Friday, November 30, 2007

It's I who build (Singaporean) community; It's me who build (Singaporean) episteme.

Here is a very lame riddle: What is more reactive than a nuclear process?

Answer: The Singaporean.

Ok that is lame, bordering on irrelevance. But I believe we are truly a reactive society.

By "reactive", I say it with respect to "active" and "pro-active". And "active"-ness (such activity) is defined with respect to the civic domain, which includes civic responsibility, consciousness and ideology.

We act when people complain, when people get injured, when people lose something dear to them, when people die. You are free to insert "important" before the word "people".

Things must happen in order for change to effect.

I always believe in two ways of learning, which is divided into two tiers of explanation.
1. There are two ways of learning: instruction or experience.
2. There are two ways of learning: you live to learn, or you die learning.

Instruction often comes in peaceful times, wherein we take the comfort, safety and security for granted. Hence, instruction too is taken for granted and not treated seriously, until a horrid/life-changing experience is encountered will the person/people learn.

You are encourage not to smoke near while you are pregnant because of some possible ill effects on your child. You continue to smoke and your child may not be born healthy or "normal". Here, instruction is ignored, while experience takes over. In the end, you learn, the hard way.

The same thing goes for the placement of shelves and items along the five-foot walkway at the groundfloor of a shop/flat, not too far from where I am living. These pose a threat to fire safety (fire safety sounds like an oxymoron). There have been warnings given to the shopowner. Two persons died in a fire. The town council and the shopowner are both responsible.

Another attitude most of us possess, which I find utterly disgusting, is the almost "holier-than-thou" reliance on hindsight. 20-20 hindsight is the vision. "We/they should have ...". "If only we/they could have ...".

People begin talking like experts. Then change is effected upon the experience of losses and costs.

Why can't change be effect upon the experience of gain, in peaceful times?

Why must lives be lost and blood be shed for things to change? Are we truly too numb and dumb to anticipate trouble/loss/cost in peaceful times?

Maybe the government has a good mechanism for the anticipiation of trouble/loss/cost in these times of peace. After all, their political power and legitimacy have to be sustained at all times. Hence, there are laws that regulate the constitution, wherein the Singapore citizen has to obtain a license to exercise his/her constitutional right (of peaceful assembly and free speech). There are also controls on the media, which is viewed as inherently evil and thus require the guidance of the wise and righteous state (compare this with the American press system where the government is viewed as inherently evil and thus require the watchdog that is the media, which acts on behalf of the people).

How does the establishment of mechanisms which favour the sustenance and (maybe) growth of the government's political legitimacy, affect the balance of rights and obligations of the citizens? Do citizens have fare more obligations to state and society, outweighing the rights they are accorded in the first place?

Five dragon-boaters died. With or without life-vests, fingers will still be pointed and "should/could have"s will be iterated. Everyone becomes an expert or an analyst. Now, change will be in effect, socially and institutionally. But we need not go overboard with change to the point it affects logic and defies rationality.

For example, I have heard that one medical/science student injected a subject without accurately/sufficiently informing the subject the content of the injection. The ethics review board in the National University of Singapore came in full swing. Now they want everyone to be accountable for their research, namely involving human contact.

It is where Arts and Social Sciences students like myself are affected. The definitions of "sensitive" and "risky" are determined centrally by a 12-man board, who will act like the "reasonable man" on the street. I guess no woman is reasonable then. More unfortunate is the lack of transparency with how they would define the measure of a "reasonable man", netiher defined are the out-of-bound markers and topics which are deemed "sensitive" and "risky" to the professional, physiological and psychological well-being of an ordinary human being.

I am given the impression the thick layers of bureaucracy only exist because of something that previously happened. The implementation is not purposefully nor meaningfully done, but done so mechanically, to clock the hours, meet the quota and expectations set by another higher-up and the higher-up's higher-up. This thus borders on, if not trangresses, logic, reasonability and rationality. The purpose of leaving no stone unturned seems to have a mechanical motivation, wherein the idea of thoughtfulness is questionable. All because we suffered the embarrassment of a malpractice/unethical practice of a medical/science student.

Pro-active or active proposals for changes may fall on deaf ears. When something happens, change will be effected. Can we do something about this?

Well, it is not entirely wrong if change is effected after an incident. But let us not mechanically apply change just to "cover the backside". Do it meaningfully and purposefully, while holding a healthy degree of respect for rationality and reason.

Moreover, an incident may not also necessitate a change, nor signal an inadequacy in the existing structure. But most unfortunately, people are hard to please, and they complain, demanding changes. Are these meaningful?

I am not encouraging Singaporeans to be less reactive, more (pro-)active, but we should just think a little bit more about what we are demanding before we actually demand it.

I leave you with the malapropistic statement (and quoted out of context):

"Lead the way, and we'll precede."


mr.udders said...

Is this post, in any way, meant to be self-reflexive in nature?


Sam Ho said...

If it is, I'm not sure what I'm reflecting on.