, like Gopalan, seek asylum in a country where you can get gunned down by madmen while watching Batman in a movie theatre or praying to your gods in a temple. In fact, Gopalan is still drilling in our heads even in the midst of this gonzo media circus that we’ll be hapless without LKY, that the stock market would plunge, and the Sing dollar would be worthless. WORTHLESS, I tell you. Woe is me!

If LKY did have a major coronary, the media would have jumped on it like a rabid coyote, as how they have done in the past reporting on the state of the elder statesman’s health from minor infections to bladder evacuations. We really didn’t need to know. Telling me that LKY was ‘ill’ before the parade is nothing new, so someone decided to up the ante and say ‘Hey, why not have him DEAD for a change?’

2011-Peripheral neuropathy (as revealed by daughter Lee Wei Ling)

2008 -Abnormal heart rhythm (article above)

2003- Prostate Surgery 

1998 – Infection arising from minor surgical procedure (SM in hospital, 23 Nov 1998, ST)

1997 – Acute respiratory tract infection (SM Lee in hospital due to infection, 7 Sept 1997, ST)

1997 – Elective evacuation of the bladder (SM Lee to undergo elective evacuation of the bladder, 11 Jan 1997, ST)

1996 – Balloon angioplasty (SM’s balloon angioplasty op a success: PMO, 16 March 1996, ST)

It’s easy to spin insensitive yarns about someone’s father and grandfather when you’re based overseas and still persist in egging LKY’s lawyers to sue you for slander, but more importantly, bad taste. Gopalan had it easy compared to Twitter users like ‘izreloaded’, who got name-dropped in the Yahoo article above as one of the perpetrators of a highly contagious rumour. But it’s one thing to plant a lie in the national psyche for your own sick indulgence, another to condemn the country into anarchy and chaos because of the demise of one man, especially if you’re not doing anything to help avert the impending end of Singapore as we know it, a ringside commentator pulling one awful joke after another. This Gopalan prophet of the coming apocalypse may have no love lost for LKY, but where’s the faith in the the rest of us? If the old man is as formidably crafty as he’s reputed to be, he would have set a series of events in motion as part of an elaborate grand scheme of command and control, to ensure that Singapore runs like clockwork centuries after his death, like how we splice a dead Nat King Cole with his daughter Natalie in an ‘Unforgettable’ duet and still make it number one on the charts.

Still, nothing bugs a nation like an dead or dying dictator/autocrat. Fidel Castro was reportedly dead (false) earlier this year, the dates of rumour-mongering occurring near two special dates for the Cuban leader, similar to how sparks flew near our very own 9th of August. Barely taking over the reins from his late father, Kim Jong Un was ‘assassinated’ by gunmen in what would have been the month of his dad’s 70th birthday. Equally ‘killed by Internet’ were Hosni Murbarak, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Suharto. This bespeaks a frivolous trend of ‘Dead Evil Leader pranking’, which plays psychological parlour tricks on our basic emotions. Rumour feeds the need to be heard, the sudden loss of a figure of stifling authority feeds our need to be free, while the stock market blips attest to our fear. What we need the most now, though, is the belief that we can carry on. With or without LKY.

And we can only hope that when the time comes, it doesn’t end up like this.

We are all doomed

Lee Wei Ling and the elastic band on her father’s shorts

From ‘At Oxley Road, we value the frugal life’, 5 Aug 2012, article by Lee Wei Ling, Think, Sunday Times.

I grew up in a middle-class family. Though they were well-off, my parents trained my brothers and me to be frugal from young. We had to turn off water taps completely. If my parents found a dripping tap, we would get a ticking off. And when we left a room, we had to switch off lights and air-conditioners.

My father’s frugality extends beyond lights and air-conditioners. When he travelled abroad, he would wash his own underwear, or my mother did so when she was alive. He would complain that the cost of laundry at five-star hotels was so high he could buy new underwear for the price of the laundry service.

One day in 2003, the elastic band on my father’s old running shorts gave way. My mother had mended that pair of shorts many times before, so my father asked her to change the band. But my mother had just had a stroke and her vision was impaired. So she told my father: “If you want me to prove my love for you, I will try.” I quickly intervened to say: “My secretary’s mother can sew very well. I will ask her to do it.”

My parents and I prefer things we are used to. For instance, the house we have lived in all my life is more than 100 years old. When we first employed a contractor-cum-housekeeper, Mr Teow Seng Hua, more than 10 years ago, he asked me: “Your father has worked so hard for so many years. Why doesn’t he enjoy some luxuries?” I explained we were perfectly comfortable with our old house and our old furniture. Luxury is not a priority.

..All the bathrooms in our house have mosaic tiles. It is more practical than marble which can be slippery if wet. But it is now difficult to buy mosaic in Singapore. So again, Mr Teow bought mosaic tiles from Malaysia to keep in reserve in case some of our current tiles broke or were chipped.

…Frugality is a virtue that my parents inculcated in me. In addition to their influence, I try to lead a simple life partly because I have adopted some Buddhist practices and partly because I want to be able to live simply if for some reason I lose all that I have one day.

I’m not sure if Wei Ling’s father would appreciate information on his undergarments or elastic bands being leaked this way, but there’s a fine line between being ‘frugal’ or ‘thrifty’ and, well, simply being a ‘stingy poker’. This isn’t the first time that Lee is harping on about how she wasn’t exactly living in the lap of luxury. In 2009, she emphasised that life ‘wasn’t a bed of roses’, and more recently she waxed lyrical about the joys of sleeping on a cold hard floor. But there are inevitably a few things missing from this account as to how the Lee’s Oxley fort was being run. For example, she didn’t say anything about the ‘maids’ (plural) in the house, as divulged in an eulogy by a Lee relative at Mdm Kwa Geok Choo’s funeral. Granddaughter Li Xiuqi had this to say about the late matriarch:

Before stroke, she was a power woman. She ran the Oxley road household like a tight ship. She paid the maids, bought the fish, quality-checked the cooking, and peeled my grandfather’s fruit and packed his suitcase.

So now we know who peels LKY’s oranges. According to Xiuqi, the Lee family never installed a shower in their bathroom until the matriarch got her stroke, using the ‘old fashioned’ method of scooping from a tub of water. Grandson Li Shengwu talked about how ‘Nai Nai’ provided a ‘well-stocked’ bookshelf next to the children’s table instead of a TV. I suspect there’s not a single TV in the entire Oxley residence. Just look at the basement dining room of 38 Oxley Road below, the WOMB of the PAP. It looks more like an old conference room than anything else (and it was, in fact, the makeshift HQ for the inaugural PAP meeting in 1954). It looks like nothing’s changed since then. Geez, there’s not even a sofa in sight.

The coziest corner in 38 Oxley Road

There is a lingering refrain to use the word ‘BUNGALOW’ in Wei Ling’s trip down memory lane. Someone from the Remembersingapore blog put up a rare exterior shot of 38 Oxley Road. No guard dogs in sight. In 1965, a Malaysian visitor was surprised to discover that LKY stayed in a ‘modern, wooden house’.   Well if the picture below comes across as a humble shack, then what are the rest of we living in? Damp cardboard boxes?

House of the Rising Son

Wei Ling also failed to mention how her house is constantly guarded by Gurkhas like a fortress. In 1972, additional road humps were ordered to be placed for ‘safety reasons’ outside the Oxley house, in addition to convex mirrors a year earlier to give Gurkhas a better view of the road, in case anyone decides to speed dangerously and try anything funny. Security is so tight (like LKY’s elastic bands) that you could get arrested for shouting outside.  Such paranoia is understandable though, especially if you have people who fling bricks at your compound (Brick thrower fined $1000, 8 March 1991, ST). There are some creepy going-ons too surrounding the house. In 1964, a policeman was found mysteriously shot in an unoccupied house which stood ‘back to back’ with the Oxley one. But I doubt the belt-tightening Lees believe in spending money on ghostbusters.

LKY also talked, in typically unsentimental fashion, about demolishing the house when he’s dead and gone. This ‘big, rambling house with five bedrooms’ was also built by a ‘Jewish merchant’ more than a century ago. I wonder if his name happened to be Shylock. You can also forget about using Google street view to see what the birthplace of our government looks like, and none of the Lee kids seem interested, or ALLOWED, to post pics of it on Instagram. The virtue of ‘frugality’ within the Lee family may have been stretched to the point of ‘cheapskate’ depending on whose side you’re on, if you’d recall the 1990’s saga whereby the Lee father and son bought condominiums at Nassim Jade and Scotts 28, at DISCOUNTED prices. In 1996, both promptly donated their property discounts to charity (SM, BG Lee donate discounts on property buys to charity, 4 June 1996, ST). How thoughtful.

So, unlike the cosy, obsessive-compulsively spartan image of Oxley Road painted here by Wei Ling, the reality is that this place started out as a secret hideout and remains a secretive, gilded stronghold till today, and one is left only to the imagination as to how many rings of barbed wire, buff Gurkhas with guns, saber-toothed guard dogs and CCTVs surround this building, keeping vigil over the premises like it were an ivory castle in a princess fable. It goes without saying that in spite of Lee’s rose-tinted humility, she was well taken of, never had to beg for food in her life, had an excellent education, and lives in a house 99% of us can never afford. It’s like a queen telling her subjects how she had to eat food with her bare hands because she wanted to spare her servants the arduous task of washing utensils. Yet she’ll ALWAYS have food on the table. This is like a monk preaching out of a window in his temple without noticing the sharks swimming in the moat around his abode, blind to the corpses of peasants who so much as dared to fish from his waters because they had nothing else to eat.

Keyboard thug apologising to DPM Teo

From ‘JC student apologises to DPM for blog post’, 8 June 2012, article by Stacey Chia and Matthias Chew, ST

Junior college student Reuben Wang was so annoyed by what he heard from a VIP at a seminar that he blogged: ‘F*** you, sir.’ The VIP was Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, the key speaker at this year’s annual Pre-U Seminar attended by more than 500 students last week.

Reuben’s blog post went viral and he blogged again, unrepentant about his use of the expletive. But on Thursday, the St Andrew’s Junior College (SAJC) student had a change of heart, met Mr Teo at the Ministry of Home Affairs and apologised to him.

The JC1 student told The Straits Times later that he realised his post was ‘rash’ after reading his friends’ comments. Mr Teo said: ‘I am glad he has taken the time to reflect, and recognises that what he said, as well as the way he said it, were wrong.

…He accused Mr Teo of dodging difficult questions during the question-and-answer portion of the seminar on May 29, by turning the questions on students instead of answering them himself. They included questions on press freedom and a sense of belonging in Singapore.

Reuben wrote the profanity three times in his 700-word public post. Three days later, he wrote again to say he stood by his remarks, even as he conceded that his use of the swear word was in ‘bad taste’.

‘I  see people asking you questions but you tossed them right back, so I’m like F***!’

Just before Reuben had a sudden change of heart and decided to man up and apologise to TCH, someone wrote an article bashing his behavior as the sign of a cowardly, impertinent youth gone wild with no ‘respect for an elder person’, referring to the generation of kids who’re more vocal online than face to face as ‘a generation of keyboard thugs’. Fact is  ‘keyboard thugs’ have always existed, before even blogs or Facebook, and it’s not just irresponsible brats with no experience in the ‘ways of the world’ (unlike ‘elder statesmen’) who’re ‘hiding behind screens’ dishing out the dirt. Reuben doesn’t deserve to be given a name associated with certain gangsta rappers, and anyone who’s an advocate for Internet ‘hygiene’ should himself refrain from calling 17 year olds names as well.

Bone Thugs and Disharmony

If critics are so appalled by the utter disrespect displayed by an otherwise passionate 17 year old like Reuben, they’ll be in for a nasty surprise when they trawl random forums, where one will see anonymous ‘fuck you’s aimed at politicians in general, including the ELDEST politician ever, without even bothering to end it with a ‘SIR’. ‘Lack of respect’ and ‘Asian values’ are also used on plucky journalists who dare to interrupt elder politicians as well, as ‘Why My Vote Matters’ Today reporter Lee Ching Wern would attest in 2006, after calling the PAP ‘arrogant’ before the likes of LKY. ‘Asian values’ which tell you the right way to bow before seniors has no place in healthy political discourse, and even a politician on a ventilator with peripheral neuropathy approaching his 90th birthday shouldn’t deter challengers, as long as you pose your argument like a gentleman.  Of course it’s one’s choice if you decide to use ‘F-U’ is a stat sweetener (hence more attention) for what you write.  It’s probably unfair to generalise our youth as a bunch of gutless, ungrateful, vulgar cyber-whingers. If you equip a kopitiam uncle with the necessary skills, he’d probably slap TCH about with a couple of Hokkien vulgarities as well. And he may even be OLDER than our DPM too.

Before the rather harsh ‘thug’ connotation, bloggers like Reuben were  ‘keyboard warriors’. A derogative term meant to describe anyone whose online bark is worse than their bite, instead of the usual classic virtues of sacrifice, strength and honour associated with the ancient word ‘warrior’. Celebrity model blogger Xuesha used it against people calling her a bimbo for mispronouncing ‘Forbes’. A YOG Cheer contest winner used it against critics of JJ Lin’s ridiculous Oh Yeah Oh Yeah cheer. Before you know it, anyone with an honest OPINION is dubbed a keyboard warrior (which makes me the Braveheart of all keyboard warriors…You can take away my blog, but you can’t take away..MY KEYBOARD!!). It’s only in 2011 when the GE took hold that ‘keyboard warrior’ applied to people expressing their political views online without following up with ‘action’. Yet we know of people who talk  in public all the time with the same end result (NATO:No action Talk Only). Do we call them ‘microphone’ warriors then?

Once were warriors

Last year, the Cyber Wellness Student Ambassadors created a role unfortunately titled ‘Cyber WARRIORS’, where instead of launching online attacks on incompetent teachers as the role suggests, these volunteers are in fact countering ‘cyber-bullies’, who are a vicious subset of ‘keyboard warriors’ more aligned to the ‘thug’ family. To add to the confusion, we also have ‘trolls’ too. Thugs, warriors, bullies, trolls. I think we should rename the Internet  community ‘Middle Earth’, more specifically MORDOR. I guess we know who’s Gandalf the WHITE then.

This tired tactic of ‘questioning the questioner’, despite its intention to ‘provoke thought’ instead of spoon-feeding kids with answers, should be used sparingly, lest it be seen as an unlimited ‘Get out of Jail card ‘when one DOESN’T have the answer himself. DPMs can’t afford to say ‘I don’t know’ in front of the bright-eyed future of Singapore, and we can’t expect them to have the answers ALL the time.  As a public figure, in fact for any public speaker with subject expertise in my opinion, you need to at least show some mettle and set an example through wisdom and confidence. You need to inspire instead of being seen as a ‘good listener’. You need to hold the handles on your child’s training bike and give direction before letting it go. You want your audience to occasionally nod in unison instead of sitting slack-jawed and dumbfounded feeling like this ‘dialogue’ was an utter waste of time.  You need to deliver a ‘take-home message’ not ‘homework’. Otherwise it’s not so much Q n A but rather Q n Q. Or you can totally dominate your quizzers like the consumate lawyer-politician that is LKY.

Perhaps our history of political stifling and fear indoctrination have rendered our youths mute in the face of politicians, which explains our pent-up hostility online. LKY once complained why no Singaporean spoke up at a NTU student forum. Vivian Balakrishnan had a tough time engaging youths in 2008, with one attendee saying that ‘you can’t anyhow say what you want to a minister…in case the minister shoots a question back at you’. Asking the questioner questions back isn’t the only thing deterring aspiring youths from confronting ministers. Some would even pry into your private life and ask you to to weigh your priorities between a pHD and having a boyfriend. It’s also not surprising that some conspiracy theorists would see this a calculated ploy to boost TCH’s ratings after his own WP bullying. A rascal says ‘fuck you’ to him and he not only tolerates it but entertains a face-to-face apology cum getting-to-know-you session, which gives the impression of a leader who not only encourages the youth to ‘think for themselves’ but is magnanimous and obliging as well. The government’s PR unit must be wetting their beds in ecstasy.


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