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.