Saturday, April 18, 2009

AWARE and information

As in the previous entry, I believe the events (in the internet) surrounding the events at women's advocacy group AWARE is an information war.

Yes. The seagulls (most of us bloggers) are following the trawler thinking there will be sardines being thrown into the sea. So said footballer Eric Cantona.

Everybody wants to have a say in this, and be heard/read.

There is a strive to be an opinion leader, as such.

Okay, I am not talking about the editorial credibility of website, although I am a bit irritated at the lack of responsibility, integrity and etiquette that they have previously copied html-for-html the aggregated links I collected in my first article on AWARE and not done the citation and linking, and now they have copied part of another article without saying it came from "Sam's Thoughts" or "". Not cool, not cool at all.

Essentially, all of us a borrowing links here and there.

Instead of creating a network of information, where new and conflicting information can flow freely and in different directions, we end up creating a feedback loop. Information keeps getting recycled.

Of course different bloggers are concerned in different ways. Some are concerned for the NGO scene. Some like myself are concerned about gender equality. Some are concerned by the alleged ideological war Christian Fundamentalism is allegedly waging in Singapore, which manifests in members/devotees/'martyrs' ascending to positions of power and authority in the civic society, civil society and the government sector.

Yes, identity matters. Background matters. Beliefs matter. They influence the decisions you make.

While I am skeptical that the motivation of the new group (exco and ordinary members) to takeover Aware is primarily an anti-gay one (as some bloggers might suggest), I am nevertheless certain that there are anti-gay implications, whatever the motivations are.

I am very certain that the people who hold homophobic views have no position (and do not deserve so) in advocating gender equality, because there are women who identify as homosexual, among other sexual orientations, such as bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, etc.

This is simply because of the positions of these members. Their positions matter.

Returning to the issue on information, I believe the newspapers are perhaps the more trusted sources for updated information. The journalists are doing their scoops and publishing them.

Bloggers on the other hand, will just pick up on the agenda.

Yes, I can confirm there has been sentiments expressed about the participation and intended takeover by the newer members, and even questions raised about their religious backgrounds and political motivations. And it is uncannily coincidental (tautology alert! beep beep beep) that their beliefs happen to advocate the dehumanisation and discrimination/marginalisation of queer-identified people, all these, all long before the news broke last week.

Unfortunately, preempting it and blogging about it will be unfair to some extent.

In the beginning, I thought nothing about all these until last Friday (Was it? Felt like a long time ago) when the Straits Times carried the news.

Now I am trying to resist believing this Christianity-related conspiracy, and that it exists.

Maybe it is our constructed multicultural environment (created by the ruling Chinese elite, not bad huh?), but in a country of diverse identities and a country that protects diversity in the constitution, can't we be proud of being diverse, can't we be proud of being who we are?

One week into the drama, we still have not got the clear picture:

1) Claire Nazar - Independent of this takeover or not? Why resign?
2) Why is there a sudden increase in membership leading up to the Aware AGM?
3) How and to what extent did the increase in membership affected the election process?
4) What is their agenda?
5) Why so secretive? We live in a country where we have the freedom to practise (ALMOST every) religion. Being secretive connotes a hidden agenda, so you have got to quell speculation by being out.

Even if there is a secret alliance behind the recent takeover of Aware, their aspirations of gaining political leverage, by ascending to important positions in an NGO that is established, respected and in a key position in civil society, will not be fulfilled.

The lever here breaks under the weight of the organisation itself. This is because the credibility and legitimacy of the new team (and ultimately, AWARE as an organisation) have been questioned.

You will not be able to enjoy the same space and freedom to do your "gender equality" politics if your leadership (and reputation) is discredited.

Instead of riding on the galloping horse (or mare), and harnessing its speed for your personal glories, your being on the horse has broken all its bones.

That is why I believe the biggest loser is Aware as an organisation, and of course, not to mention gender equality.

"Women's rights and awareness" become the platform for internal political struggle, and us bloggers are the scavengers.

Alternatively, the "old guard", who have been active and passionate in championing gender equality in Singapore, could consider forming another organisation. People already know what is going on, and people know if others are trying to ride on the status and "brand name" of the organisation. It is only natural that in a singular goal (gender equality) may manifest in different advocacy groups and campaigns. In the end, it gives people more choice.

I personally wonder if the new team are aware or interested in the issues concerning ethnic minority, lower socio-economic status women, single mums (do they fit in the Josie Lau definition of "family"?), queer-identified women, trans women, and so on. Say, do the majority well-educated ethnic Chinese supposedly middle-to-upper class women (want to) understand or identify with the issues concerning a Muslim woman, or a Hindu. Or what about lesbian marriage? Does these guys (I mean women) even recognise this as a women's issue? If not, are you making some exclusions from your "ideal" definition of "woman" and "issue"?

That said, I would like to urge bloggers to be fair in their views and criticisms of the orgnisation and the people who have been alleged to be part of the takeover.

Ask the questions, rather than make accusations (unless you have facts of course).

Discuss the implications of the events on various communities, on Singaporeans in general, so that it is relevant an issue to all of us.

Be pro-diversity, not anti-Christian Fundamentalist.

Do not play the same game of polarisation that others are playing. If they blow up their side of the bridge, you are not obliged to blow up your side. If you do so, you are no different from them. (ironically, "us" and "them" already imply polarisation)

Do not challenge for the sake of challenging, but challenge because you are aware and concerned.

I believe there might be yet another record turn-out at the upcoming extra-ordinary general meeting (EOGM, or EGM).

Can their headquarters/office at Dover handle this turn-out?

Will there be measures in place to regulate the turn-out? (e.g. prevent "even newer" members from having voting rights or attending, or limit attendance and voting rights of members who do not fulfill certain (newly established) criteria?)

I would like to attend this general meeting as an independent witness. Like AWARE, I also advocate gender equality. So I am concerned. If not, I hope there will be independent observers allowed at this EGM.

Read more:
new AWARE = Anglican Church of Our Saviour?
Mother Goose Stories
The AWARE Saga
DBS publicly criticises AWARE’s new Head
Aware? Beware.
Is this AWARE cat fight, the greatest thing that has ever happened to Singapore civil society?
AWARE and the hostile take over
All the hype about nothing
Beware of Aware
Political drama of AWARE


Moses / JD said...

Hey Sam,

DBS may fire Josie Lau because she is not the chairperson of AWARE. Not sure if you wanna comment on that.

Leaving that Christian/gay issue aside. Do you think DBS can do that? Is that right? Fire an employee because they are too busy? Their Top management, BOT are holding more then one position outside of DBS also.


Sam Ho said...

i've no idea how dbs works.

rather i see it as a public relations issue.

credit to josie for being in the position she is at dbs.

there may be rules in dbs, but symbolically, her participation in an NGO may conflict with the interests of the bank. it is fine that she is aligned with a million causes and campaigns, but to hold a top administrative position in an NGO is serious business.

Weiye said...

Haloz Sam,

I personally do feel that people who have anti-homosexual values are still able to promote gender equality.

Because the idea of gender equality is so diverse and varied, it means that they can still promote the kind of equality that they and their kinds favor. My only issue is when they try to promote it to everyone else, and demote other forms of equality. =)

Just because different feminists have different standpoints do not mean that they can't all be feminists; the feminist ideology is only breached when they in turn oppress others in their quest for their own Orwellian equality. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case now from the way they are sacking members who aren't aligned with their views.

alfian said...

What does it mean to hold an anti-homosexual view? This is something I'm always trying to figure out. At which point does holding a view translate into a desire to make people adopt your view and then subsequently persecution of those who don't?

Why I find the Christian right frightening is that they seem to think that it's not enough to convince the members of their own congregation about their own anti-homosexual stance. There is this siege mentality, that *every* homosexual in existence, regardless of religious affiliation (or lack thereof), is an affront to the Church.

The problem is, why should non-Christian homosexuals be subjected to the values of the Christian church? Unless this one way for Christians to exert their influence and visibility in Singapore society, and to arrogate for themselves the position of a de facto guardian and opinion-leader (representing even the other religions) on 'public morality'.

socguy said...

I don't know what is pro-diversity, but fundie insurgence is freaking me out, and that's the only reason why I'm even interested in the AWARE fiasco, as a typical apathetic citizen

mathialee said...

Hi Sam

I think you've raised lots of valid points.

Just wanted to address your point about whether the premises can accomodate the EGM and other details on the EGM:

(qouting from my own blog where I'm aiming to provide the details.

Extraordinary General Meeting (”EGM”)

Saturday 2nd May 2009, 2pm to 5pm
(Arrive early: You might be stopped from entry if they claim place is too full)

First Choice Auditorium
3 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh
#01-01 HSR Building
Singapore 319 378

Nearby MRT: Braddell , Toa Payoh,
( my personal email :


1. Proof of membership:
AWARE membership card OR e-receipts from the AWARE website ( )
Online registration by credit card, PayPal accepted.

2. Proof of registration for EGM:
You HAVE to register with or call 67797137 before 22nd Apr

I suggest EMAIL. Request for a DELIVERY receipt, and PRINT the delivery receipt as proof
(Also fwd email to . She’ll be keeping an independant list that can be counter-checked against the AWARE new Exco’s list)

They will be cracking down.
If the AWARE Website is down, you can also go down to the AWARE office to join as a member.

Address: AWARE Blk 5 Dover Crescent #01-22. Singapore 130005
Nearest MRT : Bouna Vista, Cross the road, take 196 or 74, stop after ACS.
Opening hours: Mon - Fri 9am - 5pm

Cost: $40/ year ($5 for full time students below 25 yrs old)

For newly joined members, who may not have gotten the official EGM letter, I've put it up on my blog post.


Vampyre said...

Hi Sam

As usual you've brought up several good points about this episode.
It is my opinion that these people, whoever they may be, have made a big mistake in moving to take over aware by such underhanded means.

Their actions so far do not support the hypothesis that they really mean the organisation well. This is plain to see.

If we then assume that this was a calculated, concerted effort launched by Christian fundamentalists, then i believed this may have backfired on them. So far they have only managed to do two things - destroy AWARE as a credible group, and to tarnish the name of Christianity.

But AWARE is only an empty shell without its cause and its people. It will continue to function under any other name as long as it remains true to the cause. It is wishful thinking if the new exco thought to usurp control and use it as their mouthpiece for whatever agenda they have.

I believe that the second biggest loser in this saga is really Christianity. As a religion it has so much to offer this world, but any credibility it had has been destroyed by the narrow-mindedness of many of its followers. Much the same as with Islam. Alfian touches a raw nerve in mentioning the self-righteous virulence with which Christianity seeks to propogate itself. But that really isn't the true message of the Gospel. It's very disheartening to see such negativity portrayed by the very actions of those who claim to want to do good.

The road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.

Sam Ho said...


i think the conditions of the modern world necessitate changes in religious organisations.

it is not feasible to wage "war" in the name of religion now, because of "newer" established political values.

religions have to change (some already have) their "business model" and strategy.

i am personally very terrified of religions in general. they are something people are willing to die for. they provide one set of "truths" about the world. they cannot be questioned or challenged, generally. some (branches) even do not allow people to personally make sense of the world for themselves.

if having peace and harmony implies that we have to be homogeneous (in faith and belong to the same organisation), i'll be damned.