Why PAP is superior

For the past few days, two articles and their related discussions have occupied some brain space. One is the now infamous excerpt from Amy Chua’s latest book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” on the Wall Street Journal, and the other – a critical look at the welfare state in Singapore – was published by The Economist a year ago titled “The Stingy Nanny”.

As I sat back pondering both articles, it struck me how similar the subject matter was – they both portray successful ‘products’ as a result of stringent and harsh practices that are counter to the west. In fact, it became very clear that the PAP is a Chinese parent and Singapore its child. It explains perfectly their ruling of Singapore, and therefore Singaporeans.

According to Chua, there are mainly three reasons why and how Chinese parents are able to control, demand and push their children beyond what is considered acceptable and why this breeds success.

1. Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. A child with poor grades is simply a lazy child and fixing that is only a matter of punishment, shaming and disapproval.

All Singaporeans can identify with this. The early streaming in school to separate the weak from the strong, hence also ensuring competition, the labelling – ‘heartlanders’, ‘quitters’, ‘normal stream’, ‘express stream’, the sparse support to those who have fallen on hard times.

It’s little wonder that Singaporeans are constantly upgrading and the national psyche is one of kiasu-ism and kiasi-ism.

2. Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children’s own desires and preferences

The Singapore government have always strongly impressed upon Singaporeans what they can or should do, what they can or can’t have access to. From the late 1960s to 1970s, they drove home the family planning message “Stop at two”; subsequently changing tact to “Three or more if you can afford it”. The sale and import of chewing gum was banned in 1992* as Singaporeans couldn’t be trusted to bin their used gums. Every decade they champion a different industry, thereby affecting the economic growth of Singapore and subtly steering the course of choice of young Singaporeans.

And because they have put all the right things in place, because they have set the path to glory and success:

3. Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything…Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud.

Let’s not forget who works for whom. Without the PAP, Singapore wouldn’t be where it is. They dictated the rules and regulations that catapulted Singapore to first world status. For that, Singaporeans have constantly paid and will continue to pay.

PAP’s approach has softened over the years. Not greatly so, but slightly; just as Chua has relaxed some rules due to her daughter’s rebellion. However, a major change in style isn’t going to happen any time soon. Not when there are always potential adoptive children nipping at the heels of Singaporeans, willing to take their place in the arms of a wealthy and stable parent.

* The ban on chewing gum has since been revised. Those with therapeutic value can now be purchased at pharmacies and clinics on condition of registration by the purchaser.


Get well soon, Steve!

On Monday, a memo was released that Steve Jobs would once again be taking medical leave.

Much as I know Apple will do OK without Mr Jobs in the house every day, and they’ve done their succession planning well, I couldn’t shake off the dreadful feeling.

So I’m sending my best wishes off into cyberspace and I hope it’s not too serious. I hope he recovers well because he’s still young and I’m sure he still has a lot more in him to give to the world.

What I learnt watching Golden Globes 2011

Things I learnt from watching the 68th Golden Globe Awards:

  • Fake tans are nasssttyy
  • The feminist movement can’t have advanced all that much when men can go grey and put on weight while women generally can’t.
  • January Jones looks best as Betty
  • Elisabeth Moss and Jon Hamm are gorgeous no matter what
  • Large square glasses and floppy hair are the in-thing for men
  • Front slit dresses are the in-thing for women
  • Robert Downey Jr is hilarious
  • Only the British can get away with bad jokes and looking unsexy.
  • Robert De Niro still has it after all these years
  • Actors aren’t very good at acting when they’ve lost

Why do I need Mobile Me?

Today, I received a reminder that my Mobile Me subscription will be expiring soon and I need to renew it. The first thing that came to my mind, and this is the first thing that comes to mind every year when I receive the notice, was: Why do I need this? Unbeknownst to me, those words weren’t in my head. I had said it out loud and TH was within earshot.

“Because you love Apple,” came the reply I wasn’t expecting. I shot TH a dirty look.
Another dirty look.
“OK, let’s list down all the reasons then,” he said with a smug grin.

Every year, I go through this. The Mobile Me subscription isn’t cheap and the features aren’t mind-blowing for the price you have to pay. In fact, I hardly use any of them. Wait. That’s even a stretch. I don’t use any of them, except e-mail, and surely that is not sensible. After all, I have four other web-based perfectly free e-mail accounts.

I know TH is right. I love Apple. But I’m a rational, practical human being. I own less than 10 pairs of shoes and my clothes barely fill one wardrobe, I don’t need to fly the best airline, sleep on 500-thread-count Egyptian cotton or have the latest gadgets. I’m not one for excess, so why the need for the account?

Back in the early days, when I first signed-up for an Internet account, I chose a cute moniker; one that means something to me but is as difficult to figure out as 1 + 1. As the Internet exploded and spam became a way of life, my account became an open invitation to spam. It’s like all day happy hour in my mailbox. That’s when I realised I needed another e-mail account. Plus the fact that cute isn’t very credible when job hunting. I signed up for another Hotmail account, but couldn’t get one with my exact name.

Then came .Mac. I admit that my initial subscription was irrational – Apple had just announced the service and I was starry-eyed under Steve’s reality distortion field. I signed-up and scored my name! I was now a proud owner of a Mac account with my name! Over the years, as I’ve signed up with other e-mail services, my .mac e-mail address remains the only one with my exact name.

And I guess that’s the reason – vanity and pride (Hey, finally! Signs that I am a Leo). I like that my e-mail address is as simple as my name, without extra letters or numbers, without a hyphen or dot. It’s exactly me. Now, excuse me while I get onto ebay to look for a subscription pack.

TH, upon reading this blog, suggested that I check the various services again, as they recycle handles. I was in doubt but decided to look. It’s available on Hotmail. Holy cow! What do I do?? He is pushing me to let it go. I can’t! It’s my primary e-mail address, it gives me storage space for photos…and stuff, I can…errr…sync important dates with my iPhone, it allows me to…umm…it’s a .mac account!

No e-books for me

CES 2011 is over and with that came the report that around 80 tablets were introduced. 80! 80!! Wow…so much for all that talk a year ago that tablets wouldn’t have a big audience as they were not quite a netbook and definitely not a laptop. Do netbooks still exist? It brings to mind a hilarious conversation I had with TH two years ago about Nokia getting into netbooks. But I digress.

Tablets, the success of Kindle (to some extent Nook) and news that sales of e-books have surpassed sales of hardcover books on Amazon suggest…actually, indicate that we are on the cusp of tremendous change in the publishing world. Just yesterday, TH was telling me about a publishing house that’s on the verge of collapse.

“They’re still in traditional publishing,” he said.
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“You know, traditional publishing.”
I looked over at TH who was concentrating hard on the roads and wasn’t going to offer further explanations.
“Oh!!” It finally dawned on me. “No e-books then?”
“Nope. They’re going to have to innovate or fold.”

TH has worked in tech companies all his life so he’s pretty wired. Everything is about technology to him. When the Kindle was announced, his eyes lit up like a child on Christmas day sitting by the Christmas tree adorned with presents. He embraced the idea of e-books immediately and proclaimed a revolution.

Me? Not so keen. I know how e-books will change my life – less clutter around, less need for shelf space, lighter load when travelling, ability to make / change notes (not that I do that now). In fact, travelling is where I see it all coming together. But, but…

I love the world of print. Printed books and magazines. The graphics on the cover that hope to capture your attention and summarise the edition, the feel of the cover – embossed, debossed or a smooth printed surface, the smell of paper, the weight and texture of the paper, the font. The tactile experience of the book/magazine per se. Have you ever held an antique book in your hand and turned the pages? It’s a spiritual experience!

So I’m not ready for e-books and I dread the day the entire publishing world turns digital. Right now, I’m doing my part – buying books and magazines at bookstores and borrowing books from the library. I don’t hope to start a revolution but I’d like to prolong a tradition.

What do Singaporeans want?

Last night at TB’s place, politics became a pre-dinner topic. It started with the park connector that would be built and how PAP is throwing money at it, to winning (or more like losing) votes at the upcoming elections, then to the ills of the incumbent party.

TB’s main gripe was the $1.5million paycheck ministers receive and the broken promise of “justice and equality” for all. TH’s point of view was (is, really) that perhaps the amount is needed in a country with such a small tappable population. This sparked off the major debate and I won’t go into the details, but needless to say, it got me thinking about life in Singapore.

In clarifying his position to me this morning, TH said that the minister’s salary is really the wrong thing to focus on, yet he couldn’t understand what the real issues are with Singapore and Singaporeans. I know where he’s coming from and I often wonder what it is people have to complain about.

Truth be told, we’re probably living in a glass tower. I don’t know what life is like for the poor. How many Singaporeans are truly struggling? How many kids are falling out of the system and ‘disappearing’? How many Singaporeans need help but are not receiving any or enough?

Most of the time, I see spoilt Singaporeans. Why do they need a car when public transport is pretty good? OK, it’s not perfect but they’re trying. What’s wrong with public housing? If it’s too expensive for newly-weds, how about living with parents for a while? Why the need to upgrade? Take shorter holidays in countries that are closer, shop local, buy local. What’s wrong with that? Families have maids that are treated like slaves yet still complain about how difficult life is. Seriously??!! Was there a memo that we would all be living stress-free, able to take exotic holidays, buy a car, wear branded clothes, eat in fancy restaurants, live in private property and be served hand and foot that I missed?

In providing everything for Singaporeans and shielding them from the real world, Singaporeans are now a materialistic, wussy, shallow bunch. That’s something I hang on the PAP. There are many things they haven’t done right – they need to be more accountable to the less fortunate, embrace human rights, open up the media channels – but I can’t fault them for providing an environment that is conducive for learning and self development in a safe, easy and comfortable way. The rest is up to the individual. Is that so bad?

I’m of course simplifying many things here. However, it doesn’t change the fact that I can’t get a grip on what Singaporeans want. Cheap and good excess to everything with high pay and low taxes? We’re not on fantasy island. Let’s talk about real issues, people. Anyone?