Singaporeans and books

I am not sure if the public libraries are accurate indicators of the reading habits of the Singaporean populace.

Possible avenues to conduct research on the issue are the online book sellers and websites such as Amazon on top of the established bookshops in this country such as Kinokuniya.

What about electronic books and the internet? Singaporeans may or may not be reading traditional books but that could be due to their reading electronic ones.

That said, I have noticed how parents who bring their young children to the public library, at least in the neighbourhood which I live; do not borrow books for themselves. My regular visits to the library with my children always include my having to borrow two to four books for myself.

It is not surprising that Singaporeans may very well not be reading as much as in the past if the appalling command of English demonstrated on Facebook is anything to go by.

Social media might be informal public spaces but I have yet to meet a person who can write decently, not do so even on Facebook. I suspect that those who claim to write or speak ‘properly’ only in formal situations do so because only then could they prepare adequately, using software applications to proof-read their scripts. 

There are some who claim that they do not have much time to visit public libraries. Is that really the case? We always have time to do the things to which we give priority.

I am willing to concede that reading is a bourgeois pastime, an activity that the genuinely poor would forgo in order to have more time to earn a living.

But for the rest of us who do not have to work two jobs, do we not have at least the weekends every week to spend time as we please? We can kill two birds with one stone by borrowing books also for ourselves when we bring our young children to the public library.

School? Schooling is the best time in one’s life to be reading as much as possible. The school and public libraries were my haunts when I was a schoolboy.

I am surprised that people can carve time out of their ‘busy’ lives to lift weights three to five times a week in the gym, jog at the reservoir every night, watch English football, pick up strangers in the clubs, or watch a film in the cinema, etc., but do not have an hour or two to spend at the public library or bookshop.

Hmm. We should be honest with ourselves and admit that we either do not like to read or prefer other things to books during our free time. 


Behaving like tossers and berks

Singapore is a secular country.

We are not only Christians but also Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, Jains and ‘Nones’, among others.

If the Muslims and Jews were to take offence with the many food stalls and supermarkets that sell pork, if the Taoists and Hindus and Jains were to take offence with the many food stalls and supermarkets that sell beef, if the Jews were to be offended with the rest of the world who go out, shop or work on Saturdays, if the rest of the world were to take offence with the Christians who always seem to try to proselytise and whose sermons tend to ‘denigrate’ other religions; civil society will cease to exist.

As a Protestant Christian I am ashamed of the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) who even bother to express their ‘concern’ about Madonna. I am ashamed of Archbishop William Goh of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, who did the same.

Would Jesus of Nazareth do the same if he were alive today?

What is so difficult about trying to live and let live? To give and take? To live at peace with one another?

It is problematic these days to call oneself a ‘Christian’ because doing so carries the risk of others’ lumping the person with the likes of Lawrence Khong, Kong Hee, Pat Robertson, and the entire gang of conservative Evangelical crackpots.

Lord have mercy on us. We are behaving like tossers and berks. 


As much as Roman Catholics are exhorted not to support ‘those who denigrate religion’, the same standard should be applied to homosexual and transgender people having the right not to support those who ‘denigrate’ their personhood.

It would be of disinterest to me if Archbishop William Goh had simply discouraged Roman Catholics from attending Madonna’s concert and left it at that. In a first-world society we have the choice not to read, watch or listen to anything with which we disagree. But he was, on the contrary, crying for censorship. He wanted assurance from the government that Madonna would cut sections of her performance that was supposedly offensive to Christians.

Would he accept the same from the LGBTI community in Singapore? People like him should refrain from ‘denigrating’ the personhood of homosexual and transgender people. Otherwise, he should be censored too, should he not? ‘Apostle’ Lawrence Khong and his loony band of conservative Evangelical Christians should be stopped from harrassing the Pink Dot event every June. Homilies and sermons of priests and pastors across Singapore should be handed in to the authorities first before they are allowed to be preached on the pulpits. They should be prohibited from ‘insulting’ and ‘offending’ the sensibilities of the LGBTI community. 

For the record I am a Christian. I try my best to follow the Way of Jesus. But I also know that I am living in the 21st and not the 10th century and that there are more people in Singapore who are not Christian. This means that I have to live and let live, agree to disagree, accept that there are different people with different views and lifestyles in this country. If I find something insulting to my religion, why should I call for its ban? I just ignore or do not participate in it.

If I do not fancy Adam Lambert’s music or on-stage antics, I simply would not attend his concert. If I do not like Madonna and her pole-dancing nuns, I am free not to buy tickets to her concert.

If this is not religious deep-throating and rape, I do not know what is.

We are only being pragmatic

The cheek of Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore (NUS), to accuse the youth in this country of lacking idealism (source): it was the late Lee Kuan Yew who set the example for being ruthlessly pragmatic in his politics at the expense of idealism. He was a left-leaning idealist before he came to power and did a 180-degree-turn to the right when he became Prime Minister.

The late Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam was a fiery idealist for human and civil rights. Lee thought it was all nonsense.

Dr Chee Soon Juan and his Singapore Democratic Party are also stiff-necked idealists for human and civil rights. Seventy per cent of Singaporeans think that their policies are idealistic but impractical. Western liberal nonsense, they say.

Yes, Singaporeans have learnt well from the late dictator. We have lost all hope for a more socially just Singapore. Hey, we are only being pragmatic.

Cissy generation

There was a time when the teacher was God and pupils respect him out of neither popularity nor affection; there was only fear and fear was what maintained decorum in the classroom. Fear was what compelled every pupil to complete his homework and sit upright in class.

Abuse? What abuse? Spankings and slaps and ear-pullings were common occurrences and physical pain was expected by anyone who misbehave.

Is it any wonder we have brought up a generation of young people who take offence at almost every ‘political incorrectness’?

Is it also any wonder we have brought up a generation of cissy soldiers whose duffel bags have wheels and trolley handles?

Domestic helpers are human too

Before one sits comfortably in the moral high chair and ejaculate (pun very much intended and very viciously so) simplistic ripostes about their not getting pregnant in the first place, put oneself in the shoes of these workers.

They are human beings, like all of us, with social and sexual needs. They are working in an alien country for long stretches of time without going home, without hugging their children, without making love with their partners.

What would the average person, with an average muster of self-control, do? It has nothing to do with their work attitudes. The saintliest among us if given similar circumstances might also falter.

A man would at the very least masturbate, if not visit the red light district. So maybe the domestic workers should do the same?

Otherwise quit the holier-than-thou rhetoric about how these foreign domestic workers are not to be trusted and are unruly and how they should focus on only working in their employers’ homes instead of finding for themselves Bangladeshi construction-worker boyfriends.

Instead of thou-shalt-nots and thou-shalts, for goodness’ sake offer a listening ear and an open heart.

Maybe a vibrator and boxes of condoms too.