Monday, February 22, 2010

Vibrant City ?

Does a vibrant city means being over-populated ? Seems like Singapore is getting very crowded rather than vibrant. Perhaps in some areas like Orchard and Bugis we are seeing more activities and night life, but it mostly just over crowding in other places.

During the first day of Chinese New Year, I was at Jurong East MRT interchange. The shops were all closed. But the interchange was crowded with many of non-locals sitting around outside the station. Though the place was crowded, but it was certainly not vibrant. In fact, most of them look bored. Perhaps for them gathering at a public place was better than being cooped up in their workers' dormitory or flats.

I had this strange feeling of being a 'foreigner' amongst so many non-locals.

If a vibrant city means over crowding, sacrificing personal space and quality of life and feeling foreign in your own country, then the scale is too much off balance.

If productivity does not equate to more man-hours but rather being more efficient, then neither should economic growth be link to heavy reliance on importing foreign labour / talent. The negative effects are now felt through the continuous decline in productivity over the years.

Taking a global perspective, our planet is already over populated. We are likely to face water and food shortage in the future. We are also causing so much damage to the environment with our growth rate over the last few decades.

Thus,it is perhaps nature way of balancing the global population with some countries having lower birth rate. If so giving birth to more babies only add to the global woes. It is also adding to the local woes since we are already too crowded for a small city. Should not we have an open mindset and encourage the adoption of babies and orphans from over populated countries, besides reducing the influx of foreigner labour?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Growth at what cost ?

No one is arguing that Singapore needs economic growth, but we are asking for sustainable growth. We do not want 'growth at all cost', which affects the quality of life of the citizens.

The heavy price tag of environmental, social and infrastructural....problems would surface years later with lasting damaging effects. In fact the negative impact of a number of issues have already been felt in recent years.

There is always 2 sides to every coin. Depending on the policy path, the virtues will be expounded while the vices side swept. So currently we are hearing about all the great benefits the IRs could bring to S'pore, while just years back we only heard about all the vices of having casinos at our doorsteps.

It is the same whenever there is a change in direction of government policy, the virtues and vices will be expounded or side swept accordingly.

Perhaps MM Lee and his cabinet could try to take the public transport during the weekdays peak hours and even over the weekend, to experience first hand what it is like. They need a reality check at ground level in order for them to realise that at this rate of growth, even our basic transport infrastructure could not support the large population.

It used to be that MRT passengers at Tampines (2nd station) could not get a seat in the train. Now folks at the 1st station in the East - Pasir Ris, too find they could not get a seat. It it common nowadays for passengers not being able to get on board the train at City Hall even during off peak hours. There is a limit where the train frequent could be increased without compromising on safety.

Similarly for public buses, some bus services are 'packed to the brim' even at the bus interchange (starting point), that they are unable to pick up anymore passengers at the bus stops on their route ! The number and frequency of buses cannot be increase without impacting the overall traffic flow condition. This is because buses traveling speed is slower and occupy more road space.

Get down to the ground level, feel and experience for yourself before implementing policies which affect the masses.

Cancerous Growth

It is reported in today papers that the church pastor who insulted other religions during his sermon has been guilty of gay bashing too. It is worrying that those in leadership position and having influence over large congregation is spreading intolerant and prejudice. They are using religion and the church as tools to perpetuate their personal views and biases.

It is precisely such cancerous growth of intolerant to others different from us that could lead to the deadly disease of fanaticism and terrorism.

He even uses the internet as a vehicle to spread his hate message far and wide. Unluckily for him, he only made a fool of himself. But there could be others like him who are sowing seeds of disharmony to their followers behind the protective closed doors of places of worship.

Religious leaders are still human, full of prejudice and biases. Followers should not remain passive and let these wolves in sheep clothing go unchallenged when they overstep their boundary when preaching.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Self Monitoring

With regards to the recent incident whereby a Church pastor got into hot soup for his insulting remarks on other religions, I wonder why did not someone from his own congregation feedback to him on his unbecoming behaviour. It takes only common sense to tell that he is mocking other religions which is obvious through his facial expression and tone of voice.

It is irresponsible of those in leadership position who has shallow knowledge of other religion to speak on it with 'authority', distorting its teaching and misleading his congregation. Those who listen to him and condone his behaviour are also guilty of being socially irresponsible.

He is not the first religious leader I came across who mislead his congregation with distortion of 'facts'. Some months back there is this report of some religion heads saying that practising Yoga is not in line with their religious faith. In current context, Yoga is purely a form of exercise without any religious practices link to it.

I have a friend who learned Chinese martial art since young. He took up TaiChi in later years and then gave it up because his church pastor told him TaiChi has linked to other religious belief. I have done both Yoga (for 2 years) and TaiChi (for more than 10 years) and not once has any instructor spoke to me on religious matter nor have I come across them being link to any form of religious practices. They are solely a form of exercise.

Perhaps their history of origin may have religious link, but that is in the past. Do these religious leaders ever check their facts and find out more before addressing their congregation ? Likely since they are suppose to be the 'authority' on religious matter, folks in their congregation never question them and just accept what they say as a matter of fact.

It is exactly such unquestioning behaviour that led to the abuse of power of those in leadership positions which resulted in the downfall of a few big multi-national companies in US some years back, due to discrepancies in financial accounting. So now companies and the government encourage whistle blowers as part of a company's internal self check & monitor system for good management practices.

Even for local companies where safety management is concern, we have been advocating self check and monitoring to promote and encourage good safety practices. This is done through peer influence so that unsafe acts and behaviour do not go unchallenged.

Taking the example from good salesmanship, a professional sales person would not speak ill of competitors' product, when promoting his own. All the more so for people in leadership position to act responsibly and not trivialize other religions nor distort facts of Yoga, TaiChi....etc while doing 'self promotion'.

It would be best that religious groups have their own self check and monitoring system, without the need of external party such as the government having to intervene. Thus, members in the congregation should feedback and speak up if their religious leader or members in their group overstep their boundary. In fact, a socially responsible religious leader should actively encourage inter-religion harmony via self check system through open feedback.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Superiority Complex

Another church pastor is in trouble for passing insensitive comments about other religions. This is not the first time and unlikely it will ever be the last..sigh ! Just last year, another church group tried to take over a NGO group, AWARE and their pastor too passed lots of comments about those who do not subscribe their faith and 'conventional' lifestyle which they term 'pro-family' define in very narrow terms.

Why are some religious groups more prone to trivializing others ? I think it is due to their religion superiority complex which they suffer from. It is a fact that some religious teachings are more accommodating than others. But at the heart of all religions, there are many common grounds. It is a pity that some religious leaders / groups do not focus on these common spheres, but choose to highlight the differences instead.

Are these differences that important ? Yes, if it is to differentiate one religion group from the rest. No, if we focus on humanity, harmony and goodness of human nature - these are basis of common ground for most religions.

I marvel at the wonder of Nature. We have different names to it. To some - God, to others - Gods, and to some- Nature.

What is the point of one party trying to 'prove' the other wrong ? There will never be an end to it. Theory is forever being proved and later refine when new information is gain with technological advancement.

Since some religion books / teachings are to be taken as 'gospel truth', does it mean they are the truth since they are unchanging ? Does this mean science is misleading just because it is forever changing, as it is open and 'dare' to acknowledge new findings?

But then every religion has its own 'truth'. Who are we to say who is right ?

Better to find common ground rather to argue over the creation theory,.....etc. Is it that important how many days the world is created ?

Seven days - that is understandable to those people living long time ago. How could they grasp the many zeros behind a number ? What happen if God tell them it is 7 light years, instead of 7 days ? They would not be able to understand. They would interpret it their own way and pass down via words of mouth. Then many hundreds of years later - recorded down as words of God. Translated, reinterpreted...etc .....

What I am trying to say is, human 'touches' are all over all religions books. Even a paragraph can be interpreted differently within the same religion by different religious leaders. Often we have self righteous fanatics who are full of hate in the name of God, using their holy book to prosecute others. Same book - some use it to promote peace, while others ...sigh !

If only we have more people like Mother/Saint Theresa, who find strength in her belief and faith to serve and help others, instead of creating disharmony amongst followers fo different faith.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

What Aspiration !

PM Lee S L is parroting his father, MM Lee, saying that our pledge is not a pledge, but just an aspiration.

Why - because it has yet to become a reality. Forty over years and we are still not an united nation ? Then there must be something really wrong with us !

Perhaps it is the government policy which has lead us to this pathetic situation. For I do believe that at some point, we did 'attain' what is mentioned in our national pledge, or very close to achieving it - of being one united nation regardless of race, language or religion.

Then the high influx of foreign workers and liberal citizenship policies diluted everything.

I consider myself 1st a S'pore and 2nd a Chinese. For the nephews and nieces, some of them can't even speak dialect, thus their Chinese root is even weaker. They are already true breed Singaporean.

It is only during my grandparents time, where they were migrants from China, their hearts were with their motherland. For my parents, they were born locally, but they still harbour sentiment for their parents' motherland. Perhaps due to parental influence.

Thus, those that have taken up S'pore citizenship in recent years, it would likely take another 3 generations before their descendants will be true breed S'porean.

So in all probability, S'pore national pledge will forever be an unachievable aspiration if we continue with this path of nation building.

Nuclear Power for S'pore

Good heaven, may this never happen ! The government is exploring the possibility of nuclear power generation to provide for the energy demand of our country. There is no denial it is efficient but the radioactive waste generated needs many decades to decay.

Besides this potential environmental headache and danger, we are talking of having a deadly time bomb in this tiny red dot of an island which is densely populated. Even if it is build off shore, it is still too near to the mainland, as in the event of a disaster, the radius of affected zone could potentially spread even to our neighbouring countries.

It just take a single mistake to wipe out the whole island. We may even pollute our neighbours with dead radioactive particulars carry by the wind. The harmful effect is not limit to current generation, but we are talking about affecting the next generation as well. Can we afford to take such high risk and be so irresponsible socially ?

There are numerous past cases of nuclear disaster happening in plants which were 'supposing' safe. Only on hindsight, then they discovered human errors and non compliance which could undo any safety / security measures in place.

Japan known for her good safety record and management system also has blemish with an accident in her nuclear plant.

Even for simple system such as car design, Japan too got into trouble in recent days. One of its reputable car makers is in hot seat due to fatality resulting from faulty design problem in the car accelerator.

In S'pore we cannot even management a detention center for terrorist resulting in his escape. It is certainly unwise to venture in complicated dangerous territory of nuclear power.

Suggest we stick to harvesting solar power instead.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Govt sectors on speeding spree ?

Private companies in the recent economy downturn are known to be tightening their belt. Some have even relocated their offices from prime location to outside the city area.

Surprise, surprise - government sectors seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Some have taken up office space in up market location such as No 1 Marina Boulevard. They are even located on the higher floor which rental is steeper.

Could it be private companies are more cost conscious since they have to generate income for survival and answer to share holders ?

Government sector ? Well, most of them do not need to generate income and have no shareholders to answer to. Besides they are using tax payers money which is easy to come by with our many creative taxing schemes....GST, ERP, COE.....