The shadow ‘institution’.

Influenced by the laws, regulation and institutional visions and missions we, the people and labour, are the shadow ‘institutions’. Without laws, people’s behaviour will run amok; without regulations, people’s actions will be nonchalant; without the institutional visions and missions, the labour will be directionless. In the same way that these laws, regulations, vision and missions had illuminated lives, every one of us becomes its ‘shadows’ when we adopt the values and meanings of them without actually being the institutions. We are indirectly part of the institutions when we observed the values and meanings and are aware of them. We carried out these values and meanings when we are directly working in these institutions that carry out their duties as best as we can in the values and meanings of these observances. We are the ‘shadows’ because as long as they shine, we are affected by their illuminations. We are the shadow ‘institutions’ because the values and meanings will outlive us and had existed before us.

We are the shadow ‘institution’ only when the institutions in society perform their functions with dignity and integrity. When they no longer do so with dignity and integrity, the shadow ‘institution’ may take another form and then becoming it materially, if not changing those that failed in doing so. For the free-spirited, they may be influenced by another set of ideals that they deem fit but when it comes to the rule of law, they would probably agree that taking lives or belongings that do not own are not in line with their set of ideals. For others who are benighted, all they need to do is to make some effort to get acquainted with the rules and laws (perhaps also visions and missions) so that they can at least protect themselves or advice others. The craven when they know of any mis-doings can always try the route of whistle blowing if they feel that their lives are more important than innocent ones. The craven would be innocent themselves but if any wrong-doings happened to them, their inhibitions might stop them from finding a fair solution but their ‘blindness’ will reach a point – either they have a mental break-down or they gather enough courage to fight for themselves. Oppression can be a double-edge sword but ignorance is totally stupid.

Yesterday I had my ‘payback’ when I visited MOM for my appeal for reinstatement to my previous employment. I did not get re-instated but I got my notice salary after I presented my case to MOM. The matter was partly resolved as far as my knowledge goes – under the illumination of the Employment Act, I can only get a consolation prize from the contractual agreement between me and my employer. I was not able to get re-instated, much to my disappointment. The company I worked for has good potential to be what I considered as ethical employer. It is the management that has biased cultural inclination and inhibitions that I wish the end user will not be subjected and succumbed to. Furthermore, the contract agreement between my employer and I  limits my fight for reinstatement. The complication lies in the contractual agreement between my employer and my employer’s client as well as my employer’s client client. However, under the illuminations of the institution (in this case, MOM) the prospective employers on my case had their warnings – for better or worse. In the cultural landscape that is Singapore, it is better because things are kept under wraps in order to be manageable by the illumination of the PAP government. It can be bad, or become worse, when such ‘wraps’ are not being educated to the public and employers get bolder and nastier to get away with anything that they do. If faith is needed in any spiritual discipline, faith is also needed in the institutional system that builds a flourishing nation and people. Apart from faith, we still need the trust, convictions and work to follow through the challenges ahead of all these institutions for the welfare and betterment of the country.

In any modern society of the 21st century, there are always the different social classes. These social classes are not the same as the ancient Romans. We are not separated by the law in the social landscape. Our social classes are defined by the salary we earned. The laws and jurisdictions are defined by the democratic process. If some upper classes decided that they are above the law, they certainly can do whatever they want. However they are not the law because they cannot write the laws and passed down to the people for them to abide. They can be above the law as long as people remain ignorant, foolish and cowardice but they certainly are NOT the law. With regard to this, my appeal for reinstatement to my previous employment was a disappointment because it was not granted – the fight was fought on a separate ground and arena. That was how my faith comes into the governing system that is Singapore and I have my reservations about it.

Let’s take the gladiator fights of ancient Rome as an analogy to the labour market. The labour market is a free market. Some get hired and fired while others resigned and moved on for greener pastures. We offer our services in exchange for a salary. The competition for jobs is akin to the fights of the gladiators. The gladiator arena is the labour market and the audiences are the employers. The emperor will be the government because the government also competes with the employers for talents to run the efficient judiciary system. After we are employed, some unethical employers treat their employees like slaves when slavery has been abolished and made illegal in the present day. Of course there are willing ‘slaves’ in that they would rather subject themselves to the same ‘ethics’ that their employers have. Who is to blame them when the present day is so advanced that without wealth, one is perceived to be a ‘slave’ too?

There are different types of fights in the gladiator arena. After getting a job we also fought for our rice bowl. It is a life and death matter because without a job, we are not able to live and play. It is similar to the gladiators when they fight themselves to death in the Roman Colosseum. With jobs, when the fight isn’t fair, we are able to make our claims against our employers. That was what I did with my previous employer. These days, the fights are almost like a war game, there are generals (managers) and different squadrons of soldiers (infantry, armour, jet fighters, navy, etc) in a company (human resource department, operations department, IT department, finance departments, etc). As a lone soldier, I can only fight for my own rights without the backings of any allies because this ‘war’ of mine has a complicated background dating back to 2010, or even before. Therefore, I am only a  grain of sand in this world and can only do so much for myself as well as to share with others about my life journey. One thing I always keep in mind is that any soldier or gladiator who fought with dignity, pride and courage will always have his honour or reward. I did not win the war against the big giants (employer) but I fought for my life (job) and got a little loot (reward) from it.

I am contented and hence is sharing the story of being the shadow ‘institution’. Moving forward I don’t think being a shadow warrior has much to gain in the long run and perhaps I would slowly, and surely, trained myself to be a soldier of love.

Life’s challenges are aplenty; there are always battles for us to overcome (winning or losing) but as long as we learn from them and keep going, the ‘war’ that is life itself is always for us to take – to live, to work and to play.

A dedication to the labourers of the world

This article comes a day late but it is dedicated to the workers of the world. Labour day in Singapore is on the 1st of May every year. Today is 2nd of May. Anyone who bothers about Labour day, read on.

There is no labour in this world that does not need any physical and mental activities regardless of whether there is machineries involved in the work. There is no work that is not paid for in this present day – slavery is history and should remain so.

Unethical employers and employees aside, for those who are good workers and industrious, and fortunate enough for their work to be recognised and rewarded (with fair assessment and appraisal) by their management can be the most gratifying moment any person can have. For those who are less fortunate, the work may continue but the dissatisfaction will persists – the going gets tougher but the toughness never goes away. What makes up good labour? Does the white-collar worker deserves more recognition than the blue-collar worker? Does the pink-collar worker deserves more scrutiny than any other collar workers simply because in the service industry, good customer service is ever more desirable and critical in the reputation of a company? Does labour always mean unhealthy competition and no deserved recognition from the management?

Labour Day is an annual holiday to celebrate the achievements of workers. Labour Day has its origins in the labour union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest. For anyone who lives in any cosmopolitan city, we all know that eight hours is no longer just  for work, some might not even have eight hours of sleep while others work more so that they can spend more during their recreational hours – recreation does not mean family time though.

It is not that the title of being the employee-of-the-month gives someone the happiness equivalent to that of someone who is awarded the Nobel Prize. It is certainly not the rewards associated with the title, let alone being the Nobel prize winner. For those who feel that recognition is important in one’s work, they understand that each effort and idea made an impact in the company and positive changes can be felt. The recognition makes one feel that he is not just anybody that simply do without thinking or think without doing. If recognition of someone’s work is anything to go, it certainly fulfils the esteem needs of a person while making him/her feel valuable as a person and as a worker. The recognition and achievement are the means but the end is pride, but not conceitedness. It is pride for both the employee and the employer. Pride as defined by Aristotle in his Nicomachean ethics – balanced ambitiousness concerning smaller honour. Workers are not Nobel prize winners and does not have the same social status as the Nobel laureates but they are also humans who value dignity and hard work, and they are certainly not robots or animals that cannot feel (robots) or think (animals). They also do not enjoy the same social status as actors and actresses or those in the creative industry that are recognised for their popularity and successes.

What is labour? I shall define labour to the broader economic sense. Labour is the aggregate of all human physical and mental effort used in creation of goods and services. Labour is a primary factor of production. The size of a nation’s labor force is determined by the size of its adult population, and the extent to which the adults are either working or are prepared to offer their labor for wages.

Physical and mental efforts. There is no labour in this world that does not require any physical and mental activities. This is regardless of the social classes within the society. There is labour that requires mostly physical work and some mental work (construction workers); there is labour that requires moderate physical work and moderate mental work (those in the retail have to stand most times); there is labour that requires some physical work and mostly mental work (scientists and researchers); and there is labour that requires   little or no physical work and mostly mental work (CEOs, politicians and actors). These physical and mental efforts are only considered to be productive when the work is being measured to be of useful output – productivity is the measure of efficiency of a person, machine, factory, system. etc, in producing the same amount of output by using lesser inputs or resources. Productivity is straightforward when measuring physical labour but it isn’t so when it comes to mental efforts. Mental efforts of a machine, factory or system can come from anybody in the structure of the work or system being measured. The CEO of a company overlooks the day-to-day operations but he still reports to the board of directors of the organisation. He is someone who provides mostly mental efforts and no physical labour in the organisation. Labour day is certainly not a tribute to mental efforts alone and has more to do with the origins of the labour union movement which everyone has taken for granted, it seems.

We all agree that labour in the economic sense is the physical and mental efforts used in creation of goods and services. There is hardly any dispute where the definition of productivity is concerned. However when it comes to the recognitions and achievements of the workers, there is always dispute of some form or another. In certain social milieu where the cultural values are deemed as more important than any other definition for ethics and labour (be it labour in creative or productive sense), Labour day doesn’t seem to be a day worth celebrating for those who truly contribute, much less for those who do not deserve the recognitions and achievements of the workers – public holidays is only a day of rest (from labour) and has less or nothing to do with the significance of the public holiday – National Day is not about the celebrating the independence of the nation but a day where the government make additional efforts to highlight the progress and prosperity of the nation; Valentine’s Day is not celebrating the meaning of romance but a day that the cost of roses is highest in the year; and Christmas Day is not a remembrance of the birth of Jesus Christ and him being the son of God but a day for gift exchanges. My birthday is not a public holiday but a celebration of me getting older by a year without being any wiser!

What is the achievement of the workers? From the origins of the labour union movement, the eight-hour work day movement no longer seems to hold true or valid. When a person shows his discontent at work for working more than eight hours, he might be faced with unfriendly management and colleagues. When a person demands recognition at work, he might be seen as showing too much pride that perhaps is not deserving. When a person is being discriminated for doing good work, he might be seen as trying too hard to impress because the cultural values of the workers in the company is one that is slack and not flourishing. As mentioned earlier, unethical employers and employees aside, the achievement of the worker, in the 21st century, with a work schedule of more than eight hours a day, is his ability to master his responsibilities in his job and play a positive role in the function of the company (within and among all the departments). This is my definition of a good employee that deserves the honour of the labour union movement that celebrates Labour Day as a public holiday. This is on top, if not on par, with being what is productive as defined by the employer. Good employees are rare these days but good employers are also of the far and few. With such globalised economy, the educational qualifications of the employers, employees and workers seemed more and more professionally oriented and human goodness less and less of importance. Life seems more narrowly focused on the achievements of persons than the greater good of a society. Ethics are being forsaken at the cost of selfish personal gratification – this is so when someone’s contributions to the company is being deliberately attributed to the success of another simply because the person is not showing respect to the cultural values of the society regardless of the International Declaration of Human Rights. Ethics are not universal in that there isn’t an ISO standard for every human beings to follow a particular set of ethics. People follow ISO standard because there are particular economic benefits and social gains (of acquiring quality goods and services). People are not coerced to follow any religious beliefs or cultural social norms but there are those who discriminate others based on social status, cultural biases and social class.

Labour day is blind to such narrow discriminations but for those employees who know that they are contributing positively or those who are at least good employees (without feeling inappropriate or useless about not contributing positively but nonetheless provide certain positive symbiotic work relationship at the workplace), I feel and think that you are more worthy to live your life than those who scheme and plot to gain an unfair advantage for wealth and glory. And in the true spirit of Labour Day, all workers should take matters in their own hands and discourage those unethical employers or employees who thrived not on merits but selfish connivance.

Know your rights as an employees and employer. Here are two websites that I recently visited personally about my previous employment – Ministry of Manpower (for the Employment Act) and Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (for my unfair dismissal). I seriously wondered how MOM or TAFEP is able to differentiate a true story from a cock and bull one.

Not worth a King’s ransom: A letter to the people of Singapura.

Prosperity, sky-scrapers, luxurious shopping and glorious food. These are the things associated with the vibrant and multicultural place I am born in – Singapore. The Kindgom of Singapura was a small Malay Kingdom back in 1299 that was founded by Sang Nila Utama. Today, in 2014, Singapore is the most expensive city to live in.

By today’s living standard, the people of Singapore enjoys more goods and services than pre-independent Singapore. Singaporeans also enjoy more exposure to world cultures and economic activities. All these are relatively good compared to the earlier 20 years or so. The cost of living survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit may not include local the cost of living by locals but it sure reflect heavily on corporations relocating their employees from overseas with New York as the base of reference. This is a good sign of economic progress but it does not show that Singapore has one of the biggest wealth disparities in the developed world in terms of its Gini coefficient.

Wealth disparity also means social adjustments and interactions. However that is purely up to each individual with their tastes and debonair. What is crucial to me is that this sky-high costs is also a reflection on the kind of investments that the Singapore government is attracting. Manufacturing is slowly and steadily moving away from Singapore. The Jurong Town Corporation that was set up for the industrial estates do not have the same kind of manufacturing activities as before. One major reason is due to the globalisation of the world economy. The other is the very affordable labour cost and relatively low property prices of giant emerging countries like China and India. This results in the high property prices (including rentals) in Singapore.

In terms of economy, the Singa City looks flourishing and buzzing. If we question deeper into the types of economic activities, there are lesser factories and manufacturing companies that are employing huge labour. China do not just have low-cost labour, China also has plenty of land to rent out to investors for their business. Economic activities have a repercussion on the residential property prices. The property prices, labour cost and other goods and services will in turn cause inflation that will also push up the cost of living for the people of Singapore. There is nothing wrong in the ownership of property or having the liquidity to own more than one properties for wealth accumulation. If we keep on satisfying the people’s dream of wealth accumulation and disregard the people’s dream of home ownership (the reason HDB was set up to fulfil the housing problem in post-independence Singapore), it is inevitable that property prices will keep going up and become unsustainable.

Personally Singapore being the most expensive city is not a good sign. It means that the government is attracting different investments and is moving away from the traditional path of manufacturing that allows high employment and low on inflation. Standard of living may have improved due to these investments but the cost of living will continue to increase and the people will find it harder to live and set up families. Having children will even be more difficult and hard when jobs are not secure and people are socially not mingling and integrating with each other. In the longer term, it poses a different kind of challenge socially and economically. Politically I doubt Singaporeans will cause too much unhappiness for the governing body. This is not to say Singaporeans are ignorant. They are as practical as any Asians. The concern for me is if the cost of living keeps increasing for the people and the people are hardly having any good employment that can sustain the aspirations of the people in the long run, the social structure of Singapore will lose its colours and foundations.
Those high net worth individuals that come to Singapore make up only, at best, the top 1%. The 99% of the people still largely depend on stable jobs with relative income and incentives in order to fulfil their basic needs and aspirations. If the upper middle and upper classes of Singapore continue to focus too narrowly and too much on those high-end goods and services and/or high net worth individuals, it does not seem like Singapore is heading in the right direction in terms of employment sustainability and in the long-term growing the population and making up for the low TFR.
My personal life is a very good sign of how these uppity (atas) Singaporean people are separating themselves socially and also how the immigrants from Asia and the rest of the world is adjusting and settling down in Singapore to make Singapore their homes. The immigrants need not know the full history of Singapore (it is only about 50 years of independence anyway), but the people and the immigrants cannot behave as if they are of different worlds or that they are earning a different income as compared to me or my parents. Yes I do have generational gap with my parents, every or any other Singaporeans as well. However what I experienced recently seems to suggest to me that people are getting more and more alienated due to the diversity and is getting more adverse than being friendly towards one another.
If the economy is of any worth to bring together people from all walks of life to live, work and play, it certainly isn’t worth a king’s ransom. Sang Nila Utama may not even chance upon a strange mythical animal and founded his Kingdom of Singapura – the ‘Lion City.’

What does ‘S’ stand for?

I would love to say that ‘S’ stand for ‘Singapore’. However despite being a Singaporean, I am disappointed and dismayed (often also distressed) about being a Singaporean.

‘S’ also stand for many other words or even mean ‘ass hole’ in the derogatory slang of the English language. Sure there are many ass holes around if we care to publicly shamed and disgraced them. When the letter ‘S’ becomes so ingrained in the arrogance, if not ignorance, of this country that begins with the same letter. ‘S’ stands for ‘Singapore’ and ‘Singaporeans’. When ‘S’ has the same synonyms as ‘Singapore’, that can only be the case when arrogance and ignorance really become a pain in the ‘S’ for me.

Let me share with you this story. I did want to share this when I became the President of some big shot bank, but now that it is not possible, I can only share it online with anyone who bothers. ‘S’ stands for ‘Speaker’s Corner’. That was the place I had lunch at during my time as an IT Support staff. ‘S’ stands for ‘speech’, something I always practiced when I am alone, at home or at work. Speaker’s Corner is a public space for any Singaporean to have a speech. It may or may not be political in nature but any speaker would have to apply for a license in order to give speech there. The place was exceptionally filled with buzz during the 2009 Lehman financial crisis when 600 Singaporeans that invested in the Lehman mini bonds gather to discuss about the Lehman financial crisis (which affects the Minibonds) and tried to help each other out. That’s about the only time that the Speaker’s Corner is able to gather anyone at all.

Well, back to my ‘S’say about what ‘S’ stands for. ‘S’ stands for ‘Singapore’ and ‘Singaporeans’ and I certainly tasted their ‘S’ lately. I receive a call from an unknown caller. He wanted me to *unlocked the computer of Mr Soh&Soh (another word with the letter ‘S’). In the beginning, he sounded patient. Then when i managed to pulled the records from the computer for Mr Soh&Soh, the account was not locked. He was holding on the line and speaking to someone in mandarin. I interrupted him and asked him whether he has his old password since it was not locked ,while withholding the information the account was not locked. he replied he does not have the password. I proceed to asked the unknown caller whether he is the user of the computer account (The phone has a caller ID and displayed the name of the user, who is Mr Soh&Soh). Then he started to get impatient with me and raised his voice at me. In addition he questioned me, in a reprimanding tone, whether I can perform the simple task of unlocking the computer. Feeling that I had been challenged, I did not raise my voice or scream at him but replied him in a tone that is not guilty but instead sounded more puzzled. “Could you please calm down sir. I am trying to establish whether you are Mr Soh&Soh.” I asked him in a sangfroid way. He further raised his voice and replied, “I am not Mr Soh&Soh”, “Do I have to call Ms Scary to do this?” For the ignorant public, Ms Scary is the overall in-charge of the IT department. I replied, “If you want to call Ms Scary, please do so.” I also added, “This is not in accordance with the company’s compliance policy and since you are not Mr Soh&Soh, why don’t you login using your username and password.” I was still unable to identify the caller and at the same time, he is trying to access another user’s computer. The next thing I know, the phone got cut off and I hang up the phone feeling unjustified and puzzled. After hanging up, I told myself, “Even if you are the President, you are not allowed to access the computer means that you are not able to access.” I was simply following the company’s compliant policy. Allow me to inform the readers that the IT Support of the industry that I worked in has many secrets which could lead to a breach of trust or any other laws. The caller did not identify himself and at the same time, he was trying to access someone else’s computer by asking me to unlock the computer access for him. Doesn’t that sound strange? Would you have given in under that kind of reprimanding tone and using Ms Scary as a threat?

‘S’ also stand for ‘severity’. On my first day of work at the company, I was told that we only response to severity and not seniority or our superior at work. The caller did not state his reasons to unlock the computer. The caller also did not share with me the severity of unlocking the computer. Up to the point of our conversation (before the phone got mysteriously cut off) I was not able to identify the caller as well as the severity of the issue. However, I was strictly following the company’s compliance and stood up for what I thought is the right thing to do – security of the user’s computer was at stake. In addition I also do not know who Mr Soh&Soh is. For all I know, Mr Soh&Soh could be the CEO or even the Chairman and the caller was trying to access his computer without permission. Am I right to say this?

‘S’ it turns out, the next thing I know, I was summoned to the meeting room and was questioned by Team Lead (TL). Another general information to fill in for the readers, we are contracted staff by the company. I was working in the company for about a month. The company has many secrets and only disseminate information on a ‘need-to-know’ basis. If there was any protocol, I certainly am not aware of it. My TL questioned about my tone. He also reprimanded me for my tone, so I asked him what about my tone? I did not scream at the caller while he was raising his. I also went on to challenge him that questioning my tone leads to questioning my competency which in turn is also question my job as an IT Support staff. The whole discussion was not friendly. Nothing was friendly from my TL ever since day 1. It was as if he knew me before I met him and he had a very deep biased against me. Most of the time, I picked up the work on my own while he never consistently impart the work during my on-the-job training (OJT). Then I found out that the run book which he always asked me to refer to is not perfect. That is ok but he wanted to covered up and at the same time tried to mislead me or even confused me (which perhaps also explain why he never consistently tell me my core responsibilities). I have no prior experience with IT support and I switched from electronics. But I was willing to take up the challenge. The meeting and discussion did not go well. I defended my position and we left the room.

After lunch, the person-in-charge of the company’s outsourced contract came to visit me. He told me of the bad news that I was no longer needed by the company. He then told me the reason – I had offended a top executive from Hong Kong. Yes! The caller turns out to be the Chairman of the company! That explains a lot! That was why I was told to leave (not dismissed) by the company (the contract ended because of mutual agreement). I felt unjust since then. It was last Thursday. I wrote down all the possible reasons of my ‘dismissal’ in my computer journal and even raise it to TAFEP for possibility of discrimination. I was simply doing my job and was ‘dismissed’ because I did my job? To me, there was more than meets the eye. It smells of discrimination from a higher social class.

What does ‘S’ stand for? The management of the company is Singaporean. The company is a multi-national from South Africa. ‘S’ certainly stands for ‘Singapore’, ‘Singaporeans’ and ‘South Africans’. In the hierarchy of the company, the caller is certainly from a higher position as compared to mine. When he asked me to do a simple tasked and I was dismissed, ‘S’ to me would stand for ‘ass hole’ since when I looked up the corporate ladder as I was climbing it, his ‘S’ certainly was right in my face! His dismissal of me shows his flawed character and his biased against someone from a lower social class. This is discrimination and I do hope I get a reply from TAFEP.

This is the story I hope to give in my speech should I become a top executive in the company in the years to come. Well, I guess it will not happen and hence the story is published here instead. If story can make the heart grows bigger, I hope this story will make all ‘ass holes’ think and feel like a human.

Singapore is a Republic but it behaves like a democracy and rules like an oligarchy yet many times it pretends to be a monarchy. If Singapore borderline between tyranny and timocracy, it certainly isn’t so for if it was timocracy, it hardly has any honour and if it was tyranny, it failed to be dictatorial.

‘Singapura, Oh Singapura, sunny island set in the sea’…for those who had visited Singapore before, the sunny island surely makes the place tropical and filled with buzz. I do not know anyone had described Singapore as ‘Sexy’ but should the day come, I do hope the ‘sexiness’ does not refer to the ‘ass holes’ I have written in my blog. Right now ‘S’ certainly stands for ‘sordid’, for yours truly.

*Note: As an IT Support, unlocking a computer means that the user is unable to access (login) to his computer because the account was locked.

A tricky but necessary love.

There is conditional love and unconditional love.

When there is money involve the love is more conditional than unconditional.

Personally knowledge and wisdom is regardless of wealth. And when we have the knowledge and wisdom to love, wealth becomes an intermediate good.

Where the economy is concerned, in the exchange of goods and services, it cannot be unconditional love. If it is unconditional, no one will ever need to repay the loan or money borrowed. In this case, there will not be growth. When there is no growth, there is no economy.

Unconditional love happens between two lovers, ideally. Because it is about love more than anything else, the gifts involved between two lovers are unconditional. This include the gift of sex from the female and, from the male, the gift of life (protection and sacrifice). When the love results in the labour of love, the unconditional love extends to the children when they are young. In the growing up years, this unconditional love is most noticeable when the children are young and helpless, thus needed more attention and love. It is the duty of the parents to protect and educate the young till they reach maturity (mentally mature with right knowledge of social, economy and politics) as well as adulthood. When the child reaches adulthood, he/she would then be able to understand the same unconditional love from their parents when they become parents. Before they are parents and had become an adult, the child would have to provide love (conditional to friends and relatives and unconditional to parents and some other worthy parties) to the society. In this process of loving, the child would love, through trial and error, and also to receive love from others in the social milieu. Such a process would also involved getting hurt and betrayed until perhaps the child is emotionally drained. If the child is fortunate, the parents would continue to provide the same unconditional love and some lucky ones will receive other unconditional love from friends and relatives. This helped the child to heal emotionally and regain confidence in the idea of love and loving.

Of course this process is ideal only when the child receive appropriate and correct knowledge from a reliable source, I.e, a beacon latching unto the wise and knowledgable parents until the day the child is able to become an independent adult with the mental capacity for intellectual and moral virtues plus the knowledge and art of loving.

This is a remarkable journey and experience that only humans are able to endeavour and live. This journey is unique to each living person and it is truly a tricky but necessary life; a life filled with the ups and downs of loving – loving ourselves and others.

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The sun shines and life flourishes.

From my life in Singapore, my *book aside, the conventional wisdom is old is wise, people who have high social status is wise, people who have accumulated wealth is wise, people who worked for all the above mentioned are wise. People who have religion and goes to churches, temples and mosques are wise and ethical.

People who are rich and brand conscious are looked up upon.

Wisdom seem so relative and social values seem so superficial that most assess you by your family backgrounds, professions, the 5Cs (cars, credit cards, condominiums, country club and cash) as well as the types of friends you have.

Few really dig deeper into such superficialities that intrigued the curiosities and self-esteemed more than the quality and ethical worth of these high-flyers.

It is something that I have grown to deal with, albeit with much weariness after some time as well as not having my own private sanctuary to heal and recuperate from most hypocrisies.

Even being at home and facing my parents have a different set of comprehension and communication problems that only the same family members share. I do not share such problems with friends and most times when I perceived them to be of the typical kiasi, kiasu and kiabo mentality, I would rather feed on their egos and esteemed, without being superficial or hypocritical (normally I will tell them you are better off than me; but deep down I say to myself I can live without them and I am better off not being friends with you).

I mentioned in my book that though I had learn most things myself and understand the behaviour and cultures of others, I had never wanted to tell them the difference or to make them more liberal. I can only pitched the book that way and write it to allow others to understand me better. I believe I achieve none but happy that I managed to get it published and shared it with the her.

My mother, a baby-boomer generation with no education is very ignorant of most things but the culture with its conventional wisdom overwhelms my intellectual virtues. I can accept that and did not bother to further explain myself most times because I did that and most have short memories. In addition, with no wealth and influential friends, there isn’t much that others will look up to me. Being respected (having a deep admiration), to me, is not about wealth, social status or the 5Cs. It is also not about having confidence to express yourself in songs and poems. To a lesser extend it is also not about the inborn beauty that one possessed. After encountering with Aristotle ethics, I had associate wisdom with the sophia that Aristotle preached. The wisdom (or sophia) that involves both intellectual virtues and moral ones.

My encounter with Buddhism during my teenage years provides me with the value of compassion to at least respect (due regard for) others as a human being, regardless of race, language and religion.

My outlook of my life changes according to my exposure of western philosophy and liberal arts. My personality, perhaps due to my single parent family background, made me take things easy but also having the ambition and self motivation to achieve things that I aimed for in my life. I had my disappointments as well as my triumphs (though not rewarding in the sense of recognition and prestige – I did have a GESS school colors award). I do meet many obstacles and challenges in life and also having the adventurous attitude to experiment with substances. And my smoking habits is something that most in society frown upon, however most of my former girlfriends graciously put up with it.

One thing that I definitely take pride in is that making mistakes and learning from them is not to be ashamed of when I accept them and admit honestly to others. The prize of all these life lessons is wisdom and with the hard work of self study, the knowledge acquired through reading complement those life lessons that my parents cannot offer me. Understanding that the mistakes I made made me a better person through acceptance of them and to those that I concede my defeats I continue to thread through life with dignity and integrity.

Now that I understand that life is a journey that I constantly arrives at different destinations, it makes me poignant and occasionally bittersweet to revisit each destination and also to explore the uncertain future. Most of all, it gives me great courage and finesse to discover and continue to learn, by myself and also with the wealth of knowledge of the family.

It will be a pleasure and a great honor to taste the fruits of a heritage and distinguished culture. It will also be gratifying and enriching to go through the setbacks and hard challenges with the family.

The sun does not shine on just one family-tree but the sun always rises from the east; the dawn will be where the laughters and euphorias are.

*my book is a result of my experiences and life encounters.

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My fears

I fear that people are always misunderstood me despite the snooping.

I fear I am being manipulated by their narrow and shallow perceptions.

I fear I am not contributing productively to my environment.

I fear I am not worthy of the things I wrote in my book.

I fear my worst enemy within myself will overtake me and make me a bastard.

Is that what everyone wants to know? There you go. I am a loser, weak and no one likes me.