“The anti social justice (SJW) bro wants to have his chocolate cake and eat it. He will accept your hurt and shame and anger only if you argue for it, and make a dance of facts and point so view, because that way he can rebut you. That is the crux: as long as he can rebut you. Because if he cannot rebut you, it means the matter moves to a higher level: introspection, empathy, shame, none of these useful feelings for the guy who wants to be the coolest in the room, a pundit, an archivist, a logic doctor.

Through rebuttal of your feelings- and he can say “hurt” like it is the most pathetic state anyone can experience- he keeps you dancing long enough that he can ignore his own stake. He cannot, after all, be complicit in something that he is too smart, too decent, too progressive to be associated with. He will not see that his rebuttal is complicity.

He speaks the language of social justice but hates the language people have found to implement it in their communities: privilege is a meaningless buzzword, triggered means “butthurt”, being offended means you can’t take a joke. If you can’t take a joke, you’re lame, because the anti SJW bro’s role model is the stand up comic who can offend all he wants and be applauded for it. This is the anti SJW bro’s dream: to satirise the world with a snarl on his face, stand there and take the piss on people who lose their chill. He sometimes imagines he could do stand up. Rigjt now he’ll settle for being a contrarian Internet troll.

The anti SJW wants to debate with you. He loves debate, that faultless system of precision, logic and posh latin ways to call people stupid. Because when it comes to debate, everything is rebuttable. He will pull any perspective out of the air to stay on the opposite side of your anger: in debate you are not allowed to be angry, you are not allowed to shout, or act out. You must argue for your pain, in order that he may argue either that he, “personally”, has nothing to do with it or that your pain is not the issue. He will forestall all present indignation for his argument that we should live like his utopian future when everyone has dropped their identity politics, live in a perfect mass of sameness and mutual respect. This is so he can be on the right side of history while being on the wrong side of power.

And being on the wrong side of power is his ticket to oppression: he wants in, he has margin envy. Most of all, the anti SJW bro just wishes everyone could be like him: chill, civil, rational, with a black sense of humour and a cynical take on everything. Coolest dude in the room, remember? The kind of person you want at the bar to explain current affairs to you over a bourbon, who can surprise you with a perspective you’ve never heard before, crafted in the comfy slow fire of never actually having to reckon with lame shit like discrimination, racism (he will ask you: “can you define racism?” so he can show you that on the spectrum of possible definitions, he lies on the “oh but that’s fine” end), violence, disenfranchisement (he will put this in scare quotes because really, aren’t we ~all~ disenfranchised?).

The anti SJW bro hates social justice warriors so much for reasons he cannot quite articulate in public, so he claims he is pissed with how their brand of politics is diluting discourse and activism, a position he picked up from the Internet somewhere. He will make ludicrous, grand gestures in this department as long as it keeps the outrage quiet, or helps him undercut the noise. Because something is stirred in the air when so many people are “offended”. And the air, these spiritual reverberations, this deep knowledge of complicity, fear of being called a sham, a hypocrite, these are the things that are harder to talk about. It’s a lot easier to call it a butt hurt mob of illiberally liberal SJW scum.”

– Joel

LKY Memoirs

I want to read LKY’s memoirs. I have a copy. I’m going to start reading, and share my notes as I go.

1. Suddenly, Independence

The book The Singapore Story is 680 pages long, with 43 chapters. The first chapter is “Suddenly, Independence.”

LKY chose to describe the separation as a divorce, talking about Malay-Muslim customs. “The three readings in the two chambers of parliament were the three talaks with which Malaysia divorced Singapore.”

August 9, 1965 began with announcements (at 10am) that Singapore was independent. Before the announcement was made, members of the diplomatic corps in Singapore were gathered and informed – Singapore requested recognition from their governments. LKY sent letters to the Indian PM and Egyptian President, seeking advisers to train an army and a coastal defence force respectively.

At noon was the press conference – a journalist asked “Could you outline for us the train of events that led to this morning’s proclamation”, and LKY gave the famous response which led to his tears.

In LKY’s words, “Among Chinese, it is unbecoming to exhibit such a lack of manliness. But I could not help myself.”

“I was weighed down by a heavy sense of guilt. I felt I had let down several million people in Malaysia: immigrant Chinese and Indians, Eurasians, and even some Malays. I had aroused their hopes and they had joined people in Singapore in resisting Malay hegemony, the root cause of our dispute. I was ashamed that I had left our allies and supporters to fend for themselves, including other party leaders from other states of Malaysia […]. I was also filled with remorse and guilt for having had to deceive the prime ministers of Britain, Australia and New Zealand. In the last three weeks, while they had been giving me and Singapore their quiet and powerful support for a peaceful solution to Malaysia’s communal problems, I had been secretly discussing this separation.” 

“The merchants in Singapore’s Chinatown were jubilant. They set off fire crackers to celebrate their liberation from communal rule by the Malays from Kuala Lumpur, carpeting the streets with red paper debris.”

LKY informed the police commissioner about the announcement – there were paramilitary squads (Police Reserve Units) deployed in case pro-UMNO Malay activists in Singapore went on a rampage to protest against separation. There had been two bloody Malay-Chinese riots the previous year, 1964. Many went home early to be safe.

LKY met with Viscount Head, the British high commissioner to KL. “He had tried his best to prevent this break. He had done his utmost to get the Tunku and the federal government to adopt policies that could build up unity within Malaysia. […] Separation was certainly not the solution he had worked so hard for.

But despite the presence of some 63,000 British servicemen, two aircraft carriers, 80 warships and 20 squadrons of aircraft in Southeast Asia to defend the Federation, he could not prevail against the force of Malay communalism. The Malay leaders, including the Tunku, feared that if ever they shared real political power with the non-Malays, they would be overwhelmed. That was the crux of the matter. Head did not understand this. Nor had I originally, but I came to do soe before he did because I had spent more time interacting with the Tunku, Razak and Ismail. And I spoke Malay, which head did not. I could also recall incidents of friction and rivalry between Malays and non-Malays from my past, especially during my student days at Raffles College in 1940 and 1941. I knew the Malays better.”

“Fearful of a deep split in the cabinet and among the MPs, I had wanted every minister to sign the Separation Agreement precisely because I knew that several would have opposed it tooth and nail.” (VV: Who?)

LKY spent most of his time that day with Goh Keng Swee. They put him in charge of home affairs and defence. Lim Kim San took over as finance minister. Rajaratnam took over foreign affairs.

“Now we were on our own, and the Malaysian government was out to teach us a lesson for being difficult, and for not complying with their norms and practices and fitting into their set-up. We could expect them to cut us off from our role as their traditional outlet for imports and exports […] Indeed, how were we to live? Even our water came from the neighbouring Malaysian state of Johor. I remember vividly how, in thearly February 1942, the Japanese army had captured our reservoirs there, demoralizing the British defenders by that act, even though there was still some water in the reservoirs in Singapore.”

“We were a Chinese island in a Malay sea. How could we survive in such a hostile environment? There was no doubt about the hostility. To add to our problems, the Indonesians had mounted their aggressive “Confrontation” against Malaysia […] acts of terrorism with commandos infiltrating Singapore to explode bombs. The Chinese in Malaya and Singapore knew the Indonesian government was against even its own three million ethnic Chinese in Indonesia.”

On British involvement in Singapore’s GDP:

“[…] our strategic value to Britain in holding the empire together was vanishing as the empire dissolved. Singapore’s economy would be hit hard by any sudden saling down of the British presence. British defense spending in Singapore accounted for about 20 per cent of our GDP; their military gave employment, directly to 30,000 workers, and indirectly to another 10,000 domestic help […] They created employment for more than 10 per cent of the work force at a time when a high population growth of 2.5 per cent per annum was putting enormous pressure on the government for jobs as well as education, health services and housing.

Fun fact:  “I was determined to keep to my routine of daily exercise to remove my tensions. I spent more than an hour hitting 150 golf balls from the practice tee in front of Sri Temasek, my official residence in the grounds of the Istana (formerly Government House).”

2. Growing Up

Lee Kuan Yew was a naughty boy.

“My earliest and most vivid recollection is of being held by my ears over a well […] I was about 4 years old. I had been mischievous and had messed up an expensive jar of my father’s 4711 pale green scented brilliantine.

“I was given a double promotion from primary 1 to standard I, leap-frogging primary 2. In my final year, 1935, I made the extra effort. I came in first in school and won a place in Raffles Institution, which took in only the top students.”

“I was not very hardworking, but I was good at mathematics and the sciences and had a solid grounding in the English Language. […] I usually came in among the top three without much effort. I was still not very attentive in class, and tried to catch up by peeking into the notebook of the boy who sat next to me.”

“I enjoyed my years in Raffles Institution. I coped with the work comfortably, was active in the Scout movement, played cricket and some tennis, swam and took part in many debate. But I never became a prefect, let alone head prefect. There was a mischievous, playful streak in me. Too often, I was caught not paying attention in class, scribbling notes to fellow students, or mimicking some teacher’s strange mannerisms. In the case of a rather ponderous Indian science teacher, I was caught in the laboratory drawing the back of his head with its bald patch.”

“Once I was caned by the principal. D.W. McLeod was a fair but strict disciplinarian who enforced rules impartially, and one rule was that a boy who was late for school three times during one term would get three strokes of the cane. I was always a late riser, an owl more than a lark, and when I was late for school the third time in a term in 1938 […] I bent over a chair and was given three of the best with my trousers on. I did not think he lightened his strokes.”

“I had set my heart on distinguishing myself in the Senior Cambridge examinations, and I was happy when the results in early 1940 showed I had come first in school, and first among all the students in Singapore and Malaya.

“When I was a little older, I used the Raffles Library. […] I read eclectically but preferred westerns to detective thrillers.”

LKY’s family

LKY’s parents, Lee Chin Koon (20) and Chua Jim Neo (16) had an arranged marriage. “Both families must have thought it an excellent match, for they later married my father’s younger sister to my mother’s younger brother.”

  • Paternal great-grandfather: Lee Bok Boon, Hakka, born in 1846 in Tangxi, Dabu, Guangdong. Came to Singapore on a Chinese junk. Married shopkeeper’s daughter in 1870.  Returned to China alone, because his wife and kids didn’t want to leave SG. Remarried.
  • Paternal Grandfather, Lee Hoon Loong – adressed as Kung – born in 1871. Studied at RI up to standard V (lower secondary school). Worked as an unqualified pharmacist, then became a purser on board a steamer plying between SG and Dutch East Indies. Fleet belonged to Heap Eng Moh Shipping Line, owned by Chinese millionaire sugar king of Java, Oei Tiong Ham. Was appointed as Oei’s attorney to manage his affairs in Singapore. He was so trusted that in 1926, he donated $150,000 from Oei’s funds (on his own authority) towards the foundation of Raffles College.
    • Great Depression -> rubber prices fell from 80 cents per pound to 20 cents – Kung was badly hit.
    • Kung was very Westernized from his experience on board ships with British captains – rigid discipline, order, strength, efficiency. Table manners. Kung would wear a waistcoat in the tropics. Insisted on adding Christian names – Harry Lee Kuan Yew, Dennis Lee Kim Yew, Freddy Lee Thiam Yew. This was uncommon at the time, and LKY persuaded his parents not to give Suan Yew (the youngest) a Christian name.
    • Kung was a gourmet. His wife made a great steak seasoned with grated nutmeg and golden brown potato chips.
  • Maternal Grandfather, Chua Kim Teng – also invested in rubber and speculated on the rubber market, but also owned property – markets, shophouses. By 1929, LKY’s parents moved from Kung’s home to Chua’s.
    • No formal English schooling. No association withBritish sea captains and Chinese sugar millionaires. Born in Singapore in 1865 to a Hokkien Chinese family from Malacca. Married 3 times. First two wives died. Third was LKY’s grandmother. She was a young widow with 2 children. Had 7 children before dying in 1935. He died in 1944 during the Japanese occupation.

“My father had been brought up a rich man’s son. He used to boast to us that, when he was young, his father allowed him a limitless account at Robinsons and John Little […].” He was educated at SJI. He didn’t complete his formal education – so he could only get a job as a storekeeper with Shell when the fortunes of both families were destroyed in the Great Depression.

“Between my father and my grandfather, there was no question to whom I admired more. My grandfather loved and pampered me. My father, the disciplinarian in the family, was tough with me. My grandfather had acquired great wealth. My father was just a rich man’s son, with little to show for himself.

“She even brought with her, as part of her dowry, a little slave girl whose duty, among other things, was to help bathe her, wash her feet and put on and take off her shoes.” (LKY on his mom)

“Every now and again my father would come home in a foul mood after losing at blackjack and other card games at the Chinese Swimming Club in AMber Road, and demand some of my mother’s jewellery to pawn so that he could go back and try his luck again. There would be fearful quarrels, and he was sometimes violent.

“My mother was a courageous woman […] A strong character with great energy and resourcefulness, she had been married off too early. In her day, a woman was expected to be a good wife, bear many children, […] Had she been born one generation later and continued her education beyond secondary school, she could easily have become an effective business executive.”

Fun: “I read […] economics, because I believed it could teach me how to make money in business and on the stock market – I was naive!”

On hazing:

“I did not enjoy my first year in Raffles College as much as my first year in Raffles Institution. Ragging or hazing was then a part of the initiation […]. I had to sing. I had to crawl around the quadrangle pushing a marble forward on the ground with my nose. I had to walk […] wearing a ragged green tie and carrying a silly green flag. I thought it all stupid, but went through with it as part of the price to be paid for joining an institution that lacked maturity and was developing the wrong traditions. When my turn came in the second year, I turned my face against ragging and tried to discourage it, but was not successful. I strongly disapproved of those who took it out on freshmen for what they had endured when they themselves were “freshies”.

On race:

“It was only in retrospect that I realized Raffles College was my initiation into the politics of race and religion. […] There was a strong sense of solidarity among the Malays (VV: from Malaya), which I was to learn grew from a feeling of being threatened, a fear of being overwhelmed by the more energetic and hardworking Chinese and Indian immigrants. […] Because I had many Malay friends from childhood, my spoken Malay was fluent. But I soon discovered that their attitude towards non-Malays, especially Chinese, was totally different from that of Singapore Malays.

One student from Kedah told me in my second year, after we became friends, “You Chinese are too energetic and too clever for us. In Kedah, we have too many of you. We cannot stand the pressure.”

On “Malayism” at Raffles College:

One incident stands out in my memory. In my second year, there was much unhappiness over the arrangements for the annual Raffles College Students’ Union dinner at the old Seaview Hotel. The non-Malays were incensed at the sharp and cavalier responses of the honorary secretary, Ungu Aziz bin Abdul Hamid, to their complaints. A few students started a move for an extraordinary general meeting to censure him and deprive him of office. But he was a Malay. As the collection of signatures for an EGM gathered momentum, the Malay students rallied round him and made it clear that if he were removed, they would resign en masse from the union. This presented the non-Malays with a challenge. I was approached and asked to make the opening speech setting out their complaints against Ungu Aziz. I had not attended the dinner, and I had no personal quarrel with him. But since nobody wanted to take on this unpleasant job, I decided to do it. The meeting took place on a Saturday afternoon, and all the day students had left, probably because they wished to avoid the unpleasantness. Of those in halls of residence, the Malays turned up in force. The tension was high, and racial feelings strong.

It was my first experience of Malayism, a deep and intense pro-Malay, anti-immigrant sentiment. I made out the case in measured tones, firmly but, I hoped, not aggressively. Ungku Aziz spoke up to refute all the allegations of rude behavior. I could sense that the crowd of some 80 students felt most uncomfortable about the confrontation. When the votes were cast, the Malays carried the day for Ungku Aziz, and the break-up never came. […] This incident faded from my memory. It was only later, between 1963 and 1965, when we were in Malaysia and ran into similar problems with Malayism, that I was to recall it.

On networking with elites:

“Many of those I first met in Raffles College were to become close political colleagues.” (Toh Chin Chye, Goh Keng Swee). When I started my career as a lawyer in the 1950s, therefore, I already had a network of friends and acquaintances in important positions in government and the professions in Singapore. Even if one did not know someone personally, just sharing the same background made for easy accceptance, and the old school tie worked well in Singapore and Malaya, even between Chinese, Indians and Malays. Before the days ofa ctive politics, when power was still completely in the hands of the British, I did not feel any personal animosity or resentment from the upcountry Malays. I made friends with manay of them, including two Malay sessions judges before whom I later appeared. It was the easy old-boy network of an elite at the very top of the English-educated group nurtured by the British colonial education system.”

To be continued…


Ah Kow


MUTHU: “Ah Kow, how is your son doing over at Stamford?”

AH KOW: *slurps noodles* “Oh, brilliant, brilliant.”

MUTHU:  “Have you heard the latest news about our beloved Government? The price of water, my old chap, it’s being raised again!”

“Good gracious. 70% of our native population truly enjoys being sodomized!”

MUTHU: :*clears throat, spits*  “Alas, my good Ah Kow, ALAS! What native population do you speak of? We have been Infiltrated by barbarian HORDES! Truly a travesty, I tell you. Oh, I yearn for the days where all you heard on the trains was Singlish. Dear, dear, Singlish.”

AH KOW: “Is this going to be another goddamn play about censorship, now? Singaporean playwrights have got no bloody creativity, do they?”

MUTHU: “But what would you expect, Ah Kow, it’s been stamped out of them by an oppressive regime.”

AH KOW: “Get your head out of the gutter, Muthu. Thoughtless heterodoxy is no better than blindly following the orthodoxy. Let us not make excuses for what is. Let us build what isn’t.”

MUTHU: “But we are just ah peks, Ah Kow. We are not educated. We are racist, sexist, small-minded, superstitious, afraid, egoistic. What could we possibly do, other than drink Guinness at 2 in the afternoon and shake our fists at our fate?”

AH KOW: “You make me sad, Muthu. You have internalized the myopia of those lesser than you. What happened to your vision, for yourself, for the world? Where’s that fiery, passionate man I was drawn to in my youth?

MUTHU:  “That I do not know, Ah Kow. It seems life has beaten him down, dragged him through fire and shattered glass. The vagaries of everyday living have conquered his soul. I do not wish to think about it. Pour me another glass, please.”



‘Sticker Lady’ street artist arrested


Town council asks seniors to remove chairs from ‘cosy corner’

Singapore libraries to destroy copies of gay penguin book (subsequently halted)


Same-sex kiss cut from Singapore staging of Les Miserables


‘Golden staircase’ no more as art student removes hotly debated project

SOTA student’s ‘impromptu’ art installation bearing former teachers’ names removed by school

How Singlish Kena Repressed Then Commodified

(These are a set of notes and fragments for an essay I intend to write about Singlish)

Let’s take a minute to go back to 1999. It seems like such a quaint time, on retrospect. The Euro was established. Bill Clinton was the POTUS, and Columbine shootings shocked the world, Napster and MSN Messenger make their debuts. ExxonMobil becomes the largest corporation in the world. Stanley Kubrick died. The cinemas brought us Fight Club, The Matrix and Austin Powers. And Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong chided Phua Chu Kang for being a bad influence on children.

Almost 20 years later, and wow, so much has changed.

Times have changed. Today, when you’re driving to the airport you see Huat and Lah on the signage.  Mcdonald’s has “makan” on Filet-o-Fish boxes.

DBS PayLah.

What happened? What’s changed?

The Government’s official stance on this hasn’t changed very much.

  • Smart-alecky t-shirts. KNNBCCB. Opened the floodgates. Eh sia la, uh uh siol.
  • Singaporeans realize you don’t have to be one or the other. We don’t need to pretend to be in love with Colonial…. We can be articulate AND ah lian, thank you very much.
  • There’s more to it than meets the eye, though. Why are Singaporeans sudenly so patriotic, so nationalist? I was just a child in the 90s, but it seemed like those were simpler, happier times. People seemed to smile more and laugh more, fight and bicker less. Maybe it’s just a media thing– we now get to see the worst (and best, though!) of ourselves repeatedly on our screens, over and over.
  • Foreigners. Foreign talent. Foreign trash. Ah tiongs. Banglas. Pinoys. There are times and places in Singapore where you can stand around and not hear a single word of English. (This happened to me while I was waiting for a friend at I think Aljunied MRT). And sometimes it happens on the train.

In 1999, the country’s late great statesman Lee Kuan Yew declared Singlish “a handicap we must not wish on Singaporeans.”
In 2016, poet and literary critic Gwee Li Sui wrote an article in the New York Times titled Do You Speak Singlish. He focused on the political aspects of Singlish – how phrases like “Mee Siam Mai Hum”, “ownself check ownself” and “flip flop like prata” become useful little fragments of  political resistance. A way for ordinary citizens to poke fun at the stern solemnity of bureaucratic government-speak.
You can’t make this up – The PM’s Press Secretary responded to the piece, saying that not everybody has a PhD like Gwee Li Sui, and can code-switch the way he does.
Not everyone has a Ph.D. in English Literature like Mr. Gwee, who can code-switch effortlessly between Singlish and standard English, and extol the virtues of Singlish in an op-ed written in polished standard English.
Why she so like that?
In 2016, McDonald’s tells us that “now everybody also can atas”.
I find “Now everyone can atas” to be fascinating, because it’s technically impossible. To be atas is to be high-class. It will never be possible for everybody to be high-class. The middle-class can mimic and emulate the high class (notice how the burgers and wedges are presented, mimicking the stylings of the countless brunch places that have popped up over the past few years), but it’s a moving goalpost. Fashion is always changing because high-class people are always disgusted to be associated with the middle-class.
Notice, for example, how JetStar has a Singlish page.
Corporate Singlish is a way of pandering to everyday Singaporeans. Notice that Singapore Airlines does not have a Singlish page, and it does not.
Singlish is and always will be a little uncouth, and that’s how we like it. It’s shorts and singlets and slippers. It’s eating with your hands and spitting out the bones on table.
A biologist named Lewis Thomas once made a fascinating observation that language is something that the entire human species collaboratively builds together. Singlish is a Singaporean effort. It resists repression by the Singapore Government.
“Most people do not have good english – you say it’s a bad influence on children, but is it not… there are 10k tv shows that have proper english and there’s one that’s accurate – are you saying that the way some people talk should not be reflected at all. You don’t talk in singlish at MPS? Comms is what works best not what looks best? Right?” –
Singapore doesn’t dominate world attention, but whenever it ets some, it has always been simultaneously fetishized and mocked by the rest of the world
I’ve often heard from Singaporeans how refreshing it is to hear Singlish in a foreign country – a little spicy taste of home.
MBS infinity pool
Michael Fay caning—moe-no-penalty-for-using-singlish-appropriately  – we are a little afraid of having our own thing – this problem is something faced by the rest of the non-english-speaking world too, and it reveals that language is incredibly political, it’s a lot about social status, class, everything.
Singlish is out:
The british council has a course
Can you regulate language? Does it make sense to regulate language? How do other countries manage it? Accent gripes elsewhere?
It’s impossible to imagine Jack Kerouac’s On the Road in the language of the White House, for example. And nor would one want to wade through White House reports written in the fractious language of the Beats.
Statement t-shirts
 Further reading:

Status Symbols

Status in Singapore

  • connections
  • family office / wealth management / personal bankers
  • access to private jets, yachts
  • length of address
  • ownership of capital
  • inheritance
  • type of credit card
  • flying first class
  • elite alma maters
  • high % of degrees in the family
  • private/expensive childhood education
  • country club membership(s)
  • employing a full-time chauffeur
  • frequent coffee at fullerton / other hotels
  • regular patronship of plays, operas, art galleries
  • ownership of expensive watches, jewelry, suits & dresses
  • expensive car ownership
  • normalized overseas vacations
  • frequent fancy restaurant patronage
  • ‘parent scholarship’ (no bank loan post-graduation)
  • atas pursuits (ballet, violin, horses)
  • bottle service at clubs
  • expensive daily lunch salads / avoiding food courts
  • regular dental visits
  • plastic surgery
  • private/expensive hospitals
  • ‘weekend getaways’ to regional beach spots
  • frequent skydiving / scubadiving
  • willingness to buy overpriced pastries at Starbucks and leave them unfinished
  • diverse/detailed knowledge about food, wine, cheese, etc
  • $4.5 bus rides
  • accent & code-switching
  • exclusive gyms / branded exercise clothing
  • growing up english-speaking
  • having cable TV (?)
  • weekend brunches
  • cocktail bars
  • juice cleanse diets
  • personal grooming (hair, nails, wax)

Why Singapore [autocomplete]

Why Singapore…

Why Singapore is bad

Why Singapore is the best place to live

Why Singapore is the best

Why Singapore is a peaceful country

Why Singapore is safe

Why Singapore is so awesome

Why Singapore is so attractive

Why Singapore is so advanced

Why Singapore is so Americanized

Why Singapore is so boring

Why Singapore is so beautiful

Why Singapore is so expensive – Why is Singapore accommodation so expensive?

Why Singapore is so rich

Why Singapore so hot

Why Singapore Airlines is so expensive? So successful? So cheap? So good?

Why Singapore needs foreign workers

Why Singapore dollar is falling

Why is Singapore port so busy

Why is Singapore so easy to do business

Why is haze so bad in Singapore

Why is service so bad in Singapore

Why is Singapore birth rate so low

Why is Singapore cars so expensive

Why is Singapore GDP per capita so high

Why is Singapore so conservative

Why is Singapore so cold lately

Why is Singapore so competitive

Why is Singapore so clean

Why is Singapore so crowded

Why is Singapore crime late so low

Why Singapore so many Chinese

Why is Singapore so densely populated

Why is Singapore so dusty

Why is Singapore so depressing

Why is Singapore dollar so strong

Why is Singapore so developed so fast

Why is Singapore debt so high, debt to gdp so high

Why is Singapore education so stressful

Why is Singapore education so good

Why is education so important in Singapore

Why is Singapore electricity so expensive

Why is Singapore so expensive – Why is cheese so expensive in Singapore, HDB, cars, electricity, hotels, milk

Why is singapore so famous

Why is Singapore growing so fast

Why is Singapore internet so fast

Why is food so expensive in Singapore

Why is the proportion of foreigners in Singapore is so high

Why is Singapore so good at math

Why is Singapore so green

Why is Singapore so globalized

Why is Singapore government so rich

Why is Singapore government so successful

Why is Singapore so hard on drugs

Why Singapore so important to Australia? To the Japanese? In WW2? To the British?

Why Singapore custom so jam

Why Kpop so popular, why kendama so popular

Why Singapore law so strict

Why Singapore productivity so low

Why Singapore so modernized

Why Singapore so militarized

Why Singapore so many moth

Why Singapore Prime Minister earn so much

Why Milo so popular in Singapore

Why so much lightning in Singapore

Why Singapore MRT so slow

Why is nerf so popular in Singapore

Why is Singapore so overpopulated

Why Singapore oil consumption so high

Why is Singapore so racist

Why is Singapore rainy

Why is Singapore so safe, stressful, strict, stupid

Why is Singapore tax so low

Why is Singapore so vulnerable to external events

Why is Singapore so unhappy

Why is Singapore so unique, urbanized, unemployment rate so low

Why Singapore and Brunei currency same

Why Singapore ban pig blood

Why Singapore drop F1

Why Singapore does not allow dual citizenship

Why Singapore does not accept refugees

Why Singapore riot

Why Singapore location Instagram

Why Singapore no minimum wage, no earthquake, no winter, no thaipusam holiday, no apple store, no chewing gum, no muscle car, no aircraft carrier, no need visa, navy no malay, no mustang, why cats in Singapore no tail, why singapore no earthquake, no duck egg

why singapore cannot see star, import goose, use monetary policy, reclaim land indefinitely, afford to be pushed around by china, buy kindle, control interest rate,

Why Singapore was chosen as british port, was founded, separated from malaysia

Why Singapore waste food

My NS experience

Originally written for Fever Avenue, in January 2012. 

I’ve had some pretty unique opportunities in my life to experience things that not all of my peers do. (I’m not sure how unique that makes me- I don’t know as much about others as I’d like to, because not everybody is as vocal about their individual experiences.) My National Service has been an interesting and bumpy ride, and for some pretty unusual reasons. Most interestingly of all, perhaps, it has provided me with the opportunity to renew and strengthen one of my most fundamental convictions- which I shall describe later.

I remember when I went for my medical check-up a few months before I enlisted. I struck up some casual conversation with the guy beside me, and we got along really well. We spent several hours together, doing test after test. I believe he was from Catholic JC. We had lunch together later on at a nearby hawker center. We exchanged emails, and he’s on my MSN contact list somewhere- but I can’t remember who exactly he is anymore. After all, we only interacted at a superficial level for the briefest of moments. But we clicked. It would have been highly likely that we’d have enlisted at the same time, perhaps in the same batch. Perhaps we would have been buddies. A bizarre twist of fate led to me being slapped with the suspicion of having some strange heart disease. (I don’t have it.) As a result, I enlisted in a completely different batch, and lost touch with him completely.

Over at Tekong, I met a rather eclectic mix of people, including, naturally- a couple of guys that I really clicked with. But we only spent 5 days together, and we never did much apart from attend lectures and eat meals together. We did have some fun, and I think I remember a couple of poignant moments smoking (illegally) with one of them in the wee hours of the morning… but after 5 days, we parted ways. We became “Hi, how are you doing, how’s everything been, what unit are you posted to, how’s NS been treating ya, can’t wait to ORD man, okay take care, gotta go!” friends.

Then I got posted to my unit (I still call it “my unit”, though I’m not there anymore, because that’s where my heart is)- I was to be a storeman at Hendon camp; home of the Commandos. There I got to mix with some people who I would never typically encounter in my regular social circles. Initially, they seemed a bit cold and distant, but after a while they warmed up to me. I especially enjoyed getting to know the regulars, many who were well-adjusted, competent and decisive older men who I grew to admire deeply. I liked pretty much all of them- they were fit, confident and just plain awesome. There were many women, too- the parachute riggers- all of whom were pleasant to interact with. Most of them were heavy smokers!

I remember some funny moments, some ridiculous moments getting scolded unnecessarily by our grumpy superior, lots of waiting, lots of sitting around- sometimes in listless boredom, sometimes in profound, meditative states. I mostly saw my colleagues as people I co-existed with- I was a little bit closer to the guys I’d smoke with. None of us ever had particularly deep conversations- it was jokes, complaints, the usual stuff between colleagues, I suppose. We did get closer after we had drinks and a barbecue at someone’s place- we learnt to see each other as people who were more than the roles we played in camp every day. It made life in camp a lot more tolerable- knowing that we were all human.

Out of the blue, I had my vocation changed for me because of some administrative stuff, and I found myself shipped off to another side of camp. I had to clear out my cupboard without any warning, and ended up leaving a few things behind. I never really got to say goodbye to the guys who would then ORD before me- one of them does talk to me on Facebook from time to time, about little nothings.

Before I knew it, I found myself uprooted and moved to a new environment- new office, with new storerooms, new responsibilities, and a whole new range of items to worry about. I clicked quite well with the guys, who were a little more educated- one guy played guitar, a couple of them smoked occasionally. I remember commiserating with one guy about his girlfriend problems. We had some funny moments, and we bonded over work and bumming around together. I knew I wasn’t supposed to stay there long, though- I was only supposed to be there until my signals course came around.

I packed up everything I had and went to the faraway Stagmont camp, where I met a whole new bunch of guys. I befriended several of them quickly. Many of them were fresh enlistees who just completed their BMT. The sergeant in charge of us was going to ORD really soon, and he was as light on his feet as you would expect such a man to be. We had lunch together, went to our bunks, made our beds. I flipped through the manuals, and I found them quite interesting! (I can’t talk about them here. Heh.) I got to know the smokers, as usual. One of them had an incredibly thick foreigner’s accent. Just as I was just getting a little comfortable, I received news that I was to report back to my previous unit- I could not do my Signals course without having done at least a PES C BMT- and I had only done the PES E “Residential Induction” course. So I went back to Hendon. It was drizzling heavily as I left, lugging my large black bag with me. I caught a cold and started sneezing in the rain, as I found myself lost- in more ways than one- in the middle of nowhere on the opposite end of the island. It was a rather dark moment, and I felt like a helpless pawn being thrown around by unsympathetic forces beyond my control.

I spent a few more weeks with my buddies at the signal office before the notice came around. I was to go for basic military training- the proper one, which I had been denied the opportunity to experience earlier. I headed over to the SAF Ferry Terminal with the big black bag they had issued me when I first enlisted, my uniforms, some clothes and supplies. I hadn’t, after all, been issued a field pack, helmet or load-bearing vest, being certified unfit for combat. I chatted with another guy who I met at the bus stop, and before long we accumulated an entire posse of recourse soldiers. We spent several hours talking about life in our previous units, shared some laughs on the ferry ride to Pulau Tekong, and found ourselves sitting around with more waiting. Some of us sneaked off to a smoking corner at some company I don’t remember (we hadn’t yet known which we were going to be posted to). As I began to get to know them, I received word that- you guessed it- I was to return back to my previous unit, because I lacked the items that I wasn’t issued, and I would have to get them from my previous unit instead. I clearly remember thinking- man, I was looking to have some serious fun with those guys. I was pretty sure that some of us would have become really good friends. It wasn’t meant to be. I wouldn’t recognize any of them if I saw them today. But had we perspired, cried and bled together, some of us might be attending each other’s weddings.

Finally, after lingering around for another couple of months at my office at Hendon, I found that I was to be posted for yet another BMT Recourse- for real this time. Amusingly, I had a dental appointment on reporting day. I seriously contemplated trying to get out of BMT again- I was thinking about how I’d have to miss Paramore’s 2nd concert in Singapore, and my girlfriend’s 21st birthday. But I decided that I was going to man up and confront my circumstances head-on. I went to Tekong after my dental appointment, chucking together what equipment I had (barely 50% of what was required!) just an hour before heading there. My section comprised entirely of recourse soldiers- the only recourse folk in the entire company. We would go on to have a heck of a ride- challenging, fun, tough, meaningful. I have so many wonderful memories and I’ve become good friends with many of my buddies, and we chat regularly on Facebook. We’re definitely going to meet up in the future for drinks and whatnot. I struggle to describe what the experience felt like- let’s just say that I felt more alive in those few weeks than the whole time I was in JC.

After I completed my BMT, I returned to Hendon to find two of my favourite colleagues missing- they had completed their service while I was busy doing pushups and firing rifles on an off-shore island. I couldn’t make it for their farewell dinners. I imagine we’d have a chat if we bumped into each other in the future. But before I could get much closer to the new guys- within a week, actually, I found myself posted back to Signal Institute. Again.

Over at Stagmont Camp (again), I found, to my pleasant surprise, 3 of my platoon mates from BMT. I also bumped into a fellow local musician, a junior of mine from secondary school, and a guy who helps out at the coffeeshop that I hang out at all the time. A week later and already we began to click. Already I sensed that we were going to have some pretty hilarious memories. And we’re just a random bunch of guys, really. There’s a half Japanese guy in my bunk, and a cell group leader. Quite the motley crew. We were going to have lots of fun, and then we were going to take a picture for memory’s sake, and then go our separate ways.

Somewhere along the line, it hit me. That’s how it works. All of this is incredibly random. The randomness of it all isn’t so immediately obvious if you’ve had a fairly straightforward path in life, because then your illusions of fate, soulmates and BFFs or what-have-you might not be challenged. But if you hop schools, travel around or seek some other form of breadth of experience, you’ll learn a simple truth- people everywhere are pretty much the same on the inside, and pretty much everyone’s capable of having meaningful relationships with others. (There are always exceptions, of course, but that’s beyond the scope of this particular piece.) BMT will be memorable regardless of who the guys are around you- as long as you go through the experiences together. That’s what counts.

Everything is incredibly fleeting, fragile, improbable. All our relationships, everything we value. That we exist at all. We never realise it most of the time. The stranger who passed by you on the street earlier could have been your best friend, if only something happened just slightly differently. People come and go. All we can do is appreciate the light while it lasts. It might not seem like much, but most of us never even do that- indifferently assuming that our lives are somehow stable, our relationships meant to be. We couldn’t be further from the truth. The universe is dripping with infinite possibility, and that makes every single interaction an incredibly precious opportunity.

PS: Here’s a fun story. During my Signals course, there was a day where we were supposed to make these wire joints- 20 per person. Quite labour-intensive, especially if you’re a beginner (as we all were). My bunk was the designated “duty” bunk that day, so we were doing area-cleaning, and didn’t have enough time to complete them. (I couldn’t even get started; I’m terrible with small-scale precision.)

The rational thing to do would have been to call our commander or course sergeant and ask for an extension. Instead we prepared an elaborate setup, hung our flashlights from the ceiling, and sat together chatting as we helped each other, labouring late into the night. It felt like some sort of covert operation, us against a cruel, irrational world. We were just co-existing till then; we became buddies that night. As luck would have it, the sergeants were doing rounds that night, and we were caught for not sleeping past lights-out. I’m not sure who it was who asked us the next day- “Was it worth it?”

My answer now is the same as it was then, and the same as it was for sneaking out of school, and all that other stuff that I’d love to share with you but I don’t think I should write about. Totally worth it.