The Dark Shadow Shrine

If u think u need extra coaching in General Paper/English/Literature at the 'O'/'A'/International Baccalaureate level, the gates of my shrine are always open.....Drop me a note at or wadsapp me at 91384570 for more Singapore only hor.... :-)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Limiting Individual Rights....

A useful quote by LKY on how limiting some of our basic rights actually brought us to where we are today:

Qn: How far should the state be allowed to limit individual's rights when security is at stake?

This is from the exhibition at the National Arts Science Museum
at Marina Bay Sands...Admission is free, but ends this
coming Sunday 4 Oct.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Indonesia does not need to apologise to neighbours over haze

Click HERE
This is an excerpt of the Chinese article I put up (last week?) on the controversial comments of senior national leaders in Indonesia over the haze shrouding Singapore and Malaysia...
Such comments reflect the mentality and attitude of (not all, but some, and hopefully, just a few) national leaders in our neighbouring countries, showing how diplomatic ties can be fragile and can rupture if the political figure in power is someone who holds antagonistic feelings towards us....Luckily the current Indo President Jokowi seems to be more cordial towards us.

Perhaps one main reason the haze problem has failed to be rooted out after all these years is the lack of political will at the upper echelons of Indonesia's govt. The comments in the above link seem to suggest that it is not a pressing issue for them, perhaps since the haze does not drift to Jakarta, where all the powerful and influential and rich pple are located..... 

Qn: To what extent is the development of a country affected by geographical factors? (SRJC Prelim 2015)

In China, online retail spells death of malls

Click HERE
Interesting phenomenon about how technology (online shopping) is causing brick-and-mortar shops in the real world to disappear....Convenience for shoppers? Cheaper for businesses? (no need to pay for rental).....but loss of jobs for those in the sales line? or would it create an crease in demand for jobs in the delivery sector?
But would u buy a car online? So does the nature of the products matter?

In Singapore, you want to know that HMV just closed (or is it is going to close?) its final store at Somerset 313 recently. Music is so readily available online (whether on sale or pirated) that we don't need to go to a shop to purchase the CDs anymore. What about bookstores now that we have and e-books online?

Shop for a Cause

Click HERE
Given the earlier two posts on ethical consumerism, let's now come to ethical business, or what is also termed as eco-business or 'business with a conscience'.
Associated concepts are social enterprises, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and the Fairtrade scheme and movement.

In the face of rising ethical consumerism, businesses that wants more profits or attract more customers are under pressure to cater to the customers' wants, and hence go green....But if consumers are not ethical, all the more should businesses go green to educate and influence consumers to go green, either by giving them the option to do o, or even to the extent of denying them non-green options (also termed choice-editing). Think how certain supermarkets or hotel restaurants have chosen to take shark's fin off their menu. It's about their duty to the environment, as the long term fate of businesses (i.e. sustainability) is tied to the fate of Mother Nature as well....hence what is seen as altruistic is actually self-serving in a way, or a more conciliatory way to look at it is -- win-win situation.

Socially responsible businesses nowadays now aim for the 'Triple P' bottomline : Profits, People and Planet. Planet of coz refers to Mother Nature. As for People, it refers to consumers and producers/farmers/workers. This means that businesses try to ensure the well-being of consumes (no unhealthy stuff in the products) as well as those of workers (no exploitation, employ discriminated people like single parents, ex-convicts, handicapped, etc)

Qn: Should profits be the sole aim when it comes to doing business?

Exercise consumer power to fight the haze

Click HERE
Like the previous post, this article is useful for qns on ethical consumerism.
Consumers have the power to influence business directions through their wallet at the cashier, just as they can influence political directions and govt decisions by voting at the ballot box during elections.
There is thus this suggestion that we should boycott products associated with errant companies who are responsible for burning the forests that gave us the haze. Hit them where it hurts most -- their profit margins.
But like the previous post on the Volkswagon scandal, sometimes firms can lie; or the labels that claim that a product is environmentally-friendly may actually not be so -- either because it's a case of lying (green-washing') or a case of loopholes in the labelling administration. PSPO-certified (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) palm oil products are supposed to be ok, but as mentioned in the link above, it has been found that  "fires have since been found on the land of some of those who supply palm oil to the RSPO members."

Interesting expression:
"those responsible are morphing and adapting, so we need to morph and adapt our strategies."

About the need to constantly re-invent new solutions as the problems are constantly altering their nature too to outsmart the solutions in place to combat them.....recall the Chinese proverb about 'dao4 gao1 yi4 chi3, mo2 gao1 yi2 zhang4 (as the forces of good take one step forward, the forces of evil will also be raised by a notch). So if we are complacent and not careful, it will be a cat and mouse game where the mouse is forever elusive and on the catch the mouse, we need to be two steps ahead of it, i.e. outpace it. See this in the context of terrorism, mutation of bacteria in the face of anti-biotics, creation of superweeds and superbugs in GM technology, and other associated solutions offered by technology to tackle the problems we face.....

VW scandal hits half a dozen models sold in S'pore

Click HERE
This latest volkswagon scandal is useful for qns on ethical consumerism and environmental issues....
The 'clean diesel' technology is supposed to be environmental-friendly by cutting carbon emissions, and consumers are encouraged to buy such cars due to govt rebates. All seems lovey-dovey -- until we realise that it is all a hoax.
VW has created a big lie and dupe us all. It's so-called clean-diesel the is anything but that. A computer software merely gives the impression that it's clean when in fact, it's highly polluting...brings to mind how the melamine in Sanlu milk powder gives the impression that it's rich in protein when in actual fact, the melamine can -- and have -- kill us!
What VW is doing is tantamount to 'green-washing' their product a 'green' coating so that more people will buy them as they know that people now are more environmentally-conscious and would like to consumer ethically, even if it means paying a bit more, esp in this case where the S'pore govt actually gives a generous rebates of up to $10K for green cars!

1) To what extent is it desire\able to have limits imposed on scientific research?
2) Should profit be the sole objective when it comes to doing business?
3) getting what one wants in life is what matters. Discuss. (Cam. 2014)
4) To what extent can the regulation of scientific and technological developemnts be justified? (Cam. 2015)

New Aussie defence minister's quiet rise

Click HERE
After Julia Gillard we now have another female heavyweight on the Aussie political scene --Marise Payne. And unlike Grace Fu in Singapore's cabinet, Ms Payne is put in charge of an important portfolio  -- defence, something usually overseen by men.
Note also ow the media is quick to dig out all the 'dirt' and controversies about her, esp those in her private life. She is labelled a 'cougar' (a term about older women 'preying' on younger men in a sexual relationship). Think successful women being vilified. Her predecessors have also suffered a similar fate, whether in Australia or elsewhere. When successful women are at the top, they are often under the intense scrutiny of the media; this is not to say that men are spared from this, but women get this 'privilege' more. They are a rarer species at the top, so they induce more interest, no to mention envy and even hatred. Every step by them is watched closely, and once they stumble or miss the step, the media will swoop in for the kill, like a bunch of hyenas or vampires! The prejudiced notion that women have no place being there means that they are held up against a higher benchmark and face harsher criticisms should they fail, and the media is less forgiving towards women then it would be over a similar mistake made by men. For a greater understanding of this, go HERE.
For that better, Obama can also be said to be under greater scrutiny and judgement by the media as he is also considered a 'rare' species at the top, being the first Black President of the US.

Qn: 'There has never been a better time than now to be a woman.' Comment. (SRJC Prelim 2015)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Filipino gets four months' jail for inflammatory posts

Click HERE

A recent example of inflammatory posts online that can get the person into trouble with the law...think Sedition Act and Racial Harmony Act. 'Predecessors' of this Filipino includes Amy Cheong and Anton Casey....all lost their jobs and fled to Australia in shame, but this Filipino got to face the jail sentence first.....Earlier on got this case of the TRS (The Real Singapore) website that got into trouble too for fanning xenophobic tendencies....apparently, the newspaper reported that they are now selling ramen in NUS!!!
Bring in the tyranny of minority and filter bubble argument if u can...The Filipino's views gives us the impression that all Filipinos are like this, and this triggered a backlash online from Singaporeans against Filipinos ...BUT the larger Filipinos in Singapore in the REAL world are NOT like that....and the backlash campaign by Singaporeans online do NOT represent the majority of Singaporean's attitude towards the Filipinos here....

For those who had just done the 2007 TJC Compre AQ on Freedom of Speech and the media, look at this Filipino case in the context of how the freedom of speech exercised by the Filipino online to say nasty things online can trigger the other netizens (in this case, Singaporeans) to exercise their freedom of speech also to attack the Filpino...The net result is chaos on both sides, and there are no winners....

Qn: Do you agree that social media has given rise to a more divided world? (TJC Prelim 2015) 

Popping the Filter Bubble....

Click HERE
Remember my previous post on the 'spiral of silence' as a reason why the virtual world misrepresents the real world?
There's actually another reason for this misrepresentation  -- a reason I have mentioned countless times every time I talked about the operating mechanism behind the internet.....On the internet, we often gravitate to those information sites that are in accordance with our values and preferences. For example, if you are pro-PAP, it is unlikely that you will want to go to Opposition websites...end result, your perception of the real world is confined to only the pro-PAP kind of info; in short, you will watch the world through pro-PAP tinted lenses, and only see the world the way PAP wants you to see it.....Hence, all these promises about the internet widening our perspectives, being able to influence our mindset (whether positively or negatively) are in a sense over-exaggerations....ISIS able to recruit members online? perhaps, but only if we want to go to their sites and be influenced and then get recruited.....if we don't even want to go there in the first place, their presence online will have little or no effect on us....
Apparently, there's a term for all these : FILTER BUBBLE.
Other than the silence of the majority or the tyranny of the minority online(via echo-chamber effect), it is this filter bubble phenomenon online that is distorting our perception of the real world out there beyond the computer screen..

Excerpt from link:
Basically, filter bubbles are created when algorithms on websites such as Facebook and Google try to personalise the Internet experience for users.
The algorithms analyse information about a user, such as what he likes to click on to read or watch and the friends he tends to follow the closest. They then serve only news articles, postings or videos that is their best guess of what the user might like to see.
As a result, the user starts to become separated from any information that he disagrees with. He sees only the information and viewpoints that he likes, effectively isolating him in his own cultural or ideological bubble.
In other words, the Internet is no longer that neutral source of information that many thought it was. "The Internet is showing you what it thinks you should be seeing, instead of what you should be seeing," says Pariser.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg put it more starkly:
"A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa."

So there you go, for those who have been doing the SPOT&POP exercise, note that t's also crucial to pop that filter bubble blinding you to the real world out there.....

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Tyranny of the minority vs the silence of the majority

I'm refreshing an old link on new media that goes very well with this idea of how the virtual world does not give us accurate picture of the real world -- a phenomenon I have discussed in a recent post on the election where PAP won a landslide victory....Click to read on: spiral of silence

In a nutshell, two concepts at work here on social media: tyranny of the  minority and the silence of the majority.
In the recent election, however, we witnessed what has been termed in the papers as 'the roar of the majority' that precipitated a national vote swing towards the ruling party, dealing the opposition a crushing defeat.....

Let's discuss this if we meet again for those who are keen.....

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

7 Letters the Movie -- again!

Article 1: swimming-dry-eyed-in-nostalgia
Article 2: MDA-deserves-a-bouquet-for-taking-a-risk-with-7-letters

Insightful musings about nostalgia, esp in linking it to patriotism:
Recent studies show that by revisiting cherished memories, individuals are reminded that their life is part of a larger narrative and this enhances feelings of belonging.
Research findings also point to how yearning for a time gone by lets individuals locate meaning in the past and consequently, the present. This in turn helps them ward off bouts of crippling melancholia, which sometimes accompany nostalgia, and anticipate the future. It is for this reason too that nostalgia has been found to help people cope with transitions in life.

I like the way this analogy/comparison with Hollywood and Bollywood shows how a nation's identity is shaped by films (arts):
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was dead right in highlighting the importance of preserving and strengthening the Singapore identity in the next 50 years in his speech at the Ho Rih Hwa Lecture on June 30. Just as Hollywood told stories that helped to forge the American identity and Bollywood helped to forge the Indian identity, we need our own Hollywood or Bollywood.

Note how it is through MDA or govt efforts that 7 Letters was made, setting the direction for arts to preserve culture, and making it financially possible. Without govt backing, it could be that the films made may just cater to the market demand to ensure profits.....would we then still get this kind of culturally flavoured films? or those on senseless sex and violence?
To become financially viable, our Hollywood will face an uphill struggle. This is why it was wise for the Media Development Authority to sponsor 7 Letters as part of the SG50 celebrations.

How the film is about national identity:
The movies brought joy and reminded us of our common roots. K. Rajagopal pointed out that "Singapore is represented by so many different cultures and different voices… Anything that represents a slice of Singapore means something".
With their seven different slices of Singapore, the seven directors made us understand better why we call ourselves Singaporeans.

1) The preservation of culture has been overlooked in the arts. Discuss. (VJC Prelim 2015)
2)'For the majority of the people, the Arts are irrelevant to their daily lives.' How true is this of your society? (Cam. 2014)
3) 'There is no value in nostalgia.' Comment. (ACJC Prelim 2011)

Tyranny of the Minority

Article 1: Reading the collective will better
Article 2: It pays to pay heed to the silent majority

Tyranny of the majority is a term most of us are familiar with (at least I hope you are, with the 'A' levels just barely one month away), esp in the context of democracy. But in an interesting twist, there is also such a phenomenon as the tyranny of the minority, where the minority actually hold the majority hostage by making their voice heard louder, and hence exerting more influence on -- where else but the internet....We see this coming into play in the recent election where everyone (both PAP and opposition) are dumbfounded by the landslide victory in the votes garnered for the PAP. This unexpectedness was largely in part due to the social media, which gives us the impression that the opposition is going to get another bite at the contested wards.
On social media, the echo-chamber effect mechanism makes it such that the minority can actually acquire the status or semblance of the majority, much like how the view of one person is echoed some many times in an enclosed chamber that we are given the impression that many people hold this same view. In short, the echo chamber effect can give rise to the illusion of numbers, which goes to give the illusion of reality or truth. This is why and how online rumours sparked off by just a few pranksters can come across bearing the shine of truth/reality. This is also how social media can misrepresent and distort reality by passing off the minority's view as the majority, or the exception as the norm.
with the strident and loud minority online, there is a need for the silent majority to speak up online to redress the imbalance, so that pple do not go away from social media thinking what's said here is the truth/reality. The opposition probably paid a high price for this in the recent election, thinking that the 'majority' of Singaporeans are angry and unhappy with the PAP, based on what they read online....Even some PAP ministers admitted being shaken and have their confidence dented when they encountered the vitriol online....The  minority's voice which goes unchallenged online may be perceived as a fact or the, some foreigners have come away thinking that ALL Singaporeans are xenophobic are reading foreigners-bashing posts online. 

But given the double-edged sword of the social media, recognise that this flaw of social media can also be an advantage. If the minority in question here are the marginalized groups whose view often go unnoticed and are neglected by policy-makers, then amplifying their view on social media via the echo chamber effect will help to make others take notice of them. Thus empowered, the govt or relevant parties will be under pressure to address their concerns....

Qn: To what extent can we rely on the media to tell the truth?

S'pore built on immigrants' backs, wrong for us to close door on them

Click HERE

After the German context in previous post, let's look at the Singapore context now...

-It is wrong because birth is a lottery; one cannot choose where one is born, so it should not determine the future one will have.
This is a moral argument...that we should not penalise a person just because he is born in the wrong country...he should be given a second chance to redress the imbalance and unfairness of chance by allowing him to try his fortunes in another country which is better than his birthplace.

unlock the potential of immigrants who would otherwise have wasted their promise by toiling in fields or dying young of a disease. What if a cancer cure is trapped in some Rohingya child’s brain, but she never gets the opportunity to develop it?
You can see this argument as one where the immigrants possess unique skills that we or few people do not have (esp fr a cty like Singapore where both manpower [quantity] and talent[quality] are in shortage)....or we can see it from the point of view of the immigrant -- allowing them into a new country provides the environment to help unlock their talent, without which this talent will just lie dormant within them and wasted.....

-There is no such thing as a single Singaporean culture, and it gets better when more cultures are added.
This is a useful rebuttal to the accusation that immigrants erodes our culture by bring in theirs...Whether one sees the additional colours added on by the immigrants to our culture as a kind of added variety or a kind of contamination is a matter of perspective.....

-It would be selfish to live in a land of plenty but not let anyone in to drink the milk and honey
A beautiful and effective closing BANG (using figurative language/ imagery) that not only cements the writer's STAND, but also closes the article with a loud and resounding BANG!

1) 'Migration should be discouraged, not embraced.' Discussed. (NYJC Prelim 2015)
2) Is there still a place for charity in today's world? (Cam. 2006) [note 'charity' is not just about donating money, but has the larger meaning of being kind and generous towards others...can include volunteerring, and in this case, being accepting of troubled migrants] 

Germans pitch in to help refugees

Click HERE

note the usual for and against arguments for letting in migrants....but here are a few interesting ones:

-Migrants who take huge risks to get where they want to go often tend to be more entrepreneurial people

-The 6.6 million people living in Germany with foreign passports paid US$4,127 (S$5,834) more in taxes and social security on average than they took in social benefits in 2012.
This flies in the face of accusations that immigrants are a liability and burden as they sap up the social benefits meant for the citizens.---useful rebuttal.

"It's probably something to do with our history, German memory. Almost every German has someone in their family who was once a refugee or a migrant
Doesn't this ring a bell for us here in Singapore? We similarly have ancestors who are migrants, unless u are a Malay. We are a nation of immigrants to begin with, yet unlike the Germans, we don't seem to be that accepting of immigrants. WHY?

-Historian Arnulf Baring feels that "whatever good we are doing today has to do with the crime we committed, above all during the Nazi era".
Guilt complex --- an interesting point unique to Germany. Now look at the xenophobic tendencies of Japan, who is notorious for being unwelcoming towards migrants....Given the WHY about Singapore above, is there something to be said about Asians and Western attitudes?

1) 'Migration should be discouraged, not embraced.' Discussed. (NYJC Prelim 2015)
2) Is there still a place for charity in today's world? (Cam. 2006) [note 'charity' is not just about donating money, but has the larger meaning of being kind and generous towards others...can include volunteerring, and in this case, being accepting of troubled migrants] 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Haze Saga......continues....

For those who can read Chinese, the article below helps shed light on why this haze problem has been allowed to drag on for years despite rearing its ugly head more than twenty years ago!!! I recalled the first incidence of it being mentioned in the media...which is in the year 1994...GASP! ere you even born then? The egg or sperm that led to your eventual conception was probably not even in existence then! You dad prob haven't even met ur mum at that time! And after all this time, the haze is still there -- a yearly affair t come to taunt and haunt us, adding to the already irritating fumes caused by the burning of incense paper and joss sticks during the Hungry Ghost Festival!
And the root cause is the location of the forest fires.....if they had been near Jakarta, the Capital City, or even on Java iself, I'm quite sure it would have been swiftly snuffed out....but the fires have to be on the mostly less developed areas in Sumatra, where the people are less rich and hence less influential? There is thus no urgent pressure on the central govt in Jakarta to resolve th issue swiftly....Why do so when there are still blue skies in Jakarta? IT helps that those people with influence capable of making noise and pressuring the govt are mostly not on the less developed Sumatra....Add on the vested interest of pleasing the foreign MNCs and the haze is free to thrive with impunity! Being the largest country in Southeast Asia and one of the most populous countries in the world, not to mention one of the largest economies, Some Indonesian leaders feel that they don't owe the smaller neighbouring countries an apology or even an explanation....One of them even likens Singapore' yearly protests on the haze as those of a child making noises when it can't get sweets.....something like that...this not his actual words hor...go google yourself.....
This explains the siege mentality Singapore suffers from....Our geographical position has done wonders for us (think our hub and port status), but is also a curse in itself as we are surrounded by bigger neighbours who may not always be sympathetic to our plight... 

The Haze Saga....

Article 1
Article 2
Article 3

Excerpt from Article 2:
On the same day, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen called his counterpart to offer Singapore's aircraft and personnel to seed clouds and aid in firefighting. Indonesia has accepted this,

Excerpt from Article 1:
A Jakarta-based MetroTV news reporter yesterday asked Mr Raffles if Indonesia would consider using helicopters or planes lent by neighbouring countries. "We have our own resources," Mr Raffles said. "Why should we be assisted and make ourselves look like we can't handle our problem?"

A few things can be gleaned from the above...sometimes, it is difficult for a country to tackle problems at home due to shortage of resources and equipment, which the Indonesian authorities admitted as much when it comes to combating the haze. So this is a gap that can be plugged by availing themselves to aid provided by other nations or the international community, which Singapore is more than glad to provide here as Indonesia's problem directly affects us as well....Note the specific examples of Singapore's help mentioned above...incidentally, Singapore also offered satellite images to help the Indonesian govt pinpoint the fire locations (hotspots).
However, sometimes, help is not accepted even when it is gravely needed due to national pride, and the embarrassment or loss of face when a bigger nation opt to receive help from a smaller or rival nation.....It can also be seen as a compromising of sovereignty in Article 3 above....
It's worthy of noting that Indonesia has finally ratified the Asean Trans-Boundary Haze Pact that is designed to combat the haze problem --- after dragging their feet on it for years, and being the last member country to jump on board (see Article 3 above).......This pact is a good example of international effort in resolving international problems....

1)  Does the presence of a foreign power ever help a country with problems? (Cam. 2008)
2) To what extent are international cooperation effective in addressing conflicts?

(For Qn2, note that 'conflict' does not involve environmental problems like the haze, but usually has a human element.....but if the haze led to a spat between countries, then it can arguably be considered a 'conflict')

For that matter, for a qn like [‘For the sake of the planet, tourism should be discouraged.’ Discuss.SRJC Prelim 2014)] note that the word 'planet' refers to the environmental aspect only. For instance, economic growth is not about the planet. But you can still bring in economic growth for this qn by arguing that we should not just look at the impact on the planet (i.e. envmt) but also consider other aspects like the economy, etc.)
The thing to note is that sometimes, the actual wording used in the qn is everything, limitng what u can or cannot include in your don't just reproduced verbatim a similar essay you have written or read before....Analyze the wording of the question judiciously

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Saudi women can run in local polls

Click HERE
As Singaporeans head for the ballot box this coming Friday, it is important for us to realise that in some parts of the world, women are still denied their voting rights....The latest in Saudi Arabia is that women are now allowed to stand in local elections (whatever that is...) -- a historic first!
Saudi Arabia makes for a useful example when it comes to female oppression...note what the article says:
"Women in the oil-rich Gulf state, which applies a strict segregation of the sexes, are banned from driving and have to cover themselves from head to toe while in public. They also need the consent of a male guardian to travel, work, apply for a passport or to marry."

Useful for qns on gender equality and prejudice/discrimination. The article brings up a useful point on male guardianship system, ostensibly for the protection of the women....

Monday, September 07, 2015

LGBT themed songs banned in Singapore

Click on these:
Ah Mei's banned song
Jolin Tsai's banned song and MV...Katy Perry also leh....

Well, I don't know about you, but I sure was floored when even the sweetie-pie Jolin Tsai was also slapped with a ban by the local MDA.
We discussed this yesterday for some of you in the Sunday classes... Use the above as local examples of how the govt tries to rein in media content related to LGBT themes....

Qn: 'Traditional marriage is an outdated concept'. To what extent is this true of your society? (Cam. 2014)