Jun 15, 2007

Miscellaneous Rambles By Mr Wang

I have some wise readers. One of them is Dr Oz Bloke (yes, he's a real doctor). Commenting on my recent post about local university admissions, he wrote:

The way I see it, Singapore's priority is in ensuring the country's progress and the country's survival. The citizens of Singapore are secondary.

Once you start accepting the above as the predominant strategy of the Singapore government, you will be able to accept the policies they come up with.

Ask nothing about what your country can do for you. If you want something, you will have to fight for it.

Personally I would have thought that being a citizen comes with certain responsibilities to the nation eg national service, loyalty, taxes, etc. However the government seems to say that we should expect nothing in return. In fact the expectation of nothing in return is "good" for the country and thus "good" for me.

I am not eloquent enough to express what I feel. But I do know that I have given up thinking so much about what Singaporeans should have, and how Singapore should care for Singaporeans etc. It's every man for himself.
Poet-playwright Alfian Saat put it more succinctly, several years ago. He wrote: "If you care too much about Singapore, first it’ll break your spirit, and finally it will break your heart." With hindsight, he would have added, "And you could suddenly lose your job too."

Anyway, at a personal level, I agree with Dr Oz Bloke. In fact, I already realised it many years ago. When I say "personal level", I mean the way I think, plan and make decisions about my own life.

I usually place little weight on the possibility that the Singapore government might actually do something good for me. If it happens, that's a plus, but before it happens, you certainly don't want to count on it.

In fact, disbelieving the government was probably one of the best career decisions of my life. In contrast, making the mistake of trusting in the wrong government message could well hurt you for a long, long time - click here for an example.

Personally I have little to complain about - I know that. Personally I'm smart enough and sharp enough to get by quite well on this little red dot. But I know that many others are not so fortunate. When I look at the bigger picture, I do find it hard to " give up thinking so much about what Singaporeans should have, and how Singapore should care for Singaporeans" (Dr Oz Bloke's words).

That's why I often write posts like these - 1, 2, 3 and 4. I guess somewhere deep down inside I subconsciously still harbour some foolish hope that the Singapore government is going to do the right things for these people. Maybe I need to do some mindhacking here, and just rip that silly thought out of my head, once and for all.

The government isn't here to care for you - the ministers have already told you straight in your face that they're doing their jobs just for the money. What did you think - they would serve the nation out of a sense of patriotism, of loyalty? Remember Lee Kuan Yew's words. "Those are noble sentiments, but we live in the real world."

I guess I just hate unfairness and injustice. When I was a Deputy Public Prosecutor, I was like that too. Some other DPPs would regularly leave office at 6:30 pm. I would work obsessively to 10 pm, 11 pm, trying to fix unfairness and injustice everywhere I saw it. Believe me, there's plenty to fix within Singapore's criminal legal system.

Any DPP who regularly goes home at 6:30 pm is either too stupid to see the unfairness and injustice, or has decided to close his eyes to it. You can't always blame them. It does get emotionally exhausting. It can even make a grown man cry. When the tears run out, you just grow numb. Or cold, like a robot.

As I write this, I now recall what an older, more-experienced DPP once said to me. He saw me looking frazzled and angry at work, as I worked feverishly on a case trying to squeeze some fairness out of the system. In a kind tone, he said something like this: "If you care too much about this job, it’ll break your spirit, and it will break your heart."

Maybe he had been reading Alfian's poetry, LOL.

And maybe the best way is really just not to care. On that note, here's one of Alfian's poems, entitled "Apathy":


There are no extra drugs
In our coffee.
We sleep with our lights turned off.
On the television we watch
With tabloids on our laps: the news,
Yesterday's news.

What are revolts? Rashes on a map.
Strikes are some dishevelled men
Handy with paint and plywood.
Conspiracies? Only in yellowed novels,
Stalked in thriller aisles beside
That other elusive delusion, romance.

Numb does not describe us,
We have nothing to offer for thawing.
We still fly our kites
In designated parks.
We watch our ports in wonder
And still think of ships loaded with wealth.
To the camera we still proffer smiles.

To the orators who slammed
At the tin-sheet sky with their fists,
To the rabble-rousers and rebels,
The ones who weighed the strength
Of a rock in their hands,
The ones weeping from tear-gas,
We owe them nothing.

The window offers another view.
Our hands do not tremble
As we part the curtains
To witness a riot of sunlight.
The pandemonium of traffic,
Yesterday's traffic.

We fall asleep under a moon
Whse luminous nakedness
Makes no ripples
Among the grey clouds.

We sleep on headlines
Plumped like pillows,
Stuffed with cotton;
Plucked by the hands
Of the silent and dying,
From the gaping mouths
Of the silenced and the dead.

This poem is taken from Alfian's second book of poetry, A History of Amnesia, which was shortlisted for a Kiriyama Asia-Pacific Book Prize.

I think I'm probably rambling a little. I don't even know what this post is supposed to be about. I'm a little tired. I just took my last CMFAS paper today - yes, the last of those annoying exams that I discovered too late I didn't actually have to take.

Oh, I passed. Isn't that nice. I've already got my results, because the exam is computer-based. You get 2 hours to click your way through 100 MCQ questions on a computer screen, and then the computer instantly calculates your score. Your exam certificate is printed out and you collect it from the exam invigilator on your way out of the room.

Very efficient. MCQs are inherently efficient. Your opinions are unnecessary, your ideas are unwanted. Just click on (a), (b), (c) or (d).

I just read this on Alfian's latest blog post. It's funny:

After reading the ST yesterday, my Mum had a talk with me. I'd expected the usual nagging about the number of times she had told me to steer clear of the political and to be a good little quiet boy.

But while putting on her tudung, on her way out, she said:

'Alfian, if you live in Singapore, you must be like a robot. If they tell you to walk straight, you walk straight. You stray from the path and they will get you. Last time the government said stop at two children, and then they told us to have three or more. Singapore is like that.'

If only we were robots, and not real, live human beings. Then we wouldn't be asked to breed for the sake of the economy. Like pigs, ducks or chickens. Oh, don't forget to lay the right number of eggs.


takchek said...

This is probably one of your entries that I like most.

I also wonder at times why I have so many entries (and rants)about the Sg society and gahmen policies. I should be focussing on my future in the US. Afterall, I have been away from Sg for 8 years. Why do/should I still care about the going-ons there>

Anonymous said...

It's one thing to care, it's another thing to constantly remind ourselves why we should not care. And hopefully along the way, some of the docile government-supporting sheeple straying to this site reads it, and wakes up too.

Those whose eyes have opened have a duty to wake those still in slumber. Go about your lives overseas but reserve this one last link to the island as a role not unlike of an evangeliser seeking converts. How else will they hear without a preacher?

Anonymous said...

your post is the very reason why there're no patriots in singapore.

Ned Stark said...

care to explain?

Anyway, I remember someone telling me that there is no such thing as justice; however the only reason why there is no justice is because people choose not to fight. Furthermore, I also like Alfian's post:

" I remember an activist I met in Sweden, who smiled at me when I asked how she can continue with her anti-war efforts while Guantanamo is smugly and triumphantly looming over her cause. And she said, 'But we always lose.' Her voice was bright and optimistic, despite the content of her words. I remember Kwok Kian Woon talking about the public outcry against the demolishing of the old National Library. He said: 'The battles that we are going to lose are the ones truly worth fighting.'"

Anyway, everytime someone tries to tell me to get real, i will rebut with this statement, " Hey if the disciples of Jesus thought like you Christianity would never have happened!"

Anonymous said...

zhixiang why do you say that?

i like this post alot, mr wang. succinctly puts together the ideals behind why many of us read your blog.

Ned Stark said...

Btw Mr Wang,

What are your thoughts on the for lack of a better word, the Enbloc Law? Personally i feel that it symbolises what Dr Ozbloke said because it shows scant regard for the individual in favour of the collective but I hope to hear other views on it.

Anonymous said...

our government just want a nation of followers, maybe simpletons, who have no sense of justice and rights.

patriots who try to speak up have ended up oppressed and disgraced by the government.

fear of the government is very real and well-hidden among singaporeans. especially the older generations, who have seen what the PAP is capable of whenever one rises up to challenge.

Alfian wrote: "If you care too much about Singapore, first it’ll break your spirit, and finally it will break your heart."

the patriots have their heart broken umpteen times. thus, many chose to leave this land.

'The battles that we are going to lose are the ones truly worth fighting.'

pragmatism is so well-rooted in singaporeans that any thoughts that will unbalance the current "happy" life are deemed foolish in their cynical minds.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is time to consider the possibility that the government is actually doing something similar to ethnic cleansing, just that it's along political lines. They're deliberately pissing off everybody who can think so these people will leave Singapore. Meanwhile hoardes of foreigners will be brought in to prop up the economy (anybody will do, as long as jobs go up, as Keynes will tell you). Doesn't take a genius to figure out the 66.6% is going to go ballistic in the next election.

Anonymous said...

In my experience interacting with visitors from Singapore, I find that most accept the government's (or PAP's) arguments in general, even though they may grumble now and then. They sincerely believe that Singapore is the greatest country. Education is the best in the world. Airport is the best. Everything is efficient. They think the pace of life is way too slow (or lazy) in other parts of the world. Even Singapre climate is best(!) compared to the mild climate of northern hemisphere. They also agree that Singapore needs more people (6 mil) to survive. You get the idea. These people have been conditioned to think alike and generally brainwashed (sorry I can't think of a better term) by Singapore media. Both educated, local or foreign(!), and non-graduates, think the same. It is unfortunate that they are not exposed to alternate views or encouraged to think critically. I don't think you will be able to change the mindset of the people easily.

Anonymous said...

Just food for thought to go along with Mr Wang's post:

His last line:
'Bottom line: Many Singaporeans, no matter how well-dressed or well-to-do, sorely lack any understanding of how to behave in public places.

With incidents like this, they have only themselves to blame if expatriates and foreign visitors pronounce Singapore to be a Third World country and take their business elsewhere.'

Even this foreigner (this PhD must have been poached by A* with $$$$ from USA), but even he is fast to learn the Government stance in intimidating its people ('You have only yourselves to blame').

If this last line were to appear in NY Times, it will be extremely demeaning to American & will be shot down by righteous people.

Who owes the foreigners a living? And who ingrains in them this sort of mentality?

Anonymous said...

So True

So Sad

So what?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,
thank for this post. You have directly show us why the MOE has unfair treatment for Alfian Saat. Because Alfian Saat speak for the people like Mr Brown, reflecting the truth as it is rather to be used as a propaganda tools for PAP to speak about rosy future for Singapore!

My respect for Alfian Saat has grown because someone who is courageous and true to himself whereas PAP is not even worth to be call a shit.

Anonymous said...

I can identify with your post. I used to care a lot about social and environmental injustice, and worked hard to expose it in my work (as an academic). But I've become so emotionally drained and burnt out in the past few years that I can't take it anymore, so I've decided to shut my eyes and ears to it (ok not entirely since I'm still reading your post) and join the private corporate sector, where I still work hard (or perhaps even harder), but I get to leave my sense of justice out of it. It's the only way I can retain my sanity. Maybe one day, I'll return...

The Human Battery said...

The best mindhacking is to psycho yourself that those fellow citizens whom you care for and speak up for, (a) don't welcome your care and don't appreciate you speaking up for them, and (c) will ask the govt to hang you if you continue to be a busybody!

Only by mind-hacking yourself thus can you live happily. Take Wee Shu Min, for example. Initially, she saw some injustice. Initially, she may feel undeserving of her privileges while others are suffering. So how? Aha, very easy. Conciously (or more likely, unconciously), she psychoed herself (maybe mom helped her with some people's blog post? haha) to believe that those people who are suffering got what they deserved (for being too "lazy" etc). So now, the conscience is clear. So now, one can eat sharkfin AND not speak up for fellow citizens who have only 2 meals a day, with no guilt!

If you observe carefully, that's the only way sane people can remain sane! I think many MPs, their children, etc all psycho themselves this way.

Why, I psychoed myself this way too! If anyone of you read Chinese. you can read this "masterpiece" that I wrote to "mind-hack" myself not to care anymore! Haha!

Mr. Wang, however, seems to have boundless energy. Well, maybe because writing is part of the life/hobby of a lawyer? For me, I get tired easily. Haha!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wang

It's like your 'love' one just doesn't take your seriously, care about you and obviously doesn't love you as much as his/her new found friends of money, elites and FT.

My love for Singapore is undeniable but not her spirit which is processed by self centred and uncaring gov in the name of economic, money and power.

I threw away that piece of shit (the metal SAF gives out quietly after you complete the reservist liability at about 40yo).

Mr. Wang, please don't mindhacking your care and spirit to write/Speak for the underdogs in Singapore. It's sad that you are probably one of miserably few bloggers (Aaron is out of my book as sincere, good for him as his future is bright as those newbies in PAP).

As a aging society, many mature workers would become just a statistical digit to this goverment and expected to be in the cleaning industry. They (me included) find it difficult to pour our sorrows, pain, frustration openly to frens/family members. Reading your blog really helps alot, its like you are speaking and fighting for our miserable life at the same time.

Tks Mr. Wang. I hope these underdogs of Singapore is worth your while to write on and analyse for us with your gift.

Don't get your heart broken by the injustice and trolls around.

Euterpe said...

Thanks Mr Wang. You may say you are rambling but you had neatly summarised what I have been thinking about for the past week or so (been meeting up with a number of friends in civil service). We survive in Singapore so long as we don't care too much.

Anonymous said...

I used to be an ex-cpib officer and I used to frazzled when working on cases, trying to fight for more justice and fairness. I too had a senior, more experienced colleague give me the exact same advice which Mr Wang's senior gave to him.......

Lucky Tan said...

Wow it sure took you guys like eternity to realise that Singapore is actually Singapore Inc. Other than our esteemed elite leaders most of the ordinary citizens are expendable and a drag on the accomplishments of our elite leaders. That is why it is best for Singapore to open the floodgates for the 'better' talents of the world to come and dilute away their mediocrity. Singapore govt gives poor parents $$ to have themselves ligated and not propagate and burden singapore inc with their inferiority.

Singaporeans should grateful for having such extraordinary leaders without whom the island will sink and ordinary Singaporean women will become maids.

Lucky Tan

Anonymous said...

Sure, most of us know that the pap government runs Singapore like their personal fief.
There are two ways one can react to a wrong - withdrawal or fight.
Therein lies the clue to the type of person u r.

Anonymous said...

Thank god for men who care. Without them mankind is nothing. Without them mankind has no civilisation. No history, no culture. And all of us are men who care. We just don't know it yet.

Anonymous said...

You fight for justice because you love justice.
It's not about Singapore or Singaporean, it's not even about the garment.
You step forward because there's injustice and don't you ever stop, till we achieve Justice and Equality for all.

Anonymous said...

'the battles worth fighting are the battles you know you will lose.'

Sounds like Singapore 300 in the making!

On a more serious note, it means, reciprocally, that we don't really have to care about society. The Gahmen should fix it, right? That's the mindset which probably comes from Zhixiang's 'no patriot' sentence.

That's because everytime someone cares, they get ridiculed and disgraced. Citizens are statistics and numbers, a sum of money.

Do we want to live in a society like that?

No choice lah.

Anonymous said...

Assuming things in Singapore are really as bad as all that...

So who's going to do something?

Not the rich -- they're too busy luxurating in their wealth (with the exceptions of the likes of Mr Wang, but that's far too few)

Not the poor -- they're too busy trying to survive

Outside party -- they may conquer us rather than liberate us

Any idea?

Anonymous said...

"Any idea?"

The ancient order of the brotherhood. They rule a virtual community spanning an area roughly 956,000,000 times larger that our known knowledge of the universe.

It is all virtual of course, but what is real and false these days? The line is increasingly blurred.

Anonymous said...

To Soohow

Aiyah, migrate lah.

A Singaporean (Part-time only)

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

If you notice the brotherhood has no comment on the Alfian Saat matter. Dont you think that is odd?

I do not doubt they write very creatively and probably command a very largest segment of the thinking readership in Singapore.

It is just a great pity, they dont seem to leverage on all this influece to highlight the plight of Mr Alfian which is clearly unjust and an attempt by MOE to weasel away, which in my view deserves at least a mention from some one like darkness. Who will probably pin them down and poke them full of holes!

If he writes, dissects and brings the light to truth, most people will read and it will take the discussion to another level, but as we can see only to clearly all we have is the politics of silence and compromise. Or shall I say political chess play?

A very small animal - talented and gifted, but still very small.

Anonymous said...

People complain all the time about Singapore being a corporation. Well, like any business...if you dont like what you get there, then get it from somewhere else. Quit bitching about how lousy the store is if you keep patronising it.

Some would say that only the rich have the luxury of migrating. Well, when there is a will, there is definately a way. Migrate, work abroad, earn less money etc...whatever it takes if you really want it that badly. If you're not willing to give up something in exchange for another thing, then you'll forever be stuck at the same crossroads. There is no such thing as a free lunch. And if you're not willing to sacrifice something, then perhaps those complainers dont really want to leave Singapore that badly in the 1st place.

I had a colleage who always ended up paying for another colleague's meal. This went on for donkey months! Colleague A kept complaining that Colleague B didnt want to pay him the money. I finally got tired of his complaining and told him, to either:

(a) Open his damn mouth and get the money back or
(b) Stop bitching.

By the time i left the company, Colleague A didnt get any money back. And when Colleague B left 2 years after i left, he still didnt pay Colleague A the money back.

Duh! So typical of complainers who have no balls to take the necessary action.

EP said...

Maybe my idealism hasn't yet been crushed, unlike many other of your readers. But I think that many younger Singaporeans who have not lived through the 60s and 70s (including myself) don't understand that nationhood is a fragile thing.

But I think part of the problem here is that you are preaching to the converted. But I would like to think that there are at least as many people who are like me who will continue to see if we can push the system and change it in a positive manner.

Despite your generally cynical view of our political leadership, I think many of them are very intelligent people trying to play the hand that they are dealt. Change will come - to paraphrase Marx, it is in their interest to make peaceful revolution possible.

Anonymous said...

"If you notice the brotherhood has no comment on the Alfian Saat matter. Dont you think that is odd?

I do not doubt they write very creatively and probably command a very largest segment of the thinking readership in Singapore."

The brotherhood commands a large segment of the thinking readership in Singapore? Hahahahahaha! Thanks for making me laugh on a Monday morning!

Anonymous said...

"The ancient order of the brotherhood. They rule a virtual community spanning an area roughly 956,000,000 times larger that our known knowledge of the universe.

It is all virtual of course, but what is real and false these days? The line is increasingly blurred."

The line is clear, just that many would rather take refuge in the virtual.

Anonymous said...

"Despite your generally cynical view of our political leadership, I think many of them are very intelligent people trying to play the hand that they are dealt."

You mean, like increasing their own pay? Is that what you mean by "playing their hand"?

"Change will come - to paraphrase Marx, it is in their interest to make peaceful revolution possible."

Why would that be in their interest? Why should they want any revolution at all? And how do you know? Are you one of them?

Anonymous said...

nationhood is indeed a fragile thing. for that, you need to forge a national identity and shared destiny.

increasing the population to 6.5 m and putting up an obiang, pretentious display of national day parade is NOT part of the solution.

EP said...

Soohow - I mentioned Marx, but the quote I was referring to was actually from JFK - "If we make peaceful revolution impossible, we make violent revolution inevitable." The point being that when a society is ready for change, nothing can hold it back. Self-interest would dictate that peaceful revolution is preferable to its alternative.

I don't understand why there is a need to try and bolster your argument by making a completely unwarranted claim that I am one of "them" (whatever that means).

As for playing their hand, I think you fail to appreciate how difficult it is being a policy-maker. Otto van Bismarck once said, "Politics is the art of the possible". Unfortunately, many people expect the impossible.

I would agree that we don't even do many of the "possible" things very well. But IF you accept that they are acting in good faith (which for many here appear to be a very big "if"), then the problem becomes how best to influence society to change. If not, well, good luck.

One last quote from Albert Camus that I think many here will like: "Every revolutionary either becomes an oppressor or a heretic." I would append that it is a matter of perception rather than reality for most cases.

Anonymous said...

"I don't understand why there is a need to try and bolster your argument by making a completely unwarranted claim that I am one of "them" (whatever that means)."

Ep – I never claimed that you were one of “them”. Merely asked IF you were one of them. Hope you can see the difference. And it wasn’t to bolster my argument. If you are indeed one of them you may have a persecution complex. Furthermore, you have not answered the question. I guess that you ARE one of “them”. No prejudice intended.

I can sympathise with your difficulties, but you don't have to assume that I'm out to get you either. I agree that politics is not an easy thing. Perhaps what is needed is just more candid and kindly, 2-way communications. Some of us are more than ready to hear you out, I'm sure.

EP said...

Well, I'm clearly not one of "them". I work in the financial sector in New York.

Anonymous said...


You dont seem to read alot do you? Firstly, it doesn't pay to fight every battle that comes one's way. An intelligent person picks and chooses his battles.

As for the brotherhood press or brotherhood or darkness (I always get confused who is who, as I really dont understand their org structure) all I know is they write very incisively and most of their articles are very indepth and detailed. This is definitely a welcome change in the parallel universe of the internet, where there are no shortage of POV, but the level of detail is often lacking.IMO people like EP are just being very mature and level headed abt how to work things through when there is a difference of opinion. We like to believe for some reason especially in the internet, the only way to make a point is to be confrontational by either flaming, threatening or slagging someone. I dont really believe that is a constructive way to move forward in either this or the real world.

It makes more sense to appeal to the common sense of most readers and this means one needs to respect the whole idea of working things through. I dont really know whether EP or the brotherhood is referring or adopting this strategy as a matter of choice????

However, I do know for a fact many mature readers in Singapore do place a high level of credibility on the material regularly published by the brotherhood press, because they know very well, these people dont have a pattern of lamblasting everything the govt does. From the six months since I started reading them regularly, they seem to be very objective and when they hit, it is usually very hard, pointed and there is always a good reason behind it which they go to great lengths to explain, whatever it is, it seems to do a very good job of opening the whole can of worms rather than ranting on like a broken record that the govt is bad etc.

Sorry for the long rambling yarn and no, I am not a brotherhood supporter, simply someone who likes to call a spade a spade.

Anonymous said...

"If you care too much about this job, it’ll break your spirit, and it will break your heart."

Yeah, Mr Wang, don't lose heart.
Even those losers like Kway Teow Man, Bart, Aaron and of course, the most pungent of all, the Brotherhood, who don't give a damn what happens to the locals. I can't wait to be colonized again.

Anonymous said...

KTM is a ex-PSC OMS.

Anonymous said...

why is the cat purple?

Anonymous said...

Let's be realistic. The task of any government is to do good for the country. Country is made up of its people. The Government cannot look after everybody. Whatever it does, it has to be to maximise the total happiness of its people.


KiWeTO said...

to: KC

if the goal of government is to maximise the total happiness of the people, then how come, in all sorts of international 'measures' of happiness, Singapore isn't world class in our rankings? (unless you count extremely negative rankings as world class in itself?)

is our government for the people, by the people, and of the people? or is or government's view of its people more like a corporation's view of its employees?

sadly, too many examples in reality lead me to conclude the latter. Would appreciate if someone can start telling examples of our government being positively for its people.

Maybe that will make me happier.


Ah Dom said...

Very good blog and I think Singapore needs someone like you, Malaysia too. We are both neighbours and screw ups are basically identical. It is hard to find someone in the government that works until 10 to fix the flaws. Keep it up!!

Anonymous said...

"If you care too much about this job, it’ll break your spirit, and it will break your heart."

Well...my spirit has dampened and my heart has broken...

Anonymous said...

It is really sad, very sad, when a society penalises its caring citizens and reward the apathetics.