Saturday, November 24, 2007
Now this .... Lim Peh Peng San *Slap hand on forehead*
What brings to mind ... is a bunch of book smart hi-scoring kids back in secondary school who are trying way too hard to fit in with the rest of the crowds and attempting stunts like these to make themselves look cool. I personally like Mr Man Shu Sum very much, but this is just too hard to watch :D ....
Are they doing these cos they feel they are too out of touch with the rest of the people out there? Upper management insecurities? Are they trying to bridge a gap they feel is too wide? Why is there such a desperation in trying to make themselves look cool? Or wait .. maybe they just have too much money and time, dunno what to do, and decided to wayang ...
Ok enough talk ... time to get it on with the heads of MDA ... shudders ...
Monday, November 12, 2007
Finally ... Ocean Butterfly has released yet another Xinyao (新謠-Singapore Folk Songs) CD collection, "remastered in 24bit and in HDCD format with 88.2Khz sampling" to provide the best quality so far (at least on paper) of these songs from the past. Being an avid Xinyao fan myself, this is pretty exciting, as I had missed the boat on a previous excellent collection (6 Ocean butterflies CD set xinyao collection with 64 songs) that they released a few years back that is totally out of print. The new one promises 300 songs to be in total, with 5 collections of 4CDs each. Now read this carefully, 5 box sets, with 60 songs on 4 CDs in each box totalling 300 songs. Clear?
Ok ... Now the 1st box set is released and this is its review. Mind you the price is not cheap. $69.90 at Sembawang. Gramophone is selling it for $79.90, so becareful :). From what I can see, this set is going to eventually include the 64 songs from the previous 6 CD set, and include more from the later works of Eric Moo from Fame (since Fame is now involved in this compilation) and the 思菘偉菘 (Song brothers). Since I have been collecting Eric Moo's re-released CDs from a while back, and also some xinyao collection CDs here and there, I am able to compare the quality of this latest release to see if they are really "improved and enhanced". And guess what I found out? There are some hits and misses. Now please note I am comparing many of these tracks from different sources. For instance, Eric Moo's songs from Fame will be compared with the last released CDs collection and as for some tracks like 邂逅, I actually have 4 sources to compare to.
So let's begin with the good points.
- The songs from the old 6 CD collection from Ocean butterfly are generally enhanced at least in the noise suppression area. I could tell very slight expansiveness in those tracks, but you wouldn't be able to tell unless you play them side by side. But they all had went through some sort of noise reduction process that's for sure. In the result, some tracks might sound like the high frequencies were clipped, but it is not too damaging in my opinion.
- The most impressive tracks are the ones by 顏黎明, I could definitely tell the tracks were remarkably improved. For instance 水的話 from this new HDCD collection is the best compared to the one from "新謠精典之冠珍藏版 - Disc One" and "Obcd-9602 - 海蝶逐日". (Obcd - Ocean Butterflies CD collection) Improved clarity, less noise, and much better mastered.
- Even 地下鐵's tracks were improved. So generally, if you want better quality versions of the 64 songs from the OBCD collection, you will find them here. Though not all the 64 songs from collection are here in this Box set 1, I expect the rest of the 4 sets will contain the rest of them all.
- Eric Moo's 姐姐走的那一個下午 is contained here, finally. This track has been kept out of even Fame's own original collection of Eric Moo's works and this is the original studio recording (not the unplugged versions from the 太傻 CD). This is probably the 1st time this version has ever been published on CD. Just for this track alone I think, is worth the ticket of admission.
- There are some tracks that are very important in the history of xinyao, and I think this time, ocean butterfly is able to join forces with a few other companies to release a definitive collection and I think this is really commendable. For instance Eric Moo's later works with Fame, Song brother's works, and some 吴佳明's works etc. are all included here.
- Now this is a big one. The 邂逅 contained in this CD set is "faulty". What I mean by that? A 1/2 a millisecond of the track at the very beginning is "chopped" off. I was soooo bloody disappointed. This is like the song that started it all!!! This song is the 1st xinyao ever to make to the "Dragon Tiger Charts" (龍虎榜）and here, it is flawed!!! Very simtiah .. very simtiah .... And not just that, somehow, this version seems to be boosted in its volume to the extent that there are some distortion in the track. Very very odd.
- Why are there no track listing on the cover?? Given the freaking high price of the set, (and it is obvious that they know hard core people like us will snap it u) what's the deal with withholding that info? We only know there are 60 songs in the set, but how many CDs? No indication. What songs? Not indicated too. Damn it is not even on their website. I almost feel like I am being taken advantaged here (dok! 菜頭). But anyways, here I am kena doked already. And here's the list of the tracks courtesy of yours truly :)
- The version of 我的朋友我的同學我最愛的一切 here is some bastardized remixed choral+R&B Hip Hop version. What the hell isit doing here?
- Eric Moo's tracks from Fame are not improved in any manner from the previous CD collection. Not to say that they are not good. But I was expecting some HDCD treatment, but well ... better than not having any at all.
- 遺忘過去 here is the version which was from his 作品集 which is a 2nd studio version ever recorded. The 1st version was a studio version made for the TV series "咖啡烏" and it had a slightly different ending. The new one ended "泡杯咖啡請聽我告訴你" while the later version went "漫漫長夜請聽我告訴你". Personally, I preferred the later version, the arrangement was better, he sang much better (under the guidance of 劉文正), sounded much more mature and had better lyrics for the ending. Now what's odd, is that on this CD collection, the lyrics booklet printed the lyrics for the older version while the CD included the later recorded version. Very odd indeed. .... In this case, I'd say having the newer version her versus the older one is a tossup. Maybe because I managed to find a "咖啡烏" CD soundtrack and already owned the older version so I am not making a fuss. But some purist might be annoyed.
- 梁文褔 is sorely missed. What a pity ... Will he appear in the other 4 boxsets? Pleeease!!! and 姜鄠? 黄宏墨?
Ok ... so this are some things that stood out for me in reviewing this collection. I am looking forward to the rest of the sets to come out and grab them all. Knowing how rare these CDs are, I highly recommend lovers of Xinyao to quickly grab them while they last. We all know they get 絕版 pretty quickly. :D ....Usually their 頭版 is their 唯一版. :)
Funny how I noticed a trend in these old songs, how they keep talking about 忙碌的過去 and how they keep "looking back" on 那一段日子. And these songs were written when Singapore Pop culture was still very much in its infancy. I think now they look back, the songs seems more appropriate now than back then when it was written, cos they didn't have as much to look back to then. In 星空下 and 遺忘過去, they both have a line that are very very similar - 美麗的明天需要自己去努力 and 生命(生命）還要靠自己去努力. Looking at the Stephanie Sun, JJ Lin, Ah Du, Tanya Chua of today, I can't help thinking how we could have arrived here without the Xinyao of the 80s. If not for those pioneers and all that they have gone through, they wouldn't have paved the way, nor be able to groom and write songs for the successful local singers of today. 沒有這些前輩的努力來打造他們的明天，我們根本不會有這美麗的今天。And it is really all about dreams :)
In a way the film industry is what xinyao was in the 80s. And I can't wait to contribute and see where we will be in 20 years. :)
沙漠足跡 - 劉瑞政＋巫啓賢
邂逅 - 巫啟賢＋黃譓禎
如何對你說 - 顏黎明
水的話 - 顏黎明
東東的故事 - 水草三重唱
晨的腳踨 - 地下鐵
信的告白 - 清泉小組
思夜 - 劉瑞政
星空下 - 巫啟賢
船長 - 巫啟賢
日月落昇 - 地下鐵
初涉 - 黃譓禎
走過年少 - 巫啟賢
阿Ben阿Ben - 水草三重唱
新衣哪有舊衣好 - 梁文褔＋顏黎明
我們這一班 - 顏黎明
青春123 - 顏黎明
看一場週末電影 - 顏黎明
我的朋友我的同學我最愛的一切 - 吴慶康
今天我的心情還不錯 - 吴慶康
Then Hor Then Hor - 吴慶康
我們是最好的朋友 - 巫啟賢
手足情 - 巫啟賢＋巫啟雄
遺忘過去 - 巫啟賢
只有你這樣一個朋友 - 李偉菘＋李思菘
我的搖籃 - 李偉菘
家和萬事興 - 李偉菘
鄉愁 - 李偉菘
朋友你好嗎？ - 洪劭軒
歲月的另一張臉 - 洪劭軒
情感聯絡站（咖啡烏） - 巫啟賢
那一段日子 - 巫啟賢
何必孤獨 - 巫啟賢
姐姐走的一個下午 - 巫啟賢
畢業以後 - 顏黎明
黎明的心 - 顏黎明
小人物的心聲 - 吴佳明
我的生活在這裡 - 吴佳明
陋巷童謠 - 吴佳明
心宇寂星 - 洪劭軒
給父親的話 - 洪劭軒
賣花老婦 - 洪劭軒
啤酒周圍的故事 - 巫啟賢
太陽眼鏡 - 巫啟賢
年輕的心 - 巫啟賢＋合唱
你是我的唯一 - 巫啟賢
輕輕的說聲愛你 - 巫啟賢
擁抱你 - 巫啟賢
我的男人你的嘴唇他的吻 - 吴慶康
我＋你≠愛情 - 吴慶康＋馬毓芬
深愛著你 - 李偉菘
一千個傷心的理由 - 李偉菘＋李思菘
情話 - 李思菘
月色同行 - 顏黎明
你的倒影 - 洪劭軒＋顏黎明
我還在世界的背後想你 - 洪劭軒
从你回眸那天開始 - 洪劭軒
我想說的是 - 巫啟賢
可否從頭來過 - 巫啟賢
再一次戀愛 - 巫啟賢
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Amazingly, there was hardly any pain. And even after the surgery, I felt totally fine and could even drive myself home if I wanted to. Went off to work right after the surgery and totally fine. I could even eat relatively normally. Even on the 2nd day, there was only slight muscle aching and no headaches or all the horror stories I heard from people. I had no GA and had 4 removed all in less than an hour. 3 of which had to be surgically removed cos they were still "buried". All these points to the fact that I had a great dental surgeon. Dr Myra Elliot, Mount Elizabeth, #04-04 Tel: 67346859. Highly recommended. And I am not paid to say this really. :)
Monday, November 05, 2007
This email is in response to the article "A fiery NMP gets her baptism of fire" published last Friday 2 November 2007 in Straits Times.
I read with great concern regarding Dr Thio Li-ann's worldview on how her take on morality issues is decidedly and openly christian based - and the fact that she is using them as basis for an argument as an NMP to push for a law in our very own country. I would like Dr Thio to kindly leave her religion at the doorsteps of the parliament in future before stepping in. Whatever her stand may be for the S377A issue, please let it be one preached not on the basis of her own religion. While I respect her dramatic telling of how she converted to a Christian from a staunch non-believer, I think it only lends credence as a story to convert other non-believers to her faith, and adds nothing to the strength of her argument or moral standing on the issue of S377A.
Dr Thio believes that religion should have a part to play in public policymaking, and I shudder to know how many in our government share this view. This is because I do not wish my country's policy's to be swayed towards a certain religion or be determined based on a certain religion's view of what's moralistic or not. There should be a separation between religion and state politics. And if she thinks it is inevitable, then she should consider changing her job from a politician to that of a preacher. A fair politician should realise that in order to keep it fair amongst people of different race and religion, he/she has to be objective about how he/she tackles policymaking for all without discrimination and not tainted by his/her evangelical movement to save people their way. I do not want a day to come where we are arguing in parliament about what is allowable by the standards of Buddha versus that of Jesus Christ. Please keep your Gods at your own churches and temples and let your conscience, objectivity and common sense be your guide.
As she proudly wears her own religious beliefs as a badge to champion a moralistic view in parliament, has she given a thought to how people of other race/religion will swallow it? Her using of evangelical christianity as a basis for public policymaking could evoke discord amongst people of different races and religion within the country, and wouldn't that be considered an act of sedition?
On why she thinks religion should have a part to play in public policymaking:
"Every public policy issue has a moral basis and religion does influence the morality of many people. People could argue atheism influences morality as well, so we're going to go back to the whole issue of which morality. I am tired of arguing "Thou shalt not legislate morality". That is a red herring. As all laws are based on morality of some sort, the question really is: What morality should we legislate?"
According to her "S377A is immoral" and "Repealing 377A is the first step of a radical, political agenda which will subvert social immorality, the common good and undermine our liberties!"
Now let's look at Section 377 Act again: Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years. Gross indecency is a broad term which, from a review of past cases in Singapore, has been applied to mutual masturbation, genital contact, or even lewd behaviour without direct physical contact.
My greatest concern here is one of the thought that we have a NMP here, who's openly supporting the integration of her religion with the country's affairs. The key operative here is "her religion". We should be aware that Dr Thio is evangelical Christian, and she's very openly so. But when she starts asserting her religious morals as basis for a country's laws, something is very wrong here. Does she remember what's in the Singapore's pledge? "We the citizen of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people. Regardless of race, language or religion." But here, she's making the country take a stand on what is fundamentally based on what she thinks her religion thinks is morally correct or not. She asks "what morality should we legislate?" Is she suggesting that morality based on her religion is exclusively all-encompassing for use as a standard for all other religions too? So if christian faith should be the one to determine how laws are to be made, would the day come when every household should remove their "idols" because it would be "against the morally correct laws" to do so even if you are not a christian? I think our NMP here have to realise that to incorporate religion into public law making, she cannot just use her own religion as a standard, but also that of others. By using her religion to influence policy making, would that be considered "an act which could cause discord amongst other races/religious groups" and thus be at the risk of breaking the "sedition act"? (Sedition Act - any act, speech, words, publication or other thing shall not be deemed to be seditious by reason only that it has a tendency to point out, with a view to their removal, any matters producing or having a tendency to produce feelings of ill-will and enmity between different races or classes of the population of Singapore ). I as a buddhist, is finding it an act of ill-will that a christian is using her religion to set government laws that might be deemed unconstitutional or against our national pledge. Can I sue her for sedition then?
Ok here are some more questions:
1) Dr Thio is tired of the argument of "Thou shalt not legislate morality". But christianity does not have a monopoly on what is deemed as proper morals. Abortion is not moral according to Christianity, does it mean that you are going to enacting a law against it? What if non-christian Singaporeans disagree with you?
2) Oddly, S377A is specifically targeting male homosexuals, not the females. But the biggest problem with s377A, is that it criminalizes any indecent sexual act between 2 males specifically, when the indecency act which does not specify it to be any of any gender should be sufficient to cover the grounds. The specific criminalizing of male gays in the s377A is what causes the outrage. The act in itself then appears to be discriminatory in nature. And when Dr Thio rails against the homosexuals and their immorality, wouldn't that make her behavior to be one of discriminatory nature as well?
3) Given the indecency act covers what needs to be covered morally(regardless of religion), wouldn't 377A be redundant as it seeks to re-emphasize the same point but in a discriminatory angle against a minority homosexual group whom are males?
A NMP who argues well, doesn't mean she argues right. And I can only wish that readers and the general public on the whole can see the truth from well-packaged deliveries. Here's my hope that people can learn to see things not by the cover of the book, but through the substance of the text written.
27 Oct 2007
By Janadas Devan
I CONFESS: I found the parliamentary debate on Section 377A of the Penal Code exceedingly depressing. It is no fun at all finding oneself holding a view - I believe the provision is odious and should be scrapped - with so little support.
Of the 82 PAP MPs, only 3-1/2 expressed views that resembled mine - Mr Charles Chong, Mr Hri Kumar and Mr Baey Yam Keng. The half was Ms Indranee Rajah, who suggested 377A might be scrapped at some point, only not in this century. Her citation of how long it took to end slavery suggested we might have to wait roughly 2,500 years.
Of the nine NMPs, only one, Mr Siew Kum Hong, who presented the citizens' petition calling for the repeal of 377A, stood up for homosexuals. And among the three opposition MPs, none did.
My depression was infinitely deepened when I read NMP Thio Li-Ann's parliamentary phillipic - entitled Two Tribes Go To (Culture) War - as well as her Insight article yesterday. She was brilliant, incisive, learned, witty and civil. The 'moral conservative majority' has found a formidable warrior - notice that 'War'; and my side - the immoral liberal minority? - was left looking stupid, speechless, confused, sour-faced and uncivil.
Consider how she tore to shreds so many of our cherished beliefs. The idiots that we are, we had believed 'pluralism' meant, among other things, 'autonomy and retention of identity for individual bodies', a 'society in which the members of minority groups maintain their independent cultural traditions', 'a system that recognises more than
one ultimate principle or kind of being', as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it.
But we were wrong. 'Democratic pluralism,' Prof Thio wrote incisively yesterday, 'welcomes every view in public discussion, but does not commit the intellectual fallacy of saying every view is right. The goal is to ascertain the right view for the circumstances.' That means that under certain circumstances - to be determined by whatever passes for
the majority at any moment, I suppose - pluralism can insist on a singular 'ultimate principle or kind of being'.
We silly fellows had also misunderstood the nature of secularism. We had thought it meant separation of religion from the state, politics and public policy. We were wrong. As Prof Thio explained trenchantly in her 'culture war' speech: 'Religious views are part of our common morality. We separate 'religion' from 'politics' but not 'religion'
from 'public policy' (emphasis mine).
I never knew that! I had always assumed that it was necessary to separate religion from politics as well as public policy, for it was impossible to separate public policy from politics, and both from the state. But it turns out my assumption was baseless.
Jawaharlal Nehru, a Brahmin who insisted on untouchability being banned in the Indian Constitution despite the opposition of many caste Hindus, simply did not understand a thing about secularism. Bishop Desmond Tutu, a Methodist who insisted that discrimination against homosexuals be prohibited in the South African Constitution, was similarly clueless. And all those Enlightenment chaps in powdered wigs who insisted on the separation of church and state in the United States - in part, because there was no 'common morality' among religions - well, silly fellows, they knew nothing.
Yes, I must admit, Prof Thio demolished my side with astonishing ease. First, her big guns - pluralism is not plural; secularism can be religiously informed - left us limbless. Then, equally impressively, the cultural warrior sliced and diced us with her rapier wit and uncommon civility. We were finally left with our torsos tossed into ideological ditches and our heads stuck on cultural pikes.
'To say a law is archaic is merely chronological snobbery,' she thundered, referring to 377A. That sent me reeling. So original! So conclusive! So brilliant!
'Chronological snobbery' was first coined by Owen Barfield and C.S. Lewis, two eminent British popular theologians. It first appeared in print, I think, in Lewis' moving spiritual autobiography, Surprised By Joy. Lewis and Barfield coined it to stigmatise modern 'intellectual fashions' that they thought consigned unfairly religious faith to a seemingly unregenerate past.
Prof Thio, a most learned person, must have known of the origin of this phrase in theological controversy, and she brilliantly extended it to the law. And if one linked this extension to the profound truths she uncovered about public policy in a secular state, one would see how her stigmatisation of 'chronological snobbery' can be extended further
still. All those in favour of teaching 'intelligent design' alongside Darwin's theory of evolution in schools, raise your hands. Done! Education Ministry, please take note.
Then there was her wit, deployed so civilly. Anal sex is like 'shoving a straw up your nose to drink', she said. A colleague of mine googled that and discovered it was an often cited image in American anti-gay pamphlets. To top that, she said 377A must be kept on the books so we can say 'Majullah Singapura', not 'Mundur Singapura'. If you did not get the joke, here is a clue: Mundur means 'backward' in Malay, and 'backward' here alludes to that 'straw' and another orifice. See? Now, isn't that funny?
Oh, I cried when I read that. Imagine that: The moral conservative majority makes better vulgar jokes than the immoral liberal minority - and in Parliament too. If the immoral minority cannot beat the moral majority even in this department, we are really and truly kaput.
What sent me into shock was the discovery that Singapore is actually the US. I am referring to Prof Thio's sources of inspiration. Google 'culture war' and you will discover them.
The term was made famous by Mr Patrick Buchanan, a right-wing conservative (many would say zealot) who challenged former president George H.W. Bush, a moderate, for the Republican presidential nomination in 1992. At the Republican convention that year, Mr Buchanan alarmed many Americans by declaring: 'There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.'
Once one understands the milieu from which this statement issues, one would understand the origins of Prof Thio's profound understanding of pluralism and secularism. It does not derive from the Enlightenment or from contemporary Europe or Asia. It derives from the American religious right. It is they who insist pluralism cannot ultimately be plural; it is they who demand public policy be informed by religious beliefs.
And all but a few thumped their seats when Prof Thio finished her speech? They must have missed the radical - yes, radical and extreme - nature of her claims. One person who did not, I think, was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. My colleague Chua Mui Hoong reported he did not thump his seat.
That lifted my depression somewhat. I did not like one bit the upshot of the Prime Minister's speech - that 377A will stay because the majority, especially Christians and Muslims, are opposed to its scrubbing. But I was proud of what he had to say, and how he said it.
There are 'limits', he said, for homosexuals in Singapore. But there would be limits too, in how religious beliefs are applied in the policing of homosexuals. Section 377A will not be applied 'proactively', he said - meaning, it will be inoperative.
Mr Stuart Koe, chief executive of gay Asian portal Fridae.com, was wrong to liken 377A to a gun being put to the heads of homosexuals and not pulling the trigger. There is a gun, it remains symbolically loaded, but it has been laid down.
For that - a small victory - we have to thank old-fashioned pluralism, not Prof Thio's radical rewriting of it. Some of us - our children, our friends, our siblings - have different sexual orientations, so let's give them space.
For the rest - well, we will have to wait, but hopefully, not for 2,500 years.
The S377A states: Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years.
After reading this post, please read the following one of a rebuttal by Straits Times Journalist Janadas Devan.
Speech, Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Penal Code Revisions, 22-23 October 2007 (Professor Dr. Thio Li-ann, Nominated Member)
Two Tribes Go to (Culture) War Two camps championing two distinct criminal law philosophies are polarised over whether to retain or repeal s377A which criminalizes public or private acts of gross indecency between two men, such as sodomy.
The ‘liberal’ camp wants 377A repealed. They offer an ‘argument from consent’ –government should not police the private sexual behaviour of consenting adults. They opine this violates their liberty or ‘privacy’. They ask, ‘Why criminalize something which does not “harm” anyone; if homosexuals are “born that way”, isn’t it unkind to ‘discriminate’ against their sexual practices?
These flawed arguments are marinated with distracting fallacies which obscure what is at stake – repealing 377A is the first step of a radical, political agenda which will subvert social morality, the common good and undermine our liberties.
The ‘communitarian’ camp argues from ‘community values’ – these social conservatives want 377A retained, to protect public health, morality, decency and order. A Keep 377A online petition attracted over 15,000 signatures after a few days.
Like many, I applaud the government’s wisdom in keeping 377A which conserves what upholds the national interest. ‘Conservative’ here is not a dirty word connoting backwardness; environmental conservation protects our habitat; the moral ecology must be conserved to protect what is precious and sustains a dynamic, free and good society.
The welfare of future generations depends on basing law on sound public philosophy. We should reject the ‘argument from consent’ as its philosophy is intellectually deficient and morally bankrupt.
Sir, the arguments to retain 377A are overwhelmingly compelling and should be fully articulated, to enable legislators to make informed decisions and not be bewitched by the empty rhetoric and emotional sloganeering employed by many radical liberals, which generate more heat than light.
The real question today is not “if” we should repeal 377A now, or wait until people are ready to move. This assumes too much, as though we need an adjustment period before the inevitable. The real question is not “if” but “should” we ever repeal 377A. It is not inevitable; it is not desirable to repeal it in any event. Not only is retaining s377A sound public policy, it is legally and constitutionally beyond reproach. Responsible legislators must grapple with the facts, figures and principles involved; they cannot discount the noxious social consequences repeal will bring.
Debate must be based on substance not sound-bites. Let me red-flag four red herrings.
First, to say a law is archaic is merely chronological snobbery.
Second, you cannot say a law is ‘regressive’ unless you first identify your ultimate goal. If we seek to copy the sexual libertine ethos of the wild wild West, then repealing s377A is progressive. But that is not our final destination. The onus is on those seeking repeal to prove this will not harm society.
Third, to say a law which criminalizes homosexual acts because many find it offensive is merely imposing a “prejudice” or “bias” assumes with justification that no reasonable contrary view exists. This evades debate. The liberal argument which says sodomy is a personal choice, private matter and ‘victimless crime’ merely asserts this. It rests precariously on an idiosyncratic notion of “harm” – but “harm” can be both physical and intangible; victims include both the immediate parties and third parties. What is done in ‘private’ can have public repercussions.
Fourth, some argue that legislators should be ‘open-minded’ and decriminalize sodomy. However, like an open mouth, an open mind must eventually close on something solid. They urge legislators to be ‘objective’ and to leave their personal subjective beliefs at home, especially if they hold religious views which consider homosexuality aberrant. This demand for objectivity is intellectually disingenuous as there is no neutral ground, no ‘Switzerland of ambivalence’ when we consider the moral issues related to 377A which require moral judgment of what is right and wrong - not to take a stand, is to take a stand! As law has a moral basis, we need to consider which morality to legislate. Neither the majority or minority is always right – but there are fundamental values beyond fashion and politics which serve the common good. Religious views are part of our common morality. We separate ‘religion’ from ‘politics,’ but not ‘religion’ from ‘public policy’. That would be undemocratic. All citizens may propose views in public debate, whether influenced by religious or secular convictions or both; only the government can impose a view by law. Incidentally, one does not have to be religious to consider homosexuality contrary to biological design and immoral; secular philosopher Immanuel Kant considered homosexuality “immoral acts against our animal nature” which did not preserve the species and dishonoured humanity.
The issues surrounding s377A are about morality, not modernity or being cosmopolitan. What will foreigners think if we retain 377A? Depends on which foreigner you ask. Many would applaud us! Such issues divide other societies as well! The debate is not closed. A group of Canadians1 were grieved enough to issue an online apology to the world “for harm done through Canada's legalization of homosexual marriage”, urging us not to repeat their mistakes.
Singapore is an independent state and we can decide the 377A issue ourselves; we have no need of foreign or neo-colonial moral imperialism in matters of fundamental morality.
There are no constitutional objections to s377A Sir, there are no constitutional objections to retaining 377A while de-criminalising heterosexual oral and anal sex. Three legal points are worth making.
First, there is no constitutional right to homosexual sodomy. It is not a facet of personal liberty under article 9. Nor is there a human right to homosexual sodomy though some like to slip this in under the umbrella of ‘privacy.’ Human rights are universal, like prohibitions against genocide. Demands for ‘homosexual rights’ are the political claims of a narrow interest group masquerading as legal entitlements. Homosexual activists often try to infiltrate and hijack human rights initiatives to serve their political agenda, discrediting an otherwise noble cause to protect the weak and poor. You cannot make a human wrong a human right.
Second, while homosexuals are a numerical minority, there is no such thing as ‘sexual minorities’ at law. Activists have coined this term to draw a beguiling but fallacious association between homosexuals and legally recognized minorities like racial groups. Race is a fixed trait. It remains controversial whether homosexual orientation is genetic or environmental, perhaps both. There are no ex-Blacks but there are ex-gays. The analogy between race and sexual orientation or preferred sexual preferences, is false. Activists repeat the slogan ‘sexual minority’ ad nausem as a deceptive political ploy to get sympathy from people who don’t think through issues carefully. Repetition does not cure fallacy
Science has become so politicized that the issue of whether gays are ‘born that way’ depends on which scientist you ask. You cannot base sound public philosophy on poor politicized pseudo ‘science’.
Homosexuality is a gender identity disorder; there are numerous examples of former homosexuals successfully dealing with this. Just this year, two high profile US activists left the homosexual lifestyle, the publisher of Venus, a lesbian magazine, and an editor of Young Gay America. Their stories are available on the net. An article by an ex- gay in the New Statesmen this July identified the roots of his emotional hurts, like a distant father, overbearing mother and sexual abuse by a family friend; after working through his pain, his unwanted same-sex attractions left. While difficult, change is possible and a compassionate society would help those wanting to fulfill their heterosexual potential. There is hope.
Singapore law only recognizes racial and religious minorities. Special protection is reserved for the poor and disadvantaged; the average homosexual person in Singapore is both well educated, with higher income – that’s why upscale condo developers target them! Homosexuals do not deserve special rights, just the rights we all have.
‘Sexual minorities’ and ‘sexual orientation’ are vague terms – covering anything from homosexuality, bestiality, incest, paedophilia – do all these minority sexual practices merit protection?
Third, 377A does not breach the article 12 guarantee of equality. While all human persons are of equal worth, not all human behaviour is equally worthy. We separate the actor from the act. In criminalizing acts, we consider the wrongfulness of the act, the harm caused and how it affects the good of society.
Parliament has the power to classify; this involves a choice, like distinguishing murder and manslaughter. Classifications which satisfy the constitutional test of validity are called “differentiation”; only invalid classifications are called “discrimination.” Criminalising same-sex sodomy but not opposite-sex sodomy is valid “differentiation.” S377A does not target any specific actor; it would cover a heterosexual male experimenting with male sodomy. Valid classifications must have a clear basis and be rationally related to a legitimate purpose. In serving public health and public morality, 377A passes constitutional muster with flying colours.
Public Health Argument Sir, public health and safety is a legitimate purpose served by the 377A ban on homosexual anal and oral sex. Both these practices are efficient methods of transmitting sexual diseases and AIDs / HIV which are public health problems. These are not victimless crimes as the whole community has to foot the costs of these diseases.
Anal-penetrative sex is inherently damaging to the body and a misuse of organs, like shoving a straw up your nose to drink. The anus is designed to expel waste; when something is forcibly inserted into it, the muscles contract and cause tearing; fecal waste, viruses carried by sperm and blood thus congregate, with adverse health implications like ‘gay bowel syndrome’, anal cancer. ‘Acts of gross indecency’ under 377A also covers unhygienic practices like “rimming” where the mouth comes into contact with the anus. Consent to harmful acts is no defence – otherwise, our strong anti-drug laws must fall as it cannot co-exist with letting in recreational drugs as a matter of personal lifestyle choice.
Opposite-sex sodomy is harmful, but medical studies indicate that same-sex sodomy carries a higher price tag for society because of higher promiscuity and frequency levels. The New York Times2 reported that even informed homosexuals return to unsafe practices like bare-backing and bug-chasing after a health crisis wanes. A British Study3 showed that the legalization of homosexual sodomy correlated with an upsurge of STDs among gays. Common sense tells us that with more acceptance, any form of consensual sexual behaviour increases. Sodomy laws have some deterrent effect.
It is rational for the state to target the most acute aspect of a problem. The legal issue is not whether the state should be concerned with heterosexual sodomy but whether it is reasonable to believe same-sex sodomy poses a distinct problem. Medical literature indicates that gays have disproportionately higher STDs rates, which puts them in a different category from the general public, warranting different treatment.
The onus rests on opponents of 377A to negate every conceivable basis for treating homosexual and heterosexual sodomy differently. They cannot, because classifications do not need to be perfect and can be under-inclusive; valid classifications only need to “go some way” to serve the legislative goal, which 377A clearly does.
Public Morality Sir, the power to legislate morality is not limited to preventing demonstrable harm. The Penal Code now criminalizes the wounding of both religious and racial feelings (s498).
S377A serves public morality; the argument from community reminds us we share a way of life which gives legal expression to the moral repugnancy of homosexuality. Heterosexual sodomy unlike homosexual sodomy does not undermine the understanding of heterosexuality as the preferred social norm. To those who say that 377A penalizes only gays not lesbians, note there have been calls to criminalize lesbianism too.
Public sexual morality must buttress strong families based on faithful union between man and wife, the best model for raising children. The state should not promote promiscuity nor condone sexual exploitation. New section 376D criminalizes the organisation of child sex tours. Bravo.
The ‘argument from consent’ says the state should keep out of the bedroom, to safeguard ‘sexual autonomy’. While we cherish racial and religious diversity, sexual diversity is a different kettle of fish. Diversity is not license for perversity. This radical liberal argument is pernicious, a leftist philosophy based on radical individualism and radical egalitarianism. It is unworkable because every viable moral theory has limits to consent.
Radical individualism would demand decriminalising consensual adult incest; but the Penal Code is not based on consent as s376F reflects. The state has always retained an interest in regulating conduct in the bedroom – the issue is which type?
Radical egalitarianism applied to sexual morality says the state should not morally distinguish between types of consensual sex. It exudes a false neutrality but actually sneaks in a substantive philosophy: Hedonism which breeds narcissism. This extols Section 20, Misc Offences Act. satisfying desire without restraint as a matter of autonomy. But some desires are undesirable, harming self and society.
The argument from consent ultimately celebrates sexual libertine values, the fruit of which is sexual licentiousness, a culture of lust, which takes, rather than love, which gives. This social decline will provoke more headlines like a 2004 Her World article called: “Gay guy confesses: I slept with 100 men…one of them could be your hubby.” What about the broken-hearts involved?
If you argue from consent, how can you condemn any form of sexual self- expression, no matter how selfish or hurtful? But, no man is an island. Ideas, embodied in laws, have consequences. Don’t send the wrong message.
The issues raised in the Petition fall apart on rigorous analysis.
Rule of Law vs. Rule of Good Law Sir, government policy is not to pro-actively enforce 377A. Some argue that just keeping this law on the books will erode the rule of law. I disagree. It is not turning a blind eye on the existence of homosexuals here; it is refusing to celebrate homosexuality while allowing gays to live quiet lives. This is prudent, as it is difficult to enforce ‘bedroom’ offences; such intrusive powers should be judiciously used anyway.
We have other hard-to-police laws which embody communal standards of public decency, such as laws against nudity visible to the public eye, even if you are at home.5 Law is a Moral teacher and makes a moral statement; 6 years ago, Singapore symbolically blocked access to 100 porn sites, as a ‘statement of our values.’ We value our values, while remaining realistic.
A non pro-active policy does not mean 377A will never be enforced – who knows what another season may require? Policies can change.
Sir, citizens are not just concerned with the rule of law but with the rule of good law. Laws which violate core moral values will alienate many and bring the system into disrepute. Indeed, many citizens see keeping 377A as evidence the government is defending the right moral values, which lends legitimacy.
Criminalising Moral Wrongs – which? Sir, it is true that not all moral wrongs, such as adultery, are criminalized; yet they retain their stigma. But adulterors know they done wrong and do not lobby for toleration of adultery as a sexual orientation right.
Homosexual Agenda and Social Consequences Conversely, homosexual activists lobby hard for a radical sexual revolution, waging a liberal fundamentalist crusade against traditional morality. They adopt a ‘step by step’ Section 27A(1) Misc Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act approach to hide how radical the agenda is. Liberals never ask: what happens next if you repeal 377A. Responsible legislators must see the Big Picture.
Pro-gay academics identify 5 main steps in this agenda in their study of foreign jurisdictions.
Step 1: repeal laws criminalizing homosexual sex. They consider this “pivotal” to advancing the homosexual agenda. Why? Without this, they cannot advance in the public sphere or push for government funding and support for special programmes, such as the New York Gay High School. Governments don’t promote criminal activities. You need to change the criminal law before changing civil law.
But decriminalizing sodomy is only (bing1 shan1 yi4 jiao3) the tip of the iceberg which is 1/8 of an ice mass – we must see what lies beneath the water to avoid a Titanic fate.
Step 2 is to equalize the age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual sex; in some countries, this is as low as 13. Do we want to expose Sec 1 boys to adult sexual predators? To be sexually creative?
Step 3 is to prohibit discrimination based on ‘sexual orientation’. But would this not include all sexual behaviour? “Sex before 8 or else it’s too late” is the motto of the North American Man Boy Love Association. Should we judge pedophilia or be relativist and promote “anything goes” sexual experimentation?
Sir, to protect homosexuals, some countries have criminalized not sodomy but opposition to sodomy, making it a ‘hate crime’ to criticize homosexuality. This violates freedom of speech and religion; will sacred texts that declare homosexuality morally deviant, like the Bible and Koran, be criminalized? Social unrest beckons. Such assaults on constitutional liberties cannot be tolerated.
Steps 4 and 5 relate to legalizing same-sex marriage or partnerships, child adoption rights. This subverts both marriage and family, which are institutions homosexuals seek to redefine beyond recognition. Will MOE then commission a book copying the US “Heather has 2 mummies” called “Ah Beng has 2 daddies?” What if parents disagree with their kids studying homosexual propaganda?
Is legalizing same-sex marriage progressive? It is if you want a genderless planet where “husband” and “wife” are considered discriminatory terms, to be replaced by “spouse”.
We want to be able to say, Majullah Singapura, not Mundur Singapura!
Repealing 377A will further batter the institution of ‘marriage’ which we must bolster! This is because the arguments raised to challenge a distinction between heterosexual and homosexual sodomy, equally apply to challenge legal distinctions between lawful heterosexual marriage between man and wife and unlawful homosexual unions.
To reinforce the moral foundations of a pro-family policy that permits only heterosexuals to marry, it is permissible to differentiate between heterosexual and homosexual sodomy. To say that 377A discriminates is effectively to say that marriage laws discriminate and are unconstitutional.
Legalising sodomy would set a bad example; by signaling approval, it may change both attitude and conduct; coupled with sexual hedonism, it makes a mockery of strong family values. 377A helps to protect against this harm.
Academic supporters of the homosexual agenda like my colleague Michael Hor argued online that even if 377A was not enforced, discriminatory policies against homosexuals could be built on the logic of its existence. But taking his logic, repealing 377A would mean the government would be less able to resist claims for homosexual marriage or for promoting homosexuality as a desirable lifestyle in schools, as this would be ‘discriminatory’.These foreign developments warn us that the advance of the homosexual agenda here is not remote.
To slouch back to Sodom is to return to the Bad Old Days in ancient Greece or even China where sex was utterly wild and unrestrained, and homosexuality was considered superior to man-women relations. Women’s groups should note that where homosexuality was celebrated, women were relegated to low social roles; when homosexuality was idealized in Greece, women were objects not partners, who ran homes and bore babies. Back then, whether a man had sex with another man, woman or child was a matter of indifference, like one’s eating preferences. The only relevant category was penetrator and penetrated; sex was not seen as interactive intimacy, but a doing of something to someone. How degrading.
It was only when marriage was invented by the Jewish Torah that the genie of sexual impulses was forced into the marital bottle, so that sex no longer dominated society – this discipline provided the social base for the development of western civilization. Homosexuals as fellow citizens have the right to expect decent treatment from the rest of us; but they have no right to insist we surrender our fundamental moral beliefs so they can feel comfortable about their sexual behaviour. We should not be subject to the tyranny of the undemocratic minority who want to violate our consciences, trample on our cherished moral virtues and threaten our collective welfare by imposing homosexual dogma on right-thinking people. Keep 377A.
Democracy and Debate Sir, we Singaporeans will continue to debate and disagree over controversial moral issues as they arise. We should make substantive arguments and not think with our feelings; the media should present both sides fairly, without bias. However, I have noted a disturbing phenomenon over the 377A debate– the argument by insult. Instead of reasoning, some have resorted to name-calling to intimidate and silence their opponents. People with principled moral objections to the homosexual agenda are tarred and feathered ‘homophobes’, ‘bigots’, to shut them up. This strategy is unoriginally imported from foreign gay activists, which stifles creative thinking and intellectual enquiry.
When you shout, full of sound and fury, and call your opponents nasty names, this terminates public debate. No one wants to be called a bigot. But think about it – if I oppose incest, am I an incestophobe? If I oppose alcoholism, am I a winophobe? If having an opinion means you are bigoted, then we are all bigots! What is your phobia?
Where certain liberals accuse their opponents of being intolerant, they demonstrate their own intolerance towards their opponents! They are hoist on their own petard, guilty of everything they accuse their detractors of!
One of my colleagues, a young professor, suffered these vicious tactics when the Straits Times published an article this May where Yvonne Lee argued against repealing 377A. This well-researched, cogent article so incensed homosexual activists that they flooded her with a torrent of abusive, lewd emails and wrote to her head of department calling for her to be removed from her job. This appeared to be a co-ordinated campaign.
We academics are used to disagreement, but why write to her employer and threaten her livelihood? Why vilify someone and seek to assassinate their personal and professional reputation? I hope the House joins me in deploring these malicious attacks which also assault academic freedom. She is owed an apology. I would be ashamed to belong to any academic institution that cravenly bowed down to such disgraceful bully- boy tactics.
This August, I had my own experience with this sort of hysterical attack. I received an email from someone I never met, full of vile and obscene invective which I shall not repeat, accusing me of hatemongering. It cursed me and expressed the wish to defile my grave on the day 377A was repealed.
I believe in free debate but this oversteps the line. I was distressed, disgusted, upset enough to file a police report. Does a normal person go up to a stranger to express such irrational hatred?
Smear tactics indicate the poor quality of debate and also, of character. Let us have rational debate, not diatribe, free from abusive rhetoric and tantrum-throwing. As Singapore approaches her Jubilee, My hope for the post-65 generation is that we will not become an uncivil civil society borne from an immature culture of vulgarity which celebrates the base, not the noble. I speak, at the risk of being burned at the stake by militant activists. But if we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything. I was raised to believe in speaking out for what is right, good and true, no matter the cost. It is important in life not only to have a Brain, but a Spine.
One of my favourite speeches by PM Lee, which I force my students to read, is his Harvard Club speech 2 years ago where he urged citizens not to be “passive bystanders” in their own fate but to debate issues with reason and conviction. I took this to heart. To forge good policy, we need to do our homework and engage in honest debate on the issues. Let us also speak with civility, which cannot be legislated, but draws deep from our character and upbringing. Before government can govern man, man must be able to govern himself.
Sir, let speaking in the public square with reason, passion, honesty, civility, even grace, be the mark of a Citizen of Singapore.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Excerpt from the screenplay of "Lust, Caution" - written by Wang Hui Ling and James Schamus. Based on a Short Story by Eileen Chang.
INT. JAPANESE TAVERN - SHANGHAI - EVENING
She snuggles up to him.
I know why you brought me here.
You want me to be your whore.
It is I who was brought here ... So you see, I know better than you how to be a whore.
Will you let me sing for you? I am a much better singer than they!
Wang lowers her lashes and smiles. She takes a sip of sake, licks her lips and stands up.
She positions herself in front her him, posing like a classical sing-song girl. At first her voice is barely a whisper, but then we can make out what she is singing "Girl Singing From Earth's End."
From the end of the earth
To the farthest sea
I search and search
For my heart's companion
A young girl sings
While he plays his harp
Your heart is my heart
Looking north from my mountain nest
My tears fall and fall
Missing him she will not rest
Ah! My man, even in hard times
Who in this life does not prize youth as much as gold?
A young girl to her man
Is like thread to its needle.
Ah! My beautiful man,
We're like thread tied together,
Never to be unwound.
As she sings, she closes her eyes, letting the sentiment take over.
Her body moves with the tune.
Yee is at first amused, then attentive, and then he himself, as she finishes closes his eyes, unaccountably moved, tears flowing.
Silence. He puts his hands together, applauds her, slowly at first, then faster and louder. She sits back down beside him.
He takes her in his arms. They kiss.
Why the hell would I be doing on a show that talks about online dating, together with 2 professionals, 1 a boss of a dating agency called Lunch Actually, and another Doctor from the states who is an expert in dating and relationships? Why would I pretend to be a single bachelor talking about my experiences and sharing my thoughts about people using online services to meet potential candidates for my life long partner? :D
Well .... cos my evil twin decided to be nice for once and help out a good business associate and close friend in need. Anyway it was nice hearing what the Dr Joshua Ting had to say from a psychological and sociological viewpoint of a professional about human relationships.
This was the last thing he said which I thought I would share with those who missed the show. "Pursuing a woman, to a male is like pursing a goal. When they get the girl, it is like mission accomplished, and they can move to more "important things" in life like the career. But when a woman dates, she is extrapolating and imagining how things would extend from the dating phase to the marriage phase. And more often than not, things don't turn out the way she expected and she would say "He's no longer the same man as I once dated".
My mom commented right after that "How true. Your father changed after he became rich. Useless man. After he got the money the whole person changed ..."
But I was thinking to myself .. "Wasn't dad rich already when my mom married him? What changed then?" Hmmm ... more food for thought.... :)