Archive for June, 2013|Monthly archive page

Going through a difficult pHaze: Part 2

In Uncategorized on June 21, 2013 at 3:51 pm

To make up for the last post (which was a bit pessimistic), I like to think that disasters and apocalypses bring out the best in people, in citizens. If it didn’t bring out the best in our government, then perhaps it brought out the best in us Singaporeans.

For one, the common enemy–haze–seems to have united us more so than any other National Day Parade. We’ve found such great joy in posting memes about the haze, freaking out online about how the PSI beat our PSLE scores…..some Singaporeans were nice enough to comment on PM Lee’s facebook postings, advising him to “drink more water”. That kind of solidarity shouldn’t be undermined, even if it found online.

And I’m sure we’ve found great spirit in queuing up/fighting for N95 masks at the local pharmacy/hospital/supermarket, though this phenomenon probably reveals more kiasu-ness than unity. It’s always a bit chaotic when everyone starts stockpiling on supplies–it’s as if the haze has become a pandemic, and you could go to your GP to ask for an MC because you’re “suffering from haze”. But still, solidarity.

Of course, it is extremely heartening (and I am NOT being sarcastic) to see Singaporeans come together to extend a hand to those who are going to be more affected by the haze–those who can’t afford air-conditioning indoors. The only example I can list (because I can’t think of anymore haha) is SG Haze Rescue. According to their facebook page, “#SGHazeRescue is a community of Singaporeans offering air-conditioned spaces to individuals and families without such privileges. You can offer anything from a sleeping bag, couch, to a guesthouse.” I can’t personally vouch for the legitimacy of this “organisation” but my inner optimist tells me it is a genuine effort to help other Singaporeans cope. And that’s nice. And so were the people who distributed masks and herbal tea to their neighbours.

See? Solidarity.

And there are people who noticed construction workers working without masks and called the Ministry of Manpower to ask if they would be given a stop-work order or a mask, at least. These people didn’t get a satisfactory response, from what I hear. But hey, they called, and they expressed concern. That’s nice too.

Clearly, we’re not a nation of whiners and complainers who depend solely on the government to guide them through the smog. I remember reading articles about the Japanese citizens’ solidarity when disaster struck–a spirit that seemed a little foreign. But now I reckon we’re not as far off as we thought.





Going through a difficult pHaze: Part 1

In Singapore Politics on June 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm

No one opposes Minister Balakrishnan and Minister Shanmugam in their dealing with Indonesia; their firmness should have been practised a very long time ago. And maybe the haze isn’t the government’s fault–Indonesia certainly seems more culpable whichever way you choose to slice the problem. But when crisis strikes, Government owes a duty to take care of their citizens–this is a responsibility that is completely independent of blame-worthiness. This responsibility means churning out domestic solutions to the problem when we’ve gone too far down the path to a hazy hell. Die-hard fans of the Singapore government will disagree, but we could’ve done better in this respect.

For one thing, construction workers should not be working outdoors without masks when the PSI is in the “Unhealthy” or “Hazardous” range. If we can advise the general population to stay indoors, this prudent advice should certainly extend to any employee–foreign or local–currently working outside in the haze. Perhaps if our new buildings and MRT stations are in such urgent need of construction, then we should at least provide these workers with masks to minimize their inhalation of pollutants. It is a worthwhile investment.

It is baffling (rather, infuriating) that the government has not told companies to cease construction work for now. It seems rather inhumane to subject human beings to laborious tasks in the outdoors when the haze could clog their lungs. Even if the government didn’t issue a stop-work order, I believe these companies have the good sense to protect their employees by temporarily stopping work until the PSI decreases. Yet outside my home I am still seeing several construction workers going about their jobs without any regard for the hazardous air pollution. It is business-as-usual. And I am disheartened that despite a “whole-of-government” approach, we have not shown much concern for these workers.

I’m afraid our dealings abroad aren’t perfect either. Of course, “demanding” “definitive action” from the Indonesian government and the release of names of the corporate culprits isn’t a bad idea. But when the Indonesian Minister starts to call Singaporeans “children” and insinuate that we’re being a tad whiny about this haze issue, it implies that perhaps we need our bilateral dynamics to be a little less belligerent. Perhaps if we had taken such a firm stance earlier–say, 10 years ago–such belligerence wouldn’t be necessary when the PSI reaches 300.

Disasters and apocalypses don’t change your character–they reveal it. Beneath the shroud of this haze, perhaps it has been revealed that we weren’t prepared for this difficult phaze at all. And now we shall all scramble for masks and air-conditioning.

English essay topic: ‘Young people are becoming increasingly selfish and self-centred.’ What are your views?

In Personal reflections, Uncategorized on June 11, 2013 at 3:10 pm

You will only hear this assertion from people who are “not part of this generation but are judging it from above”. (Jon Stewart)

It is a ludicrous assertion, and one that deserves to be ruthlessly refuted. As a youth, I have not found my peers to be “increasingly selfish and self-centred”. Instead I have found my generation to be concerned about their communities, their countries, and the world that they will inherit.

Past generations have had brilliant leaders and change-makers, and this generation of young people has its own. For example, Malala Yousafzai–a 15-year-old Pakistani school pupil–is an advocate for education and women’s rights. She detailed her life under the Taliban and how girls were prevented from schooling on her blog, and she openly shared her political views despite the Taliban’s clampdown on all opposition.  In spite of an assassination attempt last year, Malala has not faltered as an activist for education. According to her, her purpose is “to serve humanity”. Clearly, young people like Malala have demonstrated that youth today do have the gumption to defend noble causes and fight for the interests of others.  She is testament to the notion that youths are not oblivious to the injustices around them and that they want to correct them. To jaded adults, individuals like Malala may be idealistic, but she is not in any way selfish or self-centred.

It may be argued that selfless, mature youths such as Malala are few and far between, and the rest of our generation can otherwise be generalised to be “selfish and self-centred”. However, when I imagine the hoards of young men and women who voluntarily enlist themselves in the army, who make enormous sacrifices to defend their countries, I find it impossible to agree that youth today are self-centred.

Young people today do not need to brandish bayonets or fight against repressive regimes to prove they are a generation that cares about the world around them. With the advent of Model United Nations, more and more young people are showing a commendable interest in pertinent global controversies. Model United Nations is a simulation of a United Nations conference, where students play the role of diplomats and debate important political issues such as nuclear security and sustainable economic growth. Perhaps not all young individuals are adept at being diplomats, at crafting the best resolutions to the world’s disasters, but this is a generation that, at the very least, shows an interest in political happenings miles away from their homes and makes an effort to learn about our damaged world. Perhaps then, they will learn to fix it for generations that come after them.

Every generation has its own selfish people, its own pessimists, its own cynics and its own naysayers. However, I refuse to believe that my generation—this generation of young people—are more selfish and more self-centred than the ones that have come before us. I look around my classroom and my neighbourhood and I find youths who are passionate about volunteering at the local nursing home, at the local hospital, or even in third-world countries far from ours. I have faith in this generation.  Get to know the youths in your own community and you will too.

PS: I haven’t blogged in a while, and it’s a little sad that my first post in a long time is another banal school essay. But I felt this needed to be said for the sole reason that we (youths) are sometimes unjustifiably attacked for not matching up to the toil of previous generations, for being too pampered and too sheltered to care about anything beyond our own materialistic desires. Obviously that assertion is a lie, and we (youths) should not be coerced into believing it, lest it become true.

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