To the Knacker’s We Go

Since Singaporeans are really not supposed to ever retire, Molly should set a good example by not retiring from blogging. So let us consider the issue of retirement.

“We are raising the retirement age, through the process of re-employment from the current 62 to 65 in January 2012. Beyond that we would have to examine how we can further raise the retirement age. In Finland, they have raised it to 68, so it gives us an indication about where we should be heading.Because the Finns are not living longer than us, we have a life expectancy of about 80, I think the finns [sic] are little less than us.” (Mr. Lim Boon Heng, CNA)

The comparison with Finland should be of interest to us, but let us first look at Singapore as it is. Despite the rhetoric about active aging, productivity and longer life expectancies, the most important and, in fact, only real reason to raise the retirement age in Singapore is that most people are just not going to have money to survive on for the rest of their lives if they retire at 62. And we should be clear that not everyone is really retiring at the age of 62 even now. There are already people who have no choice but to work indefinitely beyond 62. In other words, we are not foreseeing a future problem but anticipating an exacerbated version of a current problem.

Certainly, there are good reasons to work beyond the retirement age if it is not a matter of sheer necessity and even if it is a matter of necessity, many people do not mind working beyond the age of 62 in order to support themselves. But employment itself is a problem. Few things are more disturbing than to be “reassured” by government officials that we may continue to be employed after the official retirement age under different terms—a change in job scope and a change in remuneration. For the average person, It simply means that he is going to enslaved to a job that offers little job security. He is enslaved and insecure because as he ages, he had better do all that he can to keep his job, lest he loses his job and the promised re-employment. And with the law making it mandatory for employers to offer re-employment beyond the age of 62, would employers not be more reluctant than ever to employ older workers given the prospects of having to comply with the law by offering these workers re-employment after they turn 62?

The problems highlighted above are real and valid worries, but they hardly touch the heart of the matter. The average Singaporean—and obviously our policymakers are not average Singaporeans given that that our ministers earn enough in one year to afford a decent retirement whereas I can only pray that I would be able to slog away in resigned bitter despair till the day I die—only has his labor to protect him from total helplessness. And it is also what makes him helpless. The same Singaporean who is disadvantaged in terms of employment prospects because of National Service liabilities, who is no match for those who can survive on the lowest wages imaginable, who is not protected by a minimum wage in a country that has third world wage structures is also the Singaporean who faces ever-rising costs of living (which the government sometimes market as ever-improving standards of living) and is ordered to be cheaper, better, faster while clocking the most number of working hours in the world. This is same Singaporean who is also supposed to be kind and nationalistic, speak good English, and vote the PAP into power election after election (which they, disappointingly, will). The average Singaporean is supposed to make merry in misery and be grateful for being able to stay alive by suffering.

Singapore wants me to always be an abject beggar-slave chimera. I have to be a pathetic monster that begs for exploitation because being exploited is my only means of survival. Given that we want to compare with the Finns, perhaps this characterizes the Finns too. Or perhaps we are really much better off.

Finland is not a model that the PAP government of Singapore looks up to as it seems rather fond of the idea of welfare, which is an abomination to the rational PAP. Perhaps we ought to take a look at Finland’s social security system and see how much better off Singaporeans are compared to the Finns.

If Singaporeans want to retire, they should first retire a particular group of expired politicians who are exceptionally talented in marketing asphyxiation to the masses. But we know Singaporeans are good, diligent people like Orwell’s Boxer and we should not expect a Boxer’s Rebellion.

Retirement is not part of the lexicon of Standard English and we should stop using the word.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

What to Defend (Ourselves From)

SM Goh: Why should I be working for people who don’t feel they belong over [sic] here?

Why should I be voting for politicians who don’t feel that they are obliged to work for the people?

The ST letter below exemplifies directly what is wrong with Singapore and shows us indirectly what we have to defend.

Old lance corporal’s take on what we are fighting for

TO THE young Singaporean who feels that he doesn’t know what he’s defending any more (‘A disempowered generation?’; last Saturday), here is a simple reply from an old lance corporal: [What has it got to do with us whether you are an old lance corporal? I couldn’t care less if you were a prematurely senile general though I would rather you were a more enlightened old major.] 

We are defending our pride [Pride in what? Being oppressed?], friends, family, past [How do you defend the past? Has the SAF acquired a time machine?], present and future. We are defending our Asian-ness [What’s that? How do you defend it?], our languages [I see. National Service is to defend our languages. How about sending the commandos after policymakers who have banned broadcasts in dialect and are trying to eradicate Singlish?]; we are defending what it means to be Malay, Indian, Eurasian, Chinese [Is there anything threatening anyone’s state-classified ethinicity?] and, ultimately, we are defending what it is to be a Singaporean. [And would you care to tell me what it is to be a Singaporean? If it entails being a nonsense-spewing moss-brain that writes to the state-controlled papers to make a point that is pointless, please count me out.]

It is a fact that foreigners will bring economic benefit to society. [Is there anyone saying that Singaporeans must have no foreigners at all? Or are people just saying that Singapore is currently taking in foreigners indiscriminately without bringing about benefits?] Yes, there are social discomforts but the benefits weigh in favour of having them here. Otherwise, who is going to build your houses? Who is going to look after a greying population? [Foreigners look after a graying population??] Some of us complain that foreigners are stealing jobs [I haven’t heard of anyone claiming that they steal jobs. How could they steal something that is freely given to them?], but have they thought of the money they spend that is adding to us keeping ours? [Your examples seem to suggest that getting foreigners is like role-reversed colonialism where foreigners are exploited economically. And as if SM Goh’s nonsensical “Who is going to build your HDB flat [if there are no foreigners]?” retort was not bad enough, it has to be parroted here by an unthinking soldier deserves some severe corporal punishment.]

The problem of immigration is not a problem of Singapore alone. [On the other hand, the problem with Singapore is not the problem of immigration alone.] Traffic jams, crowded trains, not enough space? Take a look at any major city and you will see the same scenario. [But have Singapore reached the stage where such conditions are inevitable or are these conditions simply a result of bad policies and planning?] I am thankful we have this rather than problems of poverty [don’t we have poverty??], lack of consumers and slowly stagnating lifestyles [What stagnating lifestyles?? In any case, do we not have stagnant salaries and lifestyles that are more appropriately called wretchedexistencestyles?]

You say the sentiment on the ground is different. If you feed on sour plums, the flavour will be sour. The ground I’m looking at is full of energy and pride for the Singapore system. [Using your illogic, everything is sweet to you because you are feeding on saccharine. What makes saccharine better than natural, organic sour plums?] If you read material from dubious sources [Dubious sources like this letter of yours?], then yes, you will probably feel there is discontent. [What about his personal discontent? Are you saying that he is not real? Have you not seen him and refused to acknowledge his point?]

If you feel the Singapore spirit is diluted, why not do something about it? [Like what? Initiating a conversation with a ludicrously well-paid minister who does not feel obliged to work for Singaporeans? Or voting that minister’s party out?] Singapore is young and our culture needs to be built on [?????????]. If you don’t make illusions for yourself, you won’t be disillusioned. [It seems that you are the one with illusions. Delusions.]

Benjamin Chiang

Some ingaporeans may not know what they are defending, but allow me to make a recommendation. Singaporeans should defend themselves from the imbecility resulting from decades of PAP hegemony. It has already eaten the minds of fellow citizens like Benjamin Chiang. And this defense has got nothing to do with being enslaved by the military.

Blogged with the Flock Browser


A producer from Channel NewsAsia sent me an email about BlogTV.Sg, a live program:

On the evening of 2nd of Nov (next Tues), we would be discussing on the recent Temasek Review happenings. We want to discuss the influence that political websites and blogs have on Singaporeans. Should these writers remain anonymous?

The programme runs LIVE from 8.15pm to 9.15pm and so, you don’t have to worry about turning up after 7pm. You are a prominent blogger and hence, the production team felt that you are definitely a good representative for the blogosphere.

It sounds like a joke that Molly can be considered a prominent blogger these days, but Molly certainly doesn’t mind the label.

In any case, I replied saying that I was not inclined to participate in a live program but gave a someone unsolicited reply on the issues. My slightly edited reply

[With regard to] the anonymity of the Temasek Review writers, I believe it is up to them to decide for themselves whether they want to be anonymous. A reader should judge the writing based on its inherent worth and not whether the writer has chosen to leave a name and other information that a political regime can use to seek out its opponents.

There is, of course, the claim that anonymous writers are lacking in credibility because they are refusing to be (held) accountable for their writing. To me, anonymity and credibility are not related. There are writers who are brazenly biased in their writing even though they disclose their identities and this is partly because they are biased towards people who have the power to exact vengeance for any negative comment against them. On the other hand, there are those who voice out conscientious criticisms in good faith, but feel the need to protect themselves from vindictive parties who have the power to destroy them, sometimes ironically in the name of justice. Of course, there are also those who go against the establishment without maintaining their anonymity. Such behavior, while perhaps commendable, does not [necessarily] make them more credible.

If my intuition serves me well, the issue of anonymity is not so much a matter of whether the identity of commentators are divulged or even one of credibility. The worry is really Big Brother’s and it is a question of whether people should readily avail themselves to backlash that they do not necessarily deserve.

In my view, Singaporeans are currently much more influenced by the policies of the government than by political websites. If the government’s policies successfully take care of Singaporeans, Singaporeans will appreciate the political party in power and political websites can do little to sway public sentiments. Websites may enlighten the public and show them that the rosy vision that they may have always taken as reality despite their innermost grievances may not be reality at all. But I would not go as far as to say that websites have exerted a huge influence for they merely concretize what is already existent. People may identify with what is written in political websites, but it does not mean that these websites have a lot of influence in changing people’s views. [Otherwise, the PAP can easily ensure its dominance by setting up thousands of political websites.] The PAP government perhaps has the most influence over Singaporeans even if it is not in full control over how the people are influenced.

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