Monday, May 30, 2011

心跳

五月前后的两个星期里,让我见证了奇观。

往体育馆的路上,一队又一队的人,井然有序地移动着。并不是一场演唱会,也没亮眼的星星,却让这些人,在忙碌了一天后,脚步坚定不误地从岛国各处蜂拥至此。

原来群众大会就是这么一回事。

馆内座无虚席,跑道上、草地上都站满了人。附近的组屋走廊上也都是黑压压的人头。没有座椅,更没有食物供应。有人席地而坐,但大部分的人只能站立着,一站就是几个小时。也有些莫名其妙的阿姨全副武装上阵,坐在凳子上、扇着风,却在群众里大声地与身边人高声地话家常;也有人正扒着饭盒、有的热出了一身汗、有的站累了又坐,休息了又站起;可以站在泥浆里、也能撑着伞……目的各异地现身参与大会。

毫无金钱的驱使竟能驱动数以千、万计的人。长期以来,浑然不知五年一度的这般奇观的存在。与群众站在一起,我开始听到国人的呼吸声。原来新闻、报章未必能让人增广见闻,反让自己成了井底之蛙。

台上的演讲者各出奇招。只有货比货过后,才知台上的心跳声,不管距离,台下的人是听得一清二楚的。关爱的词藻,说得再激昂,缺了心跳,也只是破绽百出。一个人的热情、谦诚是能透过言语、举止感受到的,以至一名十二岁的小孩还从此决定发奋图强。

让自己的信念触动他人,然后延伸下去,这就是启发的能力。不是恐吓、物质诱惑、愚弄所能及的。也唯有发自内心,才能发出的一种真正力量。

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Doors are closing!!

It was trivial but it reveals a lot of our mentality.

On the mrt train on a busy weekend.

When the warning bell came on, passengers inside the mrt car were still alighting in an orderly manner, boarding passengers were waiting cooperatively on the platform. Then the voice of the driver came blasting: Doors are closing! Doors are closing!

At that point, not all the passengers had even got off yet, not to mention the waiting crowd.

And the doors shut soon after the driver issued the warning. So passengers outside the car have to scurry into the car frantically because the doors were shutting right on them!

It happened at all the busy stations and the driver refused to wait for the influx and outflow of passengers to take place smoothly and he would sound his impatience through the speakers: Doors are closing! Doors are closing!

So we have comfortable and modern-looking MRT where doors are allowed to open only for a few but precious seconds before the warning bell of closing doors are sounded irregardless of the number of passengers, stations and situations, the exchange of passengers has to follow the “human rules”.

Even on a Saturday afternoon? No surprise at all to see a lot of passengers alighting and boarding. Still all that movement is expected to take place in a speed of lightning. Too bad for mothers with prams, senior citizens or people who simply need extra time to board and alight. You deserve what you get for not cooperating with the “rules”.

We have a well-trained MRT system obeying strictly the length of time it enters and leaves the station in order to achieve designated efficiency. Apparently, that seems to be the only function that it serves. Even if only a handful of passengers managed to get off during that few seconds of grace. Matters even less for the safety and comfort of passengers. You will only have yourself to blame if you are slow!

The function of the MRT perhaps is not to transport commuters? Therefore, explaining the situations where the software, ie. the people who operate it, refuse to maximize the use of the hardware to suit situations and adapt it to the needs of users?

Not that I am irate with this particular driver. It is his mentality and that such is not uncommon which is unsettling. Often, we “deified” our hardware. Using their glittering existence to symbolize the pace of our development and then puts a full stop to the whole thing. NEVER challenging the practicality of the hardware or investigating the needs of users. To the extreme, users are then expected to adapt to the hardware rather than having hardware build for them.

This trivia matters because we keep seeing such mentality higher up in the hierarchy where the impact of such mentality hits hard on the ground, throughout our country where its people will be the last thing that ever come into the minds of policy-makers.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A leaf from Chen Show Mao's notes

http://www.facebook.com/notes.php?id=150220718376530

Thoughtful perceptions and observations. Taken from the notes of his facebook, below are some of the accounts of his thoughts:


by Chen Show Mao on Friday, May 20, 2011 at 1:08am

Just got home from an evening of meetings at the Hougang Town Council. I went to see the eye doctor for a routine check-up before the meetings began and was waylaid by a huge advertisement in Tang's shop window. The words "local fashion" and "Singaporean designers" caught my eye. I went inside and learnt a few things about Singapore-grown labels such as Chalk, Elohim, hansel, OwnMuse, Peter Kor, Saturday, Thomas Wee and Yumumu.

The clothes did indeed feel more Singaporean to me, more friendly and familiar. It may just be the liberal use of tropical colors, light materials, halter tops and the sleeveless look -- what do I know. The thought occurred to me that even in fashion where individuality is particularly prized, there can be such as a thing as Singaporean sensibilities. It was a cheerful thought -- that we indeed have things in common -- making our future seem brighter to me.



Happy Vesak Day.

Buddhism's past has always reminded me of Singapore's possibilities.

How Buddhism spread from India to China (with the help of indefatigable men of faith from both sides of the Himalayas, including Dharmaraka, Kasyapa MatangaKumarajiva and a Tang-dynasty monk also named Chen who became well-known to generations of Chinese children as Monkey's master in Journey to the West). How it affected deeply the development of the Chinese civilization and was itself affected in the process. How the fruitful cross-pollination gave China Rationalist Confucianism and the world Zen Buddhism, among other things.

We live side by side on this small island, separated in some cases by race, language or religion . Learning about and learning from one another appears to me so much more within our reach than for other peoples at other places or at other times, that it seems a shame if we didn't do more of it.



Walking about

by Chen Show Mao on Monday, May 16, 2011 at 2:07am

After getting cash from an ATM and top-up for my mobile phone (the two most common types of refills I make these days), I spent most of the day walking around the Paya Lebar division of Aljunied GRC, with friends who joined me for different parts of the day or evening. See photos just uploaded.

We chanced upon happy events and sad ones.

At a birthday party for their six-year-old host, little children learned how to take aim at the pinata without hurting their friends, and how to scramble for the candy but share the loot with those too young or poorly-positioned to get even one or two. Life lessons, no?

At a wake on a void deck, I was glad that I could deliver my condolences in person, but did not feel that I should stay long, since I was in T-shirt and jeans.

Around the corner, a friendly young man said hi. As it turned out, his group of volunteers was taking an elderly resident to dinner. She was as happy as could be.

How much we see just by taking a little walk.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

畏与佩

前任英国首相布朗有这样的习惯(注:并非在大选前而已):亲自致电给写信给他的人。有一回,他还在电话中为了英军驻扎伊拉克事件而向一位市民道歉。

此举发生在英国民主制度里,却没被当地媒体视为纡尊降贵。

平民,在任何的政治体系下,往往沦为一堆没有脸孔的数据。布朗的这一个小举动,突然让一堆数据变成了一个活生生的人。对我这个长期生活在数据底下的狮城平民而言,尤为稀奇。

视民众为数据,是一种纯理性的角度,决策时也必然会从数据的角度来计算政策的效度。长期以来,我们也都习惯透过数据,如国内生产总值、就业机会、住屋的单位、翻新、考试成绩等的数字,来判定自己的价值,以及衡量身边的人。从来都不疑有他。

2011年的群众大会上,有人提醒了我们,作为人的价值。除了物质的价值,我们更需要价值观来导向我们的家园。没错,我们并不是狗。我首次听到有人呼吁我们,想想其他比我们不幸的同胞;我首次看到,当一个人以民为本作为指南时,如何无怨无悔地走上了27年坎坷的政治道路。

狮城某位高人分享日本人的智慧:掌控民众的衣、食和医药,就能操控他们。是的,民众会乖乖就范。于是,人人为了这些物质而敬高人。

可是,只有触动人心才能让人敬。一旦触动了,就能启发个人的自觉性。这是一种正面、能延伸的感染力,绝不是敬畏所能等同的。

无所感了那么多年。还好,今年的群众大会上,我深切地体会到了何谓敬佩。

也谈心

2011年狮城大选结束了。

让我想起,英国人醉心于大英帝国殖民地时代的贡献,便是他们所谓的民主制度,还有他们的语言。前者推翻了远东地区的独裁统治,给当地人民带来了话语权;后者为整个地区制造了共同语,更让多元语言的印度团结起来。他们如此相信。

这个看法固然有待商议,可是,2011本地竞选活动后,却让我看到了,纵使不可一世,英国人心里面仍然有文化这回事。不管是民主制度或英语,都被诠释为他们民族文化的成品。值得注意的是,在这个文化自豪感中,英国人心里面其实也挂记着自己以外的英国同胞。

因为文化绝对不可能是一个人的事。那是一大群人的不约而同,并在时间的调和下,提炼出来的。

法国某座汽车天桥落成时,在野的英国人看到的是该座桥背后的智慧。因为那是出自于英国工程师之手。不假思索地,他们归功于他们自己民族的教育、社会、政治体系。支撑这些体系的是文化上的力量。是在野的,是人的因素优化了体系。而这人/文化的因素,也就自然而然地涵盖了所有的英国同胞,而不是一小撮人,更不可能是政治力量。

纵然这份自豪感有时让人不敢恭维,却所流露了某种心意。就是那份包含所有英国人,甚至是不仅是一代英国人的心意。拥有功绩时,他们赋予在野上下的英国同胞参与权,归功的不是英国政府、更不是某个执政党、也绝对不可能让某个人独揽。

这样的心,对一味把建国功绩归功于自己的狮城政客而言,是否过于抽象?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

They call this town a slum

This is Potong Pasir, one of the many constituents in this island, notoriously or famously known depending on which perspective, the longest-standing constituent that stubbornly voted to remain under the alternative party helmed by Mr. Chiam See Tong.

It used to be labelled by many ministers and people as "slum", likewise for the other constituent that is not under the current political party. And the term "slum" becomes forever associated with any constituents that are not mandated by the ruling party.

Both the town and Mr. Chiam endured two long decades of insults and jeers from ministers for the state that it was in, for the only sin that the residents of this town had committed--for voting the alternative party as their voice.

Mr. Chiam served his constituent with many constraints imposed by the ruling party--so much so that he could not plant a tree in his own constituent on Planting Tree Day and was demanded to remove it; so much so that he has to set up his make-shift office at the void deck of a hdb flat to conduct his weekly meet-the-people-sessions--a table and a foldable partition. No air-con, no toilet, no dignity of a MP elected by THE PEOPLE.

2011, Potong Pasir fell at last, to the hands of the ruling party. Whatever much Mr. Chiam had dedicated to his town in the last two decades were dwarfed by the materialistic offers dangled by the ruling party--upgrading, lift upgrading, sheltered walkways. We need infrastructure nonetheless, but as well as, if not, more importantly, an architecture of happiness. The latter could only be stemmed from the heart.

And so, goodbye, Potong Pasir.
















The distinctive architecture of a block of flat.
















On the facade, the term "slum" doesn't seem to hold any water. But there again, maybe this is still not sufficient for some.















Can’t really tell that this is an area of slum by looking at this void deck. I've seen worse in my estate.








Found on every notice board at every block of flat that gives clear information of the meet-the-people session. Gave me the relevation that this is something to be expected for every constituent and it is missing from my void deck notice board for at least 10 years. Wonder if Mr. Khaw would provide such info after he got over his fatigue of walkabout and blisters.

















































A very relaxing feel. Surprised to chance upon such in a slum.




























The fall of this town built with spirit and heart is a reflection for

Singaporeans as well as for the Singapore People's Party in what we define as “home”.
















Pockets of crowds waiting at various parts of the estate for the Chiams to thank the voters.
















When they finally arrived, crowds just flocked towards the truck with cameras, tears and well-wishes.


And an old man holding on to Mr. Chiam's hand tenaciously, evidencing the kind of quality that Mr. Chiam has left behind Potong Pasir that cannot simply be nurtured through sheltered walkways or lift upgradings.























































An entourage of people and cars. Reluctant crowds simply trailed behind the truck. I gave chase too, along the road and all the way into the carpark on the other side of the road. And I have never for ONCE see any point to spend my time or effort to turn up for any celebrity event, not to mention chasing after a celebrity. What's the point? I would ask myself. But that day, 8th of May, I did. All because I wanted to thank him for doing all that for Singaporeans.














Some cars sounded the horns while trailing after the Chiams and stubborn crowds chanting the names of the Chiams.















A heart-wrenching sight. This is where Mr. Chiam’s office used to be. 27 years. A partition locked to a wall. Only when the partition is pulled out will then present the full state of an “office” for a MEMBER of the PARLIAMENT of SINGAPORE. That is why we are still a third world country.
















Fencing up Potong Pasir. The field which held many SPP rallies is now fenced up for some reason.
The rallies would forever etch in my heart as it was the first time that I witness what kind of track record Mr. Chiam has left behind. A quality that touches the heart of the residents that could neither be fenced up or bulldozed over.

So again, goodbye, Potong Pasir.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Chasing the Shooting Star


No doubt, Mr. Chiam See Tong is the star. As in the logo of a shooting star for the political party that he stands for.

He stood, but his body wouldn't allow him to stand upright anymore. He spoke, but his voice couldn't let him speak as clearly as he would have wanted to. His words are simple and his voice soft. But the crowd simply roars whenever he comes on stage or whenever he speaks. A tiny little man, slightly hunched and needing assistance to get up the platform, standing at the age of 76, he is still using his remaining strength to pursue his shooting star.

To witness the crowds at his rally and the love that they hold for him is a good track record that he has proven himself with the 27 years of his time that he has dedicated. The presence of the spontaneous cheering crowd, the outpour of admiration and respect demonstrated by the crowds at his rallies, could be nothing else but a reciprocal of his love for the people. And a love that was put forth through actions and through time. Even if you don't know him or what he has done, at the sight of his fan craze crowds, you will know that he is a person who has touched the hearts of people.

And now behaving like a celebrity fan, chasing one political rally from another, chasing after the chances to catch a glimpse of the stars at the rallies. For the first time, I could feel that some of these candidates are stars. Stars who are ordinary people.

I've seen many stars this GE 2011, courageous people who stepped out of their comfort zones, staking their reputation, future, career and finance status to answer to the political call by standing in the opposite camp to the long-ruling political party. Afterall, politics is a highly-dangerous game here.

Among the cluster of stars, there is this star--Mr. Chiam See Tong. The long-standing member of the Cabinet from the oppositional team. Spent more than 25 years of his life living and fighting gently for the belief and principle that he holds against all the adversities of being the alternative voice, of choosing to uphold his values, of bringing the best. Living through the ridicules heaped upon him from members of the ruling party in the Cabinet, constrains imposed for serving his constituent, still, he stands steadfast and did not fall. Amidst the humiliations and injustice that he has to endure, he did not once mouth one rude word or complaint to those who trod on him. And that is the size of his heart.

Treading on a path that is less than smooth and straightforward, belief, principle and compassion have to be exceptionally strong to carry one through the odds. There were others who have fallen in the course of pursuit.

Looking at him, a sense of shame overwhelmed me. That he, at the age of 76 and in a state of frail health, has to insist in standing for this election to pave the way for a better future for us. (There are only 2 MPs from the opposition/alternative team out of the 84 seats in Parliament)

He is the shooting star. And the most impressive of all, he loves us all--for who we are and for all our weaknesses and misdeeds.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Touched



Pragmatic as we are, or aka kiasu, the time/occasions that catches our attention, worthwhile to consume our time and effort are therefore closely associated with monetary returns or tangible things. So we see huge queues or crowds at private property sales, we see a frantic push at great sales or freebies give out, we see crowds mobbing internationally-famed celebrities.....

We are bilingual but only highly-proficient in one language, which is, MONEY. And our understanding of human rights, morals, morale or human relations can only be translated into monetary figures, such as no. of jobs, GDP, size of abode, the makes of luxury goods.


But the huge turnout of the rallies for GE2011, or the way the turnout is, is impressive and touching. It was almost like the National Day celebration when people from all corners coming together to celebrate our nation's birthday. But no. There are no spectacular stunts or fireworks or performance or an atmosphere of celebration, no freebies especially, to feast the eyes or to quench the thirst of glory at rallies.

There weren’t even proper places to sit, to start off with. People stood for hours at the rallies, young, middled-aged and old alike. Some old folks couldn’t take it would take a respite by sitting down before standing up to join in again. The flesh might be weak but.

So there are people, and we are not as apathetic as we thought we are, who value intangible assets in life afterall, in this economic and money-driven island.

It was on the fields of these rallies, in the hot humid nights or drizzling rain or lightning flashes, that I heard our voices, clear and loud, collectively. The togetherness brought us closer, gave us the comfort and the courage to believe the better of our fellowmen, to give us the compassion to care for the less fortunate and for our forgotten forefathers who have anonymously toiled and sweat for us in the course of nation-building. Politicians are not the only ones who are involved in our nation building. And there are others who have made sacrifices in terms of lives, reputation, wealth and phsyical liberty to contribute towards the better of a society too. Nation building is not only about the no. of skyscrapers that one has constructed. Certainly, the quality of a nation and its peoples are not detonated in purely physical terms.

When the rally came to an end, there was still a lingering feel in the air. People walked pass me towards the exit in an orderly manner. I couldn’t believe that these are the faces of apathy. At the exit, a small crowd gathered to purchase the newsletters of the political party or to make donations.

Crowds that poured out of the stadium spouted in all directions. They swarmed across the walkways, grass and roads. Traffic halted for the mobs to make their way home or mrt stations. Not one car horned at the crowd, knowing how impatient we are, that was phenomenal to me, listening to the silence of the motorists.

And it was this peculiar silence of the motorists and the crowds, especially after the uproar at the rally sites, that is indeed deafening.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A Special Party

For the first time, the feeling is akin to chasing celebrities. My heart is palpitating wildly at the thought of the possibility of getting close up with the candidates for the coming election. And the event itself was comparable to a concert or a soccer match. Audience was equipped with cameras and flags; audience gave lots of cheers and applause throughout.

But it was only a rally, an opposition rally too. As General election 2011 is round the corner.

For the next seven days, every day, leading up to the Election Day, rallies are held at different sites each night to woo the voters.

My very first attendance to a rally at Serangoon stadium is a Workers’ Party rally and the star of the night for me is definitely Chen Show Mao.

But what opened my eyes was the size of the crowds present and the rare solidarity demonstrated by the citizens of this island-nation. Nearing to the starting time of the rally, traffic surrounding the stadium already came to a standstill as many cars were heading towards the stadium—venue of the rally. And crowds after crowds, from all directions, thronged towards the direction of the stadium. No free transport provided. Some people were seen munching their dinner on their way to the site as some just came from after work. For a while, I thought I was in the UK at a time when there was a football match where supporters were matching faithfully to support their team with cheers.

What could be the draw of such magnitude? As if they were heading for a grand party of fun or celebration or catching a brief glimpse of some internationally famed celebrities. And amazingly, people on their own accord, from all corners of this island, poured into the stadium to listen to what these candidates, of the opposition team, standing in the field for three solid hours of their precious time on a weekday after work.

At such sight, I am wishful. Maybe that might be a chance that we can get to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
video