Sunday, September 30, 2007

PAOful Blog

Bloggging is now part and parcel of our life. Once it belongs to the internet savvy and the young and trendy but now it seems like anyone can and does blog. For example, an ex-college of mine, Dick Yip, who retired last year started a popular blog ( ) which highlights the local school sport scene and was able to have 26 000 monthly readers and 77 000 monthly pages views within a year.

There are as many reasons for people to blog as there are reasons for people to communicate. However, the desire to share with the virtual world may have unintended consequences for the blogger and the viewers that read the blog.

My friend’s son, Mark, discovered on the eve of his exam that one of his classmate, whom he has considered to be a close friend of his, has blogged about him. Although his classmate has used an acronym to represent Mark, any one who read the blog would know that the person referred to was him. Her remarks about Mark hurt him very much but luckily Mark was matured enough not to let it last long enough to affect his performance in the examination.

Whenever I write or blog, I will always use this acronym PAO to judge my effort. P stands for purpose or the intension of my writing. Do I want to inspire or motivate my readers? Or to I want to vent my anger or push the blame to someone else? Or maybe I just want to entertain or share an experience with my readers. A stands for the audience who read my blog or writing. These would include those whom I am aware of and those that I am unaware of. Recently I put a starcounter on my blog and was surprise to see the number of unique visitors that visit my blog. Finally O stands for the outcome that I want the audience to have when they read my writing.

I find that many bloggers often forget this aspect when they blog especially when they are angry and want to get an issue off their chest. They just type furiously and let their ideas and emotions run away with them.

When I come across such blogs, Plato’s chariot will come to my mind. Plato an ancient Greek philosopher, use the Chariot Allegory to explain the role of emotion in our life. He describes the Charioteer as driving a chariot pulled by two horses. One horse is white with a long neck and is well bred and well behaved and thus need not require the whip. The other is black with a short neck, badly bred, taxing and require the whip to behave.

According to Plato, the charioteer represents the rational and intellectual aspect of the person. The white horse symbolizes moral impulse or the positive aspect of the passionate nature while the black horse represents the irrational passions or concupiscent nature. The charioteer would have to use the whip constantly to whip the black horse so that the two horses can go where the charioteer wants to go. If the charioteer fails to control this black horse, then most probably the horse will go wherever he wants.

I find that when a blogger blogs when he is angry, the chances of him using words that can hurt his audience will be higher. When he is confronted with what he has blogged, he would claimed that it was not his intension to hurt the person he was blogging or to offend his reader. He might not be aware that the words he uses may have a negative impact or outcome for his audience.

Because the internet is still evolving and the rules for engagement are still being formulated, we may easily forget to use the whip to tame the black horse that sometime runs while in the blogs.

Blogging has been around for over a decade and as more people jump on the bandwagon to blog, I hope that they are aware that a blog is very different from a conversation or even a diary.

With powerful search engine like Goggle, just a few simple click of the mouse will enable anyone to reach any blog he wants. Unlike a diary which is private, a blog is never private even with five different passwords encrypted in a blog. This is because you can never guarantee that your readers will not post what you have written onto their own blog which might then become public domain. Unlike a conversation which is seldom recorded, readers can trace back and infer various meaning to what you have written a few months or even a few years back. Many bloggers are not aware that they leave a paper trail behind when they blog.

I remember that I was afraid of blogging until last year when I decided to goggle my name and was shocked at the number of people whom I do not know expressed their views about what I have written with regard to being an obedient wife in 2005 in the I Say column. Some bloggers were very vocal with regard to what I have shared about being a submissive wife in this modern, post-feminist era. The funny thing was that I sailed through the year 2005 without knowing that this was happening in the blogging world.

Once, I was in my family doctor clinic and I suggested that he goggled his name to see what others were writing about him. Instead, he goggled his daughter’s name and was shocked that she had proclaimed that she was a 23 year old woman when she was only 13 years old.

However, I am glad that most bloggers are responsible and if someone oversteps major social norms and cultural sensitivities, they will be flamed by other bloggers.

Perhaps before we get flamed we should remember to PAO our blog.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Children's Day, Children's Right

October 1 is Children's Day. After organizing numerous children’s party for them and the final balloon has burst, perhaps it is a good time to take stock and examine if we have provided our children with their basic rights.

According to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, Article 18(1), "Parents or, as the case may be, legal guardians, have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child. The best interests of the child will be their basic concern."

It was an exciting time when my eldest son was born for his grandparents as he was the first grandson and great-grand son. He was spoilt rotten with gifts galore. When he was naughty, he was seldom disciplined and was excused as being mischievous or just being a child. Once, we felt that a good caning was required but one of his grandparents was upset with our mode of punishment. We had to put our foot down and explained firmly yet gently that our child is our primary responsibility and it was our duty to discipline him.

With women working, many of us have to depend on our parents to look after our children. However, grandparents sometimes forget their role and took over role of the parents.

For example, one of my acquaintances has left strict instructions to her parents not to let her baby listen to a particular genre of music. The grandfather, however, insists that the baby listen to it and give explicit instruction to his wife to play the music when the child’s mother is not around. The grandfather has overstepped his boundary and did not respect his daughter rights.

Often grandparents would defend themselves and justify their action by saying that they have the best interest of the grandchild at heart. But what happens when there is a conflict or difference of opinion? Who should give way? The parents deferring to the grandparents? Or the grandparents graciously letting go of their children and trusting that they will do a good job with their grandchild?

The grandparents still have an important role to play in a grandchild’s life. They can create a safe environment where the child can explore and play, they can tell stories or comfort the child when he falls.

However when it comes to the area of discipline, the upbringing and development of the child, parents must maintain the primary responsibility and have the final say.

As parents, we can not give the excuse of project deadlines, overseas work assignments and unreasonable employer demand as an excuse to avoid the role and responsibility of bring up a child. We have heard of a pair of missionary workers who were consistently seeking overseas missionary work to do while leaving their two young children behind to be looked after by their relatives.

Our children have the right to a healthy relationship with us. They have the right to grow up in a safe, caring environment where they are free to develop and grow to their fullest potential. Our role as parents is to nurture the talents and gifts that are hidden in our children and not living our unfulfilled life through them. Often in the name of wanting the best for our children, we failed to recognize their needs and their interest.

Recently, a lawyer quit her high pay job to be a teacher and took a hefty paycut. She is lead a more fulfill and happier life now as a teacher instead of working in a stressed-filled environment for almost 18 hours a day. Her father had insisted that she read law. Luckily she had the courage to take charge of her life and change her job before it was too late.

A middle age mother of two was not so brave. Growing up with a strong-will and domineering mother, she has recently committed herself to a seven year part time course. Although she has no interest at all in this course, her mother had insisted on it. Consequently she is not given a space to grow into a responsible, mature adult with her two children suffering as she finds it difficult to function as a parent.

Being a parent in Singapore is a delicate balancing job. We have to balance our career with our children, and the demands of our children with that of our parents. However when we are cleared that our basic concern is in the best interest of our children, we should not go wrong. Are we ready to celebrate Children’s Day?

Note: This is a response from a reader.
I am the 'not so brave' mother mentioned in the article and feel that I have been grossly and unfairly misrepresented here. I wish to correct my friend's skewed perspective that 'my children are suffering'. Check out my story in

Dear Readers
I would like to encourage all readers to go to her blog to check out her story.


Saturday, September 8, 2007

To be or not to be

I grew up in a shop house in North Bridge Road. Below the living quarters is a hairdresser shop. Every morning, a gentleman who worked in the bank would come with a wig for the hairdresser to set. In the evening, a woman would come for the wig to be attached to her head. It was only later that I realized that the gentleman and woman were the same person. One of the hairdressers was a beautiful and demure lady who “married” another woman who had gone for a sex change-operation. Sometime my mother and I used to go to the near-by, infamous Johore Road to buy supper. Often, we would see transvestite being arrested.

I grew up accepting them as a normal part of my social environment. I do not see them as different or deviant. I was not aware that gays, lesbian and transvestites had to handle societal discrimination, prejudice and intolerance.

As homosexual began to push for more social acceptance in Singapore, the mainstream society had to face the issue of how to co-exist with them.

I, too have to grapple with this issue as my religion do not accept or make allowance for the existence of homosexual in the community. At best, they are asked to live a celibate live before they are accepted into the fold. Some choose this difficult and discipline path because their faith are important to them while others kick the dust off their feet and join other churches that embrace them with open arms.

As one human being to another, I want to accept them as persons accorded with the same courtesy, respect and regard as I would provide to any other heterosexual.

However as a person belonging to a particular religious affiliation, there are certain rules, doctrine and decree that we have to adhere to. For example, most religions do not accept the taking of life and if someone kills, we have to have the courage to say that it is wrong.

But is being homosexual as serious as being a murder or is it just a matter of life style choice?

Homosexual will argue that they are no different from other heterosexual people apart from their sexual preferences. They laugh, cry, are able to remain faithful to one person, and have feelings. Each time they face, discrimination and prejudices in school, in the work place and in society they are hurt.

As for us heterosexual, isn’t it the time for us to consider this issue rationally? Regardless of our religious preference, I am very sure that most of the religion in Singapore demand and extol us to treat every human with the dignity and respect they deserve. Even a convicted murderer deserve our respect no matter how atrocious the crime he has committed. Every reformed criminal should be given a chance to be integrated into society.

Perhaps in our continued journey of open discussion with the gay community, we must remember that we have to respect each other personal and social space. The gay community should not demand that we change our religious viewpoints in order to accommodate them while the heterosexual community should not treat the gay as social outcast.

August is the month of gay pride season again. Are we as a society ready to engage each other in dialogue so that mutual understanding can be developed? Can the gay accept the fact that the certain heterosexual religious group will not be able to or are willing to give up their religious preferences just as the gay are not willing or able to give up their sexual preference?

Or would they gay be continued to be treated like the mutants like those in the X-Men trilogy? Is there a Professor Charles Xavier in Singapore who is able to bridge this widening gap between these two communities?

The write does not accept the homosexual life style but is willing to accept the homosexual community as one that is made up of human being.