Post-election thoughts & notes

So I am exhausted.

I actually wrote this more than a week ago but decided to let it ‘cool’ for a while before publishing it.

As someone who tires easily even from shopping mall crowds, attending a rally at Serangoon Stadium and the supporters’ gathering at Hougang Stadium really knocked half of my life out of my already weak body. I kept telling myself, that this only happens once in five years.

In the end, it was all worth it. It was priceless to be part of the group of people – all 72k+ of us – united in a common purpose. Part of the victory speech delivered by the new Hougang MP, Yaw Shin Leong, said that the Hougang people knew that their vote held nationalistic importance. This to me, held a lot of power, but I am personally unsure if they truly voted because they understood the weight of their vote or if it was out of plain loyalty or anger.

But at the fundamental root of politics, isn’t it very personal? Ultimately perhaps one may not understand the true power of the vote, perhaps that resident simply loves Mr Low Thia Khiang – to me, that is enough. You want a leader you can respect, that applies to every level of our lives. You want to respect your parents, your colleagues, your bosses. Not fear.

I understand the concept of duality, that sometimes it is necessary to have unfortunate events for human beings to display their true potential. If the incumbent didn’t upset so many people in different ways, would we be initiated into thinking deeper?

Nobody can say that you’re not interested in politics. That it doesn’t affect you. Are you an animal lover? Then perhaps you should think about the state of animal welfare in Singapore. Are you in the Arts? Then, think about the media censorship policies and distribution of grants. Who are the leaders of these organisations? How are policies being formed? Are they formed by people who truly care about their respective areas?

I hope for the future of Singapore, we can set aside some time out of our busy schedules to ask more questions.

A few significant points I want to note:

  • Still wondering about the geographical significance of Aljunied GRC, previously in different incarnations of Cheng San GRC & Eunos GRC. This area has been hotly contested wards for the past few elections. I am curious to know if there is any reasoning to the high concentration of pro-opposition voters here.
  • Tensions and emotions running high on social media accounts. I am sure I am not the only one who ran into disagreements with friends because of differing political views. I think personally, I am fine going into debates with pro-incumbent people, as long as they are aware of what they’re supporting. For example, if you’re personally fine with the incumbent despite their oppressive nature (i.e. locking people up without trial and suing independent news agencies, controlling the state media, refusing to give clear statements of accounts to ex-Presidents, etc), then perhaps you just have a different set of values in the sense that you may favour stability over other things. Which is fine to me. I just find it difficult to stomach people supporting the incumbent literally blindly. Oh well.
  • The “Facebook is not for political discussion” people. So a couple of my friends got very annoyed with the FB streams getting filled up with GE updates (not only from me). I don’t know what to say (lol). If our social media accounts are not for self-expression, I don’t know what is. Hmm. I guess their annoyance are is their own form of self expression. I just don’t understand why we can be tolerant of American Idol, pictures-of-the-branded-goods-I-have-bought, but it is not okay to post political updates.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, I am glad to have people telling me they look forward to reading what I had to share. I am grateful.
  • After physically attending a rally, I am surprised by the profiles of the pro-opposition people. You see people from all walks of life, no longer the perceived dissidents. A very memorable moment for me was seeing a well-dressed family of three, father, mother and young daughter, suddenly breaking into chants in excitement, waving blue flags, jumping up and down.
  • Very encouraged by the quality of writing going around. Yes, there are the crappy articles and noise. But hey, we had nothing to read for the past few decades except the Straits Times and The New Paper. Be grateful! ;P I understand the need for quality, rational discourse but as a young nation, we need to start from somewhere.
  • Heartened by several celebs taking a very clear political stand. Eg. Neo Swee Lin & Lim Kay Siu.
  • Was impressed by the quality of speeches given by the lower profile opposition candidates. Eg. Lee Li Lian, Png Eng Huat from WP, Michelle Lee from SDP.
  • Not sure why the victory of Aljunied was already confirmed by 12 midnight and yet they waited till 2am to announce it on national TV. Many of us were camped out at Hougang stadium since 8pm, after waiting for 6 hours we were denied a chance to spend more time celebrating with our candidates. That was a major disappointment for me.
  • I remain in hope that we can have political diversity, still be tolerant towards one another, that the welfare & economic growth do not have to be mutually exclusive, that voters can make empowered choices. Not blind ones.

Why voting for the opposition means a lot to me

I’ve been trying to express my views on twitter but I guess that micro-format doesn’t put my words in context and it makes me seem like I’m so insecure, xenophobic person.

If you know me personally as a friend, u’ll know this to be untrue. I cannot be proud of much but I am definitely one of those who will actually speak up for our foreign workers and talent. I certainly don’t like picking on people based on stereotypes and the country they come from. To me, it is very simple, don’t do to people what you don’t wish to be done to you. I don’t like being stereotyped, why should I do the same?

Anyway, I will clarify my position once and for all, and hopefully, those people who care enough will read.

1. I don’t have issues with foreigners.

We are all immigrants. How many of us can claim to have aboriginal ancestors? Perhaps I do think the population number needs to be managed, but that’s because Singapore is feeling like it is about to burst its seams any moment.

2. The education of our youth

The reason why we depend a lot (I mean, a lot) on foreign talent, especially in the tech sector, is because there’s not many local talents around. If this is true, then why are we not examining why? I’m constantly being asked to refer good independent designers. Oh come on. Why do talented designers go ‘freelance’ or independent here when the standards of living are so high, and in all seriousness, most clients here do not want to pay for quality? They ask for free pitches and mockups, GeBiz is setting the best example for this. Ask any design agency. How would an independent designer survive here?

In all honesty, if not because I have an international client base, as well as an increasing number of tech startups who are willing to pay for quality (though still rare), I myself wouldn’t have survived. In fact, I am having issues trying to afford my rent and pursue my goals at the same time.

I can probably write another 10,000 word essay on education, but I don’t want to dilute the points I am trying to make here. However, it is a fact that we’re encouraged to have a herd mentality from young. We’re taught to pride academic success. We’re conditioned into thinking that having money and security is more important than anything else. So, can anybody tell me why we have a lack of talent here? It all stems down from the roots, isn’t it?

3. The Internal Security Act

Along with many other people, I was not aware of how unjust this was until very recently. I am appalled. I am also upset that we were deprived this part of Singapore’s history. Why? Google “Operation Spectrum”.

‎”You dun care because you dun have friends who were imprisoned without trial for doing social work and helping the poor,” I replied. “You dun have friends who cannot come home to Singapore, you dun have friends who were made bankrupt and had their lives destroyed by the PAP government.” (source)

4. Public Housing

Okay, being pragmatic. I don’t expect Singapore’s property prices to be affordable because we really don’t have much land. That’s fine. I can accept that because I am unmarried, I have to work harder in order to either purchase my own resale HDB flat when I am 35, or expensive private property. But I cannot accept Public Housing prices being pegged to market prices because public housing are precisely for people who cannot afford property otherwise. I can’t help but think, what are they trying to achieve here? Make people work very hard so that they cannot do anything else?

5. Ministers’ Salaries

I don’t feel comfortable when I found out *all* our ministers earn at least 1.57m, more than Barack Obama, who has to take shit on a per-minute basis. But I can perhaps learn to accept that if this is what it takes to have a non-corrupt government. What I cannot accept, is there are tons of under-performing ministers drawing that sort of salaries! They want to compare our ministers to CEOs, sure. CEOs definitely have to justify their performances to the board. Who do our ministers justify themselves to? They all belong to one party and I cannot help but feel like they’re all shielding each other. Even the ones who don’t perform. Can you imagine that happening in a proper board? This may as well be a family-run business!

6. GRCs

Redrawing boundaries to dilute the opposition is just not cool. Why can’t we just have a fairfight? If the PAP are truly capable, why do they have to resort to such tactics?

7. State of animal welfare

If you are into animal welfare in Singapore, you’ll know there isn’t much effort from the government. Then again, they’re deemed to be lacking in human welfare, so I guess we can’t even talk about animals. I struggle to call us a progressed society.

8. Personal reasons

I would say that growing up here made me depressed and suicidal. And that it is very painful to be not part of the mainstream. It is not funny at all when you’re insulted, looked down upon on a frequent basis because of academic non-success. My own mother thought of me as a disappointment. I was not accepted for the child I was. I survived it all, but I wonder, does it have to be this way for other kids like me? And it is not even about being gay. It is not buying into the whole ‘Straight As’ concept. Why can’t our individuality be celebrated? We suppress our kids’ individualities, then go proclaim a foreigner’s individuality as ‘talent’.

This is personal and biased, I am not afraid to say. Perhaps some other kid less emotionally sensitive wouldn’t be suicidal, I wouldn’t know. But I do know of other young people who have become either detached, or they just try to numb themselves with substance abuse. These are not delinquents, but truly bright minds, albeit emotionally sensitive.

I would also like to add, if not for the horribly inflated housing prices, I would be travelling around the world right now, exposing myself to different cultures and learning as I go along. I would also have more time for the non-profit work I am doing. I just find it difficult to stomach that people with a heart are forced to be concerned over survival when they can be spending their time over more meaningful issues.

I earn a comfortable income, but I am not comfortable at all. I don’t even drink and party. 60% of my income (if I work my ass off) goes to rent. If that is the case for me, I shudder to think of the genuinely poor. Three years ago, a small HDB flat would have cost 1.2k to rent. Now it is about 2k and upwards, depending on location. This only intensified during the past two years. Why?

The rich are indeed very comfortable here. The poor are getting poorer. We’re performing strongly economically, but the people are suffering.

At what expense, I would like to ask. All for our GDP.

I am not saying that the Opposition will do better. But let’s give them a chance before threatening the voters that the value of their flats will become worthless. Can’t PAP talk in concrete terms, exactly how they will ‘take care of us’? Why do they have to make it sound like we’re voting for the mafia? If the Opposition is shit, let time tell. But based on my personal observation in Parliament, I’ll take Sylvia Lim, Chiam See Tong, Low Thia Kiang, over 90% of PAP MPs anytime. Most of them don’t even bother to debate on national issues. Those who do, get silenced into submission.

As a human being with integrity, it is difficult to support a party that jailed people without trials and sued people into bankruptcy.

Can we have a government who truly cares about the people? That is all I ask for. And not have our leaders think of us like animals. I’ll leave you with this quote to chew on:

“I have always thought that humanity was animal-like,” he says. “The Confucian theory was man could be improved, but I’m not sure he can be. He can be trained, he can be disciplined.” – MM Lee (source)

The power of my choice

I believe that one can create his or her own reality. I even wrote a post on this a couple of years ago.

Somehow, I forgot. I forgot while dealing with the uncertainty and insecurity of self-employment, the stress of moving residences repeatedly, the perceived failure of my decision making.

I was upset with myself for causing myself to be caught in stressful situations. Because I’ve always made leaps of faith, and in the end they all seem to come back to haunt me. I was angry that I kept over-working myself due to my own insecurity. I was tired, very tired of fighting. All I wanted was some stability.

Things got so bad until there was this day when I wondered if I could de-exist permanently. Like if re-incarnation was possible, I would like to opt out, please. I didn’t want to be in spirit form either. I just wanted to be nothing. All my spiritual beliefs were being threatened. I refused to buy into the whole ‘you live to learn’ thing.

I felt like I was being coerced into this cycle whereby I have no choice but to live life after life. I tried to see the point of it all. If living was to learn, and learning was to evolve, what if I did not want to be part of this evolution?

I couldn’t see the point then and to be honest, I still don’t see the point now (or perhaps non-linear time is too complex for me to understand). But something magical happened. It always does. I sink to the bottom and there’s always light waiting for me there.

One fine day, a series of synchronistic events made me remember. A movie, a book, a few words. I remembered. I chose to be here. I chose this life. I probably chose all the challenges that life was throwing me. I loved the challenges. I’ve always attributed my growth to all my previous challenges. I needed to learn the power of limitations. I knew, if everything went smooth-sailing, I would be living a very comfortable life. There *is* a lazy streak in me. I like luxury and sometimes I just want to do nothing. Chill. But that is not what I truly want. I want a life that I can be proud of. If I was born with a body that has boundless energy, I would be doing everything under the sun without focus. There are people who know how to make good use of their innate gifts without experiencing limitations. Not me.

There and then, I asked myself. If right at this moment, I could choose to stop ‘suffering’ and exchange my current life for a life that is full of peace, stability and comfort, how would I make that choice?

I realised that I would still choose this life. No matter how tiring, how difficult things can get, how broken it has made me feel sometimes. I still want my life.

At that very split-second, it all returned to me. The power of my choice.

The knowledge that I have the power to make choices that will influence my own destiny. Everything that happens today is a sum of my own decisions yesterday. Now, is a consequence of all that happened before. The future, is a consequence of all that happens now. My life circumstances in this life, was an agreement I willingly entered into, before incarnation. Nobody can make decisions for me, nobody can make me make decisions I do not want. They can influence, they can guilt-trip or manipulate, but the decision is mine alone. I cannot point fingers at anybody.

There is a spiritual angle to all of this (but of course). If you realise that you are the one who has chosen the pain, hurt and difficult lessons prior to living this life, you would have the same epiphany as me.

We all have the power to create. That not everything can be understood on a physical, superficial level. That pain and suffering need not be perceived as negative. Just because it makes us feel bad doesn’t mean that it is not good.

Anyway, these concepts are not something that can be explored in a blog entry. (I would recommend this book and books from Michael Newton or Brian Weiss, and the entire “Conversations with God” series. )

What a difference a split-second can make. I have been going on with my life with a bounce ever since I remembered. I say remembered because I have always known, but I forgot about it among all that pragmatic worries I had.

Previously when I had fallen sick, I would go into a very negative state of mind because being sick didn’t allow me to do what I want, in fact, being sick places me in considerable stress because being self-employed, everyday I am sick equates to no income. Over the Chinese New Year, I was down with flu for two weeks. I was feeling very bad physically, with all that nausea, sinus-pressure, chills. But this time, even all of that didn’t make me feel negative. I was constantly in a positive state of mind because I knew everything will happen in its own time and space. Nothing was impossible as long as I believe that I have the power to influence my own destiny.

I made a decision in my mind and my heart, that I would from now on, try to make decisions out of courage and not out of fear. No matter how crazy, how much risk or potential stress.

I started making these small little decisions, then some bigger ones, a couple of people-would-think-I-am-crazy ones.

And you know what. Life has been awesome since then. And I truly mean it. I know, it would continue to be awesome as long as I remember I hold the power to my choices. I have been experiencing the effects of all decisions within a short span of weeks. Some just took days. I hope to be writing soon in detail about how drastically things have progressed.

I don’t know about everyone else. But I think I have finally accepted that the route to security is not one for me. I have to live my life on the edge, because that is what I truly want – a life that I would be proud of on my deathbed.

re: Power

I grew up with the mentality that money is the root of all evil, having witnessed what it does to people around me. Then I changed my mind. I realised money is just a representation of power, so the struggle for power is the root of all evil.

Now, I’ve changed my perspective once again. Power is neither negative nor positive. It is neutral and the use of it depends of the person who welds it. The key for me is to be aware of my relationship with power, instead of avoiding it all together.

I don’t know about you, but I grew up in an environment which instilled on me that it is wrong to hold on to any form of individual power. I couldn’t reason with parents or teachers, because that to them is “answering back” – which means I am undermining their authority. Any effort to have a personal voice is met with disapproval or sometimes a slap across the face.

I don’t think I surprised myself much by growing into an adult with not much of a voice except for that angry one in my head. I kept giving away my personal power because that was how I was brought up to believe – to listen, to conform.

Looking back, perhaps I wanted to be accepted so much that I subconsciously tried not to offend anybody. I developed a fear of confrontations because that would mean trying to win a power struggle, even if I was right.

I wasn’t a tit-for-tat person, so there were tons of situations which I simply let go and hoped that karma would deal with it. I still feel that approach is fine, but it cannot come at a price of your individuality. I am not talking about ego-based pride here.

Often, the person who wins a fight (I don’t mean a physical one) may not be the person who is right or true or better, it simply means this person has the will to win (or the desperation not to lose).

Power struggles are everywhere. It exists between spouses (honey, please do the housework), between colleagues, of course the ones between economic/political parties. Artists fight for the power to create, advocates fight for the power to change. Don’t misunderstand that Gandhi was giving up his power when he gave up his riches and went on his peaceful protest. That’s demonstration of true power – power that doesn’t require brute force or making others fear.

I realised that the most important one I have to win, is the one that exists within myself. The power struggle between my mind and my soul.

The mind often succumbs to pragmatic pursuits, the soul simply wants to express herself.

I, need to be myself. In the process of doing that, there will be plenty of struggles, disagreements, confrontations I have to face. But I believe, once you win that internal struggle to be your true self, it doesn’t matter what people say, you wouldn’t need external validation, because all it matters is that joy and peace that exists within yourself.

Imagine a Self that is unaffected by what people think and say. How much power would that individual have. He/she will not be afraid of anything. Don’t you think we all live to try and prove something? Imagine not having to prove anything to anyone except yourself. It doesn’t matter if people frown upon you and your actions. You just need to be able to answer to your Self.

People depend on external sources of power (authority, money) because of human insecurity. If you ever find that unwavering belief of who you are and what you’re meant to do, the power comes from within. Money becomes your tool and not your master. Power becomes a form of energy and not gratification.

If we can all learn to gain power not from meaningless power struggles but just by understanding true power comes from within. Nobody, nobody can take away your internal power. They can seek to weaken you by taking away your pride, your riches, your accomplishments, but they can never take you away from you.

We rise by kneeling; we conquer by surrendering; we gain by giving up.

Teacher of Hercules (in Greek mythology)