Rants and raves about stuff happening in and around my life in Singapore

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Spending with a Conscience

The goal of any company be it large or small is to make a profit and/or to satisfy it’s shareholders and ensure that analysts confidence remains high in that companies ability regardless of market trends to continue to make a profit. And each year those same companies are challenged to make even more than the year before. It’s an never ending cycle.

Many companies have ethical and corporate social responsibility polices and work within those boundaries in the countries they operate. Indeed, it has to be said that many do good work in those same countries as a result.

But is it enough?

I would love to see a trend where companies put those ethical and corporate social responsibilities above all else. While we can sign petitions and write letters to our MP’s etc urging countries that blatantly violate human rights to rethink their policy’s it’s never going to have any real or lasting impact. Not really.

But imagine if a company decided that it would no longer allow its products to be sold in a country as a result of its poor track record in Human Rights. And now imagine if other companies decided to follow suit. Imagine if companies put the never ending drive to increase profits second to the broader picture.

Imagine if companies got together and formed a forum where they discussed and based on agreed criteria (which would take some trashing out I know) which countries they would no longer do business in, and that more and more companies joined that forum because “we” the consumer decided that “we” would only buy products from companies that put that ethical and corporate social responsibility first.

“We” as citizens of a global economy have a responsibility to ensure that our money is spent wisely. That it is not given to companies and corporations for the sole purpose of making a profit. That rather, every coin we spend is done so with the foresight of supporting this imaginary ethical and corporate social responsibility forum as though it was in fact real.

We are as guilty as anyone else of supporting human rights violations because we help to fuel the economy’s and companies that operate in those areas. Most times we look for bargains to get the most for our hard earned money, and no one can fault us for that. After all, money is not easily come by. And yet if that cheaper product is cheaper because its been made in a country that exploits child labour are we really doing the right thing?

As much as we shout out at politicians and those large corporates for them to do more we also have a part to play. And we often tend to forget, in the search for a bargain, that the power of our dollar and where we spend it will have a lot more impact than any protest or petition.

So, when you hear on the news more of those terrible stories of human rights violations and are outraged by them (as no doubt the majority of us will be), look to where you have spent your hard earned money and ask yourself the question … am I supporting that without even knowing it?

Each of us needs to make a decision on where we as individuals stand and what we stand for, and as much as we point the fingers at others to “do something” we also need to start doing something about it ourselves in one of the easiest ways possible, by spending with a conscience.

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want” - Anna Lappe

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Applause for the HPB FAQ on sexuality

I’ve lived in Singapore for 17 years, the majority of my friends are Singaporeans and yes I am a new Citizen. In the past I tended to read the news in and around Singapore with a passing interest but lately it seems to becoming more and more important to me to understand what is going on since it now effects me directly.

The recent HPB flurry on the internet has left me a little speechless. Here was a government body doing what it is suppose to do, representing ALL of Singapore citizens and providing each and every one of them with avenues that they could peruse for issues that concerned them. It deserved to be applauded for that effort alone.

Instead so called Pastor Lawrence Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church lashed out at the recent HPB FAQ on sexuality saying that the FAQ was "shocking and deeply upsetting". Why? because it mentioned homosexuality? He is reported to have labelled same sex relationships as "unnatural" emphasising that such relationships do not allow procreation and to have taking issue with organisations that are "LGBT-affirming". He is reported to have said that instead, other support groups such as Liberty League, who believe that they can 'cure' homosexuality, should have been suggested instead.

I’m sorry Pastor Lawrence Khong but in my opinion you are an idiot. It is clear that you have no concept of what you are talking about at all on this subject. Not only that, but with the suggested alternatives you mention you are actually quite harmful and I would even consider you a menace to society. You label same sex relationships as “unnatural” even though there is evidence of the same throughout nature itself and you mention “procreation” as though that is the sole purpose for any relationship. I’m sure there are many people in Singapore who will take exception with that view, and many Women who have far more to offer society than their ability to produce babies.

There are countless testimonies that so called “cures” for homosexuality DO NOT WORK. Even the people who pioneered it to begin with have already apologised to the LGBT community for the harm they have inflicted with their misguided perception that sexual orientation can be cured. It cannot. It is an intrinsic and fundamental part of any individual.

A similar stance was then apparently supported by Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan yesterday who hit out at one of the responses, which said homosexual and heterosexual relationships are not too different. Writing on his Facebook page, he said: “I cannot agree that ‘A same-sex relationship is not too different from a heterosexual relationship’. The two relationships are different and they go against the Government’s policy of promoting heterosexual married couples to have healthy relationships and to build stable nuclear and extended family units.

Just because the government is promoting heterosexual married couples does not make a heterosexual and homosexual relationship different at any fundamental level other than the parties involved. What a stupid comment. Provided both are based on mutual respect, trust and love both have been proven to be equally sustainable. All of this family unit, married couple, procreation etc that’s being pushed down people’s throats, I just find it all so amusing.

Here are people up in arms over something like homosexuality in a city that has legalised prostitution and repealed the laws that make oral and anal sex a criminal offence between heterosexual couples. Almost everyday in the newspaper there’s one story or another of a heterosexual couple who have fallen by the wayside one way or another, from underage prostitution to sex for favours and I’m sure anyone reading this has already read more than a few examples.

In fact just recently PAP MP Lim Biow Chuan is reported to have said during Jack Neo's extramarital affair scandal that he showed support for Neo. He said: "Since he is remorseful over this incident, he should be forgiven. Actually, a man who has a good career development would find such scenarios unavoidable"


And then there’s the comments about how people aren’t ready to accept homosexuality is Singapore so we will go with the will of the people. Funny, people weren’t up for having their medisave payments increased or the CPF reduced or fare hikes or changes in ECP pricing. It’s amazing how the government decides to cherry pick which public opinion it will follow while discarding the rest into the “we know best” pile.

As a new citizen, I really am uncertain about the future of Singapore. It seems that Singapore is becoming a less inclusive society and that many natural Singapore citizens are left feeling marginalised with policy decisions that affect them directly.

The HPB deserves our resounding applause for the effort in put into creating an all inclusive FAQ, one that represented ALL CITIZENS of Singapore. And many of the politicians in Singapore can learn a lesson from that. Its a shame however that it will now no doubt amend it’s FAQ to avoid the spot light it finds itself under and Singapore will become a little less inclusive as a result.

Those that spoke out against the original HPB FAQ on sexuality should hang their heads in shame and shoulder the responsibility for that step backwards. I would remind them, and everyone, that the word “equality” is enshrined in our nations pledge and for me it remains a hope that it becomes more than just a word in this Singapore I call home.