Co-censorship: Old wine in new wine skin?

Corrie Tan from The Straits Times comments on the MDA’s co-regulatory classification guidelines which have been rejected by 45 arts groups who basically argue that this framework conflicts with artistic integrity and amounts to self-censorship:

Despite its good intentions, the scheme falls back into the same template of censorship, of allowing the authorities to be the arbiter of what is in the “public interest”, rather than trusting the artist to be responsible, and trusting the audience to be able to judge a work critically. As a result, on May 30, 45 arts groups registered strong objections to the scheme in a position paper addressed to the MDA.


Artists are often viewed here as a vocal minority of rabble-rousers separate from the man in the street. But these are not merely the grouses of a few. The 45 groups represent a large swathe of the arts community, including commercial heavyweights like the Singapore Repertory Theatre and Wild Rice, and traditional arts groups such as the Chinese Theatre Circle. It is also likely that their regular audiences will be supportive of their decision.


As the position paper puts it: “Artists and arts practitioners… are also citizens, parents, members of religious groups, live in the ‘heartlands’, and we pay our taxes – like everyone else. It is misguided to presume that artists’ interests are at odds with community’s interests.”


What is your take on this response? Is this new approach a collaborative step forward with MDA trying to partner with arts groups to ensure art is responsibly and sensibly produced and showcased, or is it a step back with MDA simply veiling its often criticized censorship approach under the guise of self-classification?






Geo Marketing: Convenience or Concern?

Imagine walking into your favourite mall one day and you’re greeted by billboards and store fronts start calling out your name, telling you about your shopping history and suggesting new products for you.

Seems like that reality may not be too far off. Like the scene above from Minority Report, retailers and malls here are in talks with digital technology firms to install tracking systems to detect shopper movement, face and even gender to ‘better cater’ to our needs.

Is this convenience? Or does it warrant concern about privacy?

Culture Blaming

The recent sea disaster involving the Sewol Ferry in South Korea sparked speculation surrounding the causes of the disaster, with some journalists attributing it to the nation’s “culture of obedience”.

Kai Ma from TIME bemoans this journalistic trend, and writes:

Should aspects of Korean society be scrutinized? Of course. Poor communication, disorganization, and complacency – compounded with fumbling bureaucracies and the lack of protocol and proper training – resulted in a botched rescue mission that has South Korea reeling. But to theorize that the high death toll is linked to a perceived cultural flaw or deficiency is a lazy journalistic shortcut. It fits a stereotype.

Maryam Mokhtar from The Straits Times also adds a local perspective to it: 

Like South Korea, Singapore’s education system is often perceived as instilling a culture of obedience in the young, who are subjected to rote-learning.

I am a product of this system. But my peers and I have little problem expressing our views – politely – during discussions with our supervisors at work or our parents at home.

So what does this mean for the GP student? Yes, we can surely consider wider cultural factors and norms when speculating on why certain events occur or issues persist. But, we must caution against lazily doing so in the absence of more rigorous investigation. Perhaps blaming culture is mentally not as taboo as blaming race or gender, but it still feeds an unhealthy stereotype that does more to limit our view of the world, rather than help make sense of it.

More Nationality-based Prejudice

Quite unsurprisingly, a recent IPS survey on race, religion and language suggested that nationality-based prejudice is on the rise while that between races and religion has remained largely unchanged. About 32.1 per cent of 4131 Singaporeans surveyed felt that prejudice based on nationality has become more widespread now compared to five years ago.

Survey also surfaced how Singaporeans were less relatively comfortable with New Singaporeans born overseas in private (like family) and public settings (like work). It is perhaps a pity the survey did not delve deeper into these perceptions to get at the reasons why such sentiments prevail.

Moving forward, what can be done to better integrate new citizens while maintaining a Singaporean identity? While most felt that the government is responsible for maintaining racial and religious harmony, less than half agreed they have done a good job integrating new immigrants. Is government enforcement the answer then?

What approach is then needed? 


Empathy for the word ‘Empathy’

Several netizens have questioned Singapore Kindness Movement general secretary William Wan’s article calling upon Singaporeans to show ’empathy’ for Anton Casey – the unfortunate individual whose online comments on the ‘stench’ of public transport erupted in a social media furor and indignation.

Just trying to understand how Wan’s use of the word empathy here. I don’t think he is trying to say that we necessarily lacked empathy in our response, but that we needed to exercise more empathy BEFORE we considered endorsing efforts that attacked the person (his home, family) rather that the action i.e. If I WERE made such a stupid comment myself, I would gladly accept the consequences but not the attacks on my family. I think Wan is NOT asking us to empathize with his class or wealth , but merely to empathize with his very basic humanity.

What do you think? 

Of Stress and Suicides

According the Samaritans of Singapore, suicides rates in the city-state hit an all-time high of 467 in 2012 mainly due to stress and relationship issues.

And a report from Today recently mentioned how a local survey found out that six in ten employees report feeling mentally exhausted due to stress, depression and other factors.

Oh dear.

Why do people commit suicide? Why do people feel mentally exhausted at work? Why supports are they lacking? What supports are there, but not well-received? What are some larger systemic issues with society? With the mindsets of employers?