Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Trial by media

Jonathan Choy Weng Yew has been trialed by the internet community.
(links obtained from http://isaaclifestory.blogspot.com/)

He happens to be the reported god-fearing relief teacher in Holy Innocent's Primary, responsible for posting on his blog the essays of his students. He did post that he found it amusing.

Enough about Jonathan. Let us focus on the internet community. To call it a community in the first place would be too flattering. Rather, I see it as a mob, ever ready to whip out their torches and pitchforks. They are the "heroes", on the "good" side, fighting for political correctness, sweating the virtual sweat, so that justice can be done.

Self-righteous and self-absorbed, the mob becomes no better than the person they have cyber-lynched and flamed. It seems to me there is always the anticipation for the next "Wee Shu Min" to appear like the mole in the mole-whacking game at the amusement park. Out pops the mole and the whacking starts.

Who cares about the internet reaching critical mass? And who cares about savviness? People have a false sense of responsibility in cyberspace and some actively seek to maintain order as they deem fit. There will always be persons who say the politically incorrect things, but is this the way to go for everyone who gets out of line? The illusion of democratising space that is the internet is just a cover for the totalitarian attitudes and tactics make up it. Any one who toes the line is simply not tolerated.

There are always boundaries that society makes for itself. If you want to laugh, please proceed this way. That's why we have "Gotcha!" and parodies. There are also a few websites by anonymous teachers that laugh at the works of students. This is taboo, because society sees children as innocent.

True enough, but children are a reflection of society, of the value that have been shoved down their throats, of the attention and nurturing they are getting from the family and the institutions that seek to shape their lives, thinking and development. I call what Jonathan did as "journalism". He reported what he experienced, and also gave his opinion, as he is entitled to.

When society blames people like Jonathan, the problem becomes isolated. Attention is deflected and diverted away from the responsibilities of the family and school is nurturing the children. We ignore the social problems that surround these, because lynching one person is better than digging up the foundations and structures on which the problem stands. We have forgotten where "bad English" came from. The schools, the media, the family, all have a role to play in this. Furthermore, the government has a role to play too. Why are families having children such that the generation gap is larger? Why are both parents working? The child doesn't get the attention nor the opportunity to communicate. Think about it.

A problem on the surface is usually treated by solutions, the knowledge of which are obtained from the surface, because it is too troublesome to dig beneath it. You establish a comfort zone for yourself on this surface. To perform such an excavation, you have to move out of your comfort zone and start digging. How many people are willing to do that? Furthermore, society has incentivised you to stay in your comfort zone, so why step out of it?

What Jonathan said in his blog was of brutal and inconsiderate honesty. He posted what he experienced and what he thought of it, and these are sufficient indicators of problems that society has to confront, instead of just using the cyber-noose and pointing the finger of accusation. You may say, "this guy is too much", but you have forgotten that society itself is "too much".

Society is ugly because ugly people make it. Ugly society is always ready to identify scapegoats, to divert attention away from its inadequacies. We are always too ready to isolate problems and ills to individuals, resulting in for example calling Jonathan names and criticising his personality, but we are never ready to see the larger phenomena that brought about such a situation. And this is not helped by the domination of psychology and hard sciences, which prime positivist information over the research made by the humanities and social sciences.

Think about "emotional scarring" owing to humiliation of children as warned by psychologists. What about actually rectifying the situation in which children will not be placed in a position where they can be emotionally scarred? Shouldn't we pay attention instead to how the education system, the family and the government are nurturing them?

I shan't go further. You know what I'm trying to get at. Problems that we experience are indicators of larger societal problems. People like Wee Shu Min and Jonathan, are not even footnotes, but society has crawled out the easy route and chose to focus on them.

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