Saturday, 25 April 2015

A Better Internet (On Freedom of Expression, Part 2)

[Part One: Over-rated.]

I saw this question (about making the Internet better): "Can you disagree with someone yet still respect their opinion?"

This is like the US position on Freedom of Speech: Contextless. Idealistic. Theoretical. Meaningless.

Context is important. How did the person arrived at their opinion?
- God spoke to him and told him what is true.
- He read it in the Bible/Koran/I-Ching/Torah/Holy Book and so it must be true.
- His Church/Temple/Mosque/Synagogue has reflected, meditated on the issue and had promulgated a position and he is required by his faith to adopt the same position.
- Someone sent  him an email, precisely on this matter.
- He read it at the Flat Earth Society website.
- He read it in Popular Science.
- He read it in Time Magazine.
- He read it in the Straits Times.
- He read it in his company's sales brochure. Heck, he WROTE the freaking sales brochure.
- He does research on the subject and has studied the issue.
- His view is informed by his personal experience or the experience of family members.
- After studying the issues from both sides, he has adopted his position because it offers the best hope for him/for his family/for Singapore/for the world.
Say you are having a debate on the internet with one or more persons. And the person has one or more of the above as the reason how he arrived at his position that differs from you.

Which would you be able to respect?

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Over-Rated (On Freedom of Expression, Part 1)

Freedom of expression is overrated.

Freedom not to listen to over-rated expression is under-appreciated, and under-exercised.

When I read that some 17-year-old (later revised to 16-year-old) twit had posted a Youtube video deriding Lee Kuan Yew, I thought to myself, what does a 17-year-old have to say about Lee that would be insightful, inspiring, thought-provoking, interesting, erudite, fresh, or significant?

There are only so many hours in a day. Five minutes wasted on dumb things are five minutes of your life you will never get back.

I read Colin Goh's take on the issue which I thought was the right, nuanced approach.

He is just an attention-seeking kid and giving him attention is precisely the WRONG thing to do. The fault lies with the media firstly for reporting it. The next party at fault were those who searched for and watched his video because of the news report. The third group of people at fault were those who made police reports after watching the video. As Colin wrote, 20 wrongs piled on one wrong does not make it right.

Unfortunately, all those "faults" were almost... inevitable.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Future of Hawker Centres - How to keep prices low, food tasty, and the culture alive.

The solution is Democracy.

To be more precise: Meritocratic Democracy.

Who knows good food? Most, if not all of us.

Did you ever have a favourite hawker, and then he moved because the rent was raised?

At that time, didn't you wish you owned the coffee shop so you could give the hawker cheap rent so he could continue to do his business and you could continue to enjoy his food?

I did.

There was a prata stall at the coffee shop at my block. It was not the BEST prata, but it was pretty good. Curry was pretty substantial and flavourful (not the sad, thin watery dhall you get at some places), and the prata kosong were square. That is very rare today. I miss it.

The coffee shop changed owners 5 times over 12 or so years. The prata stall hung on for maybe 3 changes of ownership, but the 4th change came with a rent hike that was too much. So it closed. Or moved. I don't know.

Another stall moved in - Western food. Damn good fish and chips - hawker was "London-trained". But when the 5th owner took over, the fish and chips stall also moved. The rent went up by 250% or something, according to the hawker.

Now the coffee shop is half empty. Three or more of the stalls are permanently vacant. I hardly go there any more. Bravo, coffee shop owner.

Businessmen can be quite stupid. One owner (I think it was the 2nd) turned the coffee shop into a 24 hour joint. There is NOTHING around except HDB flats after 10 pm. I could be wrong, but my assessment was that the 24 hour experiment was a failure. The next owner dropped the 24 hour operations.

The turnover and turnover of the ownership of the coffeeshop over the years just introduced change (apparently simply for the sake of change) and not all the changes were rational, reasonable, or advantageous to the residents. And for the hawkers, it was the hike in rent. (Here is a good history/overview of the hawkers/hawker centres in Singapore, and the different rent hawkers are paying.)

So... What if... the Residents OWNED the coffee shop?

Be Like Lee

Can we?

Maybe in just one way: From a post on Lee, the husband:
He will be known firstly as the Father of Modern Singapore, as Singapore’s First Prime Minister, as one of the longest serving PM, as an astute statesman, and perhaps he was proud of his achievements as PM of Singapore.
But as a Man, perhaps what is most personally meaningful to him was that he was a husband, and he had a wife, who was all things and everything to him, and he, to her.
Many have said great and wonderful things about him. His intellect is evident, his commitment to Singapore, undeniable, and his foresight and tenacity is legendary.
But in the quiet, private moments he is first a husband to his only love, and a father to his children.
And his love for his wife, and their love for each other, and their partnership is what I admire most, and what I can emulate.
We may not be PM, or lead a country, or give advice to world leaders, but we can love our family, our spouse. 

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Same-Old Criticisms of Singapore

We've been going about this all wrong!

When people say Singapore is undemocratic, we shouldn't defend it or get all defensive. We should agree. "Yes it's undemocratic. There's no freedom. You won't like it here. Don't come. But it's ok for tourists. Just don't come here and try to get a job."

When they ask, "is it true chewing gum is banned in Singapore?" Say yes.

Then say, "can you imagine a place that doesn't allow chewing gum? It's inhumane! You can't possibly live in a place that doesn't allow chewing gum! That's like a Basic Human Right!"

If they ask if it's true that there is no press freedom in Singapore? Say yes. All you read in the Straits Times is how good the SG government is. Instead of how horrible the US government is, like what a truly free press should be doing. In the US.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

What is Government For?

The Lee Kuan Yew Conundrum

Singapore's late leader governed undemocratically but effectively. Which raises a question: What is the ultimate purpose of government?


MAR 30 2015,

[This is an ideologically created conundrum. It is a conundrum because democratic ideology asserts that all REAL progress comes from TRUE Democracy. Singapore is not a TRUE democracy (by their reckoning). Hence, Singapore cannot have REAL progress.... BUT, by any metric, Singapore has had EXCEPTIONAL progress. Ergo, conundrum. 

BUT... Singaporeans generally do not sit around wondering about this conundrum. We simply go about our lives unaware that we are creating a conundrum for ideologues.]

Washington, D.C., is fast becoming an acronym for “Dysfunctional Capital.” Singapore, in contrast, has become the poster child for “the concept of good governance,” to quote the Financial Times’s obituary for the country’s longtime leader, Lee Kuan Yew, who was laid to rest on Sunday. For Americans in particular, this contrast presents a conundrum. On the one hand, Americans hold as a self-evident truth that their democracy is the best form of government. On the other hand, they see mounting evidence daily of Washington’s gridlock, corruption, and theatrical distractions, which makes their system seem incapable of addressing the country’s real challenges.