Culture, Opinion

Revise: Singapore, I live in a great city.

This post was originally written on 23 Jan 2009 at the wordpress hosted singularity industries.

i have a strange relationship with my country, Singapore. On one hand, i’m disheartened by the stories i read on STOMP, and on the other, there really is no place like this.

And then you read magazines like Monocle, who’ve created a one page city guide of how awesome Singapore is as a business city.

And yet, you read all the things that are wrong about Singapore, the control, the low pays, the way we just accept what our governments do and how apathetic we are that we cannot change anything.

Actually, there is as much discontent as there are about things that make Singapore a great city to live in. But I’m going to turn this one on it’s head by saying that we should change ourselves first as individuals rather than wait for circumstances.

Singapore should not be a great place because it’s got Sentosa, and upcoming integrated resort, a Singapore Flyer, and Esplanade, a small but thriving music scene, AWESOME food, nooks and crannies like Haji Lane, or the list that Monocle provided us.

It shouldn’t be a bad place because of the powers that be, the ERP we have to pay, the high cost of living, the strange employment regulations, or even the grueling and unforgiving education system we go through.

I think the intrinsic happiness and contentment comes from within ourselves. Regardless of social status, or academia, or material possessions, i think Singapore would be a great city if we were just genuinely nicer to each other. both locals and foreigners. if we had more community spirit and didn’t just look out for our own interests.


do you see what i’m driving at? money doesn’t buy happiness.. there are people who live in Nepal who lead simple lives, but yet.. they’re there for each other, they have REAL friendships and despite physical hardship.. they have something I envy.. a genuine smile from a stranger.. something that makes it seem that we aren’t alone in this world.

I hope as Singaporeans, we can be there for each other, we can be there for the rest of the world.. that Singapore as nation can smile to her children, and to the children in other parts of the world. And then not just this country, but this world won’t be such a lonely and unforgiving place.

We’re the same, can’t you see?


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 -)


My Thoughts And Motivations Behind The Post: Singapore, What Do You Want?

Empty Chairs
“A scene from Sunday afternoon as Singapore bands played to a small audience in gigs organised by the Youth Olympic Games”
Image credit: Leonard Soosay

When i wrote the post, Singapore, What Do You Want? I did not expect the minister himself to comment on it. I was coming home, taking the bus and checking my tweets out, and someone mentioned, “Look at the comments.” And for ten whole minutes, I was overwhelmed. This was going to be a lot bigger than I’d anticipated, and more will be stepping forward to share their views. I thought I’d be able to reply every single one of you who commented, but I can’t, or won’t. It’s almost 4AM, and my left arm is still in a cast, but I will share some top line thoughts and motivations to what drove me to write that particular post.

First of all, thank you for everyone who re-tweeted the message I wanted to share, for blogging about it and driving so many readers here (Mr Brown!). For everyone who liked a comment (ANY comment), and most definitely, everyone who left a comment. Whether you agree or not with my point of view, is not the point. I want to thank you for leaving a comment, and sharing your opinion, because it matters to someone. For those of you who encouraged me, thank you, I’ve been tired out from this because I’m not used to this sort of attention, but I’m learning to handle the pressure. You’re helping ALOT. And if my fuse was short on some, I apologise.

What it was not about
1. First of, it was not a blog post: extolling the MCYS, the ministers behind it; a political mouth piece with leanings to the current government in power nor about offering justification to why we should have held the Youth Olympics here; nor discuss what good or bad will come out of it.

2. Second, it was not meant to be a political piece, forcing people to take sides, that you are either for-or-against the Youth Olympic Games, and therein lied your political alignment.

What it IS about
1. It is an independent voice. It is meant to talk about human values and human spirit, despite our differences in opinion about the games. You as a reader can choose however you want to take my words, but I stand by the integrity of this blog, that it is a post meant to encourage everyday people like you and me, working & volunteering on the ground, and putting a spotlight on youth athletes who show us the values of human spirit; hard work; and how celebrations and disappointments are a natural course of life.

1. My main motivation for writing this post, is perhaps best embodied in my previous post, “The Case Of The Local Music Scene Vs. You, The Consumer” My main motivation was to encourage. I’ve been playing in Singapore indie bands for about ten years, never breaking the mainstream, or seeing so many of my friends hit a ceiling when it comes to how far we can take our music. I’m not pinning the blame on the consumer / audience, but we know what it’s like to struggle, and fight for a craft, and no one seems to care. You could say I empathised with the athletes, volunteers and workers, because I felt that they were in a similar situation (despite a multi-million dollar budget).

I could just not care, and continue being a trainer for 2 weeks, collect my pay and go home, carry on with my life and write in my blog about other things. But like my previous post, I realised that *while* it would be nice to change mindsets, that’s way too selfish and self-righteous.

What was within my capacity, as a normal person in living in Singapore, was to give encouragement to those who needed, wanted, or were looking for it. I’m not saying I’m a saint, but like some of us who give monetary donations to feed material needs of the less fortunate. Maybe I felt like I still had an exccess of soul and spirit to give, so I shared that, to anyone who needed or wanted it. And that was really it.

2. It’s not that I’m proud of Singapore as much as I’m proud of people in Singapore. Do not mistake this with nationalism, and please try to understand that I have been contributing art and culture to a place that can be seen as home. (My family + friends are here, I am investing my time here to contribute to a society.) But while others choose to see the bad and wonder why we’re stuck in Singapore, I know I’m not alone with people who see the good, that this is where we would like to see local arts & culture flourish, as much as our home as a whole. Almost like rooting for the underdog I guess.

Why did I feel that motivation was necessary?
1. I definitely made the mistake of grouping all negative sentiment into a category of “haters”, or people not proud of Singapore, prior to writing the “Singapore, What Do You Want?” But I would like to remind everyone, that this is very wrong thinking. I can be guilty of it when my emotions get the better of me.

But there are definitely some purely negative statements that get vocalised, and tear away at peoples’ souls. Ridicule for people who believe in something different from them, getting called names for the amusement of showing everyone how smart alecky one can be. I can appreciate satire, but I think we can draw a line when our words deride the integrity and character of someone we do not know. But again, this is a personal standard, how you use the Internet is entirely up to you. You will understand if I don’t listen to what you have to say if I cannot learn anything new.

But in the course of understanding the various grievances that we have, we should raise our voices if we do not agree with something. It is through public discourse that we can understand each other and work together for a better home for all of us. It doesn’t always have to be more money, welfare or convenience, it could also be more understanding and social graces with each other.

Thank you again, for reading. For leaving your comments, for sharing your experiences, thoughts, frustrations and hopes. I think Singapore is in an important transition, and I’m no expert policy maker, economist who can increase our GDP at the drop of a hat. But I, like others, can at least contribute to the culture of Singapore. Something I feel we’ve left behind in the name of progress. It may not mean much to some, but it means a lot to others. We’re not waiting for some great external act to galvanise the people, or have a sense of community. But I think we can start in our own little pockets on the ground, and slowly chip away at the unfinished identity of being a son or daughter of a place we would like to call home.