"I love your "Malaysian Accent", can you say it again?"

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

"For humans, honesty is a matter of degree. Engineers are always honest in matters of technology and human relationships. That's why it's a good idea to keep engineers away from customers, romantic interests, and other people who can't handle the truth." - Scott Adams

Random Playlist Song: Bob Rivers - Cane 'Em Good (Lyrics)

"When a vandal comes to town
You must cane him
You know the crime rate sure goes down
When you cane him
He’ll not forget the day
When they caned him
I say cane him
Cane him good"

Bob Rivers actually bothered to parody, in 1994, Michael Fay's caning in Singapore. Funny, though they have someone (presumably the guy administering the caning) talking to Mr Fay in a very faux cheena accent.


Less than a week ago, Brose had a post lamenting the aesthetic standard of the female population Science Faculty in the Premier Institution of Social Engineering.

Today I go there, and find that he has taken the site down after being cyber-lynched, just like Singapore's favourite PSC scholar CZ was not so long ago. Although, as far as I know, no one wrote in to the media and/or NUS asking for him to be expelled, the assaults on him were apparently serious enough to justify pulling the site. From what I remember, besides torrents of flames, someone also dug up his full name and posted it there. And from his farewell message, I understand that there have also been real-life recriminations.

And so, apart from a few tantalizing lines on tomorrow.sg, his most excellent post is lost to us for eternity. It may turn up on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine in a few months, but that's improbably given that it was up for barely more than a week (if someone has it, please mail it to me. Thank you).

It's not as if the flames aimed at him had any ground. Although I do not have access to the comments or the original article, from what I remember there were 2 main logical fallacies evident in the flames:

1) You can only comment on those worse than you

This line of argument went something like: "You are fugly yourself. Therefore you can't say anything about NUS Science Girls. Post a picture of yourself to prove that you look good!... You must think you look very good huh?"

Now, if this line of logic were applied to all criticism, movie, book and food critics would all be out of business. Furthermore, arguments' validity are not determined by the identity of those who issue them.

And, as a friend observed: "There's no correlation between being a good literature student and writing good literature. Music critics are often not musicians, film critics are usually not film directors, and art critics are often never artists. The same principle applies here. I believe that if you're a professional critic of any kind then you are by definition honed in the skill of dissembling, but are most probably very very bad in the art of creating."

2) Not all Science girls look bad. In fact some of them look good. Therefore you are an idiot.

In the English language, there is a certain degree of imprecision which we automatically correct for in linguistic processing. When someone says: "The sun will rise tomorrow", we take his words for what they are, and do not pedantically counter that the sun will not rise for us if our planet is suddenly demolished to make way for a new inter-galactic expressway, if all the particles in the sun suddenly switched quantum states, thus ending its existence, or if a cataclysmic volcanic eruption suddenly throws enough ash into the air to block out all sunlight.

As it is with the example above, so is it with many other cases. Though the same mistake is made both by those issuing statements or making pronouncements and those reacting to them. Just because stereotypes are often true does not mean that they are always true; perversely, some lines of thought seem to run like so: just because stereotypes are not always true means that they are never true.

All this is too reminiscent of the CZ affair, even though he was not guilty of the crime which Singaporeans are so perversely proud of lambasting (ie Alleged racism), even while they live in a racist society, surrounded by racist people, are likely racist themselves and hold many other prejudices.

Singaporeans, and probably people in general, really need a good dose of salt in their lives, as well as to be able to treat criticism (often of those other than themselves, too) as if it isn't a personal attack, directed at the cores of their being. Not everyone has skin as thick as me, and if people are afraid of being served with lawsuits, verbally lynched and/or having their identities dug up and disseminated, the resulting impoverishment of ideas will make us all the poorer for it.

It is only a matter of time before the next politically incorrect victim of the pogrom is lynched, or a well-placed sniper shot fells another soul, and we progress further along the road to dreary banality and uncontroversial sterility.

Coupled with the flak that Donaq and I have gotten for not hewing to the politically correct line on racism due, once again, to the presentation of false dichotomies, I find that for once, I am on the same side as a conservative (ooh, fancy that):

"If the Trent Lott fiasco proved anything, it is that one can be a racist without uttering a single word about race or ethnicity. It also demonstrated that even the slightest, most minute impression of the possibility of racial intolerance is considered an unpardonable crime against humanity.

Naturally, a topic like this cannot be discussed without addressing anti-Semitism, racism's ugly sister. Anti-Semitism is another one of those charges that are bandied about with little forethought or debate. In fact, most of those employing the term are unable to explain what it actually means. By today's standards, anti-Semitism includes everything from jokes about ham to the horrible genocide carried out by the Nazis in the '30s and '40s. Talk about a huge disparity!

... I cannot help but wonder how we ended up as a nation of hypersensitive, maladjusted, intellectual weaklings. Is it because we have grown so completely bored that we actually have to create problems where they don’t exist just to keep life interesting? Are we so dissatisfied with our own lives that we feel we must destroy the lives of others?

Indeed, when it comes to volatile issues like racism and anti-Semitism, there are real dragons we need to slay. But how can we do that while focusing all of our energy on those areas where none exist?

In an ironic twist, our unhealthy obsession with "tolerance" has only made us more intolerant, and the wedges we claim to be removing from between diverse groups are only being driven deeper. We are even lectured by public service announcements on television and radio that telling a joke referencing someone's race or sexual orientation is tantamount to committing an act of violence.

What kind of future can we hope to have if this continues? How long will it be before we begin to criminalize thought? With as much attention as we pay to the color of our skin, one would think we might notice how thin it has become."

(Old Right Pundits)

"Don't express your own opinions but those of your boss; Don't endeavour to realise ends which you yourself think good, but pursue rather those aimed at by some organisation supported by millionaires; In your private friendships select influential men if you can, or and failing that, men whom you judge likely to become influential. Do this, and you will win the good opinion of all the best elements in the community. This is sound advice, but for my part, I would sooner die than follow it." - The Advantage of Cowardice, Bertrand Russell

At the same time one must choose one's battles; "He that fights and runs away, May turn and fight another day; But he that is in battle slain, Will never rise to fight again." - Cornelius Tacitus

Someone: "increasingly, im really thinking about not coming home. i dont want to move back to singapore. i cant be bothered with it anymore. i dont care about it the way i used to. and it [Ed: Singapore] sickens me.

im quite proud of my apathy actually. that ive actually managed to make myself not care"

Sometimes, apathy looks like an increasingly attractive proposition.
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