Wednesday, September 26, 2007 commercial: Take it in the right spirit

(Published - ST Forum, Online Story. September 26, 2007)

I refer to Ms Vivien Koh Swee Hoon's complaint against the television advertisement, 'Man's skimpy attire in TV ad is disgusting' (Online forum, Sept 24).

The writer must understand that there are a lot more flesh-revealing images on our media today. The man in the advertisement she so detests is apparently a bodybuilder and bodybuilders, just like women in beauty pageants, have to parade in skimpy clothing.

He was even doing standard bodybuilding poses. If that is disgusting, I don't know what isn't.

The advertisement was done to show the dynamism in advertising, using the irrational incompatibility of a bodybuilder selling his house as a technique to both draw laughter and advertise's services.

If Singapore's values have gone down the drain, we might as well scrap bodybuilding and beauty pageants as they reveal too much flesh. In that sense, we might as well ban bikinis and brief-trunks at swimming pools and beaches.

I think it is quite sad that new-age puritanism in our country threatens to rob us of our sense of fun and humour.

Ho Chi Sam

Monday, September 10, 2007

When 'dialogue' becomes 'talking back'

(Published - ST Forum. September 10, 2007)

I refer to the letter, 'Teen: Teachers must show respect to students if they want it in return' (ST Online Forum, Sept 7), by Woo Jia Qian.

The letter writer's viewpoint highlights a fundamental difference between the different generations on the notion of respect.

For the older generation, most see respect as something that could be inherited by default according to status, rank or age.

For the younger ones, most see respect as something that has to be earned, regardless of one's age or rank.

This is not to say that the young have little or lesser fear and respect of authority, but rather their approach to understanding authority is different from how the older generation understands it.

After all, the young are the product of today's parenting, which is far different from yesterday's. So it is inevitable for what the young see as 'dialogue' and 'negotiation' to be construed by their elders as 'talking back' and 'showing disrespect'.

Values and mentalities change. The fear and distrust of the younger generation highlights the change and shift from the comfort zones of the elders, built and maintained by institutional mechanisms and values of paternalism.

For the sake of integrating different generations to produce meaningful relationships, people of the older generation have a responsibility to make the change, given their larger experience and age advantage. In that sense, it is difficult to expect young students to ever understand or empathise with their teachers because they simply are not trained to do so.

We are beyond cane- and-shame parenting and schooling. There are better ways to inculcate responsibility in our children and it is up to us to continually and purposefully discover them.

Few may resort to the parenting methods their parents and their parents' parents used, but nothing can guarantee the child fitting in among other kids who have been brought up differently.

The onus is also on schools to explain the rationale for their rules openly and honestly.

At the same time, they must be receptive to students' feedback and queries instead of seeing them as anti-establishment.

Ho Chi Sam

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Don't over-estimate the influence of gay themes in the media

(Published - ST Forum, Online Story. September 4, 2007)

I refer to Joseph Chia Yoong Leong's letter, 'Gay musical should have come with rating' (ST, Sep 1, 2007).

While it may seem prudent to provide a rating for performances that feature sub-plots involving homosexuality, I feel this is only a temporary measure, casting a thicker haze over some issues we should have considered long ago.

There exists a mentality in society all the way through to the administration that over-estimates the influence of media. It discounts the role of parenting, culture and increasing media savviness of Singaporeans.

Second, Mr Chia's letter exposes a very common misunderstanding. Most see homosexuality as merely a behaviour that can be rectified through discipline, be it through counselling, stigmatisation or, many years ago, shock treatment.

What most of us fail to understand is that homosexuality is a sexual identity, manifesting itself as a specific sexual preference. Mr Lee Kuan Yew himself believes it is a biological trait.

As such, a straight person encountering a homosexual person will not become homosexual.

There are social and religious institutional impediments to understanding the notion of sexual identity.

These create a selective reading of the issue, putting to waste reasoning and larger relevant information, both of which could have empowered us with a wider view of our society and lives.

There are a lot media programmes accessible to children that feature violence, retaliation, martyrdom, suicide and death. What puzzles me is the obsession over morality and values, which are subjective and varied across communities and families, rather than focusing on issues related to life, death and violence.

There is a serious over-estimation of the role of the media, as well as the perceived harmful influence of homosexual people.

Are we making decisions based on the love for our children or for the maintenance of our predispositions and ignorance?

Ho Chi Sam