Saturday, September 06, 2008

Redneck central

I totally understand how the good residents of Gardens feel about the prospect of having a thousand foreign workers suddenly settling into their neighbourhood. There are too many dichotomies to resolve before we can expect a harmonious coexistence.

"Foreign" in the sense that the workers hail from another country is only a surface issue. What's more scary about the situation is that Gardens, a peaceful, sleepy, family-based neighbourhood now has to deal with a new tribe of settlers that are anything but traditional Gardens residents -- alien in so many ways. The biggest problem is that all the 1000 potential new neighbours are young males who have absolutely no testosterone curbs at all in the form of wives, or at least long-term girlfriends, and the biggest testosterone damper of all, children.

This is a legitimate fear as the families of Gardens have more prosperity than ba**s while the reverse is true of their new neighbours.

To expand this argument, our tiny nation faces the exact same problem when we relocated to this region. All around us are young, disenfranchised males living in our neighbouring countries, while we are the only bright spot, dripping (at least in their eyes) with cash and playing virgin princess to all of ASEAN. That, for some reason, is something we haven't learned to fear. Or perhaps we haven't opened our eyes yet to the precarious position we're in?

This must be true of the commenters in the ST discussion board regarding an FT's letter asking for better treatment. Despite what they claim, their display is certainly not exemplary of S'porean solidarity. It's bullying, plain and simple.

I'm amazed at the depth of vitriol these people harbour and are willing to let fly at the slightest provocation. Excuse me, but when we made the choice to go cosmopolitan and open our doors to the world, it was irreversible. The world you guys are hankering for, the sleepy village with the slower pace of life, mama cooking kampong chicken for dinner while you work an honest day's wage in the padi fields is gone. We didn't have to entertain strangers then, because we had nothing to attract them here.

But now, everything's different. We wanted to be the gateway to the world, and so the world is here. And what shall we do with our invited guests? Shall we wring them dry of their hopes and dreams, and whatever little they have in their wallets and send them back from whence they came -- which is really what you are proposing -- or shall we treat them with the hospitality that we promised, and help them fulfil their dreams like we fulfilled ours a generation or so ago? And what stories of us do you want them to take back home? That we are honourable friends and solid neighbours, or that we are a bunch of gangsters who know not in whose turf we have set ourselves up?

Look, all the girl wants is to be treated fairly. Stop behaving like there isn't enough to go around because there is. Goodness... if ever there was a redneck central in the S'pore...!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Youth Entrepreneurship Conference 2008

Spent the day at RP, participating in the Youth Entrepreneurship Conference. First, I have to say that if I were 16 years old today, I'd pick a poly over a JC anytime. Sounds like heresy, but at least based on first impressions, the difference between the two institutions is quite stark.

I suppose there are reasons why there should be such a gap. The poly is a direct route to working life, whereas the JC is only a stepping stone to a uni campus so a JC can afford to provide two extra years of childhood for its students before they proceed to the next level of... not work but further study.

No uniforms, just a dress code. Poly students express themselves by the products they purchase directly from the market. Whether it's hoodies, funky Ts, trendy jeans, or whatever else, they dress like how people of their age are supposed to look like. That puts them directly into the real world 'cos they are making their own choices as to how they wish to fit in. Every poly student is an individual. There's a confidence about them, and they carry themselves with dignity that comes from the knowledge of having attained a measure of adulthood.

That's so unlike our JC kids who continue to wear a uniform that they've been wearing since kindergarten, made to stand in rows, and there's always some adult who's directly responsible for their work, discipline and well-being. So wide is the gap between them and the world. 16-18 are formative years for a young adult, and I'm worried the JC approach may be teaching them to simply conform to external norms and pressures, rather than guiding them to find themselves and create the niche that they will occupy in society in time to come.

Kids who go to JC are supposed to be the cream of their crop. They deserve better.

The Conference made me rethink the model for our future economy that I've been envisioning in the last couple of entries. My initial concept had a serious flaw: it was inherently selfish, overly competitive, and ultimately unsustainable.

There also has to be a measure of social responsibility -- people doing things to benefit people. Catering to just the better-off will only enrich the already-rich, while everyone else continues to be exploited. That's about the kind of economic model the Roman Empire had just before it fell. Let's not go there. I missed a step so let's backtrack a bit.

For the first time, I paid attention to what Elim said about channeling profits back into the community through Social Enterpreneurship. That's not just a cynical PR exercise by big business, they really do look at methods to pick the downtrodden up by their bootstraps and put them on an even footing as the rest of society. It's not just the segment that have traditionally been lacking in cultural capital, but also the disabled ("disability is only a matter of context"), the psychologically afflicted, and the elderly poor that can benefit from Social Entrepreneurship initiatives. Basically we help them discover what they are good at, and what they like to do, put a value on it and help them find a market that will pay for it. Again, customization is the key. Now, that's a sustainable business.

So a major correction in my economic theory. How our country will survive is by creating opportunities that will raise the competitiveness of the traditionally non-competitive -- that's a huge market indeed, especially in our immediate region -- so that the overall wealth of the region increases and everyone will have the means to obtain whatever they need or want, and there'll always be someone who can anticipate and supply the demand. And, you know what, that's a much more wholesome enterprise to get into.

And on a separate note, M2 has come home at last! In biological terms, it seems he had the equivalent of a bad sprain, and thankfully nothing worse. He had his dents beaten out and resprayed, tires rebalanced, wheels and steering realigned, and he's running again. Now I'll just have to deal with the insurance company. >.<

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ubin... almost

So much for our plans to cycle at Ubin. Our fears of rain washed out the strongest of resolves, and so for the second time in a row, Ubin got taken off our holiday schedule.

Dinner went on as usual, though -- even without paying the penance of sweat, huffing up and down the slopes on bicycles beforehand. Nothing comes between us and our steaming dishes of black pepper and chilli crab, cereal prawns and steamed fish. That plus a couple of other side dishes and a large bowl of potent tom yam soup. Nine around the table: Amy, Mo-jo, B-lo, Ton_y, Mel, June, me, Wayne, NBS.

Changi Village may have been a bit far, but our meal at Qi Feng was good value for money. $25 a head, and the black pepper crab was one of the juciest I've had, ever.

Total commute time: 3 hours. Honestly, if we're aiming to wean our people off their cars and take public transport everywhere, we've got to get used to a much slower pace of life. Can you say, "shaka shaka, no wiki wiki"? That's what it's probably going to boil down to.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Domesticating the male: Tip 47

I'm sure there's a biblical verse that supports this truism. Husbands 4:13, or somesuch.

Whiny haiku of an unrepentant driver

Time taken to campus by car: 20 minutes
Time by public bus: 1 hour 5 minutes (including transit time)

Haiku follows:
I don't want to commute, I want to live.
Friend, M2, please get well soon!

I now await some smart alec's comment that I CAN read a book while I'm on the bus. Or provide some other equally astute tree-hugging advice.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Speakers Corner is now open

Speaker's Corner is now open for outdoor demonstrations! Our first legal demonstration lasted a whopping 10 minutes! With no overturned cars and burning effigies! Well, it's a start.

All we've ever heard about since before the lifting of the ban is how quickly and easily protests degenerate out of hand, resulting in injury and arrests for people, damage and destruction to property... like the madness in Thailand in the last couple of days.

So, how are we going to create a peaceful demonstration that can make people sit up and take notice? If nothing else, we S'poreans understand (believe it or not) the power of tongue-in-cheek humour in making our displeasure palpable to the powers-that-be. Case in point: the Buangkok "white elephant" incident. It's because of the previous ban that we've become so clever at demonstrations aimed at the brain and the heart, rather than the fist and random throwing objects.

Think when I have time again, I'll ask the kids to consider what issues they'd want to protest, and maybe get them to design the form their protest is likely to take. It's their world that's opening up to them, and I am curious as to how they see it. Or perhaps they are too contented to raise any protests at all? I wonder.


Poor M2 has gone through a lot with me, but this latest mishap is by far the worst. The impact bent in my right front wheel which took the brunt, and the steering has gone out of alignment as a result.

I felt very sorry for him as he stood by the roadside, hazard lights blinking, and as he sat at the IDAC impound awaiting attention. What he must be thinking about his hopeless owner who seems to be treating him like a bumper car!

He'll be one battle-scarred veteran of the Highway Wars once he gets out of the shop. Yes, he's finally getting treatment today after a day and a half of administrative ping-pong.

Apparently, my insurance coverage does not entitle me to a temporary set of replacement wheels, so for the next week or so I'll be reorienting myself with public transport. So far it's been expensive. Cab rides cost a lot these days, while the bus-MRT connections mean allowing for more lead time to get to where I'm going.

Still, I'm thinking I'm lucky that neither of us was going at speed when we collided. If we had, I probably wouldn't be around to keep posting entries. Glass half full view.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Ideas, passion and the new economy

Check out this ST report entitled "Passion comes first for Gen Y". That's what I meant about our new economy thriving on new ideas that appeal to those who are willing to pay for them (see entry of 26/8/08). Notice that not all the ideas are particularly "innovative" as such, but they do address the needs of people -- vendors and clientele -- who want more out of life than just the daily grind.

These enterprises tend to be rather project-based: short-term, flexible, mobile, and promises some development potential, though few are likely to ever grow into empires. The preparation for such a dynamic economy begins now for our kids. Wonder if the experience of PW is sufficient?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

M2 in the shop

This is just a journal entry to record that M2 had to go into the shop today. All I will say about the matter is that M2 is limping quite badly though fortunately, there were no human injuries. Beyond that, I'm too upset to discuss it further. :(