Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Response to TOK

My revelation after 2 years of TOK:
Knowledge only holds as much truth as we give it credit for. 
Most of the time, we accept supposed knowledge out of convenience.
And that there is no real truth. Truth is a lot of times, subjective, I believe. 
*edit* Found this quote: "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." - Socrates

Friday, 18 April 2014

Response to blogging

Confession: I like to review my own blog. I think I've made at least one correction to each post even after it's been published. I guess this is what make blogging so alive. I feel like I'm writing a never-ending book that will never be published since it's constantly edited.

And after reading my own posts, I like my blog. On the brink of sounding narcissistic here but I am enjoy reading my own writing; I like that my posts are so unorganised, like it's never really just on one small, defined topic. It's rather fun to read your own thoughts haha. I wonder if authors have this habit. I know Haruki Murakami reads the English version of his books(I think it was him?) but that's not exactly what I'm doing.

Anyways, blogging, I realised, is a very healthy habit. Why? Because by writing and then reviewing, I feel like I'm learning a lot. I may sound like I have very strong opinions in some of the previous posts, but actually my thoughts about a few of the issues right now are definitely not the same. My thoughts are constantly changing, that's why I probably have to keep blogging lol. And a lot of times, there's no right answer. That's quite a paradox actually because sometimes just sitting on the fence is kinda useless(at least that's what I think for now).

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Response to "The Fault in Our Stars"

I quite like this illustration. No, this is not the synopsis. I would have grabbed the book immediately if this was the synopsis.
Also, this quote kinda sums up the entire book. It is also especially profound in terms of human relationships, as if loving someone means making sure that the other is "okay" And how a simple word can mean much more than the classic "ILY". 

The synopsis on the back of the YA Fiction novel does not do justice for its actual content. Like seriously, I'll be really mad at John Green if he was the one who decide on the synopsis because it's a terrible one. I almost didn't read the book because of it because I thought it was just gonna be some YA romance novel about how two cancer people change each other's lives and that it'll be all emotional and lovey-dovey.

Or maybe, I am falling in the trap of stereotyping cancer-related YA romance novels just by reading the synopsis like how people stereotypically treat cancer teens. If this was his intention, this guy is ingenious and I will start reading his other books because the synopsis of his other books look equally cliche and boring as The Fault in Our Star's.

Back to the book: It's witty, bittersweet and real. Not the melodrama kind of real that producers want people to believe but the kind of real that is imprinted in everyone. It's a simple read that encompasses deep meaning. And, I totally get this book.

*spoiler alert*
I get that Hazel-Grace so badly wants to know the ending to An Imperial Affliction because she knows that once she dies, she'll never know if it'll be a good ending for her parents and so her fear drives the need for her to know the ending to the novel. I get Augustus' sorrow on not being that special person who dies as the rest of the world grieves for the loss of a great person. Like, not being a Nelson Mandela or Ghandi. I get the An Imperial Affliction's concept of death being a side-effect of everything  because it reminds me of my own struggle with the overwhelming concept of life,existence and death(Well, until I readily accepted Nichiren Buddhism and its dogma). I totally get it.

I wish I didn't underestimate this book when my friend first introduced the book to me. I wish I'm friends with Hazel-Grace, Augustus and Issac. I wish I read this book sooner. Planning to buy and read the hardcopy cos I think the experience will be vastly different. Planning to watch the movie too. Actually, I started reading the book cos I know Shailene Woodley is gonna be in it. (healthy girl crush of 2014)

I still have like 22 mins left of the audiobook as I am writing this review but I wanted to review it anyway because, does the ending matter that much? Whether or not Hazel-Grace dies by the end of the novel or if her parents get divorced or if Peter Van Houten quits alcohol doesn't really matter because everyone dies eventually and life goes on for many other people(just like how people leave insignificant messages on Gus' wall and carry on with their lives). Everyone is given a chance to live, whether fiction or non-fiction. And I just wanna share a quote from the book(or at least I think it went like this; tried googling but I guess no one found this quote significant): "Cancer is just trying to survive".

Follow-up to my own blog post and mini response to how the media works

Saw this while researching on animal rights activists and their eating habits. Yeah, I kinda have this habit of ranting first and then googling to check if I got my facts right. Heh. It kinda reflects my normal thought process of just speaking without proper thinking.

"Myth: Animal rights activists protest whaling, but not the killing of cows.
Fact: While some people oppose the killing of whales because various whale species are threatened, or out of a belief that whales are special, animal rights activists oppose whaling because they believe it is wrong to kill sentient beings for food. Animal rights activists advocate veganism, but in general, protests against the killing of cows, pigs or chickens do not garner as much media coverage as protests against whaling, which might explain how this myth arose."

Well, this explains a lot, and it brings out a point regarding the media. It's frustrating how the media almost decides everything to broadcast. It's not fair really. It's like limiting our source of knowledge. And that's exactly the flaw of Singapore's media system but this calls for a separate post. Also, I still hold my stand mentioned in my previous post.

Response to "Save The (insert name of endangering species)" campaigns and its activists

Why is it always the endangering species? I mean, I get that their particular kind is facing extinction soon but is a Black Rhino's life worth more than a pig in a pig's farm that exists for the sole purpose of being slaughtered and consumed? Just cos we can breed livestock easily doesn't mean that they are less worthy of our protection. I don't know about you, but I think that saving endangered animals is just as important as saving a chicken, pig, cow or fish(and other common livestock). I think it's extremely hypocritical if any one of these activists that are fighting to "save the whales" or "save the tigers" aren't vegans or at least vegetarians. I can actually picture a group of people discussing about their next step to save whales while eating from a plastic takeout box filled with cooked dead animals. Disgusting.

I do know many of them are vegetarians/vegans, and rather than just targeting activists, I'll just share a personal experience. I was having an omnivorous meal with a few classmates and they started talking about how Koreans and Chinese are cruel for supposedly consuming dog meat and do note that they were saying this while stuffing pieces of meat into their mouths. So I was like, umm, but what makes a dog any less consumable than a say, chicken or pig? They just went on about how these 4-legged animals are not the same and that dogs are meant to be pets and not meant to be eaten. What bullshit.

I'm still in the process of becoming a lacto-vegetarian and it's not easy. It's inconvenient and foreign. But I don't want to be responsible for any deaths other than myself's. I can be cruel and say that every living being has a role to play and the collective life mission of livestock is probably to be consumed by humans/other predators because that's how the food chain works and I know that people will still continue killing and eating them even if I stop, but I don't want to be disgusted at myself. I'm even thinking of cutting out eggs too because technically, an egg is an unborn baby of a mother hen. Can you imagine if the world switched around and chickens start eating your unborn babies? Not a pleasant thought.

However, I have a rule of exception: If someone can't finish his/her non-vegetarian dish, I'll volunteer to finish it because I do not want that livestock to die for nothing. And no, this is in no way, hypocritical because honestly, I think I make much more sense than omnivorous animal rights activists.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Response to birthdays

It's my birthday today. I never really got the hype about birthdays. They just remind me overrated bands. Quite a number of people have wished me "Happy birthday!" since I woke up 4 hours ago. I don't feel disappointed that some friends didn't wish me "Happy birthday!" even though we're virtually talking with each other, but at the same time, I think I would have liked it if they did. Whether or not they remember my birthday isn't very important, but I consider it as... some sort of added bonus. Of course, I'd rather have a super loyal, trustworthy and caring friend who doesn't remember my birthday than one who remembers it but is a hypocrite. 'It'. Interesting how I instinctively treated it as a being. As if it has a life of its own, or is a part of me. I'm suddenly seeing it as a pimple that pops out once in a year. And when it pops out, people start showing concern but when the day is over and the pimple subdues, every day is just like any other day. Wow, this has got to be the best metaphor I've thought of. A birthday is like an insistent pimple that surfaces once in a year.

But of course, being a greedy person, I would like it better if I have a super loyal, trustworthy and caring friend who remembers my birthday. I mean, who wouldn't like that? I wouldn't believe anyone who says that he/she doesn't. Because satisfaction has no limits. It's really one of those things that you can't get enough of. Even if you're happily satisfied with your current situation, there's always room to become even happier, enjoy even more satisfaction. This disgusts me sometimes. It makes humans look utterly revolting and in a sense,(not-sure-if-this-is-the-best-word) vulnerable. Like we can be easily controlled and manipulated by this 4-letter word 'more'.

And here I'll end with Britney Spears' shallow yet reflective song; an awfully honest depiction of our kind: "Gimme gimme (more), gimme, gimme gimme more."

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Response to France's ban on special Muslim lunches


I knew I had to write about this the moment I finished reading the first paragraph.


Seriously, what the hell is wrong with these people. You can't just bloody cut off the lunch supply of Muslim students! I'm no Muslim but in Singapore, Muslims are one of the largest religion group here and I have Muslim friends myself. I know how frustrating it can be for them in terms of food choice when they go outside even though in Singapore, there are at least 3 halal foodcourts/restaurants/fast food joints in every shopping centre(on average). (Our KFC and McDonald's are halal) In schools/office buildings, there will be at least one Halal stall in each canteen. I already think that more should be added for the convenience of our fellow Muslim friends but oh no, in France, they are cutting the supply off in schools! Schools, of all places! Schools, that are suppose to be teaching your children to love and be considerate of the other races; Schools, that are suppose to inculcate values of peace and harmony among different races.

The way I perceiving the government's view, and views of several commentators, is that they feel that they have been doing 'a favour' for the Muslims all this while by providing special lunch for them. But the government is suppose to take care of all of its people! It's suppose to be one big family and family members don't 'do favours'; they do things because they CARE. I'm just really flabbergasted by the whole situation. Of course, I know that they're not directing this at the Muslims since they justified that ["We will not accept any religious demands in school menus," Le Pen told RTL radio. "There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere, that's the law."]

But seriously, 'no reason for religion to enter the public sphere'? Your public is bloody made up of people who are from different religions! (of course, not every single person has a religion but yeah);I wonder if there are any Muslims on the council, considering how it's one of their large minorities. And I really hope that I'm wrong about the French government. Until then, I would say you go back to doing what you have to do for your people.

Okay, I should stop raging. Raging isn't gonna help at all. But what is going to help? What can I do, when I'm so far away, with my little understanding of the whole situation from one article on a virtual platform?

Response to blog stats

My blog stats says that I have around 200+ views and I wonder if these are just random views. Is there anyone out there who is actually reading my posts? It doesn't really matter if no one does because this blog is really just a tool for me to permanently save my own thoughts and responses. But it would be great to know if there's someone who agrees, or even better, someone who disagrees because that's how we all learn from one another.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Response to bell curves; or rather, what we have defined grades as.

When I was younger, my grades were always a tool for comparison. A useful tool to allow you to gloat around those who did worse and to feel self-deprecated around those who top the class semester after semester. I don't know how many countries actually use this system because it is damn bloody annoying.

To be fair, it has its own merits if not Singapore wouldn't be using it. But it's just too... practical. Education isn't suppose to be like this. Education is suppose to empower people, it's suppose to give hope to people, it's suppose to cultivate better individuals. And the bell curve is really just a cruel(okay, maybe it's too strong of a word but yeah, limited vocab here) tool to rank people, to make us test against one another, to cultivate a "competitive edge". Sure, that's awesome for the economy, awesome for getting better paychecks because very often, we become stagnant with the lack of competition. But it's also not-so-awesome for health - mental health and emotional health. And these two are really important. Many people do not realise this, or maybe they do but do not prioritise it. It's just kinda sad.

I've lost my ranting appetite. I really want to take action, but the truth is, I don't really know what I can do. I am hopeful, but I'm not sure how long it'll last.

Response to meritocracy in Singapore

'Meritocracy' is one word that I would immediately link Singapore to, right behind 'sunny', 'merlion' and 'safe'. Do I believe in it? Yes, when i am being optimistic and no, if I were to be practical. I do support it though. I mean, it's really one of the fairest approaches around. I just don't agree that we are a full-fledged meritocratic country. In fact, it's an issue pertaining to the whole world.

First, let's take a look at meritocracy on a global scale and imagine each country as a single individual. Some may be related; depending on how you it, some examples can be like China-North Korea, ASEAN... Anyway, the main point is that each country has its own unique traits - naturally equating to unequal distribution of resources. Which is exactly why we have developed vs developing countries. Some countries are more developed perhaps because they have an abundance of natural resources, for e.g., Norway. Just to keep things short and simple, I'll make this a shallow comparison to maybe, a rich kid with abundant material possessions - student A. And then we have countries like Singapore, with close to zero natural resources(compared to other countries), a country that basically had to start with nothing after WWII save for a good geographic location. And a shallow comparison will probably be a poor kid placed in a good school cos he lives near it(Singaporeans will understand this) - student B.

Given our history, I totally understand why our government advocates meritocracy because we were a country with HDI lower than that of some African countries and now we're like in the top 20? We had as much chances as other countries to succeed(I say this because we weren't really affected by war or natural disasters ever since WWII) and we did, despite our condition after the war and everyday I am thankful for being born into this country. But I believe that we can do so much better. So, let's say student B does well in school without tuition or whatsoever, doing well based on his own hard work. Classic example of meritocracy. But could he have done better if he had student A's family background? Almost definitely. What about students who may not be as lucky as student B to get into a good school? Will his hard work be enough?

Connections helps. I have known a few cases whereby students use connections to get into my school. This is just one example. Money helps. This is a pretty straightforward one. Let's say a student who has done badly for A levels cannot get into any local universities, cannot afford to go any private/overseas universities even though his/her score makes the cut. Where is our 'equal chances'? Money helps. Indefinitely. Which is exactly why one should never let money rule over oneself.

"What gave money its true meaning was its dark-night namelessness, its breathtaking interchangeability." - Haruki Murakami.

Get it right, kid!

In my opinion, there's never gonna be "real meritocracy" because there's always gonna be "invisible classes" in a society. Like, even if there is a total redistribution of resources, to put to a extremity, everyone starting at point zero, there is never going to be a 100% meritocratic society. The state of total equality is bound to diverge at a certain point. For example, setting English as the first language was probably one of the best decisions ever made by our government. I really admire Lee for having such hindsight. Everyone starting on the same foot(well, almost everyone) but yes, we still have high income equality. But the thing is, every country has a certain level of income inequality(duh) so it's really about balance.

And I believe that this balance can only be achieved by a more humanistic Singapore. Yes, that's right, supporter of Mr. Robin Hood here. I can talk all day about the Robin Hood approach and I'm really more of a supporter of the upgraded Robin Hood approach(i.e. Not just monetary transfers + poor giving back to the rich as well. In what ways I haven't thought of, this will be for a later discussion). Sure, you can be super extreme and say that this would mean that the rich does all the work and the poor gains because of their charity and that is oh-so-unfair but come on, nothing is fair in this world. Which is why meritocracy only works to a certain extent since there will never be "real equal chances"[might not even work well; I mean, classless-ness certainly didn't work well for China] but the basis of it is really for people to think about what they can do for the rest of the society. 

So, what are you willing and able to do for our society?