Revise: Whose side are you on?

This post was originally written on 20 Jan 2009 at the wordpress hosted singularity industries.

One day ago, TODAY newspaper announced the formation of The Association of Bloggers (Singapore). I’d actually been told of such an association forming before they went public yesterday, and when i was told then, i immediately drew a parallel to the Marvel story arc: Civil War

The parallel is startling because of my fascination with the themes associated with “the responsibilities of those in power.” I’m somewhat convinced that there are those of us online who believe that there is power in the words we type, the causes we support, the unity of our actions. Of course there are also online citizens who would very much like to be left alone, or don’t see themselves with that sort of responsibility. More power to them.. this blog post isn’t about telling you what’s right or wrong. You make that choice yourself.

Without going into vendettas that seem to be plaguing most of the online discussion over the formation of this group, I personally would not join the association. On the grounds that I am a free-thinking individual and I owe no specific allegiance to anyone. That is the beauty of blogging and exercising our right to freedom of speech. This sentiment is also voiced by one of The Association’s members, Xtralicious.

I do applaud the association for championing “more professionalism in blogging”, because I think that blogging has the potential to make things happen, and if you find a group of like-minded individuals, more power to you. And although that is in alignment with some of my own ideals, i realise my interest is not so much in being an activist, but more an observer, to even offer third party opinions.. or practicing the journalistic ideal of the 4th estate.

Again, I do not see the need to pay a membership fee to join the association simply because i do not want to join the association. I’m definitely not a “professional” blogger (whatever that is), I’m simply a blogger who’s sharing his opinion. I applaud professional behavior such as being civil, ethical and checking of facts.. but i don’t think “professional” blogging is an occupation that requires a membership to an association. What pre-requisites does one need to join the association? It’s not like a medical, accounting or law associations where you need certain credentials. And if all you need is “to be a blogger”, then that’s hardly a criteria.. and you can see where this circular argument is going.

One final concern I have about this action, is that after 24 hours, you can see the effects of splintering. There are those who support the formation of the association, and there are those who are vehemently opposed to it. Bloggers seem to be starting to take sides and there has also been a revisitation of old wounds, unaddressed issues, bloggers calling out for the motivations of starting the association, personal attacks, boycotts.. it’s a little tragic I believe, the symptoms of a civil war.

I doubt it will escalate to that, but it seems that some prominent Singapore bloggers are against the idea. Naturally, they also maintain an anonymous presence on the web. [Links: Rockson, Singabloodypore]

Anonymity plays an important role in exercising some level of freedom of speech. It allows you to say what’s really on your mind without the ramifications of personal attacks, political attacks, things that could harm your reputation offline. In an ideal democracy, I’d say there’s little need for such anonymity, but I don’t think that exists anywhere in the world today. On the flipside, many abuse anonymity and undermine the efforts of various organisations unnecessarily. This is where something like the association would come in handy.

But I don’t think the Internet will ever be a place of registered and unregistered bloggers. If it does, I’m inclined to think that some form of personal freedom is taken away. While i choose to reveal my own identity public, I never expect it of everybody. That is your own choice.

It is with this regard to freedom of choice, and freedom of expression that I find I would rather not join the association. My validation as a blogger comes through my own integrity and my audience. Not necessarily through an external body. It works for me, but YOU will definitely have your own opinion.

If you want to find out what works for you, I urge you to make your own decision and be true to yourself in your own blogging endeavors.

Insert 21 January 2009, 10:29 AM: After reading the comments, I realise I made a poor job articulating that I don’t see this as a black or white issue, and that I’d hate to see us having to take sides. There is a massive clout of grey in this discussion, and I believe most of us exist in the “grey” paradigm. There is no need to call for boycotts or call each other un-patriots. The Net exists as an ecosystem of free thought, some unsavory, some enlightening. Just thought I would make that clearer -)

Affairs, Opinion

Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games: Singapore, What Do You Want?

Empty Celebrations
“An empty Celebration corner”
Image credit: Yawning Bread

Another one armed post, because my left arm is still in a cast, but also because I feel that this is an opinion I want to share, hopefully to offer a different point of view, and perhaps one that’s positive as well.

I’m going to be talking about the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games, so I’d better offer a full disclosure and disclaimer before we carry on:

“I am one of the trainers conducting the Digital Media Workshop for the athletes and coaches as part of the Culture and Education Programme (CEP), and I enter the Youth Olympic Village and interact with athletes, coaches, volunteers and people part of the organising committee on a daily basis. These opinions expressed, are my own, and are by no means affiliated to my employers or the organising committee, and based solely on my personal experience and account. My identity is fully public, and I am currently unaware of any communications directives, but I am taking a risk on my personal reputation, because I believe my opinion matters to the public discourse.”

I think there are many things to find inconvenient or uncomfortable about the Youth Olympic Games. It inconveniences us, our students are being forced to volunteer, crap food gets served, the budget blew itself by three times, we have to give way to the transport buses, there is little International coverage about the games, there is the unbalanced reporting done by our own mainstream press. Yes, these are all facts reported by alternative media in Singapore, and it really shows that the games are not as perfect as you might believe (but then again, nothing is), and definitely reasons for any concerned citizen to voice out. I myself as a contributing member of society, and the public, will of course hold the relevant parties to task by asking questions, but for the next 12 days, maybe I will just cool off.

Chinese Weightlifter
Image credit: SPH-SYOGOC/ Tan Kok Peng

I’m going to at least try to make this about the athletes who have come to Singapore to compete, who have been given the opportunity as one of the best in their sports back home, to come out here and compete with the best from other countries. To me, there’s something special about seeing so many different cultures in one venue. To learn, to compete, to know what it means to fight, do your best, and also make friends.

This is what I’ve seen when I was watching some highlights from the sports being played so far. Athletes doing their absolute best, giving their all and not giving up. Winning as individuals or teams, losing graciously but still with a fire in their eyes to improve, to make it for the next one, to know that even if they won, they are still not good enough, and want to get better. The camaraderie in teammates, the understanding that even if we’re all from different cultures, we’re all still together in one place, competing, making friends, understanding a little bit more about each other, hopefully working toward a future.

Image credit: Samuel Lin

And the excitement of the volunteers who wanted to be there! I mean, these kids WANTED to be part of the Youth Olympics! They wanted to meet athletes, they wanted to make friends, they wanted to learn, mingle, interact, share. I recognise that these volunteers are different from the ones who were forced into volunteering or making up numbers, but they are there nonetheless, and I simply think they deserve a bit more of our support.

Maybe I’m taking things a little personally. Maybe. I know once the games end, my contract would have ended, and I’ll just go back to being ‘lil old me and be my usual snarky, overly critical self again. But maybe some of this ‘Olympic’ spirit has rubbed off on me, this belief that the human race can be something greater, can work together for something good, and that every time I read a cynical comment online, it almost seems like it’s telling the athletes and youth volunteers:

“We wish you were never here. You caused so much inconvenience for us, and it would just have been simpler if the Youth Olympics never happened, or happened here.”

But like I said, maybe I’m taking things too personally, it just sounds that way when I read the comments, and I really hope I’m wrong. I hope that despite the snarky, cynical comments we make about the games, we actually still believe in the youth. Those competing, those who chose to volunteer, and that maybe even those who were forced, can actually start reaping the benefits of this experience. It really is a global forum of 3,600 youths from around the world. How many of us can claim to have experienced that? Maybe for the next 12 days, this is about them, not us.

Maybe we don’t agree with how the party was planned, maybe we don’t like the host of the party we were invited to (Or rather, it feels more like our housemates organised a house party and didn’t bother to check with us), but if the other fact to the gawdy party decorations or cheesy music, is that people are genuinely having a good time, and making friends, are we the ones shortchanging ourselves by hating so much, and not seeing it from the point of view of the party guests?

I know this is an unfair sentiment. I don’t think that if you were forced to volunteer when you didn’t want to, is by any means a justification of the powers and authorities over you to force you to do something you didn’t want to. But maybe, we can try to understand that not enough people stepped up to the plate. Maybe it would have been ideal that we would jump at the opportunity to volunteer or attend the games, but we didn’t. I know it’s not a reprieve, but it makes me ask myself that question. Why didn’t I? Why did I wait till I got a job to feel this way? I believe we share similar sentiments of not wanting to support the games at first, but to feel this support for the games is actually a recent phenomena for me as well. Now, I just want to do my part, and that’s why I’m putting this entry on the line, to get shot down by people who vehemently oppose the games.

But to those of you who are open to being a part of this, who want to see the glass as half full (instead of half empty) I just encourage you to see for yourself, the spirit and heart of the athletes, volunteers and performers. This is something the $300+ million could not buy. You ask yourself what it means to be Singaporean? Well, it doesn’t mean you do everything your government tells you to do. It means you think for yourself, and decide what it means to be a Singaporean, and what differentiates you from the rest of the world. If you’re proud of your differences, shortcomings and triumphs, I think you can be proud that you are able to help host the dreams and aspirations of youth athletes the world over, that we were chosen to be a host, whether the world is watching or not, to be someone special to someone else.

“The athletes, volunteers & colleagues i spend my time with.”
Image credit: Social Media Too!

I’m dedicating this post to you. You who wanted to be here, to be part of something bigger than yourself, who wanted to experience something special in your life, who wanted to know there’s a whole world out there, who dared to dream big, who wanted to meet someone new, who sees defeat as a natural part of life, who wants to make a difference, who believes in a future. This is for you.

Affairs, Media

Stupid Extremist Christian On CNN: Burn Quran Day

Idiots on CNN
NOTE: If you decide to watch this video, I urge you to read my notes below with regard to my moderate stance.

This video shows the absolute ridiculousness of extremist thinking from the Christian camp. I’m Christian, but I believe the majority of believers would think that this opinion is absolutely unrepresentative of our faith, as much as people in general do not think that terrorist acts have been representative of the Muslim faith.

It is stupid that such a man was given a platform to rant and rave about such extremist behaviour. It was obvious that the interviewer and interviewee were not even on the same intellectual plane to argue ANY sound discourse, and it is even stupider for people to even begin taking sides to this discourse.

It’s appalling that such thinking exists, and to entertain any thoughts of ‘us vs them’ after watching this, is to open yourself to the ridicule that you are stupid, and unable to form ANY opinions of your own.

This interview should never have happened or been entertained, and I question CNN as to the intent of airing this interview as it reeks of sensationalism and misrepresentation. The only fair argument i have as to why they aired this, is to give this ‘pastor’ a chance to explain his ridiculousness, of which he clearly displayed his incompetence, misogyny and intolerance.

There is nothing of value in this video, whatsoever.