BLOGGER SAMURAI
Tis time to leave the books in dust, and oil the unused armour’s rust.

Jul
29

I rarely read the articles by the Brotherhood Press on the Intelligent Singaporean blog site, but one of their latest article is a laughable example of “positive” racial stereotyping: asking the question, entitled “Can Someone Tell Me Why Our Scholars aren’t as smart as the Jews?” the article laments on how the Jews became so damn smart…which is just about one of the most prevalent stereotypes ever placed on any ethnic group, that even today, those openly contemptuous of Jews like Richard M Nixon (who himself had a Jewish Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger) to Dr Mahathir Mohammed  will nevertheless acknowledge that they are smart. Hell, I bet even Hitler knew deep down he was going to sacrifice his country’s Best and Brightest for the future of the Aryan race, just that the price would be worth it. For some reason I’d definitely like to see someone say that Jews are likely too stupid to do anything as sinister as they appear to be doing, and that the dominance of Hollywood by Steven Spielberg, all those Nobel Prizes and the simultaneous emergence of both Marx and Kissinger from one single ethnic group are all mere flukes.

 One of the most ironic things about this piece is, it’s all too easy to forget that one of Singapore’s most prominent luminaries was also a Jew: the dynamic David Saul Marshall. Hell, had the island come under his rule instead of that of the People’s Action Party, the Jewish identity might have been integrated into the Singapore identity all the same. In a tantalizing what if scenario, eager Chinese parents would have demanded that their kids get circumcized and read the Torah, we may have a Yeshiva attached to NUS, and there’d be stalls selling smoked meat sandwiches and matzo ball soup in the hawker centres.

But other than that, this article is still a bad case of racial stereotyping, which even when “positive” can be a misleading thing because it prevents us from seeing and discerning the complexity of other cultures. In the short run it is a useful guideline to acting in a foreign environment, but in the long run definitely misleading. There is in fact, as much veracity in saying that Jews are smart as there is in saying that they make great comic book artists, from which I can cite Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Jerome Siegel and Joe Schuster as examples, or why their women are drop-dead gorgeous, which is a conclusion one can lead to by looking at Winona Ryder, Gwyneth Paltrow (she doesn’t look it but she is, dad’s side), Natalie Portman, Sarah Silverman, Lauren Bacall and if it is to believed, it goes all the way back to the Book of Esther (look if one woman can prevent a massacre of her people by sleeping with the King and revealing her ethnicity to him, she must have a lot of it where it counts if you know what I mean.) And I’d RATHER spend time debating the greatness of Jewish comic book artists and why certain Jewish women are so hot rather than debating why Jews are so smart.

 What this article can raise though, is that the real rub is between the booksmart and the real thinkers. Our scholars are smart definitely, but how much are they real dynamic or critical thinkers who can do more than just read the writings of dead white (and dead Jewish) people? But can formulate and implement new ideas on their own.

 Here is my reply to the post:

I have spoken and talked to and befriended actual Jews, so I can safely say I don’t think the average Jew is smarter than the average of whatever other race. Besides, from my research into Jewish History that I did for a paper I can say that a large number of the Jews today (the Ashkenazic Branch) may in fact be drawn from Turkic converts rather than the actual Palestian people in the Bible. The term “Jew” in the sense that we know it was coined during the Roman Empire to refer to the inhabitants of the backwater province of Judaea, not to a specific race or group at all. So who or what is a Jew is in fact a very flexible identity. The former actor Andrew Lim is now a Jew, having converted to Judaism, and wears a Yarmulke in public. That does not necessarily mean he will spring extremely bright descendants, though it is likely given his educational background.

The difference in Jewish History most likely comes from the demand on LITERACY placed upon the Jewish Community for the pride that was taken in being able to disseminate the Torah by the community. But while literacy does not necessarily make you smarter, on the whole it does make getting access to collected information easier, which is a huge asset when it comes to obtaining the right knowledge that society requires.

But what I may be able to say is this: if you notice the prominent brainiac Jews you listed are settled in highly open, liberal societies, they are not the Jews of Armenia, Kazakhstan or even of the former Iraq. Hell, during British Singapore we could attract such prominent Jews as Manasseh Meyer, the playwright Tom Stoppard and the family that gave line to David Marshall. And the thing about highly open and liberal societies is that knowledge is truly given a chance to shine, and all sorts of knowledge at that. Within such a system an already overweeningly literate population is able to thrive because of the free flow of knowledge, for good or ill. This is why the Jewish elite stretch from the far left to the far right in terms of their influence. Hard to think of a single people that can give us everyone from Henry Kissinger to Richard “Baba Ram Dass” Alpert.

The actor/writer/professor Ben Stein (son of Nixon era economist Herbert Stein) remarked that early Jews took much to the new social and economic freedom that the new world societies offered, which was so unlike the class-entrenched powers of Old Europe. There lies the rub. Likewise when changes in the market came to Europe over two industrial revolutions, they too embraced these changes. A great book to read on this is “The Brothers Ashkenazi” by Israel Joshua Singer. (The brother of Isaac Bashevis Singer.)

The scholar system in Singapore in a way resembles the Imperial Civil Service Examination system of ancient China. In such a system, knowledge is defined, regulated and placed a value upon, and thus intellectual prowess is channeled and directed rather than given free flow. When this happens and many disciplines are prized above others, selected types of knowledge are valued more than others, it has become difficult to truly become a “knowledgeable” and “educated” person.

This is the most likely reason why our scholars are not as smart as a (highly selective portion of) the Jews.

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Jul
27

著: 江上客

此年乃乾隆三十五年清明时节,江南水乡的乡下,一栋老庭院。

这是当年江南有名的云家之别墅,云家乃世代八旗子弟,武功在江南可说是非常有名的。满洲侵华,当年就为了灭明立大功。往年云家别墅常有来客,今年几乎有一种荒凉悲苦的气氛笼罩着这栋别墅。 天天就是看到清理的仆人进门出门 ,整体上还算护理得非常好,但是对于任何过客来说,这间别墅像是存在一个时间早已停滞的空间内。世间的变化,似乎也对它起不了什么作用。

它似乎在睡着,睡着,等着某一天的到来!

清明时节雨纷纷,路上行人欲断魂!

附近的竹林内,有着一名头戴草帽,衣着邋遢的中年神秘客,也到了这儿。跟随他的时一个不超过十七,八岁的姑娘。这位中年神秘客在腰围系着一把剑,手中一支烟杆。 偶尔拿起烟杆抽了抽,随着吐出一圈圈的烟。中年人的身上,有着多少岁月的沧桑感,人也无法衡量。而他身边的姑娘则犹如周围春天绽开的花朵,明艳动人,眼中确有一种玫瑰一般的带刺的尊贵。

中年过客在抽了烟过后,就往往会把烟杆在手指之间摆弄,敏捷的身手从小小的动作都看得出。

他,就是二十年前江湖上一场恩怨情仇的主角,而人生如戏。人不能当一生一世的主角,但同时,有些时候当一次主角也够受的了。然而,有些时候发现,戏毕竟还没演完!

这些时候,主角仍然还得再次来到台前。

“主人,您不是告诉我了,你再也不会来到江南水乡了吗?” 那位姑娘问道。

“是的。” 神秘客沉稳地回答。 “但是我和一个忘年之交有约。而君子一言既出,驷马难追!”

(故事未完)

Jul
19

As you can guess by the title of this site, I have a long fascination with martial arts films and novels. So I would like to try writing some of it online myself in Chinese. Do read it, and do give comments and suggestions if you wish.

The first instalment of my first short piece will be up soon.

Thank you.

 看多了武侠小说和电影,也想在线上写一些,不久,我的第一片短篇武侠小说 “流水行云”便会上线,请大家多多指教。

Jul
13

The recent hubbub all over the blogosphere over the case of 2LT Lee Hongyi and his spat with the conduct of his superiors at camp has started me thinking of things that I can say to 2Lt Lee, given that I too, have a brother who just went into his National Service last year and came back to me with such a sentiment:

Damn, I wish I hadn’t stood up for my beliefs so often, nor tried to behave so well. I am a more realistic person now, but not necessarily a better person. One should never take the logic of Civilian life for granted.

At the time that I type this, I wonder if the same sort of sentiment has applied to you, 2Lt Lee, right after your post that went on to so many people and went on to touch so many a raw nerve in the citizenry for better or worse, and that got you a summary trial and an ensuing formal charges. You have won hearts, you have lost hearts, but overall you have felt, and certainly felt, the full impact of what messy creatures people can be even underneath the polished exteriors of a society’s most distinguished institution. An Army of course is the best measure of seeing the quality and structure of a nation, as you realize, and the apathy, injustice and just lack of courage and your perceived “honor” that you realized in your short time in the Army as displayed by your fellow officers outraged you, think about what that may say about your country, your society and why it is acting that way.

Your forthcoming scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will give you a wonderful time and wonderful opportunities to think over this incident and all that it implies, and perhaps think for the rest of your life about the fragile logic that builds up our world, the assumptions that are at the core of our civilization. It is in the nature of the Army that consequences for an action bear a far greater price than they do in civilian life, whereas back in junior college if you lose a Student Pass you can just wait for a new one to be reissued, while in the Army an unreported loss on an 11B can result in charges and jail etc., and as a necessary outgrowth of such an institution that itself operates on a different level of “logic” from civilian life, that we see behaviour defying “logic” too. Peace and harmony are the convergence and balance of action and consequence. The military is an institution meant to prepare itself for the disruption of peace, and thereby acts along guidelines that stimulate a likewise disruption, consequences often do far outweigh their actions, or far less. As much as the Army can bring out the best in people, there are a lot more times, where more often than not, the mask of civilian society, of civility itself, is stripped away and it reveals how lazy, selfish and mean most of us can be, when we are pushed to it. How even the institutions that we set down cannot prevent their very abuse to achieve their very ends. The assumptions that we are “good people” in society all too often fall apart, the assumptions that we are “reasonable beings” fall away. If the army can show anything about human beings it is that often the choices we make are neither reasoned nor good. Finding yourself becoming more realistic in regard to such a view of human nature is often an inevitable outgrowth of any time period spent in the army. Even in the book that is given to parents before their children enter the military, there is an article compiled from the sayings that various parents have given to their children that two of the discoveries of Army life are that “things aren’t always fair” and that “people will not behave in ways that you consider to be right” or words to that effect, and it lists those as “the realities of life”.

Yet for a while, of course, a lot of us try to go against those “realities” when we realize that they are in fact, built on assumptions. And they are, until we become jaded and decide that they are not, and then we realize they are not.

And this perhaps, as a future member of the Singapore elite, and one of the many in that generation that will take Singapore into the new Millennium, you may consider for a while, the simple fragility of the “logic” that constitutes civility and peace not just in Singapore, but all over the world, and what you can do to maintain it. One of the simplest and positive things that I took away from the army about the value of peace is that in a microcosm, it made me understand the words of General Douglas McArthur: “It is the soldier that above all prays for peace.” The dove of peace is a fragile creature, maintained by a tight set of logic, order and rules that govern society to ensure its continued existence, such as air, food and water do for real doves. Take those away, and it too dies.

I told my brother later that I don’t know if the army made me a better person, but it didn’t make me a more realistic person even in the end. I think that “realism” is sometimes just a series of assumptions deeply held to one extent or another.  And that in the end, we are all creators of our own reality.

And that is all.

Blogger Samurai, signing off.

Jul
04

“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.”—-Alexander Pope, Eloise and Abelard

The title of this post is one of my favorite movies of all time, but who knew that this piece of science fiction could become science fact so quickly in our lifetimes?

Drug can dampen down bad memories

Pained face

Bad memories can be difficult to endure

Scientists believe they have found a way to dampen down the impact of bad memories in people’s brains. A US and Canadian team used a drug called propranolol to target unwanted memories, while leaving others intact.

They injected the drug, which is more often used to treat heart patients, while a volunteer was asked to recall a painful memory.

The Journal of Psychiatric Research study found that this seemed to disrupt the way the memory was then stored.

Fear reactions are there to protect people from danger in the future

Professor Chris Brewin, of University College London

The researchers, from McGill University, in Montreal, and Harvard University in Boston, hope their work could lead to new treatments for patients with psychiatric disorders, such as post-traumatic stress.

However, others have warned the research is still at a very early stage – and expressed concern that it could potentially be abused easily.

The researchers treated 19 crash or rape victims for 10 days with a drug, or a placebo.

The volunteers were asked to recall their memories of a traumatic event that had happened 10 years earlier.

A week later the researchers found that those people who were given a shot of propranolol showed fewer signs of stress, such as raised heart rate, when recalling their trauma.

The researchers believe that memories are initially stored in the brain in a malleable, fluid state before becoming hard-wired into the circuitry.

Then, when they are recalled, they once again become fluid – and capable of being altered.

They believe propranolol disrupts the biochemical pathways that allow a memory to “harden” after it has been recalled.

More work needed

In a separate study, a New York University team said they had successfully erased a single memory from the brains of rats while leaving the rest of their memory intact.

Dr Monica Thompson, a consultant clinical psychologist at London’s Traumatic Stress Clinic, stressed that post traumatic stress disorder was a complex condition with many other symptoms other than bad memories.

She said that even if a treatment successfully dampened down bad memories patients could still be left with potentially debilitating symptoms, such as high fear levels.

Professor Chris Brewin, of University College London, said the research was still at a very early stage, and much more work was needed to demonstrate that it could lead to tangible benefits.

“One also does not know what effect such a drug could have in the long term,” he said.

“After all, fear reactions are there to protect people from danger in the future.”

Now the problem with this whole setup is that obviously someone forgot to take cues from the movie itself. To an extent, it is something that shows that mankind has not progressed very much philosophically or in terms of true wisdom, even if we have done so scientifically. If anything, I suggest that it become a required part of medical ethics to watch “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and talk about whether we should really invent methods to prevent people from accessing painful memories or not.

One thing that deserves, more and more, to be mentioned about a film like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is that it is intelligent science fiction that is all getting too rare in a season indundated by dumb Hollywood blockbusters, because rather than being about Transformers taking over the Earth, it is about dealing with the normal problems of everyday people. In the film, Jim Carrey plays a man named Joel Barish who wants to have his memory erased after a painful breakup with his girlfriend Clementine (“You are lost and gone forever…”), who has also volunteered for the same treatment. But once he undergoes the treatment, he realizes that he does not want the treatment to erase his memories, because as in a relationship, as in life, as in life, as in everything, you can never have the good without the bad. In fact, you wouldn’t know you had the good times if you didn’t have the bad times to balance them out. Sometimes, the bad times lead up to the good times, or that they make you a better person etc.. Everything is one package: that’s life, that is how it works. Your life, good or bad, will be debated by you endlessly for the years to come. But that is your life. It is the only one that you will ever have. In the film there is this bit of priceless dialogue between Joel Barish and Dr Howard Mierzwak, the inventor of the memory-wipe technology:

Joel: Is there any risk of brain damage?
Howard: Well, technically speaking, the operation is brain damage, but it’s on a par with a night of heavy drinking. Nothing you’ll miss.

Nothing you’ll miss? Wrong, as the film shows, the erasure of painful memories is EVERYTHING you’ll miss! You’ll miss out on what made you the person you are! You’ll become an inauthentic, rootless being, incapable of coming to terms with yourself. Something inside me wonders at the kind of existential dread that the introduction of such a medicine, that even chooses to dampen the effect of bad memories in people, may enact in the real world. Sometimes it’s a good thing to feel bad, especially when recalling the pain of the past. If one ever risks hiding from truly feeling anything, one runs the risk of not living at all.

There are stunning examples of what individuals, societies and nations can do when they recall their pain, not choosing to forget it, and end up creating happiness for those born tomorrow and every day after. Michele Bachelet, recently Chile’s First Female President, has said, “I have not had an easy life, but who has?” Indeed, Bachelet’s life has not been easy. An army brat who just happened to land on the wrong side of the political tracks under the regime of Augusto Pinochet, her father was beaten and tortured, as was she. Now we are not here to debate the legacy of Pinochet, whether he just happened to preside over the bloody birth of a market-economy oriented Chile against tremendous radical leftist opposition or if his predecessor Allende was the Saint and True Savior of Chile, but the truth is that bad things happen. But post Pinochet, Chile roars with a market economy, produces kickass looking kung fu movies, and is ready to face its future, no matter what rifts its society may have had. No matter, what we should take heed from is the quote from Bachelet above, especially two words, “WHO HAS?” This is how a noble people deal with suffering, and the proper attitude to be cultivated to an authentic life, not to seek lessening the impact of pain from unwanted memories, but to deal with it in the right fashion, a way that would utilize the best traditions of the storehouse of wisdom that mankind has accumulated over the decades.

There are ways to access that storehouse, and the wisdom in it that acts often as a far better medicine than most conventional medical advances ever would. We can instead do things like reading, watching great movies, and set aside quiet time to think every now and then. It’s not too hard. We’re already so far behind on wisdom compared to how much we have of knowledge. It’s time to catch up.

Jul
03

Alas, the Lucky Tan has yet to hear my lesson, and is again lost in the hall of mirrors, this time, though he has done something worse than getting thrown off by a fake target that wastes his time and energy, he has in fact seen an enemy where there isn’t one! Historically, this has proven to be a mistake that can be fatal.

In “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” one of the chief blunders by the army of Cao Cao, the Mighty Warlord of the North and De Facto Eminence Grise of the Throne, was to have mistaken ships loaded with dummies for troops, in opening fire on those ships, the allied Kingdoms of Shu and Wu gained an unprecedented number of arrows that they would use to defeat Cao Cao in the greater battle at Red Cliff. Cao Cao, operating in the supreme confidence and hubris of his own overwhelming strength and immense military talent, had failed to take heed that he too, could commit the mistake of seeing the appearance of things for the reality of things.

In Lucky Tan’s latest post, he again froths at the mouth at a source of potential outrage, not wary of the circumstances in which it originated.

Needless to say that of late there have been a series of incidents that have certainly undermined the faith in the Singapore government and its claims to transparency. Following the dismissal of Alfian Sa’at from his teaching post, which has been discussed on this blog before, of late another former teacher has written to the Straits Times about not passing the requirements for teaching in local schools. This, he says, in spite of having taught in New Zealand.

I would suggest that it is not in spite of but BECAUSE that he has received the rejection. Let us analyze again this rejected teacher’s letter.

NZ-trained teacher rejected due to his age?
I READ with interest the letter ‘Is there a shortage of school teachers?’ by Madam Jenny Sim Siew Hwa (ST, June 21). I moved to New Zealand in 2000 and trained as a secondary teacher there to teach physics, science and mathematics.

While in New Zealand, I taught physics and science in an all-boys school as well as a co-ed school. Recently, I decided to return to Singapore and applied for a teaching position with the Ministry of Education (MOE). An interview was arranged and I returned to Singapore during my term break last April. I was surprised the interview panel did not even realise I was teaching overseas and as such had an overseas address.

Later, I received a letter telling me I was unsuccessful in my application as ‘the crop of applicants were of a very high standard’. Looking at my teaching qualifications, teaching experience and testimonials from principals and heads of department I worked with in New Zealand, I was disappointed.

In New Zealand, I would be snapped up as I teach a specialist subject – but not in Singapore. On the one hand, I hear there is a shortage of teachers but my experience is that MOE does not seem to realise that.

It makes me wonder if overseas teacher training qualifications are recognised.
Or is age a barrier? Incidentally, I am 50 years old. I have read about how Singapore wants to encourage the elderly to remain in the workforce and thought my work experience would be an advantage to my teaching as I can bring relevance into my lessons.

On its website, MOE encourages mid-stream career change. Could it make its criteria clear?
The teaching profession has been undervalued and MOE is not helping to improve its image. In general, the mindset of employers in Singapore has to change to realise that middle-aged employees bring in more skills than are taught in theory. As part of the workforce that has contributed to what Singapore is today, I am disappointed and may return to New Zealand where I am better appreciated.

Cheong Kam Seng

Now there are two points here that should be touched on.

First of all, the Ministry of Education, like all other ministries, has a bureaucracy, and sometimes indeed bureaucracies can be very inflexible in terms of decision-making. Even moreso when you have listed your address as overseas, and there seems to be no indication that you have found even a temporary residence in Singapore. Now if I listed myself has not having a personal address in that country while applying for a job overseas, even in a supposedly enlightened first world country like Canada, the US, the UK or anywhere in Europe, would I be put under immense scrutiny by the employer? Might I have lesser job prospects than those who were already resident in the country with actual addresses?

The answer is a definite “You bet!”

Secondly, considering that the differences in syllabus exist between the two countries, how sure can the Ministry of Education be that Mr Cheong would have the proper qualifications to teach his specialized subject at his level? It is certain that unless Mr Cheong has provided sufficient information, that they can’t. Even moreso for something like Physics, which is a very in-demand subject in Singapore schools and one that immense focus is put on.

Lastly, it is all too obvious that Mr Cheong at 50 does not realize how technologized and streamlined bureaucracies work anyway. It is more than obvious that what he received in reply from the Ministry was nothing but a generic electronically generated letter with the requisite pleasantries that are given to people who failed to get any particular job, and thus requires no signature. The statement that the candidates are “of a very high standard” is obviously targeted at the possibly underqualified takers of such a job, who need at least some form of consolation for not landing the job in the first place. It is definitely true that takers like Mr Cheong are the exception rather than the rule, and that such letters are not adapted to each individual scenario and case. In fact, one might suspect that there are a lot of underqualifieds that come to the Ministry each year trying to land jobs as teachers hearing the large deficiencies present in Singapore, for an expanding number of students and schools.

With such things clarified, it is more than obvious that in both cases, Mr Cheong and the Lucky One have both expressed shock and outrage and alarm at a matter for which there is a banal explanation. Again both were lost in the hall of mirrors, shooting at straw men, mistaking the appearance for the reality.

Jun
28

The following post is meant as a personal reflection of the Samurai’s views and is not intended as an attack on any religion in particular.

The Samurai has rarely touched on religion in these posts, because to him his beliefs are very personal and private. But today, he feels like expounding some of the feelings he has.

Recently the Samurai has seen this clip by a small group of fanatics in America called the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s sung to a pop classic, “We Are the World” by Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and others, and it’s called “God hates the World”. Now it’s obvious that this is a merely non-representative section of Christianity, and clearly a more than crazy one at that. Now I will state here that by no means will I waste too much time documenting the absurd inanities of the Westboro Baptist Church: it is a small, borderline incestuous church whose members are not allowed to marry anyone else outside of it, who believes that God hates everyone in the world except members of their church. A hate list that includes such countries as Sweden…which is deemed to be an immodest and decadent country right down to the royal family.

Call Sweden what you will…yeah, yeah, even a land of sodomy, bestiality and incest, but damn it if those Princesses aren’t hot…never mind that Sweden’s outstanding record on such matters as health care and child poverty and its alignment internationally on the side of peace and neutrality are perfectly obedient to the realization of the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments, GOD HATES IT!

But what I have been thinking of late is: sometimes I wouldn’t be surprised if God got past hating us a long time ago. I said got past, meaning that at one point God truly did hate us, and was considering starting his grand experiment with humanity all over again, when we turned out as botched and malfunctioning a product as we did.

In some sense, even a nearly incestuous, ineffectual but basically annoying church like Westboro Baptist may indeed have something on their hands.

The Samurai is not necessarily of any faith, and shifts between atheist and deist depending on how God is defined. However, sometimes the Samurai wonders that if God did really hate the world at some point. Certainly from so many points of view human beings can look like a gigantic failed experiment: one wonders why anyone created such chaotic creatures whose entire history has been filled with cruelties great and small, that can be so hard to get behind in the long run. The conclusion that one can get is that we were a failed step in the universes, that God hated us so much at one point he gave up on us, and left us adrift in the universe hearing but his silence that in which we think is his voice. In his darker hours the Samurai also feels that Manking might very well be the Crack Baby of the Universe, left behind by a negligent deity who abandoned us because of his or her inability to sufficiently take care of what a burden we have become to just about everything.

Yet sometimes this child, this poor, lost, lonely, abandoned child, may stand up on its own two feet, and then say to God, like a human child would say to his father or mother, “I am walking”. This is when we find it in ourselves to become nobler, to conquer the baser aspects of our nature, and become a species that may be easier to get behind than what we are now. This is when we truly take our steps in the great cosmic growth cycle. Yet, then at that very instance when he appears to be beginning to walk, the child falls, cries, blames, and lashes out at everything else there is around him when he falls down again, back into the abyss of the baser demons of his nature.

Then God turns his back, and leaves the child to work it out all over again for himself. It does not matter if it is due to negligence or sadness at us, but the fact remains that this God, whoever he or she is, becomes absent again. It seems to me that we go through such cycles over and over again in our relatively short time on this Earth, which is a blip in the existence of the universe. And each time that we expect to hear something from God, we only get his Silence, even when we stand. The Bible itself admits that God could afford to be silent to even a ruler that was after his own heart as well as his own begotten son, why not his other children such as us, far less noble children than either of them?

Is Mankind the Orphan of the Universe, crying out at the intersection of the cosmic winds? It’s an idea that the Samurai could get used to.

And my advice to Westboro Baptist: I believe you may be partly right, why not consider that God really did hate the world once, but stopped doing so? After all, none of us waste that much time hating one single person, why would God himself spend that much time hating us? Doesn’t that eternity that he has render hating us a pretty insignificant thing to do?

Jun
25

In the famous fight scene above, Bruce Lee must defeat the evil Mr Han (Shek Kin), but in order to do so, he must stop hitting at images that throw him off the scent of his real enemy.

Are there illusory images that we too, waste our time and effort chasing after, rather than going against our true enemies?

This is what brings me to the topic of today’s post:

BEWARE THE HALL OF MIRRORS!

In the Singapore blogosphere, the stunted nature of local politics and intellectual freedom has caused us to too often bash “those in power” as though they were wrong about everything, and as such it has prevented us from seeing things as they are, the only unfortunate diffference between us and Bruce Lee is that when we destroy the Hall of Mirrors in ourselves, the Creator of False Images, we are faced with a problem that looks never simpler but more complex than it is, but only by seeing it can we come to a reasonable solution. The splinters do not go away, but at least they are on the floor right now and the mirrors on the wall no longer deceive us.

Yet, as viewed through splinters, the world can only become more complex.

“Do you know what’s right, what’s wrong? Somehow, somewhere, a beautiful simple thing, a single morality, a single set of standards, was smashed like an atom into 10 million pieces. And now – now what’s right for a man can be wrong for his business, what’s right for his business can be wrong for his country, and what’s right for his country can be wrong for the world.”

The above word describe so well the paradoxes of living today, and they were written by scriptwriter Stirling Silliphant for a classic American TV series “Route 66”. Whose theme song yes, was used in the film “Cars”. It is time that we as bloggers embrace that saying too.

Blogger Lucky Tan of Diary of A Singaporean Mind is one man who can learn such a lesson. In posts addressing the problem of homelessness in Singapore and how Singapore’s leaders are analogous to the slave drivers of Modern China he fails to contextualize and categorize the problems that he reads about and sees properly. He works within the context of no context, hitting at illusory targets that are about as fun and pointless as the highs Don Quixote got when tilting at windmills.

It is inexplicable why he chooses even to make cheap shots that target The Esplanadewhen the truth is that on the whole, The Esplanade may be one of the best things ever done for the spread of arts and culture in Singapore. If there is anyone sleeping beneath the Esplanade, it has naught to do with the Esplanade being the result of spending money that would have been better in the hands of the poor. It is more of the fact that not enough money has been allocated to the poor, and also that the inevitable tide of global labour and capital has brought these migrant vagrant workers into Singapore as it does all major cities. And above all, we should be thankful that the Straits Times is covering news like this about homelessness rather than be upset at the way it is phrased, because it only signifies that for once it’s not acting like the corporate rag we all hate it for being. Besides, the Esplanade was built with a different series of considerations for the state of Singapore, and those considerations are worthy ones as well. I will not go into them here but it is entirely evident that we need the benefits the Esplanade brings very much too.

And the human slavery problem is even worse handled and written about. It is first of all a Chinese development issue, and MM Lee does not deserve to be pulled into this. Besides, Mr Tan, if there was a shortage of consumers demanding cheap goods the world over, would the China problem of human slaves still exist? And above all, isn’t it just supercilious to target what Minister Mentor Lee is saying when it is more about what he is trying to DO that matters ie. keeping the niceties of international diplomacy intact? Now I don’t agree with what Minister Mentor stands for a lot of the time, but he is doing what is expected of him here. In your coverage of the matter, Mr Tan, your smug sense of moral superiority to the subject that you are critiquing has made your post totally unsympathetic and cringeworthy. In both cases, you were made a smug Don Quixote, forever trying to tilt at a windmill you consider is a dragon, when the real dragon is not even touched upon, and yet like Don Quixote, you remain convinced of your delusional superiority and courage to what you are attacking, and instead, waste time and effort saying something that is uninformative of the way that things are. You do not clear up, but instead muddy, the waters of the matter.

Lucky Tan, you would do well to get out of your hall of mirrors.

And such is the second commandment of Blog Bushido: be aware of the illusions in your heart that create unnecessary diversions to spend time and effort going after. Beware the Hall of Mirrors.

Jun
24

Is it just me or does this year’s NDP song by Kit Chan with music and lyrics by Jimmy Yeh, “There’s No Place I’d Rather Be” seem to plagiarized directly from the classic standard “You Belong To Me”, not to mention the one hit wonder “I’ve Never Been To Me”?

This must be the most unoriginal NDP song I have heard in all my years of living.

Just compare and contrast:

“There’s No Place I’d Rather Be”

“You Belong To Me”

“I’ve Never Been To Me”

Jun
19

The internet is abuzz over why former university lecturer Abdul Basheer Abdul Kader, growing up in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, could ever come to embracing self-radicalisation and militant Islamic Jihadism. Indeed, why the educated and cosmopolitan are instead self-radicalizing and turning to radical Islamic Jihad may be the single most damning statement against US foreign policy imaginable.

I won’t deny that personal choice played a part, that ABAK (as I shall now call him) was without a doubt, too naive and ingenuous to distinguish between the doer and the deed. In such atrocities as the clusterfuck in Iraq and the current struggle in Afghanistan, the deeds on the ground are committed by American and other troops, the real doers, the real ones that let this happen, are a complex network of financial and political interests whose combined interest renders the furthered occupation of two of the world’s oil-richest nations a complete and utter necessity for their own survival.

ABAK is proof of the utter bankruptcy of George Bush’s statement that “they hate our freedom” is the reason why there were terrorist attacks. It shows up perfectly the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of such a statement, that any potential terrorist could hate America because of its freedom. ABAK lived in Singapore, if not exactly the world’s freest country in terms of civil society, certainly one of its most economically free, where he got a steady diet of American culture all the same and according to friends, spent time talking about his band. We are talking a man that had an access to all the Starbucks, Hollywood movies and Levi’s Jeans that he could possibly desire after. Whose income group was able to afford the comfortable Americanized lifestyle, or at least a facsimile of it in Singapore. A middle-class male whose profile was least likely to fit that of potential terrorists. If terrorism is caused by poverty alone, or by desperation alone, or by religious fanaticism alone, the case of ABAK flies against all of those as factors in the causes of terrorism.

ABAK’s catalyst to terror was not that he envisioned a world where women were placed in Burqas 24/7 and hands chopped off for thievery, if such a world would render his law degree at the end of the day, useless. ABAK’s catalyst to terror was his utter and complete naivete and ingenuousness. Sometimes naivete and ingenuousness can be as destructive as active malice when in the service of power.

Then, one can still refute, the rest of us too see the atrocities regarding the poorly handled occupation of Iraq and the mendacity on display, yet none of us believes that strapping on a bomb and wading into a crowded square and blowing up a ton of people can be the right thing to do. Absolutely correct! For most of us are nowhere this gullible nor naive in terms of politics. But can we be that gullible when it comes to unjust war? Can we be that gullible in our desire for brotherhood or joined solidarity? ABAK’s transformation reminds us ever of how susceptible gullible minds can be to the “Euphoria of War”. In war there is a sense of brotherhood that is rarely achieved in few other human endeavours except perhaps religion, which explains why the two are so commonly linked. I suspect ABAK must have felt alienated or alone in his daily life to have turned to such a cause in order to feel solidarity with his Muslim Brethren. If it was truly loneliness and lack of hope that pushed him towards the decision towards personal violence, what can this say about what our modern commercial society is producing? Are we producing alienated individuals predisposed to the predations and seductions of those that would use solidarity and brotherhood as an inciting call to destruction and death? Certainly, the low rankings of Singapore in terms of global happiness can be seen in a more sinister light with regard to such an incident. Unhappiness and alienation can be a gateway into which violence, both personal and political, enters. Just look at Cho Seung Hui.

The Real Lessons of Abdul Basheer Abdul Kader are therefore two me twofold: what is the War on Terror really all about, if it all it is doing is producing new terrorists in the unlikeliest of places? Secondly, can we as a society produce wise and well-balanced individuals, and not just well-educated ones who are yet susceptible to the manipulations of malicious powers? What will we have to do to get there?

Therein may lie the real key to defeating political violence and terrorism not just in Singapore and the region, but also in the wider world.