Sunday, 30 November 2014

Basis Of Singaporean Spirit - People Power: Are You Superstitious?

[This is part of the book: Basis Of Singaporean Spirit - People Power, click here to go to the main page]

When I hear people labelling others as superstitious, I can literally see the sense of superiority in the speaker’s mind, thinking that he is smarter than the others because he did not believe in that.

Superstitious in Chinese is called:

Literally: “Lost, hence believe”

The first word, “”, is an indication of the state of mind – in this case it is Lost. The second word, “”, represents the decision taken – in this case it is Believe.
If we list all the combinations, we will get 4 results:

, ”              – Lost, hence believe
, ”         – Lost, hence don’t believe
, ”         – Not lost, hence believe
, ”    – Not lost, hence don’t believe

Therefore, we can see that no matter whether a person believes in a certain practice or not, that person can still be in the “Lost” state of mind – Nothing to feel superior about.

It is fine to use the word “superstitious” on others, but you must ask yourself on what basis are you making that statement? And what are you trying to prove with that?

If you feel that you are smarter by saying that, think again. Ask yourself if you know their cultures and practices more than they do?
If not, you are just being silly, and that statement of yours simply exposed your ignorance and arrogance.

BOSS Wisdom: “Seek to understand the basis of others’ practices and respect them. Labelling those as superstitious without substantial understanding is simply foolish and wilful.” - BOSS 

[This is part of the book: Basis Of Singaporean Spirit - People Power, click here to go to the main page]

Basis Of Singaporean Spirit - People Power: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Singapore

[This is part of the book: Basis Of Singaporean Spirit - People Power, click here to go to the main page]

[Note: Kindle version is now available here. I am setting it at a very low price of $2.99. Get it early as I will increase the price along the way. I have also enabled "Lending" and "Kindle Unlimited". For those who have purchased the book, I have set this to be free for you.]

At the time of this writing, it happened to be Hungry Ghost Festival[i]. Yes, tomorrow is the midmonth of it or rather 2 hours from now, as I type this sentence, eerie, isn’t it?

As usual, there are people who complained about the burning of the joss paper. Therefore, I find that there is a need to include this chapter.

Singapore is a very special country. We do not have a specific religion or culture, instead a mixture of those are our culture. We are all here on this small little island because of one single belief: “the common belief on the best way to build a home[ii]”.

If you think Singaporeans should do this or not do that, I am sorry to disappoint you because that is against the basis of Singapore.

I came across a Facebook post on people ‘littering’ the joss paper and felt obliged to say something. Yes, looking at that picture, technically it seems to be littering, but under the hood, do you know why?

The following picture provides some examples of the different types of joss papers used. This chapter focused on the reasons behind the ‘littering’ of joss paper.

 Figure 12: Different Types of Joss Paper

If you look at the images used in the complaint, there is a commonality among the type of joss papers that was ‘littered’? Yes, all are of the following type.
 Figure 13: Type of Joss Paper ‘Littered’

Think about it, if people wanted to litter, technically, there should be an equal distribution of all types of joss papers, but why did people ‘litter’ this particular type of joss paper?

Well, it turned out that this type of joss paper is meant to be scattered.

The beliefs are many. Some used it to appease the wandering spirits so that they will not disturb the offerings intended for particular ‘persons’. Some used it to request the wandering spirits to lead the path and not to hinder the journey. Some used it as an indication of the location of offerings, which is mainly the purpose during this festival.

The idea is that when those spirits wandered around, they may not notice the offerings. These type of joss paper helped spirits to easily find and ‘retrieve’ those offerings. Therefore, people felt that if one did not scatter this type of joss paper around the location of offerings, the burning is quite futile as wandering spirits might not be able to find those.

Well, I know, in some of the readers’ minds, you might be shouting “superstitious”. Of course, you have your reasons and rights to proclaim so. But we will talk about superstitious in the next chapter.
This chapter is not a research paper to assert whether scattering that type of paper increases the chances for wandering spirits finding those, but rather to explain the motivations so that all of us know the reasons behind the act.

We need to understand and respect the basis of cultural diversity and the differences, especially in a country like Singapore.

Think about this: 

If someone were to tell Philippines to stop Dinagyang festival because the celebration is causing emotional distress to his child due to the scary face painting, how would the people of Philippines feel?

If someone were to tell Thailand to stop the Water Festival as it wet the tourists’ electronic equipment and is also against water conservation principles, how would the people of Thailand feel?

If someone were to suggest banning “Trick or Treat” during Halloween because someone dislikes
“unsolicited” knocking on the doors and the “threatening remarks” by the kids, how would people feel?

Don’t you think all these are very silly and irresponsible requests?

I can understand if new citizens not from the same religion don’t understand. But there is no excuse for PAP government not to know since they are in power for 50 years.

Of course, I know that the current batch of PAP leaders have nothing to do with the earlier batch and also nothing to do with the success of Singapore today, but as leaders of the country, it is still your responsibility to learn and find out.

If PAP government doesn’t understand, ask. Don’t jump into the conclusion that people are littering and printed brochures such as the following. Not only are you not solving problems, you are simply creating many more.

Figure 14: Posters Printed By PAP Government

What PAP government should have done is to educate the people, especially the complainers and the new immigrants.

We all know Malay wedding culture at the void deck and the sound of the musical instruments played during the ceremony and had accepted it. Similarly, we also understand Chinese custom for funeral and the purpose of their corresponding musical instruments.

This is Singapore – a multicultural environment that is uniquely us. Anyone is welcome to join us if you shared the same Basis Of Singaporean Spirit[iii], else, it may be more appropriate for you to look elsewhere.

What today’s PAP government must do is first to understand the People and their cultures and seek to help them solve the problems, not create more problems for them. This is the very basis of having a government.

BOSS Wisdom: “The basis of Government is to solve problems for their People, not to create more.” – BOSS

[i] Hungry Ghost Festival is a traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival held in Asian countries. In the lunar calendar, the seventh month is regarded as the Ghost Month, in which ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the lower realm. The midmonth is considered the ‘peak’.
[ii] Refer to the preceding chapter: “Time To Rekindle Our Singaporean Spirit” for more info.
[iii] Refer to the preceding chapter: “Time To Rekindle Our Singaporean Spirit” for more info.

[This is part of the book: Basis Of Singaporean Spirit - People Power, click here to go to the main page]

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Basis Of Singaporean Spirit - People Power: Are you a Xenophobe? Are you Anti-Immigration?

[This is part of the book: Basis Of Singaporean Spirit - People Power, click here to go to the main page]

Xenophobic means: “Unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange”. Xenophobe is a person who is xenophobic.

So, are you a xenophobe? Are you anti-immigration?

Well, before you answer that, let me answer those for you. You are not a xenophobe, you are not anti-immigration. I am so sure because no citizen in the modern World is xenophobic or anti-immigration, unless medically proven otherwise.

Allow me to make short explanation long in order to let you better appreciate the fact.

Imagine there is a person who helped you with your work, giving you advice and supporting you. Irregardless[i] of whether the person is a male or female, and irregardless of his race, language, religion or nationality, will you like or hate this person?
Well, I am sure you will like that person, unless medically proven otherwise.

Imagine there is a person who abused you in your work, backstabbing you in the office and insulting you. Irregardless of whether the person is a male or female, and irregardless of his race, language, religion or nationality, will you like or hate this person?
Well, I am sure you will hate that person, unless medically proven otherwise.

Therefore, when you are unhappy about someone, you are not against that person’s inherent attributes, but against the associated negative effects of that person. If the associated effects are positive, you will like that person. Got it?

Now back to Singapore. I know many of us are unhappy with the projected population of 6.9 millions[ii]. But what is the ‘optimal’ number? I would say that even if the number is 5 millions, all of us can still be unhappy if the associated negative effects are still there, isn’t it?

Now imagine this: If every immigrant that is added to Singapore population put $1 into my pocket, do you think I will complain about 6.9 millions? Yes, I will, but this time I will be complaining why the government did not push it to 10 millions!

With an additional 3.1 millions in my pocket, I don’t mind subletting half of my house to those immigrants, bundled with 24hrs 1GBPS fibre broadband and with choice of Asian or continental buffet breakfast served daily from 6am to 11am. Airport pick up and drop off are also complimentary.

Oh, I can also throw in a full-time butler for them. What about minibar? Well, I will give them the whole fridge! Since I am ready to do all these, how could I ever be xenophobic?

Therefore, the root of the problem is the associated negative effects that everyone felt by the execution of the immigration policies.

The citizens are not the problem, the policies are also not the problem; the problem lies with the incapability of those who executed it.

If you can handle the influx and produce the associated positive effects, by all means carry on! If you can’t handle the influx, reduce it. Don’t overestimate your capability and cause problems for everybody.

At population of 5 millions, we are already having so many problems. It does not need a genius to extrapolate that with a 30-40% increase, the problem will get worse exponentially of at least another 40%.

Apart from the associated problems, the next question is: with the influx of foreigners, what are the values for Singaporeans? As far as I see, it is negative, so why should anybody be happy?

Since this is such a simple thing to see, why do people still continue the labelling and not solve it? Well, to answer that, you need to know the 3 methods of problem solving methodology used by politicians.

Politicians Problem Solving Methodology
Method 1: Deny the Existence of Problem
This is the easiest and most productive method. Well, what can be more productive than to resolve a problem even before it is considered one?

Method 2: You Are the Cause of the Problem
When method 1 failed, the next efficient method is to label you as the source of the problem. Since you are the source of the problem, again, there is nothing to be done, case closed.

Method 3: I Am the Source of the Problem
This method is very seldom used because it takes a lot of ‘balls’[iii] and effort to do it. In a political standpoint, it may not look good, so it is often avoided. Unless repeated execution of Method 1 and Method 2 failed terribly, no politician will employ this.

When people labelled you as xenophobic, they had failed method 1 and are now trying method 2. So, don’t be distracted by them. Stay focus on the root of the problem.

So what is the optimal number of population that I prefer? Well, first of all, I fully support immigration policies, I fully support any number, be it 5 millions, 6.9 millions or even 10 millions, as long as our PAP government can handle it and produce the associated positive effects, I will FULLY support it.

So now is my turn to ask them back:

“What is the number of population that you can handle to produce the associated positive effects?

6.9 millions? Are you sure? At 5 millions you had already produced so much negative effects and those are not solved yet, and with the 30-40% increase, are you really sure you can handle it?

What if you can’t? Resign? Why don’t we all make thing simple for you and me – Solve the easy problem first, i.e. produce the associated positive effects at 5 millions, once you achieved that, then we talk about 6.9 millions, isn’t that better?

I wouldn’t want to see you having to resign if you failed on your promise. Do you think this is a better approach?”


Since we have now proven above that we are neither xenophobic nor anti-immigration, let’s turn our attention back to PAP government. Are they xenophobic?

Do you still remember how PAP felt when more opposition members enter the parliament? Do they have “unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange”?

I will leave it to you to answer that.

[i] “Irregardless” may not be considered as a proper English word, however, the author still decided to use it so as to add emphasis to the sentence.
[ii] Singapore produced a population whitepaper that projected the population to be 6.9 millions. This created a huge uproar.
[iii] “Balls” is a slang, which means that a person has guts.

[This is part of the book: Basis Of Singaporean Spirit - People Power, click here to go to the main page]

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Basis Of Singaporean Spirit - People Power: Time to Rekindle Our Singaporean Spirit

[This is part of the book: Basis Of Singaporean Spirit - People Power, click here to go to the main page]

What do you think is the Singapore Spirit? In 2010, PM Lee Hsien Loong defined it as a shared ideology, such as: "shared memories", "shared loyalty", "shared responsibility", etc.
It may sound great and give a sense of cohesiveness but do you know that that definition is totally wrong? In fact, it is this silly definition that had created tons of problems for all of us.

Let me ask you this: Are you sure we shared all those? The answer is an obvious "No".

Take new immigrants for example, do you think their "memories" are the same as that of true-blue Singaporeans? – No.

When Singaporeans have to serve National Service while the first generation of new immigrants do not have to, do you think there is “shared responsibility”? – No.

If one day, Singapore became a place less desirable than the immigrants’ country of origin (lower pay, crowded, dirty, etc.), do you think new immigrants will continue to stay in Singapore or will they go back to their country of origin? More likely than not, it will be the later, if so, what “shared loyalty” are we talking about?

It is now obvious that that person’s understanding of Singapore Spirit is wrong. So how can there be cohesiveness? With that wrong understanding, the more immigrants we have in Singapore, the more obvious the problems will be.

Personally, I don’t like the term “Singapore Spirit” because it is lacking the “people” factor. Singapore, like any country, is simply a region identified as a distinct entity in political geography. It has no life. What gave it the life are their People. Therefore, I prefer to use the term “Singaporean Spirit” instead.

However, the feeling of being a Singaporean today is very different than it was before. The feelings of injustices are everywhere. At the same time, we are also given all sorts of labels – internally as well as externally.
Deep in our hearts, we know this is not the Singapore we want. We are well aware that we are not as labelled. We are far more capable, united and refined than anyone else, especially when compared with our so-called ‘leaders’.

All these problems are rooted from the lack of understanding of the basis of our spirit.

It is therefore important for me to define the basis, which is what I summarised as: Basis of Singaporean Spirit – “BOSS” for short.
In Chinese, I shall call it 《坡精神》.
“Singapore”, in Chinese, is written as “新加坡”. So the “” represents our country. Literally, the “” also means a small gentle slope – we are small, but well-mannered and humble, yet a significant part of the overall landscape.
精神”, in Chinese, means spirit. The reason why I chose “” is also because it rhymes with the English acronym – “BOSS”.

BOSS stands for “Basis Of Singaporean Spirit”. BOSS is the common belief on the best way to build a home. BOSS unites everyone under one common belief – the best way to build a home.
BOSS is not about creating a replica of US, Switzerland, France, or whatever. BOSS is about our distinctive characteristics and our core competencies. BOSS demonstrates our uniqueness and shows the World why we are better. BOSS is our guiding principle for our thoughts and behaviours.

To understand BOSS, the first thing is to look at Singapore’s existence. Singapore existed not because of its multi-racial society. No country in the World existed because of that; in fact, this is always the source of conflicts around the World.

Multi-racial society is the result of our nation building – not the foundation. The foundation of Singapore started with a single belief – the common belief on the best way to build a home. This belief is written very clearly into our Pledge:

We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
progress for our nation.

People from all walks of life, who shared the same belief came together to build this dream home that we now called “Singapore”.
The multi-racial, multi-language, multi-religion constitution of Singapore that we see today is the result of the diversity of people who shared the same vision, willing to sacrifice, and willing to build this dream home together.

The composition will change over time as our value and belief spread across the World, but the foundation remains the same:

“The common belief on the best way to build a home”

It is this foundation that brought us the harmony that we enjoyed.

Today are we united?
No. We have leaders who labelled Singaporeans with all sorts of names, denying the fact that all the problems were created by them in the first place.

Did we achieve happiness, prosperity and progress?
No. I know those who defended this will jump into explaining how much we have achieved, etc. But did you realise how the objectives are ordered within our Pledge? Happiness is listed first.

I can also see the PAP government trying to make a lot of changes to rectify the situation. However, implementing changes without understanding the basis and value is suicidal.
For any organisation, it must have a guiding principle, which serves as a basis where all decisions are based upon.
Without a proper guiding principle, decisions and actions would be based solely upon monetary value and pressure from different rights groups as well as individual ideology. When an organisation loses its core principle or deviates from it, it loses it soul.
What is the guiding principle of today’s PAP government? Well, GDP growth. Technically, there is nothing wrong, but if it sacrificed Happiness, it is against our Pledge – Nothing will be right if leaders are doing things against the Pledge – the Basis Of Singaporean Spirit.

Some of you might argue that you need to have growth in order to have Happiness. But that statement is faulted. It is really about priorities. This is what Mr Lee Kuan Yew once replied:

“What are our priorities? First, the welfare, the survival, of the people...”

He did follow the Pledge and set the priorities accordingly. Did he sacrifice prosperity and progress? No, he didn’t.

Today, with the busy and stressful life, exacerbated by political issues, aggressive rights groups,  BOSS had been overlooked – people started to fight among one another, defending their own groups and ideas while trampling on others – overlooked that we all started from the same common root.

It is now time to remind all of us about BOSS and revive the hidden values – let it be our guiding force for our thoughts and behaviours.

BOSS Wisdom: “The Basis Of Singaporean Spirit is the common belief on the best way to build a home, which is described in details within our Pledge.” – BOSS

[This is part of the book: Basis Of Singaporean Spirit - People Power, click here to go to the main page]