A long blather on Freedom of Speech and Information

On the internet, there is a total freedom of speech and information. The internet is so firm over its absolute freedom of speech and information that it is safe for the minority who wishes to engage in unsociable behaviour. I have never felt that it is unsafe before having children. Now I do.

Freedom of speech and information is not absolute in real life. There are principles to protect or prevent harm. There are social obligations which helps people within the group to avoid unsociable speech.

In a real life social context, those who are pro-pedophiles will not be last long with such an announcement. On the internet, this unsociable freedom might be taken differently. Perhaps even praised and the “news of the world” type websites will publicise such click bait praise.

Innocent craft videos coming out from Russia is an example of freedom of unsociable information. #2 started watching these craft videos and as a parent I get to listen to what they watch. (Joy! O, Joy!) The videos started out with innocent crafts and graduating to those that actively go against the typical school rules eg, hiding food, hiding makeup, etc.

Another channel that works almost the same way suggested a child might like to create a pregnant barbie doll. The way they have done it is to depict this as a lark. It is not a lark. They earn a lot of money obviously but they are sinister in that they encourage being mindlessly anti establishment from a young age.

This is not a BrilliantOriginalConceptTM by Russia. Disney did it first, introducing propaganda via the cartoon characters to target people who can’t read. Russia is now doing the same, by targeting children who can’t read. This is freedom of information. We get to decide whether to consume it.

How do we know without tasting some of it? How can we rely on youtube or facebook or instagram to police things that are of bad taste when taste is subjective? Freedom information does not mean freedom of useful or unbiased information. Just to continue to bludgeon to death this same point: without consuming the material, how does one discern its usefulness or neutrality?

If children are being politicised by youtube, adults are provided politicised content by facebook and instagram by content creators lending their name to the cause of the day. If you didn’t share, if you didn’t talk about it or bring it up, you are not with it and might lose followers. The desperate need to be with it brings the trending topic to a feverish pitch and dies down quickly like rapid change headlines. Yet they are just sharing without having to do a single thing in their life differently. They get to market a trait without having one.

Obama was the first to win at social media – not the first to use social media, obviously. He won because he was cool. He was talking to the voting adults via their medium when everyone else was doing television or pounding pavements – ie, the traditional way. (After him, everyone wanted to be cool. Except for the very old or the dead, every Singapore minister has to deal with social media engagement now. Okay, maybe even the dead.)

In this day and age, we should know by now that trending topics does not mean this is a topic that is critical to the place or the community we are in for discussion. We don’t. We can’t see the money and effort put in to generate those hashtags to push this into our eyeballs. If it appears innocent – like a 5 min crafts video, or the source appears legitimate (eg a newspaper), it must be innocent and/or legitimate. If it appears to be trending elsewhere it must also trend where we live – so that we remain cool and with it.

With the 2020 election in Singapore, I observed a strong social media pitch to sway voters to swing to an opposition. As long as it is to any opposition the swing is thought as good. New parties and new politicians can afford to gamble on taking bigger risks in their strategy. They can afford to concentrate on those with a mobile phone and a social media account. They can also afford to pay lip service to those who obtain their news to traditional media. In fact, they even perhaps ignore these medium due to barriers of entry and the bias in this medium (which is against them). (To that, I would say it is true in general but untrue in certain pockets. You really just have to know that space and win at it.)

Politicians are more fearful than ever of the loss of followers. The argument for this is that, well this fear will push them to do the right thing by us if they are so afraid of losing us. To believe in it needs bold faith. An example: innocuous talk over the state of global affairs is usually coffeeshop talk. On LinkedIn, it merits a separation agreement. It seems to me that to censor, punish and lynch coffeeshop talk is unjust like those terrible kings of history but this is what the public enjoys and it wants. (Has always been, I think.) It makes the normal censorship (nudity for example) in comparison rather tame, just and innocent. It is likely that in this climate of pursuing voters via social media, trade offs, laws (sometimes difficult) will be made with the focus on how can I hashtag this.


Noise to Signal Ratio

Every election there will be noise. I think this round we had less noise from PAP compared with 2015 and the debacle on the AHTC. I think the debate was more or less centered on the way forward – the immediate and the long future. It was sincere (more or less) and appealing. While I understand why – this is marketing talk – I found the discussion on mandate and the blank cheque unnecessary. Nobody is given a mandate to govern. Even Kings can be murdered in a revolution, or locked up, or overturned. (I am reading a lot of historical fiction lately.) Even staffers working inside the Trump administration can show their dissent by ‘accidentally’ losing papers. On the matter of the blank cheque, why did it erupt into a popular term? This is an election, not an exercise to pass over our collective purses.

Separately, why is the plumbing so lousy in certain circles around particular individual? That individual seem to need a better handyman. Or perhaps just damn suay.

Ikea’s Green Room

At Ikea yesterday to look for a mirror, I saw something similiar to this beautiful room. The one I saw had black bookshelves, black display cabinets, gold lighting with golden trays, books in gold letters, big fake flowers, black tables and gold photo frames. The solo armchairs were very dark green. The only floral was the Ektrop sofa and the fake flowers. It was marvellously restful. It was very manly. It was womanly.

It had no television. I love it!

I tried to figure out what it was that I liked about it (other than the TV). I realise that the hue is limited to four colours. (They had some white frames from the window and it was mirrored in the photo frames.) If they had variations to the colour scheme, it was too subtle for me. It would be impossible for anyone to re-create such a tight look at home without doing a whole lot of shopping.

I also can’t imagine any child would want to be here. For this room, children are a second thought at best. It is a room where the children tip toe in only to greet, hello, we are back and tip toe out to homework and bed. It is a room that demands that nobody sitting in the room will leave to earn a living, clean the home or pack a lunch or prepare dinner. It bosses the others to allow the sitter, endless tracts of undisturbed time. Truely, a room of one’s own.

Can’t reccomend this enough: Singapore National Gallery

The permanent exhibition “Siapa Nama Kamu” is super fun! Paintings cannot be experienced online. It’s the equivalent of watching food when you are hungry. The galleries was categorised by a timeline of art development in Singapore. (The intro said broadly – I think they meant – staid, super fun and experimental. )

It isn’t arranged in a typical western art way – romanticism, cubism, etc, etc. There was not a lot of those styles – I wonder if it was the artists were doing it for fun. They weren’t trying to be famous. The Super Fun period had a reference to a Nanyang period. I had sniggered, thinking this was thought up by a marketing department. It wasn’t.

The Nanyang style refers to the pioneer Chinese artists’ work which was rooted in both the Western schools of Paris (post-Impressionism and Cubism for example) as well as Chinese painting traditions; styles and techniques of both were distinctively integrated in depictions of local or Southeast Asian subject matter (Singapore Art Museum, 2002).

More notably, the Nanyang art style is the result of these artists having departed from their roots – but not entirely – to try to produce something uniquely regional. They aimed to represent pictorially the Nan Yang culture and way of life – Nan Yang meaning South Seas in Mandarin. As art historian Michael Sullivan pointed out above, these painters could be striving to produce an “expression of the times”.

Yeo, Alicia (April 2006). “Singapore Art, Nanyang Style” (PDF). biblioasia. Singapore: National Library Board. pp. 4–11

Can you please go to level 2 and see this awesome portrait? Portrait of Lee Boon Ngan. It is online but the online version is not awesome. It is strangely yellow. Look at the detail on the shirt! The green gray on the nose! Her skin is robust and not sensitive. These other two made me lol out of delight! Picking by Tay Kok Wee and Here they come by Koeh Sia Yong. It was superb! It was energetic! The anger! The unfairness! The entrepreneurial spirit! The resourcefulness! The need to be alert to threats and opportunities!

I was moved by a re-enactment of the artwork. I love the video for the interviews with the artists. They had clarity in the trade offs they have seen. They did art because that was what they did and they picked social realism to be relevant. Honest simple living. People sell food because that was what they did. Teachers taught because they could read and write. Bank officers were hired from comfortable families because they know other comfortable families. (Bank clerks were different from officer grade.)

Young people are now exhorted to pursue their passion. Consistency is a discarded virtue. Why are we coy about being paid for work? It’s honest simple living.

As I tidied a shelf of notebooks last week, it occured to me that I accumulate a lot of words that I don’t re-read. The notebooks exist to get the words out. I once read that a writer will always write. In all my wisdom of a 16 year old, I disbelieved it. Productivity will cease, I thought. (Clearly, I more suited for a life of a white collar bean counter than an artist.) I had wanted to be a poor artist. Not starving – I like my food. I now know, it is true that writers will write. Artist will paint. Those who love eating will feed themselves and others. Those who love sleeping will work themselves up for a nap. We will naturally arrange our lives that is comfortable to ourselves.

Writing books, is likely, not my thing. I count beans and write stories about corporate exertions. I develop reassuring memos of what has been done and what is to be done. I am creative when it comes to relaxing and untying knots at work. Work is rarely difficult, mostly comfortable and my temperament is well suited for it. I don’t think I am well suited to be fully creative. As a bean counter, there will always be a worry about my own quality and productivity.


It rarely occurs to one the trouble taken to build a flat. The workers who deal with the sun, mud, accidents and incomprehensible supervisors. Foundations, architecture, engineering, project management, utilities planning, material selection, timelines and ultimately the multiple compromises due to market demands. In Singapore, getting a home means, please sir, can we have more loan quantum?

Grand Designs (on Netflix) is an eye opener. Homes could float away, slide down, crumble into dust. How rare and special it is, to be able to go out and buy a home has telephone, light and water, that is near buses and trains, near ready to eat food, with renovators who at a snap give you a template in order to pretend to have taste and deliver this illusion in a few months. Someone has done all the calculations, taken the risks to made sure there are no expensive mistakes. Nobody has to pay half a million or close to a million to discover that the plot is a bog.

Zoom is an equaliser. Everyone works off a small, slightly, tilting ceiling.

Yet other people’s interiors always bother us: bowed shelves acquiescing to just-one-more-wouldn’t-hurt and joyfully unfashionable floors.

Great money and effort turns inward to stamp that wealth, tearing down and building up. On zoom, only the tilting blank ceiling is allowed. Books and letters piling on top of the dusty piano, and the children and their legs strewn over coffee tables are portraits too intimate.

I can’t recommend this enough

Dear Diary by Mary Tuda

I am totally fascinated by this teenage diary kept between 1976 and 1981. I was surfing around for a diary sort of blog. How refreshing this introspection, this daily detail of who said what to whom. I miss the time when blogs were more or less ‘dear diary’. I can’t see that they will return to the more innocent times. I am tired of reading blogs monetizing food eaten, plays watched, books read, and economics and politics. I sort of accepted it that everything on YouTube is Sellavision and enjoy it but I like my reading uninterrupted.

An excerpt:

Also, from reading this diary one would think that I am a non-intellectual, very typical and rather boring teenager – not too mature, either, for although I repeatedly refer to my work I don’t enlarge on it at all and don’t in any way air my own views on books, authors – ETC, or even my philosophy of life, and believe me, I do think about those things, albeit in a fairly elementary manner; but they do interest me. I believe in many things. But I very rarely discuss them with anyone, I wouldn’t be nearly so obnoxious as to discuss them with Dad; it’s so hard to tell what he’s really thinking.