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

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Singapore Presidential Election

As we move forward to the next presidential elections here in Singapore I can't help but feel less than enthusiastic about the prospect.

When I became a Singapore citizen, among the many things I had to learn was the Singapore pledge. For me it had meaning, a promise and a commitment not only of myself but of all Singaporeans that was something to aspire towards. However, recently that very same pledge, those aspirations spoken by millions of Singaporeans through the years, has in my opinion been undermined.

The Singapore government has recently announced what it is calling a "reserved" presidential election. What this means is that the election for the office of the President will be reserved for a certain community (i.e. Chinese, Malay or Indian and other minority communities) if no person belonging to that community has held the office of the President for any of the last 5 terms of office, in an attempt to ensure multi-racial representation in the office of the Presidency.

On the surface, it's an understandable goal and some newspapers here have printed articles that the move "affirms values of multiracialism & meritocracy", but in implementing this change it in effect limits the candidates for election to a single race. I fail to see how that makes Singapore more democratic. In my opinion it is the very definition of racism since it denies candidates of other races the opportunity to run for that office, and as such I fail to see how it supports the political philosophy that power should be vested in individuals almost exclusively based on ability and talent?

One could argue that it is fair because the criteria for candidates for the office of president remains the same regardless of race, or that it will rotate between races if no one of that race has held the office in the last five years. But fair and democratic are two separate words. If, as a voter, i am forced into a position where I am required to vote for a candidate based solely on the race of that candidate as the first and foremost criteria of eligibility, while their ability to hold that office takes on a supporting role, how does that support meritocracy?

In my opinion limiting eligibility for candidacy of the presidential office to a single race, regardless of how well intended the motives behind such a decision may be, is the very definition of racism and a move that is totally in contradiction to the words of the Singapore pledge that promises "as a united people", "regardless of race", "to build a democratic society"

It has to be said that my faith in the government of this country has reached new lows. The pledge that I firmly believe in seems to have been put to one side, and the words that have been spoken by millions of Singaporeans since it was first written in 1966 now ring empty and hollow.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Hidden Side of Pokemon GO

With the recent launch of Pokemon GO here in Singapore it seems everyone and his mother is out to catch them all and the term going to the gym has taking on a new meaning. I'm sure like me your facebook feed is littered with Pokemon updates, a trend one hopes will die off as quickly as it started when we get to the point of "Who the fuck cares". But is the game all that it seems?

Well it appears not. Of course if you are playing for the sheer fun of it then carry on and read no further. But if you are trying to evolve and grow your pokemon to be the best and battle it out in the gym or even get ready for the soon to be released Trainer Battles (yes Trainer Battles are coming) then read on.

You see not every Pokemon is created equal. Two players may have the same Pokemon with the same combat power and health and yet when it comes to actual combat they can produce totally different results. You see each type of Pokemon has a base set of attributes for Stamina, Attack and Defence and it is "born" with these "Individual Values" (or IV) which can never be changed. Of course the game doesn't tell you what these are and only the most hardened Pokemon player will even know they exist or how to use them. In fact you will have to use some external tools to calculate them before deciding on growing, evolving or simply waiting to catch a Pokemon with better IV's.

The fact that you have to resort to additional tools to really get the most out of the game means that Pokemon GO really does fall short for the serious player. These IV statistics could easily have been included and would have made it a much more interesting game with a little more strategy thrown in. So if you are just growing your pokemon with the best Combat Power take note that it could actually be the worst Pokemon in your arsenal at the end of the day.

Maybe the in-game information will improve as the much hyped and planned trainer battles and pokemon trading are implemented in future updates, but if you are attempting to build the best Pokemon collection you can then take note that currently you will need to resort to external tools to help you decide your strategy.

Also, if all the rumors are to be believed, even catching those once easy lower level Pokemon can take a lot more attempts or just as equally you will find your target tends to run away more often as your player levels up. So growing your Pokemon may get a little more frausting as a result. Don't say you weren't warned and make sure you have a good stock of Pokeballs!

Yes Pokemon GO is not all that it seems it appears when you dig a little deeper and still has a LOT of room for improvement. Until then those "Individual Values", what they really mean and how to make the most effective use of them will remain hidden to everyone expect the most experienced Pokemon player.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Meenah and Cheenah

Dream Academy presents Meenah and Cheenah. I was convinced by my friends to attend this show and at first I have to admit to doing so under duress. I have lived in Singapore for 18 years so I really do understand the culture but my sense of humour tends towards left of center and I have never found local productions funny as a result. In fact shows like "The Noose" serve only to irritate me rather than make me smile.

So as I sat down in my seat and girded myself for some very local entertainment I have to admit to being totally wrong in this case.

Meenah and Cheenah was hilarious. True it was very localised in terms of humour and you would have to be Singaporean to get many of the references, but I could not stop laughing at so many points throughout the entire show. Maybe that makes me more Singaporean than I give myself credit for.

This was a show with minimal sets and props that focused on the interplay between two people with almost perfect comic timing and delivery. Well structured, well balanced, and equally well delivered it did not disappoint and when it ended I found myself wishing it hadn’t as I really wanted to see more.

This was Singapore comedy at it's finest at least from my perspective. There were so many skits in such rapid succession that to be honest it is hard to pick a favourite. But if I had to pick one I would say the Ghost scene not only because of the amount of humour it had but also the subtle references it contained that had me and all of my local friends laughing so hard.

I loved it and would gladly watch it again.

For those that missed it, you really did miss out.

We Wear White (not)

Once again we reach that time of year when Pink Dot, a celebration of the freedom to love regardless of sexual orientation, gets ready to take off in Singapore. And once again self proclaimed evangelist pastor and part time magician Lawrence Khong takes exception and plans a We Wear White campaign to coincide on the same day.

Mr. Khong is reported as stating that "there is a conservative majority in Singapore who will push back and will not allow them (LGBT) to promote their lifestyle and liberal ideologies that openly and out rightly contradict our laws, our Governments stated polices, our national core values, and the conservative majority's view on public morality, marriage and family".

I would love to know what the hell he means by that statement because for me it makes very little sense. I read it a couple of times and I'm still no wiser. So I decided to break it down to see if I missed anything.

"To promote their life style"
I have no idea what lifestyle he is referring to. I get up brush my teeth, shower, go to work, come home, eat dinner, catch up with friends. Weekends I might do some shopping. I support my family when they need me too, and the same for my friends. I have the same dreams and aspirations as anyone else, I look forward to holidays as I'm sure everyone does and yes I pay a mortgage and bills too. It's a normal mundane lifestyle with the same worries as everyone else.

"Liberal Ideologies"
Again I have no idea what he means here at all. I think like any person, I have similar politic views as many. I have my own views on religion (which incidentally have taken a bashing at the hands of Mr. Khong it has to be said). I respect and admire the many different cultures and religious beliefs that my friends here in Singapore hold, and I accept that my views and my friends may differ from time to time and even lead to heated debates on certain subjects. In fact it it wasn't for the Liberal Ideologies of the founding fathers of Singapore, Singapore would not be the country it is today.

"Openly and out rightly contradict our laws, our Governments stated polices"
I can only assume here he is referring to section 377A. Given that the Government is already on record as stating that what two people of the same sex do in the privacy of their own home is their own business, and that they will not enforce 377A, I am at a lose as to why he makes this statement. Singapore is also on record as stating the same to the International Human Rights committee. Clearly Mr. Khong is out of touch with reality and seeks to justify his campaign by such a sham alignment.

"our national core values"
The Singapore Pledge, something every person in Singapore has said many times in their lives reads as follows. "We, the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people, regardless of race, language or religion, to build a democratic society based on justice and equality so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation". This represents the core values of every Singaporean. If anything Mr. Khong's misguided We Wear White campaign is in direct volition of this pledge. Clearly his message is that equality for all citizens in the eyes of the law is irrelevant and that his religious views are the only ones that matter since clearly his arguments are based on them.

"the conservative majority's view on public morality"
While I can understand people being conservative, and even such a group being in the majority, I donĂ­t' really understand the public morality connection. I think he needs to explain what he means by that last part because I really don't get it at all. Even if section 377A was repealed there are plenty of other laws already in place to protect public morality. In fact it's one of the reasons that the Government is on record as not enforcing it and why many other countries have already repealed it.

Well, now we get to the juicy stuff. The core argument from Khong and his like is that should section 377A be repealed that gay people will want to be married next and that such a proposal runs contrary to all of his religious beliefs. Well I doubt he has much to worry about as I'm pretty certain no gay man of sane mind would actually propose to him. That said, in no country in the world has any religious organization EVER been forced to perform a same-sex marriage where it goes against the core set of that religions beliefs. NO WHERE. Yes there are many posts of people being sued for not doing so etc, but read up more on them, many are government related jobs where the person refuses to do their job and have been sued on that basis. Others are for stores/shops/public services etc that have openly practiced discrimination based on sexual orientation which was a criminal offence in those countries according to that countries constitution. If same sex couples want to marry in the eyes of the law, then it is the law that makes that decision and certainly not Mr. Khong or any religious organisation for that matter.

We all love our family, the ups the downs, the argument, the laughter. We don't judge each other, our love is unconditional. Regardless of the make up of that family or any individuals sexual orientation in it. In fact if anything Mr. Khong seeks to undermine that family unit by driving wedges between it's members simply because of an individuals sexual orientation within it. Through no fault of your own should you happen to be LGBT Mr. Khong would ensure that you remain less than equal in the eyes of the law. Such views can no longer be tolerated in a modern progressive society like Singapore. No Singaporean should ever believe that any fellow Singaporean should have less rights than they enjoy. Everyone should be equal in the eyes of the law.

I have to say that when you pick apart Mr. Khong's points they don't really stack up. In my opinion this is really nothing more than his attempt to enflame passions among the people of Singapore and his own religious following. Why pick a date for the We Wear White campagin that clashes with Pink Dot if his motives are so pure and above board, in my opinion the answer is they are not and Mr. Khong is directly attacking Pink Dot wether he chooses to admit it or not. Unfortunately however, he is entitled to his own opinion of course, regardless of how misguided it may be, but the rest of the people in Singapore should take them with a pinch of salt.

In my opinion Mr. Khong is following his own agenda here and I say that because he clearly doesn't speak for me or anyone I know in the slightest. . Indeed, he seems to be shouting so loudly on LGBT related topics that given the recent scientific study's on people who are overly negatively vocal on LGBT related topics one has to wonder.

I think Margaret Cho summed it up perfectly with her opinion of Mr. Khong in her recent performance in Singapore, enough said.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Art of Communication

I am tired of being misunderstood, of having to push through the layers of treacle that seem to surround conversations at times, of dealing with pedantic obstinate people who are incapable of changing their point of view because it’s the only one that matters. Of the tit-for-tat exchanges that perpetuate and escalate from a seemingly innocent statement into an all out war of words that oft times spiral out of control.

And yes, as much as I am guilty of all of the above myself, and freely admit it, I also know that I have the capacity to step back from such exchanges. Sometimes I even do, letting the inevitable verbal stream wash over me like icy-cold water while I internalize the screams of “fuck you” both at myself and my antagonist until the stream dries up and a sense of normality returns followed by the equally inevitable “water under the bridge” or “forget it” comments of closure the final twists of the dagger to be endured.

I am nothing special, I know that nearly every person could say the same and like me have been in many such situations with someone younger or older while their own inner voice screams “I have a point of view, listen to it”, the fuel our ego’s add to the fire by default in an effort to be heard and understand. Understanding, the elusive holy grail of conversation.

Conversation is often nothing more than an illusion at times as we fool ourselves into thinking we are listening when what we are listening for is the flaws, the tiniest of cracks, the minor discrepancies or that ultimate prize the opportunity to one-up the conversation because you did it better or worse or know a friend of a friend who did, the “beat that” factor.

It’s not a generation thing, it’s simply a human condition. Few people are able to step beyond it, many aren’t even aware of it their own ego’s already trained to drown out sensibility, while most (of which yet again I include myself) are stuck firmly in the middle swinging between the two extremes like a perpetual pendulum bashing our heads against the proverbial brick wall over and over again.

And as I strive to be one of the few, those that know when to stay silent and just simply nod in agreement sacrificing their own point of view in the process to avoid slamming into that brick wall face first (a life long journey I fear), I realize that I simply lack the patience to deal with idiots, especially those that delight in lauding the conversation with their inherently flawed knowledge.

Stupidity is just extremely difficult to ignore. I’m no saint, far from it, but I’m beginning to see where the expression “the patience of a saint” comes from because seriously, trying to have a normal conversation with some people is almost impossible.  I need to get better at switching off and faking that interested expression as I doubt the brutal honesty of “you’re talking shit and I have no wish to continue this inane conversation” is not particularly endearing as truthful as it may be at times.

And when that conversation turns to advice we enter into a verbal mine field, one without a safe path through it I might add. No-one listens to advice even if it is based on real life personal experience. There’s simply something about the human condition that treats any and all advice with dismissal and once it’s offered we seem to develop instant goldfish memory syndrome.

Worse again is if you are getting advice from someone you already struggle to converse with as then your conversation enters a whole new world of mental anguish. Yes, there are some people that just drone on as if they will never run out of steam with words gushing out of them in an unending torrent of incomprehensibility. Violence is alas never the answer even if the temptation to stem the flow is a quick backhand to the face.

So as much I as need to work on understanding others, I know that I also need to work on being understood in equal measure both tasks facing insurmountable odds of being accomplished in one life time I might add. Still, at least it’s something to work towards, and what is life but a series of challenges anyway so one more isn’t’ going to make that much of a difference in the scheme of things.

Yes, conversation is an art form, one we all need to pay a little more attention too.

On the Church in Singapore

Before I begin this post I really do what to emphasis that regardless of what religion you may subscribe to that it is a personal choice. As an individual regardless of that choice I hold nothing against you and judge you solely on your personality and not that chosen religious preference. That said I am within in this post going to comment on religion more specifically on the Church in Singapore.

You can choose to continue reading or not but remember that you make that choice willing and that this post contains my own opinions which may or may not be shared by you. Any offence caused is unintentional (i.e. a by-product of the way your own brain processes information, a refelction of the morals and standards that have been super imposed on you since childhood coupled with the influences that have exerted themselves on you throughout the same period for which I can take no responsibility).

And so I begin.

There are many religions here in Singapore, Buddhism, Hindu, Muslim and Christian to name a few. Singapore is in fact a secular society. By that I mean there is near-complete freedom of religion (beliefs on religion generally are not subject to legal or social sanctions), and the lack of authority of religious leaders over political decisions. The separation of religion and state is the foundation of secularism. It ensures that religious groups don't interfere in affairs of state, and makes sure the state doesn't interfere in religious affairs.

Secularism seeks to defend the absolute freedom of religious and other belief, and protect the right to manifest religious belief insofar as it does not impinge disproportionately on the rights and freedoms of others. Secularism ensures that the right of individuals to freedom of religion is always balanced by the right to be free from religion. Religious people have the right to express their beliefs publicly but so do those who oppose or question those beliefs.

And so moving onwards.

Of all the religions present in Singapore the most vocal is the Christian Church, indeed painfully so. It has been vocal on a concert here by Adam Lambert solely because of his sexual orientation. It has been vocal on Pink Dot which is a day that celebrates the freedom to love regardless of sexual orientation and has since been adopted by many other countries globally. It has been vocal on section 377a which is an old colonial law that criminalizes the intimacy between two men even as the government has openly stated that it will not enforce this law (the latest declaration of the same to the Human Rights commission).

And more recently the Catholic Archbishop has slated Madonna’s first ever concert in Singapore (yes, seriously). Indeed one of the reported comments in relation to the last item was “Nevertheless (the Church) has a moral duty to enlighten and speak the truth on moral issues unflinchingly for the good of humanity”. And it is for that reason that I decided to write this particular post.

While the Church has the freedom to publicly express their beliefs it does not have the freedom or the right to impose those beliefs on the wider society many of whom do not share those beliefs. It is not now, nor has it ever been, nor does it even have the remit to be the moral compass for humanity. That statement shows an ignorance that is beyond contempt.

Don’t get me wrong by all means feel free to instruct those that choose to follow that religion but you do not, nor will you ever have the right to speak for me or millions like me who do not share those beliefs. With that statement in my opinion the Church has over stepped its boundaries in relation to the definition of a secular society. It is not the first time and it will not be the last either. The Church’s definition of “moral issues” is tainted by its religious beliefs, it cannot be otherwise.

Take section 377a for example. The Church has repeatedly and publically called for this to remain on the statute books in Singapore based solely on it’s religious beliefs. This runs contrary to the definition of a secular society as it is clearly an attempt to interfere and/or influence the affairs of state and force its’ moral view on a wider society. It is not acceptable. “Secularism seeks to defend the absolute freedom of religious and other belief, and protect the right to manifest religious belief insofar as it does not impinge disproportionately on the rights and freedoms of others” in my opinion the Church’s is in direct conflict to this fundamental ideal of secularism.

Again and again the Church seems to take every opportunity it can to push it’s beliefs into the wider society and I have to admit that I am totally sick and tired of it. Enough is enough. It throws those beliefs around like stones, concrete and absolute ideologies that are unquestionably morally correct and yet the beliefs of the Christian church are as malleable as clay.

In the past you could not touch the holy communion with your hands, that’s changed. In the past women were required to bring the bloody sheets to the church and be shriven from the sin of losing their virginity to their husband, that’s changed (incidentally the husbands committed no sin in the act of consummation only the women). In the past you had to attend mass on a Sunday, but with the congregation dwindling the Church changed it so you could go to mass on a Saturday evening and it still counted. In fact as and when the Church looks to be in danger of losing its congregation it changes.

While I can take or leave religion I find the Church to be an insidious institution that is almost malicious in its attempt to impose its religious and moral views on the wider society. In fact I would almost go as far as to say that on a personal level I find it, and its double standards given all of the scandal in the news on child abuse it has had to dodge, almost repugnant.

The government here has a difficult task. It needs to maintain and manage a multicultural multi-religious society. And that is not easy. Indeed the government has mentioned the need for its citizens to actively work towards maintaining religious harmony. It has also taken action against citizens who have stepped too far over the line.

But what is to be done when the Church itself steps over the line, when it states that it “has a moral duty to enlighten and speak the truth on moral issues unflinchingly for the good of humanity”. What happens when the Church violates the tenets of secularism and seeks to impose its beliefs or morals on that wider society. It simply cannot be acceptable. I certainly do not accept it.

The Church is absolutely free to encourage its followers but that is where the line must be drawn and any encroachment on the views, beliefs or morals of the wider society must not only be ignored but firmly rejected not just by that society but by the Government responsible for maintaining that society as a secular society.

Ministers and members of that government must always remember that regardless of their own personal religious views they have an obligation to the citizens of Singapore to ensure in all of their official duties they are guided not by their religious beliefs but by the fundamental precepts of secularism as much as by Singapores national pledge “one united people regardless of race, language or religion to build a democratic society based on justice and equality

The continued interference of the Church within Singapore's secular society needs to stop.

And I am sure that I am not alone in that view.

A tamed down (or politically correct) version of this post can be found in the ST Forum