This song popped up on my MP3 player today while I was having lunch. It had me deep in thoughts about the whole idea of social hierachy as well as the (disagreeable and unnecessary) concept of authority and subordination, and I am sharing this song with all of you here. Hope you enjoy Joan Baez’s lovely voice and do have a great day today! :)
Sometime in March this year, I posted something on my Facebook page after being labeled as “anti-Singaporean” by some friends in order to explain in greater detail, my “pro-human” stance. Somehow I was reminded of this little note last night after a conversation with local playwright Alfian Sa’at regarding a similar topic so I thought I should share the following on my blog as well.
“I think it all boils down to how we see people. To me, I see everyone I meet in the following order:
1. Human beings
2. Women, men, transgender or transexuals
3. Fields of expertise (occupations/ hobbies)
4. Cultural/ ethnic backgrounds
5. Atheists, agnostic or theists
Furthermore, I do not believe in the need for country borders, the need to segment human beings into their race, language, religions or gender as well as the need to hold preference for one group (mentioned above) over another when it comes to policies or general decisions. Therefore, I think the way I do, and am not in favour of the “Singapore for Singaporeans” slogan.
HOWEVER, I do understand the sentiment. What I am not for, is the direct action on foreigners displayed by individuals as listed below:
1. Take photos of foreigners travelling on public transport, post them on FB, Twitter or their blogs and writing captions such as “Ah Tiong, get lost!” or “Invaders taking our space on the train”.
2. Saying things that hurt, in front of foreigners or who they perceive as foreigners, indirectly to them and directly hurting or causing embarrassment towards them them.
3. Generalising various nationalities by their “common trait”, which often comes from a lack of understanding that every individual is different and the so called “common trait” might not actually be a common trait at all.
4. Saying that foreigners come here to steal our jobs and suppressing our salaries when in actual fact, a lot of them have no idea that they are doing so. They just want to make a living in a place where there are opportunities. (Don’t tell me Singaporeans do not do that too.)
It is ok to be divided over this issue, to be honest but we should also not begin to call each other names or snub each other or be distracted from the real issue(s).
What is needed, in my humble opinion, is to talk about the establishment of a minimum wage pegged to our standard of living for all workers regardless of their nationalities. In addition, foreign workers receiving salaries below a certain amount must be provided with decent lodging (not 6 beds in a room). That can help to ensure that companies hire based on the abilities and skills, not nationalities or just to cut cost. (Note: Just my view, feel free to enlighten me with yours)
Yes many of you might think that I have a simplistic view of things but I am very open to hear yours. And do note, I have NEVER claimed that anyone of you are xenophobic just simply because you embrace the “Singapore for Singaporeans” slogan or endorse the “Singaporeans first” proposals advocated by the opposition parties/ influential bloggers/ various members of civil society. So please don’t get sensitive and scream at me about that again because that has never been my point.”
It will be great if readers of this blog are able to share their views as well regarding the immigration policies and the general attitudes towards new citizens and immigrants.
Dear Mr Plainclothes Police,
I must confess that I was stalking you and I sincerely apologise for perhaps… frightening you with my aggressiveness. Oh wait, let me explain.
You see I have a soft spot for a cute guy like you, especially when you are employed under the police force partially funded by the tax I am obligated to pay. This is what made me stalk you throughout the event. Being so shy the way I am, I did not know how to broach the topic… I really wanted to ask you out for tea. Unfortunately you were intimidated and ran away from me. Well, at first you dodged and tried to move into the crowd but I had my stalker-eyes affixed on you. It was not entirely difficult you see… you aren’t very much taller than I am. Perhaps that was why I became so obsessed with you in the first place.
Really, this is embarrassing but yes, I was stalking you. I wished to tell you many things… I wished to thank you for your presence because it made me feel safer as a participant of the event (Singaporeans in Solidarity with Malaysians). Erm… I also wished to apologise to you that because of this event, you probably missed having dinner with your mother. It was Mother’s Day afterall, honey.
Well anyway all of that was before you put your camera in my face and took a picture of me with the powerful flashlight on. What an anti-climax. I wish you had been more polite. By the way, I hope that you’ve taken a good photo of me because I am really not a very photogenic person.
Hmm… I hope you’ve enjoyed the event and hope to see you soon at the next event. Maybe the time round you will be friendlier and we can talk about catching up over a glass of Milo-Dinosaur?
Oh before I forget… do thank the whole team who was there with you too – all 15 to 20 of them – thank you for being there to maintain peace. We really appreciate your presence and hope that perhaps the next time, you can mobilise 50 more officers to keep us company and to make up the numbers. Thank you for coming in solidarity with the Malaysians. I love you, all of you, my dear plainclothes police woman (there was one) and men.
With so much gratitude and love,
Rachel the activist-police stalker
Working closely with Ravi for the past few years on our campaign against the death penalty (among others), reading about Ravi’s experiences and lessons learnt in life was important for me – both as a friend as well as a fellow human rights campaigner.
In his book, Ravi takes us through a journey of his life til now. The vivid descriptions of his personal experiences – from growing up in a multi-racial kampong (village) to his legal battles for various causes – gives the reader a better understanding of how he became who he is today.
Personally, I feel that Kampong Boy is not just a story about Ravi but about human experiences and development, the lessons that one can learn in life as well as about Singapore from the past to present. I believe that some parts of the book have been difficult to write about and as Ravi had mentioned during his book launch, the part about his mother was especially difficult. Indeed as a reader, it was one of the most difficult part to read with a straight face too. In fact, the reading experience was emotional for me as I interacted with various parts of the story with laughter, knowing chuckles and tears in my eyes.
I would like to thank Ravi for sharing his story with us. It is a beautiful book with a touching story and through his journey, I was able to reflect on my own.
For those who are interested, Kampong Boy is available at the following book stores:
1. Grassroots Bookroom @ 420 North Bridge Road, #03-06, North Bridge Centre
2. Kinokuniya Bookstore Mainstore @ Ngee Ann City mall, Bugis Junction, Liang Court.
3. Select Books @ 51 Armenian Street
4. Times Bookstores @ the following malls: Centrepoint, Paragon, Tampines One, Jelita, Marina Square, Plaza Singapura, JCube)
I received the news with a very heavy heart that one of my favourite local bloggers, Mr Fish who blogs at Feed Me To The Fish, passed on today (20 March 2013). He had always been very encouraging towards me and my work and he is also quite a regular reader of my blog, the same way I often visit his. It is a very sad day for me even though we have never met in real life… or we might have met once or twice or even spoke but because of his desire to remain an anonymous blogger, I never knew. My deepest condolence to everyone in his family… and may Fish rest in peace…
Thank you for sharing all your thoughts as well as the kind words of support that you have always given me.
102 years have passed since the first International Women’s Day was commemorated and we are celebrating the 103rd IWD this year. Although the rights and political and social contributions of women are more valued than before, we must realise that the work does not end here.
More than ever, women are being objectified and there is still a set of fallacies about their “natural instincts” and “social behaviour” adhered to them (common across most cultures). Most women are overworked and under-appreciated as they are responsible for contributing towards the family income AND do what they “naturally do best” – housework, being a nurturing mother and wife. Housewives are considered “non-working” members of the society although they sometimes work from day to night, ensuring that the household is in order. In some cultures and communities, violence committed towards women is still considered a common phenomenon. This stems from the fact that such cultures and communities still hold on to the fact that women should be “punished” and “suppressed”, because they are mere objects whose existence are not considered too important to society-at-large.
Gender inequality affects men too. When men choose to become house husbands, they are considered “lazy” and “useless” members of society. When men choose to pursue their occupational passion in any of the sectors dominated by women such as becoming an educator in a childcare centre, they are considered “unmanly” and many times, barred from doing certain duties because of the general assumption that men have a higher tendency to be pedophiles (a gross misconception). Also, men are expected to hold “masculine” traits, become the main breadwinners of their families and protectors of the “weaker gender”. Those who fall out of the expected set of behaviours and attitudes in life are being labeled and discriminated.
We need to recognise that nurture plays a very important role in shaping behaviours, preferences and attitudes in life among both women and men. No women was naturally born to love pink, diamonds, children or shopping. Likewise, no men was naturally born to love blue, soldiers, adventurers or become leaders in the community. All of these are results of nurture and in order to be fair to our generations to come, we need to work on exposing children to various forms of activities from sports to fine arts without pushing children towards conforming to gender stereotypes.
This is not about inciting a war between the various genders. This is about educating our future generations towards creating a progressive society that gives equal opportunities and respect towards each gender. And to do so, we have to first change our own flawed perceptions about gender roles and the messages we are sending to the young.
I think we can all do it, if we hold enough respect for all human beings in general. What are your thoughts on this?
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng
“We must confront the privileged elite who have destroyed a large part of the world.“
- Hugo Chávez, September 2002
Hugo Chávez was one of those who have inspired me, especially in his earlier days as the President of Venezuela although I don’t quite agree with some of his later decisions. It was sad to hear about his passing but I know that the legacy of the man who genuinely wanted to improve the lives of the poor in Venezuela will forever live on, despite the efforts of many in the world who have sought and are still seeking to destroy his name.
Rest in peace, Chávez, and thank you for being one of the teachers in my life although we have never met.
“National Defence Duty” is a such a thoughtless idea.
“In short, we do duty, they pay a duty,” he wrote, according to this report on Asiaone.
Well dearest Hri Kumar, time spent serving National Service and its subsequent cycles of reservist can never be equated to any amount of money so I do have an issue with the justification that “we do duty, they pay duty”. Or perhaps I am still clueless about the “fact” that human time and effort is really no different from money. Should that be the case, can someone kindly enlighten me here?
And since we are on the topic of National Service, I would like to put it down on record that I am for the abolition of conscription, replacing it with a professional home defence team that anyone who would like to, can be part of. Yes, regardless of gender, race and religion. That will scrap the concept that $400 or so a month is acceptable “allowance”, just because one is doing National Service.
Yes that pretty much sums up my perspective on conscription but I am not expecting anyone to agree with me here because many people think that the idea is too “radical” although the same people often bring up the issue of NS when women’s rights are being raised. :p
(Yes I understand, I am so in trouble.)
So, have anyone watched Ah Boys to Men yet?
Anyway, do take the following poll! It’s just for fun, and I hope it is able to control the amount of times one can vote… hahahaa…
Although the turn-out wasn’t overwhelming, probably a few hundreds, Reform Party did well at its rally. Kenneth Jeyaretnam spoke clearly and confidently, talking about setting realistic goals and not making far-fetched promises. Frankly his speech is by far, my favourite among all the candidates who have spoken.
Also, despite the rain that had made the field so muddy (no different from yesterday’s situation), the audience were able to stand on the field comfortably, thanks to the team’s thoughtfulness of getting the contractor to lay wooden boards across almost half of the field. Wooden steps were provided too for easy access up the wee slope at the side of the field.
That was a nice gesture, really appreciated it.
In this by-election for Punggol East SMC, the common topic among most of the candidates seems to be the lack of childcare centres within the SMC.
Yes, while having more childcare options in Rivervale is important, candidates should do their homework on the purpose of early childhood education, operation costs required as well as reasons causing the increment of fees in childcare centres and preschools before even thinking of bringing it up for their political agenda.
1. Reinforcing a wrong impression of the function of childcare centres
Childcare centres provide early childhood education to children between 18 months to 6 years of age. In some cases, there is also the option of infant care.
Anyone trained in the field of early childhood education will know that the early years are crucial for learning. This is because before neural shearing – the disintegration of unused neurons or brain cells – takes place between the ages of 8 to 10, neurons must make brain connections. Only brain connections that are repeated and used will remain permanent. With these brain connections, or memories, children will be able to develop new knowledge as they grow older.
To put it simply, children must frequently be exposed to concepts through concrete experiences and visual representations in the early years, which will in turn help them understand abstract examples later on in their lives. A good early childhood programme will look into providing a good environment where children can learn through their daily interactions with the materials, tools and people in that environment.
A good early childhood programme will also ensure opportunities for children to develop to their fullest potential by working hand in hand with their families. In other words, childcare centres being providers of early childhood education, exist to cater to the holistic development of young children which includes working with families. Childcare centres do not exist mainly to help lighten the parenting load of working parents. It is a two-way working relationship between parents and childcare centres, but the candidates who are calling for more childcare centres in Rivervale have missed this very important point. Instead, they are reinforcing the wrong message that childcare centres function as some sort of nanny care.
As this is an impression which I believe that the early childhood education sector has been trying to change, I suggest that the candidates stop insulting the early childhood educators working in childcare centres in this way and consider pushing for quality childcare programmes in their campaign messages. That is, if they really do have to use this as one of the selling points of their political campaigns.
There is seriously a huge difference between pushing for quality childcare programmes and pushing for more childcare centres so that parents can have the convenience of picking their children up while on their way home from work.
2. Fee increment in childcare centres and preschools
Indeed over the past few years, fees have increased.
This increment is necessary as childcare centres and preschools deal with the ever-increasing cost of utilities, food supplies and stationeries. Salaries of teachers who also have to deal with the ever-increasing cost of rent, utilities, food and other basic needs, have to increase as well because they have bills to foot too.
If childcare centres and preschools do not increase their fees, guess who will bear the brunt of the ever-increasing cost of utilities, food supplies and stationeries? TEACHERS. Yes, teachers who work up to 9 ½ hours a day, five days a week and 7 hours on Saturdays on a rotational basis.
While most other professionals are able to see their monthly salaries increase annually on at least a 10% rate, teachers see an increment (of their monthly salaries) between $10 to $100 or slightly more per year. Passion you say? Sure all of us in the field are passionate about the development of children but we have bills to pay, children to feed and families to maintain. However, should the cost of living become too high for our considerably miserable salaries to bear, will you, the candidates, pay our bills for us? Never. So quit harping on the increment of fees in the childcare centres and preschools, blaming only on the rent.
Ask yourselves instead, what can YOU do, to help childcare centres and preschools keep their fees low so that more operators will consider opening centres in the area.
3. Operating a centre is not as easy as you think
I am sure that the PAP candidate does not need to worry about this aspect because should he become an MP, he can always work with PCF or NTUC on that. That is his short-cut advantage which is of course, not fair to all the other candidates.
However before anyone considers opening a centre upon being elected, there are some requirements one has to fulfil. Click on the following link to find out more before making such a promise to the electorate. Your experiences in the financial or business sectors do not necessarily mean that you qualify to be an operator of a childcare centre.
That’s all I have to say for now. And I seriously hope that I won’t be hearing more naive talk about childcare centres in the next few days! Oh and… After-School Care programmes are not necessarily offered by childcare centres because the focus of childcare centres should ultimately be children between the ages of 18 months to 6 years of age. Try getting the primary schools to offer that instead.
Response from Kenneth Jeyaretnam, candidate from the Reform Party through Facebook (re-written in my own words):
According to Kenneth, he used to be a director of a childcare provider and his party’s plan regarding the proposal of having more childcare centres was drawn by a qualified early years professional. (Good to know, and hope to hear more about it soon!)