Sep 29, 2007

The Limits of Reality & Belief

LifeHack.Org is a very well-known blog on personal productivity. According to Technorati, it is the 38th most popular blog in the world. Recently it featured one of my old posts - How to Write Down Your Goals.

This is a nice surprise. So today I shall write something more on the topic of personal development. Naturally, this is presented from Mr Wang's favourite TAR perspective.

As you know by now, your thoughts create your reality. After all, everything you have ever known or believed about the universe or your own life is just precisely that - knowledge and belief. These are mental states - the products of your own thoughts and consciousness. And these mental states are changeable.

Effectively, your mind is your universe. Change your mind, and you change your _________.

Not all your thoughts have equal power to affect your reality. For example, suppose you think a random, fleeting thought about something inconsequential to you. The thought goes away and never comes back again. This thought will have very, very little power to change anything to a discernible extent in your reality.

In contrast, a thought which recurs constantly, is attached to strong emotion and consistently held in your consciousness over time will play a much bigger role in creating your reality. A convenient word for such a thought is "belief". If such a thought is linked to other mutually supporting thoughts, then together they will constitute a "belief system".

The deeper a belief is, and the stronger a belief system is, the greater the effect on your reality.

The most deeply-held beliefs that a person has, are not even recognisable to himself as "beliefs". He simply assumes that the belief is just "reality".

Some of your beliefs serve you well. Your teachers and parents may have tried to instil them in you. For example, if they raised you to be a confident person, essentially they instilled you a strong belief in yourself.

Some of your beliefs do not serve you well. They may once have served a useful purpose, but they could have outlived that purpose. If they now obstruct you from further growth and happiness, then they are known as "limiting beliefs".

The first step in dealing with a limiting belief is to identify it. This is not necessarily an easy task. As I had mentioned earlier, a deeply-held belief may not even be recognisable to the person himself as a "belief". He will tend to assume that his limiting belief is just reality.

Think of an area of your life that you'd like to improve, or some personal issue that you'd like to resolve, or some goal that you'd like to achieve .... but which you believe you cannot. Why not? What are the limiting beliefs holding you back? This checklist may be helpful.

"I am too young."
"I am too old."
"I am under-qualified."
"I am over-qualified."
"I am a woman."
"I am a man."

"I am not healthy enough."
"I don't have time."
"I don't have money."
"I don't have the opportunity."
"I don't have the luck."
"I don't have the support."
"I don't have the skill."
"I don't have the discipline."
"I don't have the tools."
"My boss will not agree."
"My parents will not agree."
"My teacher will not agree."
"My spouse will not agree."
"The government will not agree."
"I am lazy."
"I am stupid."
"I am incompetent."
"I am shy."
"I am weak."
"I am just an ordinary, average person."

Which of the above beliefs apply to you? Remember - these limiting beliefs may indeed be "true". But what's "true" in your reality is simply the reality you've created with your own thoughts. Change your thoughts, and your reality must __________.

Sep 28, 2007

Honest Words From A Local Christian Boy On Singapore's Gay Issue

That's a very long title. I didn't come up with it. It was the title of a long email that a reader, T.W Tan, sent to me. With his permission I reproduce his email below (he did request that I not mention the name of his church). The email has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Hi, Mr Wang:

This is my first time writing to you. I appreciate your taking time to read this letter. I'm a 25- year old man who has been a Christian for more than 9 years. I currently attend XXXXX, one of the biggest mega churches in Singapore.

I've been following your blog for quite a while and read with great interest and enjoyment many of your articles. One of the most popular topics has been catching my attention recently (about homosexuality in Singapore).

I respect people with different religious / philosophical preferences. I do know many in our world today are not ready to accept the Christian faith just as I don't accept theirs. The same would apply to people of different sexual orientations. There has been so much buzz generated around the local gay community and Section 377. The potential for misunderstanding is unavoidable.
Please consider that homosexuals are not the only ones on the receiving end of insensitive, hurtful remarks. In fact, as I see it, many Christians (whether here or round the world) are getting attacked for things that they are not guilty of saying or doing.

In the last few months, the war of words between the pro-gay supporters and the anti-homosexual Christians has been a burden in my heart. It's saddening to see the so-called 'righteous' believers declaring war against gays and at the same time, painful to know that people have very negative views of churches being gay 'witch hunters'. I decided that somebody has got to hear what I have to say.

Based on the Bible, homosexuality is indeed a sin. This belief is not based on some religious folks' puritan conclusion. The Holy Book itself states it loud and clear. However, while I'm not for homosexuality, I'm definitely not anti-gay. People who hear these words may dismiss me as a hypocrite. To the individuals with such narrow minds, consider this: Does your intense dislike of your spouse's smoking habit immediately make him/her your bitter enemy ? Does a father who hates dishonesty set out to destroy his 8-year old son for lying about his poor Math results? I believe many will find my remarks reasonable when they think seriously about it.

It would contradict the beliefs of my faith if I said (just to 'appease' people) that homosexuality is not sin. On the other hand, if I set myself against a person just because he's gay, then I'm also disobeying the word of God, which is to love people. So try to understand that this 'against the act but not the person' stance adopted by many good Christians is not based on hypocritical cowardice.

My next few points will likely infuriate my 'other' fellow Christians who find it satisfying to thump the Bible on gays. I do my best to understand the plight of local homosexuals. In fact, during my army days, I had a gay friend for whom I have a healthy respect and I believe that he was one of the nicest and most encouraging guys in camp. It would be disappointing to see overly zealous Christians embarking on what they so believed is a God-approved crusade and hurting people like my friend who just wants to live a peaceful, normal life but has to suffer because he is 'different'.

Well, shame on the zealots. Shame on the principal of a Christian secondary school for punishing a butch right in front of an assembly, her 'crime' for having short hair and looking too much a 'boy'. Shame on the Singapore pastor who mobilized fellow believers against the homosexual community
during one of those gay controversies. Shame on American preachers who are ready to blame gays for the 9/11 attacks. Shame on all those who are quick to condemn but fall short of being compassionate. I only hope that such believers are aware of the sin they are committing.

In closing, I also hope that Section 377 of the Penal Code will be done away with. Yes, you hear me right, straight from the mouth of a Christian. The way I feel it, these laws persecute gays. If adultery can be decriminalized, I don't see why Section 377 can't be scrapped. Really, it's time for the judiciary and general society to be fair and decide that homosexuals need not have to live in fear because of that law.

Lastly, thank you, Mr Wang, for your patience on going through my letter. I hope whatever I had written will help you better understand my position and that of like-minded Christians. And I also hope that your readers and fellow countrymen will share this understanding. Thanks again for your time.

Sep 26, 2007

Turning Ugly

Uh oh. The violence grows.

80-year-old disabled monk protester 'bashed'

AT least 17 Buddhist monks were injured when Burma's security forces violently dispersed their peaceful anti-junta protest today, witnesses said.

All 17 were injured around midday when police baton-charged a group of monks and mainly young protesters near the Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar's holiest shrine, the witnesses said.

Among the wounded was an 80-year-old monk who witnesses said was beaten about the head by security forces.

The elderly monk has participated in the daily anti-junta protests in Rangoon although he cannot walk and has to be carried.

Hospital officials have refused to comment on any injuries stemming from the crackdown.

Despite the violence, tens of thousands of people remained on the streets of Yangon, scattered across the city, witnesses said.

In the outlying township of Ahlone, about 300 monks protested but were blocked by armed soldiers who began firing over their heads, witnesses said.

The monks urged the people to stay away from the protest, but when the bullets started whizzing overhead, hundreds of people sat on the ground around the monks in a show of solidarity, the witnesses said.

"I felt so sorry when I saw this scene. I've never seen this kind of violence. I feel so sorry for the monks," one woman said by telephone from Ahlone.

Meanwhile, the Singapore government, which is also the current chairman of ASEAN, still has nothing more to say than these three sentences:
"Singapore is deeply concerned by reports of clashes between protestors and security forces in Yangon. We urge the Myanmar authorities to exercise utmost restraint. We call upon all parties to avoid provocative actions and to work towards reconciliation and a peaceful resolution of the situation."

Getting Women Back in the Workforce

An ST article about getting women back into workforce, by offering them flexible work arrangements.

ST Sep 26, 2007
Job crunch? Attract women back to work

COMPANIES are hungry for workers yet are slow to turn to an 'under-utilised resource', said MP Halimah Yacob.

This resource: women at home, who should be lured back into the workforce with flexible options.

She urged companies to put in place arrangements such as part-time work or allowing them to work from home, replying to a question from a member of the
audience at the Singapore Tripartism Forum.

Ms Chang Shook Leng , a human resource consultant, had asked if the Government had any strategies to attract women back into the workforce.

Madam Halimah, who is leading a new tripartite group tackling the issue, appealed to the bosses present at the forum.

'We need to create a lot more opportunities... which are tailored to meet the needs of these women,' she said.

Currently, many quit their jobs when they are about 30, to take care of their family.

...... 'Women in Singapore are quite an underutilised resource. There are so many jobs... and everybody is screaming for workers, and there is this pool of women who we can tap,' she said.
Here's a strange little observation. I know more than a few women who have flexible working arrangements (my wife is one of them). However, I don't know any women who have actually asked their boss for flexible working arrangements, and have actually been turned down.

Of course there can be various explanations for the above phenomenon (for example, the total number of women that Mr Wang happens to know is statistically insignificant). However, I suspect that many female employees have not obtained their desired flexible working arrangement simply because they didn't open their mouths and ask for it.

And the reason why they didn't ask for it is that they didn't think their employer would give it to them ("the company has no such HR policy", "it's not possible because it's never happened before in my workplace" etc). And since these women never asked for it, they never got it.

If you don't believe it's possible, it won't be. If you believe it's possible, it will be. That's the simple reality.

Ahh, my
TAR theories at work again. However, even without going into reality-bending concepts again, I'm sure you can see the plain-vanilla common sense of what I'm saying.

Because once you start believing it's possible, you'll start thinking about how it will actually be possible. And you will get new ideas, of how to manage your work if you were to work a four-day week, or two days from home, or whatever it may be. And eventually you can take to your boss a convincing proposal that this is all for his best interests as well as yours.

There are all kinds of jobs out there. They can be structured and restructured in numerous ways. Handphones, emails, fax machines and the Internet link people even when they're not all sitting in the same office. There is no Divine Law out there which says that the optimal way to employ employees is to make them come to office five days a week, from X a.m to Y p.m..

Sep 25, 2007

SPH Editor Looking A Bit Silly Again

Are bloggers journalists? Leslie Fong, an SPH editor, had this to say:

“No! Emphatically not! Whether in writing news stories or features, properly trained journalists check and double-check their facts, set these in context, work in relevant background information, insist on objectivity and balance, organise their material so their account flows smoothly and logically, and use temperate language unless there is a powerful reason to resort to strong words. Even in offering views, they ensure that the opinions expressed are based on fact, failing which, as any libel lawyer would tell you, what they write cannot be defended as fair comment.

Bloggers, on the other hand, just sound off as they please. They are not bound by professional standards and ethics, and are responsible to no one but themselves. So you read them at your own risk, or peril. Newspaper editors who give bloggers space, or even prominence, in their pages, in the hope that this will attract younger readers, are doing damage to their calling.”

Meanwhile, hot off the international press, we have this from AFP:

Yangon bloggers outsmart Myanmar censors
Agence France-Presse
Posted date: September 25, 2007

BANGKOK -- Savvy young bloggers in Myanmar are breaking through the military junta's tight Internet controls to post photos and videos of swelling anti-government protests, experts said Tuesday.

The government blocks almost every website that carries news or information about the Southeast Asian country, and even bars access to web-based email.

But an army of young techies in Yangon works around the clock to circumvent the censors, posting pictures and videos on blogs almost as soon as the protests happen.

Many of these images have been picked up by mainstream news organizations, because bloggers have managed to capture images that no one else can get.

When Myanmar's detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi stepped outside her home in Yangon to greet marching monks and supporters on Saturday, the only pictures of the landmark moment were posted on blogs.

....... These bloggers are mainly young university students in Yangon who have made it their mission to post messages and pictures since the anti-junta rallies broke out there on August 19, he said.

..... No foreign journalist has obtained a visa to enter Myanmar, under military since 1962, since the start of the anti-junta rallies, rights groups said.
Sounds like the whole world is depending on Yangon bloggers for news of what's happening in Myanmar. Who has time to think about Leslie Fong? He's just one of those dinosaurs left behind by the Internet age. Leslie's cocksureness is certainly amusing though. I like this part of his quote:
"Newspaper editors who give bloggers space, or even prominence, in their pages, in the hope that this will attract younger readers, are doing damage to their calling."
It implies that bloggers in general are just very excited and over-eager and just dying to have some space & publicity in a newspaper. Actually, when the Straits Times first launched STOMP and I was invited to join them and go for a photoshoot, my immediate reaction was "Gawd, no."

Maybe one day ... when they have improved themselves. Currently, Singapore's ranking for press freedom (147th out of 167 countries) is just too embarrassingly low.

Sep 23, 2007

Your Retirement Savings

And after all the hue and cry about the changes to the CPF system ... what are you going to do about it? Personally, I mean.

A couple of points, if they were not that clear to you previously, ought to have become somewhat clearer by now. Firstly, whether you like it or not, chances are that you WILL live to a ripe old age. Here's some calculations by Tan Kin Lian, done in an ST article on 21 Sep:

"Many people think their chances of reaching 85 are slim. But they are mistaken. I estimate more than 50 per cent of the population will live to age 85 and beyond.

You do not believe me?

The Department of Statistics' publication Population Trends has data for the death rates of each age group over a period of 25 years from 1980 to 2005. Death rates have been falling over this period by about 3 per cent yearly.

I did some projections based on that data, assuming the decline will continue. This is likely to be the case, at least for the next 10 to 20 years. It has been falling at this rate for the past 25 years. Why should it stop now?

Based on my projections, a male at age 55 today has a 57 per cent chance of surviving to age 85, and 32 per cent chance of hitting 95. The probability for a female is higher, at 70 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively.

If you still do not believe me, remember I am referring to people who are 55 years and less today. This group will have a longer life expectancy compared to that of the older people living today."
Secondly, for many Singaporeans, CPF money alone won't be able to sustain them through their retirement. If these Singaporeans also do not have children to support them (adult children being the traditional safety net for the aged, in Asian societies), then the challenge grows greater.

Whatever the government may do now at the policy level, understand that it's pitched at the subsistence level. A monthly annuity payout of $300 is really just to ensure that you'll have enough money to buy your bowl of rice every day with a few sticks of veggies and toufu in it. It's to make sure that when you're old and wrinkled, you don't have to die of starvation on Singapore's nice, clean streets and spoil the scenery for tourists.

So if you want to enjoy your retirement years in much better shape than that, Mr Wang suggests that you spend some time thinking about how to save, invest and grow your money more effectively.

There's no point complaining: "But I only earn $X every month now, and after I pay my utilities bill and my handphone bill and my mortgage and my car instalment and my food expenses and give $Y to my parents, I only have $Z left, I have hardly anything left over to save."

Because, folks, it's your own life. And you know our kind of government is definitely not the kind that's going to give you any free money on a silver platter.

So you have to find a way, that's all.

Me, I drew up my first financial plan for retirement, during my 3rd year of working life. A crude model, no doubt, since I didn't know very much about personal financial planning then, but it got me started.

What about you?

Here's an interesting exercise - think of five ways you could cut down your expenses, without compromising the quality of life that you're accustomed to right now. No, let's make it more interesting - think of five ways you could cut down your expenses, which would either not compromise your current quality of life, OR improve it.

Sep 20, 2007

Why Homosexuality Should Be Decriminalised in Singapore

In the Straits Times today, we have an article providing strong, clear evidence that homosexuality should be decriminalized in Singapore:

ST Sep 20, 2007
7 in 10 frown on homosexuality, NTU survey finds
People most likely to be anti-gay: The religious and those who conform to social norms
By Radha Basu

SEVEN in 10 people here frown on homosexuality, a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) study has found.

The study - which its authors claim is the first 'nationally representative' survey of its kind here - found two key predictors of sentiments here: how deeply religious a person was and how far he or she conformed to social norms.

The study by NTU's School of Communication and Information was published recently in the International Journal of Public Opinion Research, which maps public opinion worldwide.

To gather the data, more than 1,000 people, profiled to resemble the national population, were asked six questions to gauge their attitudes towards lesbians and homosexuals.

For example, they were asked whether sex between two men or two women was 'plain wrong' and whether homosexuals or lesbians were 'disgusting'.

It was found that 68.6per cent of respondents 'generally held negative attitudes', 22.9per cent had positive attitudes and 8.5per cent were neutral.

Besides answering the questions, participants had to give their age, income, education level, gender and marital status. They also had to answer questions designed to gauge how religious they were and how strongly they felt about conforming to social norms.

Through statistical calculations, the study concluded that 'intrinsic religiosity' - viewing religion as the primary driving force in life - was the strongest predictor of anti-gay sentiment here.

On average, Christians and Muslims were seen to hold 'significantly more negative attitudes' than Buddhists or freethinkers.

You might not immediately see what I mean. Let me explain.

Suppose you conducted a survey among Singaporeans and asked them if they disapproved of murder. You would certainly get 10 out of 10 Singaporeans saying that they disapproved of murder.

Suppose you conducted another survey and asked them if they disapproved of shoplifting. Once again you would certainly get 10 out of 10 Singaporeans saying that they disapproved of shoplifting.

And if you did a similar survey on drug trafficking …. child abuse …. drunk driving …. cheating …. corruption …. maid abuse …. robbery …. kidnapping …. illegal possession of firearms … rioting …. voluntarily causing hurt …… driving without a licence …. and most other criminal offences in the laws of Singapore ...

…. you would get 10 out of 10 Singaporeans saying that they disapproved of such acts.

This should surprise no one. In general, crimes are those kinds of activities which are so harmful and serious that society sees fit to set up entire institutions – the police force, the courts, the prisons – to deal with them. Crimes are those kinds of activities which are so serious that we can expect 10 out of 10 citizens, or at least 9 out of 10 citizens to disapprove of them.

The fact that only 7 out of 10 Singaporeans frown on homosexuality probably puts it in the same league as premarital sex. Divorce. Interracial marriages. Opposition politicians. Integrated resorts. And PM Lee’s latest proposed changes to the CPF system.

After all, if you did the various surveys, you’d probably find that around seven out of 10 Singaporeans would frown on premarital sex. Seven out of 10 would frown on divorce. Seven out of 10 would frown on interracial marriages (or Asian women dating white men). Seven out of 10 would vote for the PAP instead of the Opposition. Seven out of 10 would disapprove of the integrated resorts. Seven out of 10 would disapprove of PM Lee’s proposed changes to the CPF system.

However, it is not a crime to have premarital sex. It is not a crime to get divorced. It is not a crime to marry a person of another race. It is not a crime to be an Opposition politician. The integrated resorts are still getting built. And PM Lee certainly won’t be arrested for proposing that all CPF members buy annuities.

So why should Section 377 of the Penal Code threaten gays with life imprisonment?

Sep 19, 2007

Canadian Legal Expert Banned in Singapore

Well, I can't honestly say that the news article below surprises me. If gay people can't even go jogging in Singapore without being harassed by the police, you really wouldn't expect the authorities to extend a warm welcome to Professor Douglas Sanders.

After all, Professor Sanders is a leading international expert on gay issues. He has even been invited to address the United Nations on such matters. If Sanders had been allowed to speak in Singapore, there would be a serious risk that he would actually contribute to public education about gay rights here.

ST Sep 19, 2007
Lecture permit revoked after cops get info on gay agenda
By Zakir Hussain

A PERMIT for a lecture by a Canadian law academic last month was cancelled after the police learnt it was part of gay activists' efforts to promote their political agenda, Parliament was told yesterday.

Senior Minister of State (Home Affairs and Law) Ho Peng Kee said police also discovered from information online that Professor Douglas Sanders was an advocate for decriminalising homosexual sex.

Explaining the backdrop to the cancellation, he said police found out only after granting the permit that his talk was part of a two-week series of events 'which promoted the gay cause'.

'It became subsequently clear to police that the event was part of the efforts of gay activists to promote their political agenda which involved a foreigner,' Associate Professor Ho said.

'Our laws are an expression and reflection of the values of our society and any public discourse
in Singapore on such matters should be reserved for Singaporeans.

'Foreigners will not be allowed to interfere in our domestic political scene, whether in support of the gay cause or against it.'

He was replying to questions from Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong on why the permit had been cancelled.

In July, the authorities approved a public entertainment licence for an event in which Prof Sanders of the University of British Columbia was to speak on 'Sexual orientation in international law: the case of Asia'.

But the permit was cancelled four days before the Aug 7 talk because, based on additional
information received, police saw the event as 'contrary to the public interest'.

Police had learnt of Prof Sanders' background and that he was 'likely to talk about our Section 377A, which is the criminalising of homosexual sex'.

'He was an advocate for decriminalising of homosexual sex, having spoken, for example, at the United Nations,' Prof Ho said.
Interestingly, we can now observe our dear PAP man Ho Peng Kee attempting to characterize the public event as part of a "political agenda". As if, you know, Professor Sanders was coming to Singapore to talk about the General Elections; the redrawing of electoral boundaries; or defamation suits against opposition politicians.

Actually, Professor Sanders has no political affiliations whatsoever. He was here just to talk about Section 377A of the Penal Code. And probably Section 377. Basic stuff that every NUS law student will come across in 1st year, in Criminal Law 101.

"377. Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animals, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation. Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section"

"377A. Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years."
But of course it is convenient to characterize the above provisions as a "political agenda". Because once you claim that Section 377A is a political matter, then you can say, "Oh, foreigners should not be allowed to meddle in our politics! We must not allow our sovereignty as an independent nation to be raped!".

And stupid people would even believe you.

And now, we see once again why Warwick University, originally slated to open a campus in Singapore, was wise to suddenly change its mind and pull out. Remember? They pulled out suddenly because their academics and lecturers protested. They were concerned that in Singapore, they would be denied the freedom of expression required for them to pursue their academic interests.

But of course! If a foreign professor of law like Professor Sanders is not allowed to speak on Section 377A of the Penal Code, would a Warwick economics professor be allowed to express a critical view on, say, the widening income gap in Singapore? Would a Warwick professor of mass communications be allowed to speak about, say, press censorship in Singapore? Would a Warwick finance professor be allowed to talk about, say, whether Temasek Holdings or GIC should be more transparent about their investments? And so on.

None of the above, you see, can be taken for granted. Peng Kee's behaviour demonstrates that. These Warwick people - they're smart.

Sep 17, 2007

Amazing ... Even THIS Can Be News

I haven't blogged much this month. The local news scene seems incredibly slow and boring.

I thought that maybe it's just me - that nothing very interesting to me is appearing in the local newspapers. But I just saw this in the "Latest News" section of the Straits Times Interactive:

ST Sep 17, 2007
Girl loses phone while swimming

A TEENAGE girl lost her mobile phone when she left her belongings unattended while taking a dip in the pool.

The theft happened on Saturday at about 7pm, at the Jurong West sports complex.

She had left her bag - with her $600 phone in it - on a table before she started swimming with her sibling, police said.

While she was in the pool, she looked up several times and saw that her bag was still on the table.

But when she emerged half an hour later to check her bag, she found her mobile phone missing.

The mobile phone's unique identification number, or IMEI number, is 3593-8100-1783-258.

Anyone with information can call the police at 1800-255-0000.

Gasp. Girl Goes Swimming at Public Pool. Girl Leaves Handphone Unattended. Handphone is Stolen.

This is news? And deserves to be reported in the nation's leading newspaper?

September 2007 is clearly not the most exciting of times to be working as a journalist in Singapore. But one might really have expected the Straits Times to do better than this. You know, send your journalists to do a feature story, investigate some trend, interview interesting people etc, or something.

Sep 11, 2007

This Man Is A Hero

He looks pretty ordinary, doesn't he. He teaches science in a secondary school and has been doing so for the past eight years.

But make no mistake, he has plenty of guts. Or is in a position where he will need them. So I wish him all the very best.

For the background, click
here, here, here and here.

Wonder if the Ministry of Education or the school will now try to sack Mr Otto Fong. Remember this other case - "Teacher Unaccountably Terminated"?

Well, if it happens to Otto, I hope that all his present and former Raffles Institution students who have a conscience and are not homophobes will know what to do. Go to the principal's office and give your feedback. Write an email to PM Lee Hsien Loong ( and demand an explanation.

And if the usual fundamentalist Christians start crawling out of the woodwork to protest about the terrible sin of Mr Fong's homosexuality, (and the fact that he actually dared to admit it) - I can only say ..... Shame on you.Why are you Christians still picking on gays?

Leviticus 20:10 prescribes the death sentence for adultery. And plenty of heterosexual people in Singapore are having sex outside marriage. Why aren't you campaigning for them to be hanged? Or at least sacked from their jobs?

A bit hypocritical, aren't you. Or just confused? Never went two steps further in your head, to really think about what your cheerleading man in the pulpit was telling you? Then. Go. And. Think. Now.

Sep 7, 2007

Life and Other Questions

I have written little in the past week. Local news has been quiet and I haven't noticed much that I feel like blogging about. However when I checked my Google Analytics today, I found the readership numbers to be surprisingly high.

I then checked Technorati and I think that some new readers must be visiting from outside Singapore, thanks to my blog having been placed on Priscilla Palmer's
Amazing Personal Growth List.

Priscilla's list looks like an attempt to compile the world's best personal development blogs. The list has some quite well-known personalities (I mean, well-known in the offline world too), including
Tom Peters, Seth Godin, Marianne Williamson and Scott Adams.

As for me, well, I'm just "Mr Wang" as usual, LOL. And I'm probably on the list just for my many "Thought Affects Reality" (TAR) posts back in
June and July. After all, on the global scale, no one gives a hoot whether Singapore is building a 4th university or not.

"Personal development" is a wide umbrella term and many different things fall within its ambit. Some are more abstract, some are more evolved, some are more practical and everyday. Examples of PD topics would be time management; goal setting; breaking addictions; career success; spiritual growth; self-knowledge; health & fitness; positive thinking; stress management; service to others etc.

The underlying theme is your self, and how it's going to grow, and get better and better at playing this very interesting game called life. The funny thing is, whatever aspect of personal development interests you most, you will inevitably run smack, in one form or another, back into a central principle - that the results you get in your life depend ultimately on the thoughts you think. And little else.

More succinctly, thought affects reality. And your thoughts create your own reality. Well, you already heard all about it from Mr Wang, back in June and July. So I shall not rehash.

Recently, in a corner of the Internet that I visit now and then, I've been talking to a guy who's about to kill himself (let's call him SD). Actually a bunch of other people have also been talking to SD on the Internet.

We don't know who he is, or where he is, or what his real name is, but he is quite serious about committing suicide (apparently he's already tried to kill himself twice before). Of course we are all trying to talk SD out of it and telling him things like please seek counselling, life is not so bad, there is still hope, the world is beautiful etc.

It's a tough sell, because S is quite determined to kill himself. S didn't come to ask us whether he should or should not kill himself - he actually only came to ask about the implications of suicide from the spiritual / religious point of view.

His general conclusion now is that karma is all nonsense, and God doesn't exist anyway. So suicide has no negative spiritual consequences and he can go ahead and do it. Some posters tried to reason logically with S that even if there is no God, no heaven, no hell etc, suicide is still not a good idea, because life is worth living. As I said, a tough sell.

The odd thing is that S doesn't seem to have any objectively terrible or traumatic event in his life that is driving him to suicide. He isn't bankrupt, he didn't get retrenched, he didn't have a broken relationship, he wasn't blinded or paralysed in a recent accident, his family didn't die in a fire etc. S just thinks that he is a "bad", "evil" person and so he ought to die.

When you ask him why he thinks he's "bad" and "evil", he says that he has no friends, and therefore he must be "bad" or "evil"; either that, or everyone is "bad" and "evil" for not wanting to be friends with him. S also keeps saying that the world is a very bad place and we just don't know it yet, but we will realise it sooner or later and be affected by it (I think he's thinking about stuff like global warming, nuclear war etc).

The scary part is how deeply, how completely, S believes what he's saying. It's a very striking example of how thoughts affect reality. S is deeply entrenched in his own very negative thoughts, and that's what his reality has become right now. We're trying, but we can't get him out. His existence, his reality, his entire world is indeed bad, evil, hopeless and grim - and he made it that way, for himself, through the sheer power of his own thoughts.

That's the same kind of power you have, with your own thoughts. You create your own reality, with what goes on in your mind. So be careful what you think. Make sure you give yourself a good dose of positive thoughts every day.

Sep 4, 2007

The 4th University And Other Simpler Options

ST Sep 2, 2007
Tony Tan on ways to expand varsity sector
By Sandra Davie

HERE'S one quick way to add university places: expand the intakes of the three universities next year.

The National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University could each add 200 to 250 places while the Singapore Management University could enrol another 400 to 600 students.

That would bump up figures by about 800 to 1,000 places, and lessen the worry parents and students have of demand outstripping supply, said ex-Cabinet minister Dr Tony Tan, now advising a committee on the expansion of the tertiary sector.

But how to achieve Singapore's new target to raise the proportion of university places to 30 per cent of each cohort by 2015?

One approach, said Dr Tan, would be to re-consider the idea of having a fourth university, mooted by a 2002 government committee.

Another would be to consider a more recent suggestion to have multi-campuses affiliated to the present three universities.

He had in mind three campuses: on health science-related disciplines, liberal arts with a focus on financial services, and engineering and technology.

But whichever option picked, more polytechnic graduates should be helped to obtain a degree.
Well, there is another option. Tertiary education in Singapore has always been heavily subsidised by taxpayers' money. So instead of using that money to set up a new university or new campuses (which would involve high start-up and fixed costs), simply give some of that taxpayers' money to Singaporeans, in the form of financial aid. Help them finance their overseas tertiary education. Say, up to $12,000 per year.

Naturally, we'd have to build in some control measures. For example, we could specify a list of 30 overseas universities of reasonable repute. To get your $12,000 per year, you'd have to get a place in one of these 30 universities (and not just any lousy school).

To avoid fraud and prevent misuse of funds, the government could disburse the funds when you submit documentary evidence of what you need the funds for. For example, let's say that the university gives you an invoice for next semester's fees. You then submit the invoice to the government. The government pays the money directly to the university.

We can build in some "need" criteria into the scheme. For example, depending on the annual income of your family, you may or may not qualify for the $12,000. Or you may qualify for a lesser or greater sum.

To make sure that Singapore, as a state, gets something out of this, the financial aid recipients would have to sign an agreement to say that after graduation, they will return to work in Singapore for at least three years. They can work for any employer they choose, as long as the employer is based in Singapore.

Good deal? Too good to be true? But this is essentially the same deal that we give to the foreign students taking up places in NUS, NTU and SMU. Why should we shortchange our own citizens?

Oh, but this is Singapore.

Sep 3, 2007

The Colour of the Skin of Dysfunctional Families

ST Sep 3, 2007
PM: Malay- Muslims now much better off
But problems such as dysfunctional families need to be tackled
By Li Xueying

THE past 25 years have seen a dramatic transformation in Singapore's Malay-Muslim community, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

It is now a community 'confident that it is progressing with the others, and succeeding through its own efforts'.

But some pressing and spiky issues need to be urgently tackled, he said. Chief among these: dysfunctional families.

....... Sounding a sober note, Mr Lee observed that the problem of dysfunctional families manifests itself in many ways - divorce rates, single parents and the 'unacceptably high' number of teenage births.

Without a supportive home environment, youths drop out of school.

'This will permanently blight the child's life chances and risks perpetuating the problem into the next generation,' said Mr Lee.

In tackling this, self-help efforts are critical. So going forward, Mendaki needs to come up with new programmes and adjust existing ones.

...... Speaking to reporters later, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said a review of programmes on the dysfunctional family problem is under way to see where the gaps are.

'And if those gaps are critical and strategic to the community, we'll probably have to move our resources there,' he said.

One possible issue is the need to train people on the frontline. Malay organisations have told him they encounter such families when giving out aid, 'but they stop there'.

'Perhaps there is a lack of understanding and expertise in the Malay organisations to... deal with the families in a holistic manner,' said Dr Yaacob."

Personally I wonder whether a dysfunctional Malay family is so different from a dysfunctional Chinese or Indian family that social support and counselling etc needs to be divided along racial lines and administered by separate racial organisations (Mendaki, Sinda etc).

I imagine, for example, that a key part of the effort to reduce the number of teenage births would be sex education for teenagers. But I don't see how the content of the sex education programme would be very different for Malay, Chinese or Indian youths. They all make babies in approximately the same way.

But if different racial organisations all ran their own sex education programmes instead of pooling resources, well, counsellors' expertise in running such programmes can't be shared and there is less economy of scale.

New Aggregator in Town

This email arrived in my inbox:
“Hi there Mr Wang,

The Singapore Daily is an effort by a group of Singaporeans to help collate and aggregate articles, blog entries and forum discussions on important local current affairs and issues. We hope that our little project can contribute positively to local discourse and help everyone be more informed about current issues. We look forward to your support!

The Singapore Daily Team”
And so, soon after the sad demise of Intelligent Singaporean, we have a new aggregator in town. It looks somewhat more varied in its content, and features sports, technology as well as pictures of “chiobu”. Click
here to visit.

Sep 2, 2007

The Choice Between Thinking Small or Going Global

ST Sep 2, 2007
Write on local law, CJ tells academics
He points to tension between need to write on S'pore law and need to write for world renown
By Melissa Sim

LAW academics in Singapore are writing more about foreign law than Singapore law and this may not be a desirable situation, said Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong yesterday.

Speaking at the 50th anniversary gala dinner of the law faculty of the National University of Singapore, he said Supreme Court judges have referred to, and adopted, academic writings in their judgments, especially on difficult points of law.

But there is a 'current tension between the need for academics to write on Singapore law for local consumption and the need to write for international recognition', he said.

A study of The Malaya Law Review and the Singapore Journal Of Legal Studies has shown that from 1959 to 1979, the number of articles on foreign law exceeded those on local law. For the next 20 years - from 1980 to 1999 - the trend was reversed. However, since 2000, the situation has reverted to show a bias in favour of foreign legal developments.

The CJ said that law academics must write on and about Singapore law because the NUS law faculty is a national law school with a mission to produce graduates for national needs. 'If they wish to influence the judiciary in the development of our law and legal system, they must generate the arguments and the ideas for us.'

He said it was necessary to 'strike a proper balance between personal and national interests'.

You might not be able to tell from the above article. But there's a fairly sharp conflict of philosophies here between the Chief Justice and the NUS Law Faculty.

For quite a number of years now, NUS law dean Tan Cheng Han has been pushing hard to put a much more international perspective into legal education in NUS. He wants law students to have a better understanding of the legal systems in other countries, believing that this is more in line with commercial realities in a globalised economy.

The Chief Justice, however, wants legal academics to focus on more-local issues. He would like them to analyse issues and problems in Singapore's legal system, and thereby build a body of legal literature to help Singapore's judges in their legal work. The Chief Justice also says that NUS is a "national law school with a mission to produce graduates for national needs".

I am with Tan Cheng Han on this issue. In my opinion, the kind of lawyers which Singapore's economy needs most badly are those who have knowledge and/or experience with international transactions and cross-border deals. This necessarily means that these lawyers need some degree of familarity with other legal systems, such as those of China, India and South Korea. If they can get some exposure during their law school days, so much the better.

It follows that law students who spend more time in school studying foreign / international law would spend less time studying Singapore law. I suppose a balance has to be struck somewhere, but frankly it's not such a big deal if you only knew a little about Singapore law. You'll get a sense of why, if you read this old post where I wrote about my previous legal job.