Iamclarena calling Indians smelly

From ‘Police investigating ‘iamclarena’ for making racist remarks on Twitter’, 11 Jan 2014, article by Lim Yan Liang

The police are investigating a Twitter user for making racist remarks on the social networking portal. The woman, who goes by the handle ‘iamclarena’, had recently posted a series of racist remarks against Indians with her Twitter account.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, the police confirmed on Friday night that a report had been lodged against the woman for making racially aggravating remarks on social media. The woman, who also goes by the handle ‘Clarena Clanen TzeYi’ on Facebook, is the second person this week to be investigated for posting racist remarks on the Internet.

In 2012, Law Minister K Shanmugam, of all people, received an email from a resident complaining about his Indian neighbours and their ‘Indian sweaty smell and unwashed bodies.’ He found the insult ‘disturbing’ and I assume he didn’t call the police immediately to investigate the matter, nor even call the racist in for a ‘chat’. If ‘Iamclarena’ had sent a direct message to the same minister’s FB page instead of blasting on Twitter, I wonder if he’d do anything about it. I wonder if he even knows what ‘CB’ means.

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In 2005, a Today writer’s daughter was told by her KINDERGARTEN classmates that ‘all Indians are smelly’. When his 3 year old son boarded the school bus, some boys would ‘cover their noses’.  Maybe the kid really had a severe case of BO, but no scientist would want to conduct a study to see if some races emit more unpleasant odours than others, so we’ll never know. There are smelly people of any race, of course, but the Twitterverse is full of people who insist on telling us who the smelliest are. Are we going to investigate them all?

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Google’s also doesn’t filter its popular query drop-down list, as you can see below.

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But it’s not just Indian body smells that are the butt of racist jokes, even the aroma of their curry annoys the living hell out of some people, with some attributing what they eat to how they smell. Their hairiness is also a running joke in Russell Peters’ (himself of Indian descent) gigs, while local DJs refrain from mimicking their accent. Some would label you a racist even if you believe in ‘positive’ stereotypes, like Indians are good at computer stuff, running, or hockey. Where then, do we draw the line?

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The accusation of smelliness isn’t confined to the Indian race. PRCs are also mocked for ‘not bathing’ and ‘stinking up the MRT cabin’, but somehow being labelled malodorous is a greater insult for some races than others. You don’t call someone a ‘stinking Jew’, for example. The police are unlikely to track you down if you say PRCs are dirty and smelly, or generalising the Malays as ‘lazy’. But bring up something as emotive as Indian body odour and you’re asking to be probed. Likewise, the terms ‘drunk Indian’ and ‘drunk Caucasian’ also stir different emotions given the context of recent events. Well at least we know Indians ‘don’t rob banks’.

Iamclarena might end up doing jailhouse Macarena for her foul-mouthed tweets, if only for the sheer stupidity of her actions, though I would suggest the police follow up on Shanmugam’s racist, sarong-hating resident as well. Someone mad enough to complain about Indians to an INDIAN LAW minister sounds like a more serious threat to national security to me.

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Heather Chua is really a 22 year old man

From ‘Man probed for posing as woman and making racist remarks online’, 11 Jan 2014, article by David Ee, ST

A 22-YEAR-OLD man is under investigation for making racially insensitive remarks on Facebook while posing as a woman with the fictitious name of Heather Chua. The comments targeting Malays last week caused an outcry among netizens, and led to several police reports being lodged.

Yet to be named, he is assisting police with investigations. The “Heather Chua” moniker gained notoriety online from early last year after numerous posts denigrating, among other groups, the poor and the lower-income.

“She” also hit out at Institute of Technical Education graduates, public housing residents and national servicemen. “Heather Chua” claimed to be a 40-year-old Singaporean who studied engineering at the National University of Singapore and attended Raffles Girls’ School and Temasek Junior College. “She” also claimed to live at Sentosa Cove. Photographs of luxury cars “she” purportedly owned were posted on the Facebook account.

…In a Facebook post last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he had received complaints about “Heather Chua”, and was glad the Singapore Police Force had established the identity of the man believed to be behind the fictitious profile.

If a hacker claiming to work for the Anonymous legion can get caught by the police, what makes the brainchild behind ‘Heather Chua’ think he could hide behind a fake Facebook profile? The last time someone posed as another person on FB to make disparaging remarks did so under the moniker Rachel Ann Beguia, who insulted Singaporeans as a whole. The post that triggered the hunt for ‘Heather’ was related to Muslim dietary habits, and proved to be as offensive as sharing a link to a Pig on a Kaaba image.

Heather Chua may have started out as a parody account, a fictional persona of an attractive, snobbish and ridiculously wealthy elite, the kind inspired by the likes of  Wee Shu Min.  Citing her home as Sentosa Cove, she followed up her ITE diss by calling HDB dwellers ‘brainless low-lifes’.  It’s hard to imagine that such people exist, or that locals actually LIVE on Sentosa Cove. Last year the same Heather complained about NSmen being slackers and no one seemed to suspect her of being fake despite her familiarity with the army. She also happened to be an admirer of our PM, the very same PM who’s now glad that she’s been nabbed for investigations.

Thankfully, some bloggers were quick to call out Heather as a fraud, as ‘she’ turned out to be. If ‘Heather’ was conceived as an arrogant, racist bitch on the pretentious stage that is FB and her creator may be potentially arrested for sedition, what about characters in plays and movies who spew racist insults, like Adrian Pang’s porn director in Porn Masala? Would screenwriters or producers of racist scripts be called to ‘assist’ the police in investigations?

Racism aside, it’s not the first time someone got flamed for commenting on the educational level or affiliation of the boys they prefer to date. In 2011, relief teacher and blogger Jiang Lai said only ACS boys were worth dating. She was later arrested not for seditious remarks but for attempted suicide, with suggestions of ‘borderline personality disorder’, a neurosis which perhaps all FB users suffer from to various degrees. It’s interesting to see what the real Heather Chua is diagnosed with after being exposed and possibly charged. My bet is on ‘depression’, or at the very least he was ‘going through a difficult time in his life’.

NS as a 2 year character enrichment programme

From various letters, 15 Oct 2013, ST Forum

(Paul Sim Ruiqi): I READ the results of the Institute of Policy Studies survey on public perceptions of national service with much caution (“Poll reveals changing perceptions of NS”; last Wednesday) – in particular, the finding that more people viewed NS as a way to instil discipline and values among the young than as a pillar of national defence.

NS should not be seen as a two-year enrichment or character-development programme as much as it is an individual’s contribution to the nation. There is an undue emphasis on the transformation of boys into men, as portrayed by recent movies and television series.

(Gerard Ong):…We must never forget that we train our national servicemen to fight to win – nothing less.

…When I was called up for NS, many of those in my cohort and I were convinced that we were going to be trained to be fighting soldiers. We understood that the discipline and values that came with our training were incidental and part and parcel of military life. We wanted to be out in the field, learning how to handle our weapons, field craft, operational procedures, shooting and unarmed combat.

We came in wanting to be fighters, not disciplined team players, which we had already learnt how to be by playing team sports or joining school uniformed groups. The survey findings should be examined closely by our leaders and Ministry of Defence, as the public’s perception of NS as primarily an instiller of discipline and values is rather disturbing.

There was a scene in the Ah Boys to Men 2 movie where the main cast applied their military skills to enact revenge on a couple by bombing their car with shit. A comedy played for laughs, some viewers thought Jack Neo’s movie trivialised NS, calling it sexist, misogynist and bad for SAF overall. By the end of the movie, we never know if the boys are capable of killing the enemy, but are constantly bombarded with the message that NS is great for life-skills, family bonding and ‘camaraderie’. There is, however, no evidence that men emerge from NS as better friends, husbands, employees or leaders, and the social benefit of NS, grossly exaggerated in pop culture, has turned from a by-product of regimentation and suffering to a convenient justification for having NS in the first place.

The army itself is guilty of plugging the ‘character building’ angle. Being in uniform would supposedly make you more attractive to women. It also makes you think of your father as an embattled hero and role model. Unlike the ads for the Air Force which emphasise protection of the motherland, the Army insists on humanising NS because the original bloody intent of conscription i.e killing people is a bitter pill to swallow. Especially if you’re a worried parent who’ve seen one too many boys die for nothing.

The researcher who led the poll, Dr Leong Chang Hoong, revealed to the media that only 1 in 10 women would serve NS, and then followed up to say ‘even simple gestures from the female population, such as ORGANISING LUNCH for men training in the field, would make a “significant psychological impact”. Is it any wonder Singaporean women would decline the offer to don the uniform and hang out with the boys, only to be summoned to make Ayam brand tuna sandwiches or cook instant noodles in mess tins for them? I doubt anyone would argue that NS for girls would make them better wives or mothers without receiving a nomination for AWARE’s Alamak Awards. Why stop at green eyeshadow? How about distributing a recipe booklet called ‘Outfield BBQ for Heroic Boys in Green’ or something.

I’m not sure if the survey addressed the ‘fighting soldier’ argument as to how many of our men are actually battle-ready and willing to die for the country, that includes the writers above who support the ‘pillar of national defence’ rationale. The reality is many men spend their NS in filler, ‘supportive’ roles like ‘storemen’ or logistics supervisors, and are likely to pass out of it without a single day of field camp, without a sense of undying self-sacrificing purpose that anyone who puts on that uniform is supposed to have. Men without a single meaningful memory outside of staying in the bunk and waiting for orders to perform odd jobs.  At the other extreme, some have compared NS to SLAVERY, whereby minions are drilled in unarmed combat and how to stab dummies with a bayonet. Sort of like gladiators, perhaps. And then there is this guy, who has clearly applied aggression, the vital force of a winning army, in real life. In a LIBRARY. Shudder in fear, enemies!

Despite gaining all the ‘discipline’ and ‘values’ over 2 years, your boss may still quietly frown on your frequent call-ups, or you may miss out on crucial projects that could have earned you a promotion. Some can do without the ‘enrichment’ altogether by getting themselves downgraded, to the extent of celebrating it in public. How ironic that a ‘chow keng’ becomes a millionaire even before you manage to land your first job because you’re too busy defending the nation. Well, at least you still have your lifelong friends and an arsenal of explosive swear words, eh?

Our boys aren’t born Vikings, nor do they pass out of BMT mass chorusing ‘We will still be Friends Forever’ in Vitamin C’s hit ‘Graduation’. Personally I wouldn’t call NS a total waste of time, but I wouldn’t make a big-deal macho fantasy out of it either. The ST editor referred to our defence strategy as that of a ‘poison shrimp’ (NS is no glorified boot camp, 12 Oct 2013, ST) which deters anyone from stepping on it despite our miserable size. It’s dangerously unrealistic to think that we’re tiger prawns instead.

Long Live the Queen banner smacks of colonial hangover

From ‘Long live the Queen archway raises some eyebrows’, 29 Sept 2013, article by Melody Zaccheus, Sunday Times

An archway in Queenstown proclaiming “Long live the Queen” has left some scratching their heads, even as residents gathered last night for a concert to mark the estate’s 60th anniversary.

The arch was put up as part of the celebrations at the estate, which was named after Queen Elizabeth II. Nine of 15 Singaporeans The Sunday Times spoke to described the arch as odd, calling it a “colonial hangover”.

“It’s not appropriate as we are an independent country and no longer under British rule,” said polytechnic course manager Tia Boon Sim, 57, who lived in Queenstown for the first 16 years of her life.

…My Community founder Kwek Li Yong, 24, said the arch – featuring a photo of the Queen and decorated with the Union Jack – is a re-creation of a larger one that was erected in 1953 in North Bridge Road to celebrate the Queen’s coronation. “History teaches us to look back at events. So, we are tracing the estate’s roots back to when the British started it, as Singapore’s first satellite town,” he said.

Named by the British on Sept 27, 1953, Queenstown began as a project by the Singapore Improvement Trust to tackle overcrowding in Chinatown. The trust was later replaced by the Housing Board in 1959. It was in Queenstown that HDB built its first blocks.

God Save this Archway

God Save this Archway

According to the book ‘The Politics of Landscapes in Singapore: Constructions of ‘nation’‘, the ‘Street Naming Advisory Commitee’ was advised in the late sixties to avoid ‘British snob names’ in a bid to sever post-Independence Singapore’s colonial ‘apron strings’.  Areas in Queenstown such as Commonwealth, Queensway and Margaret Drive were advised to change to Malay names. However the Board resisted because Queenstown was ‘well-known throughout the world’ and should be preserved. In the same chapter, it was revealed that Bugis and Tanjong Pagar MRT stations were originally to be named ‘Victoria’ and ‘Maxwell’, after the monarch and a colonial family respectively. Till today, we still have a ‘King Albert Park’, where unlike Queenstown heartland folks, people actually do live like royalty.

Having a ‘colonial hangover’ implies that our past under British royalty was as merry and free-spirited as a drunken orgy, but in today’s context has been extended not just to kowtowing to the Queen and her ilk, but our white overlords in general. I think a more accurate description would be a ‘colonial hang-up’, like the feeling of not wanting to let go of an ex-boyfriend who treated you terribly but you still love to bits. The archway regalia and cheesy title is a bit over-the-top, but this is similar to the way we feted the royal couple when they visited Singapore’s first satellite town last year, short of taking them around in a horse-driven golden carriage and having people dressed as grovelling butlers in tailcoats serving them TWG tea.

The kings and queens today are not those who live in grand palaces and sit on thrones, but those in the realm of K-pop or mavens of technology, and this homage to Queen Elizabeth II by Queenstown residents would strike us as Old World sentimentality that is incompatible with our current aspirations as citizens of a digital age. Celebrating a town’s anniversary like a Royal Jubilee is harmless in my opinion, but it raises the question of whether we, despite being an independent country, have fully shrugged off our colonial past, or have we descendents been somehow possessed by the lingering spirit of the time, that when we see a Caucasian speaking in a posh accent, we are subconsciously compelled by this ghost to either curtsey and shudder with fear, or have the sudden urge to instigate a mutiny on the bounty.

As late as 2007, locals have complained about snooty discriminatory treatment under the euphemism of ‘nursing a colonial hangover’. Bellhops at the Raffles Hotel reportedly allowed a Caucasian family to jump a taxi queue after shouting ‘this one for the ang mohs!’. Sumiko Tan asked if she was guilty of suffering from the same syndrome, complaining of ang mohs ‘lording over Singaporeans’ after a traffic scuffle. To some, a colonial hangover simply means ‘Westernisation’, like having weird English names even if you’re ethnic Chinese. A more specific syndrome related to this submissiveness is the ‘Pinkerton Syndrome’, which refers to Singaporean women preferring white men over locals. A case of ‘bigger’ meaning ‘better’, perhaps. These days, ‘Pinkerton’ and ‘colonial hangover’ seem to be used interchangeably and loosely, only because no one wants to utter words like ‘racism’ or ‘slavery’. (Interestingly, the name of Prince William’s private secretary is Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton)

However, we have our white colonial masters to thank for our architecture and tourist icons , from the grand Fullerton Hotel to Empress Place and Fort Canning, though these were built with the hands, blood, sweat and tears of our very own forefathers. We indulge in a spot of afternoon tea in tiffin rooms, the ‘quintessential colonial pastime’, though the key ingredient behind ‘high tea’ has its origins in another ex-colony, India. One man’s ‘nostalgia’ is another’s ‘colonial hangover’, depending on your gut reaction to the image below, courtesy of Raffles Hotel, the pinnacle of colonial luxury that would make any Old-World plantation owner feel right at home. Without the whips of course.

A fling with Singapore sling

An article in the Hindu Times even referred to our country as a city-state ‘basking in its colonial hangover’. If that’s the case, then we don’t need a cure for it, do we? We have the Singapore Flyer mimic of the one in London, why not build the next casino like Big Ben then? Who knows, Singapore may even be more ‘British’ than London itself in 20 years. We even retained some of the crappy laws which our ex rulers have ditched a long time ago. Some people have tasted scones before even knowing the existence of ang ku kuehs.

You could even accuse me of nursing a ‘colonial hangover’ just because I love Fish and Chips, listen to music from British bands, support Manchester United instead of Home United, or watch Monty Python skits. In its milder form, I would be referred to as a ‘banana’ or ‘jiak kantang’. Yet, I haven’t heard of anyone being accused of ‘Occupation hangover’ if they study Japanese as a third language or are members of Sushi Tei. In 2001, a Today reader complained about our ‘fixation with our British-colonial past’ and imperialism’s ‘dark power’ over the minds of the people, just because Bridget Jones Diary seemed to be more popular than Jurassic Park. Bollocks, really.

SAF ‘Shades of Green’ ad demeaning to women

From Aware Facebook page and omy.sg, 7 Sept 2013.

Women, interested in a career with the Army? Quick, get out your eye-shadow palettes and pick your favourite shade of green, because that’s what will land you the job!

These packages went out to women in Singapore, advertising the Army Women’s Seminar 2013. It comes complete with a fake mirror and eye-shadow palette.

We want to let the Army know that make-up doesn’t stir our patriotic sentiments. Can you help us think of a creative, effective way to send them a message? The seminar is on the 14th of September, so we’ve to put our strategy together soon. Leave a comment on this post if you have a good idea.

Shades of Sexism

Shades of Sexism

SAF needs women badly and they’re on a recruitment spree to meet their target of an additional 500 female officers by 2018. If not for AWARE complaining about their marketing blitz being sexist, I wouldn’t have known about this Army Women’s Seminar. By harping on the Army objectifying women through the gimmick of green eyeshadow, AWARE has inadvertently given ad agency Mandate an unlikely helping hand in promoting the event. Any AWARE AGM would make a military seminar for ladies look like a flower arrangement workshop in comparison.

I’m sure AWARE fully supports the idea of having more ‘Girl Power’ in our armed forces, but maybe they should be ‘sending a message’ to the Army about the lack of female generals (the highest ranking female today is still Colonel) rather than picking on an ad for favouring provocation over patriotism. Personally I thought this fake makeup kit isn’t half as bad as the ‘trophy boyfriend’ ad some years back which suggested that women ovulate in squealing ecstasy at the sight of men in uniform. It’s also a novel way of getting women interested, instead of using models that suggest that female soldiers are supposed to look in a certain way that combines grace, dignity and steely courage, as below:

I see a woman wearing makeup

Or that they would fare well in the army by looking downright intimidating, like a discipline mistress in school.

Your future boss, ladies

I think the intention of the ‘Shades of Green’ ad is to portray an army career just like any other worth pursuing which involves dolling up as most professional women do, be it a high-flying corporate executive, an OL or an SIA stewardess. It also busts the stereotype that you have to look like a women’s judo champion, or a GI Jane, in order to serve. If a lady CEO dresses like a slut in public, AWARE is unlikely to complain, but if a female SAF officer dabs on lipstick in front of her male colleagues, it’s sexual oppression, nevermind if she does it while in full battle order and a rifle in hand.

It would be very helpful if AWARE actually does constructive creative work of their own and run some gender-neutral campaigns to support such events themselves, or better still volunteer to secure the frontline in the event of a real war. Those talons would come in really handy then.

Demon-cratic Singapore creator arrested for sedition

From ‘Cartoonist arrested over complaint’, 24 April 2013, article by Feng Zengkun, ST

SINGAPOREAN cartoonist Leslie Chew, 37, was arrested last Friday by the police after a complaint was filed against him about one of his cartoons, his lawyer said yesterday. Mr Choo Zheng Xi, who is with law firm Peter Low LLC, said Mr Chew was held over the weekend and released on Sunday night after posting bail of $10,000. He will have to report to the police again on April 30.

…Mr Chew draws the cartoon strip, Demon-cratic Singapore, which is posted regularly on Facebook. According to a description on the strip’s Facebook page, it is “a totally fictional comic with entirely fictional characters based on wholly fictional events in a fictional country“.

Mr Choo said Mr Chew is being investigated for alleged sedition, in relation to a cartoon posted on March 27 regarding the Malay population. He added that Mr Chew was also questioned about a second cartoon which was not included in the complaint.

This was posted on Dec 14 last year, and was the subject of a letter sent by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to Mr Chew three days later, said Mr Choo. He said that in the letter, the AGC said the cartoon “scandalises our Courts through allegations and imputations that are scurrilous and false”. He added the cartoonist had not yet been charged.

Late last night, a cartoon depicting Mr Chew’s questioning by the police – whom he described as “very professional” – was uploaded on the Facebook page. Last night, the police said they were looking into the matter.

Chew’s cartoon was not discriminatory against Malays, but referred to the government of ‘Demon-cratic Singapore’ as a racist one. The strip that ‘scandalises’ the courts depicts a character called ‘Pinky’ Loong kicking a High Court Judge out of his office and also involves a cheating politician not so subtly named ‘Michael Phucker’. Other uncannily familiar characters in the Demon-cratic Universe include $8 KHAWTeo CHEE HONG, HAIRY Lee, THORNY Tan and Ho JINX. Incidentally, the evil party in Chew’s story is called ‘Party against People’. The entire cast sounds inspired by nicknames straight out of an EDMW or Sammyboy forum thread conceived by 13-year olds. Not exactly Mad Magazine material, I suppose.

Some authors have the nerve to do away with the ‘parallel universe’ angle and mock the PAP straight up. In 1971, 22 year old cartoonist Morgan Chua drew a cartoon of LKY riding a tank threatening to crush a baby symbolising the paper he worked for, the Singapore Herald. LKY’s also a favorite target of foreign humorists;  You can only purchase ‘Harry Lee Kuan Yew, A Pictorial Account of his Life and Times‘ online, a collection of lampoons by Rodney King, an Australian who worked here for more than a decade. In this book the ‘lovable old twerp’ ‘gets a good hand-bagging from Maggie Thatcher’ and ‘falls down a rubbish chute’. It would have been funnier if his caricature of LKY didn’t resemble the stereotype of a slant-eyed Asian.

You can, however, publish a book full of toon politicians here if you’re careful enough. Greg Nonis gave us ‘Hello Chok Tong, Goodbye Kuan Yew’ in 1991. Today, if you’re lucky, the authorities will tolerate your satire if you bypass the censors and post comics on your own blog or Facebook, provided you cover yourself with the appropriate disclaimers and give your characters names that would trigger a knowing smirk in your reader but not an angry lawyer’s letter. My Sketch Times features a DR ‘WOLF WU‘ who’s ‘helping to change the way traffic procedures are performed’. S’pore Says posted a cartoon of a ‘Mr Wong’ in a Monkey King head vice getting a headache when the mantra ‘Mas Selamat’ is chanted. The Cartoon Press, which I must say boasts some of the best pencilwork I’ve seen so far, has a turkey with what looks very much like Lim Swee Say’s head.  Some of this stuff is actually funnier than Demon-cratic Singapore, which has ‘episodes’ with too much text and one too many cringingly lame name-puns.

Anyway here’s a random picture of our Prime Minister in a pink shirt. Hmm..I wonder if anyone has made a caricature of this already.

 

Malays having less social capital than Chinese

From ‘Malays have less social capital:Study’, 10 March 2013, article by Rachel Chang, Sunday Times

Malay Singaporeans have less social capital than their Chinese counterparts, a new National University of Singapore study of nearly 1,000 people has found. This is worrying because social capital – the value found in personal networks – is a significant factor in someone’s ability to move from one class of society to another, said the researchers behind the study, assistant professor of sociology Vincent Chua and assistant professor of social work Irene Ng, yesterday.

They had analysed a 2005 survey of Singaporean residents for racial differences in social capital, and presented the findings at the Association of Muslim Professionals’ annual seminar. They found that Malays were six times less likely than Chinese to have university graduate contacts, and four times less likely to have someone in their network living in private property.

…The study also showed what sort of effect someone’s network can have on job prospects. Some 56 per cent of job-seekers from a minority race managed to get a job in the professional, manager and executives (PME) category if they were referred by a Chinese person. If the referral came from a non-Chinese, that number drops to 26 per cent.

“Minority members clearly benefit when they rely on job contacts from the dominant group,” said Dr Chua.The problem is that such inter-ethnic job help is rare, he said. Of 330 instances, only 18 were inter-ethnic. “More must be done to increase inter-ethnic integration so that resources can be shared between different groups,” he added.

If you didn’t know what this ‘social capital’ was, you would find the conclusion from this study mystifying, considering how tightly-knit the Malay community is, as any void deck wedding would tell you. ‘Value in personal networks’ is too broad a definition, which suggests that one would be better off generally if they had more friends, without specifying what ‘better off’ means. You’d be ‘better off’ at Facebook games if you had more ‘friends’ donating ‘lives’ to you. Narcissists would find ‘value’ in hundreds of people ‘liking’ their posts. I’d also make an excellent bounty hunter if I knew how to get into ‘inner circles’ (i.e have social capital) when my job is to find people and kill them.

In a corporate world that’s obsessed with ‘synergy’, ‘networking’ and ‘team-players’, it has become a given that the more people you associate yourself with the better. You don’t need a business guru or a professor of sociology to tell you that. So I dug a little further to find out in what context it is defined in Dr Chua’s paper (Social Capital and Inequality in Singapore). I thought ‘social capital’, as perceived by our Minister of Education, was a buzzword for the ‘value’ of integration and cooperation across race and creed in society, or to stretch it further, the ‘soul of our nation’. Instead, it is viewed in this paper as a personal resource and tool for success like IQ or having the ‘gift of the gab’. For some, getting this resource means bootlicking your way up rather than learning how to wear a sari if you’re not Indian.

Generally defined, social capital refers to the resources that people have potential access to from being connected to others possessing those resources

This is ‘having friends in high places’ reworded as social theory, which is a far cry from our PM’s definition of social capital:

Our success as a nation is increasingly defined not just in economic terms but also by our social capital. We need to strengthen our values of tolerance, mutual respect and empathy. This goes beyond being civil and considerate to one another. It involves us actively appreciating others’ perspectives, caring for our fellow citizens, conducting a constructive public discourse and accepting the need to make compromises that benefit the majority. These are essential attributes of a mature, gracious society which I believe we all want for Singapore.

This ideal is rather close to how one of the leading pioneers of social capital Robert Putnam calls it: “The value that arises when individuals learn to trust one another, make credible commitments, and engage in cooperative activities, such as giving to charity, joining civic and political groups and bowling together”.

The fairy-tale version distances itself from ‘economic’ factors, unlike Dr Chua’s linking it to ‘job contacts’. In fact, I think the two definitions of social capital contradict one another, one advocating harmonious, unconditional relationships even with those less privileged than yourself, the other calling for ‘strategic networking’ and mutual ‘back-scratching’. It’s obvious which social capital to rely on if you’re a Survivor contestant.  In the cold, self-centred version, I’d have social capital if my ex-boss wants to bring me in to his current company for better pay and prospects. It can also refer to  my ‘potential access’ to a beachside villa inheritance by virtue of being ‘connected’ to an eccentric billionaire grand-uncle. In other words, maximising your social capital means turning your interpersonal relationships into a personal goldmine. Another form of pop psychology related to social capital is ‘social intelligence’, and being no expert in this area, I’m not sure if being ‘socially intelligent’ necessarily assures one of ‘social capital’.  Whatever happened to being, well, just ‘hardworking’?

The indicators of ‘social capital’ used in Chua’s paper include controversial ones like ‘Number of MEN’ among network numbers, ‘Number of wealthy private housing dwellers’, and ‘Number of CHINESE’. He explains his selection of ‘Men’ and ‘Chinese’ as follows:

(Being) ‘male’ is another potentially important resource given the highly patriarchal nature of Asian societies where men are more likely than women to control valuable resources (Lai, 2008)
Chinese ethnicity represents a significant source of symbolic power in Singapore. As the ruling ethnic group, being “Chinese” is a form of social power independent of class

The results suggest that in order to accumulate social capital, you should try to score points with rich Chinese men living on landed property, but even if you have very powerful friends, you won’t benefit from your connections if nobody likes you. If the intention of this is to urge those with less social capital to mix around, as LKY once suggested to Muslims, it offers little assurance that collecting social capital translates to automatic dollar-and-cents rewards. The emphasis on having Chinese referrals as a factor in job attainment undermines other attributes such as job experience, skills or attitude regardless of your ties with people of a certain race. In a time where we’re promoting ‘inclusiveness’, where our women are steadily climbing ranks and we have a worsening addiction to foreign workers, such thinking about ‘dominant Chinese’, ‘patriarchy’ and ‘wealthy private home owners’ seems rather dated. These days, you’re as likely to find rich people in million-dollar HDB flats as having a female Caucasian foreigner for a boss.

The whole concept of social capital contributing to success, in all it scientific rigour, has eliminated the element of ‘dumb luck’. It also bases its theories and assumptions on a very narrow definition of ‘success’; I don’t need the help of university graduates or Chinese men if I want to become a satay tycoon.  It may be generally true that as social animals we thrive on human relationships, yet many happily successful, important people are misanthropes because people merely get in the way of what they excel in. On the flipside, many sociable people with contacts from Angola to the Antarctica end up being horrible bosses, charismatic cult leaders, dictators or serial date-rapists. If you’re an extremely lucky person you could build an empire after winning 1st prize in Toto even if you have the social capital of a mountain goat.

It pays to be well-connected, no doubt, but perhaps not in the predictable, categorical manner that advocates of social capital would like it to be. Nor is viewing people as simply a means to an end the right way to build a humane, compassionate society. Now excuse me while I touch base with my primary school classmate now bigshot trader on Linkedin.

Ah Boys to Men is sexist and promotes premarital sex

From ‘Ah Boys to Men is Bad for SAF’ and ‘Why promote pre-marital sex’, 30 Nov 2012, Voices, Today

(Vanessa Tai): I recently watched Ah Boys to Men with my parents and younger brother, who is undergoing National Service. Like other Jack Neo films, the humour was slapstick and littered with Hokkien expletives.  Those jokes were tolerable, but the misogynistic script was unbearable. For example, the recruits referred to women as “clothing that can be easily discarded” in a bid to cheer up one of the recruits who had been dumped.

Another example was a sergeant showing his recruits how to tear a certain leaf in order to form the shape of female genitals. Perhaps Mr Neo is accurately representing army life, but there is no value in such distasteful jokes. From what I understand, such banter is commonplace in the army, and while most guys do not hold sexist views, they play along so as not to be ostracised, which is a shame. Such behaviour should not be accepted as the norm.

A first-class military is not one that is just well armed or well trained in combat. A first-class military – in fact, a first-class society – is an egalitarian one that treats each member with respect, regardless of sex or socio-economic background. The Singapore Armed Forces is moving into a Third Generation, with greater emphasis on nurturing and engaging each soldier, which is a step in the right direction. However, more can be done to improve the image of our soldiers. Ah Boys to Men is a caricature, yes, but with many impressionable young men watching it, my worry is that Mr Neo’s careless stereotypes may undo a lot of the SAF’s good work.

(Goh Lee Hwa):As a mother, I am perturbed that Mr Jack Neo (picture) is endorsing pre-marital sex, in the scene where a guy told his girlfriend that he must have it before enlistment, or else the angels in “heaven” would laugh at him should he die during National Service. We parents are trying to discourage such practices, yet Mr Neo is endorsing it. That scene was uncalled for.

Careless, MDA. You’ve banned another local film for insulting Indians but clearly forgot about a film from a celebrated director that puts our entire ARMY to shame. Thanks to Jack Neo, now we know our boys are NOT writing letters to their loved ones, singing camp songs or playing carom in their bunk in their spare time, but trading sexist jokes, boasting about stealing their girlfriends’ virginity away or playing with ‘CB’ leaves. They also shouldn’t get drunk, steal rifles, cry like woosies in field camp, smoke cigarettes or have their maids carry backpacks for them. All that sort of loutish behaviour would surely do our military in. Leaves as sex paraphernalia instead of camouflaging against the enemy. The cheek!

Yes, our SAF has done a remarkable job of keeping Singapore SO safe we’ve never suffered a single war since its inception. Thanks to our army grooming responsible, ‘egalitarian’ citizens out of rough jewels, we’ll never have to worry about the same men beating women about, having sex with underage prostitutes, cheating on their wives, surfing porn or exchanging sex for favours even if they’re head honchos of key public institutions. How could you, Jack Neo. Why can’t you stick to making I NOT STUPID sequels, and portray students as suicidal depressives instead? That would be accurate, at least.

But seriously, why pick on Jack Neo when there are so many other movies out there which insult both sexes and plug stereotypes about young horny men? Does the writer think Jack Neo is a ‘role model’ for Singaporean boys? This guy cross-dresses like a grandmother for God’s sake. Boys are not going to watch Ah Boys to Men to PREPARE for army, or even for the humour. They would rather accompany their teenage girlfriends to watch the Breaking Dawn finale, and then hope that she returns some hot lovin’ for their painful sacrifice. No, Ah Boys to Men is likely to be a fave of Jack Neo’s staple audience, heartland uncles and aunties, and perhaps the entire singing crew of A Nation’s March. There are, of course, more important things to be worried about than SAF turning your boy into a Hokkien-spewing wife-beater. You’d better hope that he comes out of it ALIVE with his sanity and limbs intact, and lungs not permanently scarred from inhaling grenade smoke.

Any army boy booking out to spend their weekends seeing a whitewashed version of army reality is simply wasting his time. He’d rather polish boots than swallow cheap comic-relief stereotypes about potty mouthed drill sergeants, the mummy’s boy who can’t do a single pull-up and gets bullied by everybody until his geekiness saves the day, and of course the effeminate sissy afraid to damage his nails but dons the best camouflage skills in the platoon. The original NS movie Army Daze had all that, and those horrible ‘misogynistic’ stuff too. In one scene, the word ‘sexbomb’ was used to describe a soldier’s girlfriend. Even the Indian recruit had an exaggerated accent.

[Youtube clip disabled]

Resorting to bawdy humour is inevitable if you want to produce any sort of local army film given the constraints. Which is a waste as Jack could have pulled off something more ambitious without recycling the same old stock characters. You don’t need Jack Neo to EDUCATE young Singaporeans on what to expect in the army, just like you can’t prepare a woman for giving birth by watching ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’. He’s a businessman first and entertainer second, and the trailer alone has formulaic product placement and government approval written all over it. I haven’t watched the film myself, but for all its alleged heartfelt pandering to Total Defence, I think it could have redeemed itself with some badass aliens or mutant zombies. Or maybe an angry horde of striking PRC bus workers. Otherwise I can’t think of any homemade action movie which involved anything beyond a car flipping over and exploding on cue. But there’s hope because Ah Boys to Men Part 2 is coming soon FYI.

Our boys, being moulded into THINKING SOLDIERS as part of the 3G philosophy, should know better. Not thinking about sex, that is. I’m not sure what’s a more dangerous misconception though; that our army is actually READY for bloody battle, or that it’s a MONASTERY that preaches equality to all humankind.

Postscript: Hoping to be proven wrong, I rented the Ah Boys to Men DVD. The slo-mo panning of SAF slogans as the boys walked through the ferry terminal to Tekong could give one nausea before even boarding the boat. The much hyped war scene was packed with special effects that could match high-octane monster films like MEGASHARK vs CROCOSAURUS. The cast, however, saved the movie and kept it entertaining. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the sequel would have less propaganda and more character development, though a climax involving the Ah Boys learning to appreciate NS and becoming Best Buddies Forever seems to be a foregone conclusion.

Daniel Ong calling neighbour Sivalin-ganam style

From ‘He made fun of my name’, 26 Oct 2012, article by Foo Jie Ying, TNP

A dispute between neighbours over renovation noise led to one of them making a police report against the other, claiming that the latter had made fun of his name. In the report made on Oct 16, he said: “By making fun and changing my family surname, he is insulting and degrading the Indian culture.”

In an interview with The New Paper On Tuesday evening, Mr Sivalingam Narayanasamy, 55, said: “What he has done is to change my surname.” The other party in the dispute is former radio deejay Daniel Ong, 36, who is now known as a celebrity cupcake-shop owner with his wife, Miss Singapore-Universe 2001 Jaime Teo.

Mr Sivalingam showed TNP a letter purportedly written by Mr Ong to him, in which Mr Ong allegedly made fun of his name. In the letter, Mr Ong referred to Mr Sivalingam as “Sivalin-ganamstyle” and added, “That’s my new nickname for you… cool, huh?”

Mr Ong addressed this on his Facebook page, saying: “He claims I insulted him coz I addressed him as Sivalingam num-style in my last letter… but I told him that I didn’t mean that and it’s the coolest thing around now.”

If you read the contents of Daniel Ong’s letter for yourself, you’ll find it full of sarcastic insults, spite, fake LOLS and general meanness. From the way how this neighbourly spat has been overblown, it’s obvious that Sivalingam’s racist accusation is a pretext for filing against Ong’s nastiness and intolerance over a baby-tormenting and ‘old-lady murdering’ renovation project. As with his grudge against SPH, the ex-DJ has made his Facebook page his personal diary and broadcaster now that he’s gone from radio. Regardless of who’s at fault here,  this is really an exaggerated episode of neighbours thrashing it out over one ugly incident after another, culminating in a sensational turf war with a typical but ultimately futile standoff involving the police. I wonder what will become of these two once it’s Christmas.

It’s like two boys fighting in the playground and one threatening with his daddy because the other called him names and he had no comeback. The natural tendency in such testosterone-charged scuffles is for the one picked on to retort with a creative insult of his own, until both get tired of this one-upping nonsense and walk away. At least these two grown ups are civil enough not to bring their Mamas into it or roll around in the mud throwing punches. Conflicts of this sort are inevitable, no matter how we try to inculcate a ‘give and take’ culture, when in fact we’re mostly looking after our own interests and ‘community’ means running into that comfort zone and pacifier called Facebook where your ‘friends’ are obliged to support you all the way even if you’re acting like a child who just got his rattle nicked by a bully.

When it comes to a war of words, it’s unlikely that Sivalingam would get the upper hand over a cupcake king with the gift of the gab (Daniel even refers to himself as ‘FUNNY GUY” on his Twitter page), hence to counter his weakness in petty insult-trading, the big guns have to be summoned on a hot-potato issue (racism) just to show that he means business. I’m not even sure if this guy knows what Gangnam Style is, which may explain why he would consider the name-mashing a childish insult, maybe the equivalent of the Chinese ‘Tan Ah Kow’.  He does cut an imposing figure however, like a superintendent in the force, or someone who runs a butchery franchise and boxes hunks of meat in his spare time.  Daniel Ong (who once played ‘Mr Kiasee’ in the Mr Kiasu sitcom) will get his cupcakes SQUASHED if put in a ring with this bull of a man.

Don’t call him Gangnam

What’s worrying, and yet strangely assuring at the same time, is why our police EVEN BOTHER with such things (Assuring because it means our cops have nothing much to do). Well I suppose if they’re forced to investigate teachers who cut the hair of students without permission, this fight between an angry celebrity and his angry neighbour must seem as exciting as taking down rival triads in comparison. Gangs of Mei Hwan Drive perhaps. Still, this is what happens if you have public endorsement of the over-the-top censuring of anything mocking a minority race. You give people excuses to point fingers at the one thing that will get your enemies in trouble, when you’re really pissed off with them because they embarrassed you, not because they humiliated your race, your family, your ancestry and your gods.

Siva claims discrimination when Daniel Ong mashes up his surname with Gangnam style, while the latter explains the pun away as a reference to his ‘threatening’ stance with arms akimbo. Neither argument makes sense. I can’t imagine an aggressor doing this in a mano-a-mano confrontation, unless he’s trying to subdue you with laughter.

Please don’t hurt me. I’ll do anything

I suspect it’s harmless wordplay more than anything else, though these days dropping sly racial references is like tossing firecrackers on a minefield. Siva doesn’t have a case because Gangnam itself has already taken Indians by storm, and just about anyone with an Internet connection and doesn’t understand a single word of Korean.

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.

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