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.

Against the tide

My mom was determined to be middleclass. She bought a Kawai piano and I was to play it half an hour daily. She bought assessment books and told me the drill. This was at odds with my idea of childhood. I am more or less dutiful, depending on whether you spoke with my doting aunts or my mom. My dad understood the importance of working hard. He disliked homework and never got involved in my mother’s schemes. He also never said, how about a break. Interminable work stoked the fires of revolution.

No worksheets, I said to my husband, when we were picking childcare.

Amongst my few friends, I was the deviant. 回头是岸吧孩子! One of them was as fervent as a Young PAP about it. Children should start homework as young as possible. (Naturally, I ignored her.) I heard the moderates. I moaned about homework as if I was the one doing it. I still ignored them.

The teachers didn’t think the kids had a problem with school work. I concluded that the nightly assault on their spelling lists was good enough. I also thought their problems wasn’t work but behaviour. One was fidgety. They other just started class for 3 months and is a bit of a 管家婆.

Home based learning changed my life view. My son is illiterate in Chinese. My daughter doesn’t understand grammar rules. I started trying flash cards. I bought assessment books. How on earth do people decide what to buy? Luckily, my sister in law who heads English in primary school had passed me a thin booklet and an assessment book. I went to the shops with these books and bought the same thing for my son. I bought a similiar thing for Chinese. I didn’t go off into the deep end and buy exam papers like a friend advised. It would be optimistic to imagine they could take an exam and finish writing it.

Forum: MOE should publish assessment books written by teachers ...

Flowing with the tide made stress levels high. My kids were understandably upset about having mummy’s homework. I planned their school day. My husband, stuck at home, carried out those plans. The kids didn’t like Daddy messing about their homework. He was too strict, they complained. My husband missed his work – he belonged to the 手停口停族. More accurately, he was already stressed about income. Tasked to man the kids, he complained about not having his own time for paper work. Welcome to my world, I said, testily. Your life is so easy, I said at another time. I was being mean because his initial idea of manning the kids is to mess about with his phone and take a nap after.

I think we are getting better at it, the kids, their father and I. The kids yelling now takes on a note of resignation. I am now very open to the idea of tuition and the need for practice. The father is now open to changing their student care. (The 8 year old picked up rude words from older children there and they are not making sure work is done.)

Why is it that flowing with the tide is more stressful than not? It might be the realisation of not being average makes it stressful. Against the tide, there is no such realisation. It is white noise even if you notice there are others who are marching to the beat of their own drum. There is a lot more freedom. It takes more discipline and grit to flow with the tide.

On Free Time

Chinese New Year is a time where we spend a lot free time eating and being social.

Every age has a different meaning to being social. Now, being social means occasionally looking up from our phones to take pictures of ourselves, our eating. 20 years ago, being social means occasionally looking up from the television to eat or to coo or badger little children depending on age. Even further back, it means being breaking the silence to talk about how delicious the food is. New Year goodies also mean different things during different times. In the past, it means home made. Now, it means buying home made. Or pretending to be home made.

Children or adults have a fantasy of having no work at all. Or perhaps this is me. I find this fantasy comes out in full force during Chinese New Year. My idea of having no work at all is mainly to cook, eat, bake and watch TV. Husband’s idea of having no work at all is to spend every waking moment sleeping. Kid 1 wants to enter the magical world behind the screens. Kid 2 messes about with tidying up. She likes organising toys or bed.

I imagine that we enjoy doing what we love all the time. I discover it is not so. Kids will get bored doing only the things they love. The boredom is expressed in a funny way. They are stuck in a loop with that thing they enjoy (tidying, cooking, screen). The joy has evapourated, leaving annoyance and irritation. And yet they cannot leave that thing they do. The act has imprisoned them. I think it happens to adults too.

There has been a lot of talk about the wonder that is early retirement. If the joy of doing whatever one pleases evaporates in a short time, early retirement probably require a high level of discipline.

Mature teams

Death, for example, is socially disruptive, because it not only removes an individual member from the fabric of society, which potentially creates tension, it is also stressful for those with close emotional ties to the deceased, who may not be able to function efficiently for a period of time.

Religion deals with the problem of death through both belief and ritual: a belief in the afterlife (common in many cultures) denies the fact of death and comforts the bereaved, while the funeral ceremony offers a chance for other members of society to comfort the bereaved with their physical presence and it may also act as a form of catharsis.

The funeral is effectively an expression of social solidarity which serves to reintegrate society following the ‘stress’ caused by a loss of one its members.

Rituals In Death

We had some rites for Grandmother yesterday. I was impressed how smooth the team operated.

The team of priests and musicians were old and they worked efficiently, taking and handing over when the situation fit. There was an assistant to the priest who seemed to require reminders by the team. The musicians, alert, came to his aid by mouthing instructions or gesturing. Set up and removal of the altar tables appeared seamless in their construction and take down. I would not be familiar with the details of their job (the chanting and the rituals). I could see this was a stable team with the leader being the one who supplemented directions (slightly annoyed tone) to the team where required. They were so smooth in their procedures I felt reminded of my job. This is what established departments look like. There is seamless handling by every member of the team. Where there are new staff, the rest of the members sprang into action to advice the new staff, to socialise what needs to be done.

When teams have an elevated number of new persons who need socialising, the resources and effort spent in socialising them increases. It is not an easy task to socialise staff even if the staff is open and receptive. It requires a lot of conversation to calibrate the staff into the existing way the team thinks and works. The level of difficulty increases when the staff is neutral or unreceptive. (Usually, they get labelled as having an attitude problem.) If the head of the team is new, it increases the difficulty of calibration. The calibration is necessary to reduce production problems in a team. When the head of the team is new, problems get magnified. Heads are less receptive of calibration in general and they can create more chaos by issuing directives when they have not been properly calibrated. Now do I mean that everyone should be yes men and do as they are told all the time? If the issues are production driven, yes, we all need to be able to follow those instructions. If change is required, it needs to be managed.

Now I know that makes me sound bureaucratic but in an organisation, where there are processes already built to handle certain aspects of risk, change requires care. Given the fast pace change in the business circumstances, the ability to nimbly handle them requires a well settled team who is familiar with their work. In chaos, there must be order (to support growth). In order, there must be chaos (to drive growth).

On a side note, I think this blanketing of other risks as operational risk by Basel isn’t very helpful to think about risk properly.

It creates a lot of misuse in the word risk. Someone would declare the presence of risk when they mean error or impact. Language is alive and different cultures use the lingo in different ways. I am not pedantic and it’s not difficult to figure out what the meaning from context and conversation. However, I wonder if it drives the conversation and thinking differently. Being error free means less wastage – it’s a production concern. Being able to cushion impact means the ability to recover and resume operations quickly – another production concern. These production concerns are something that has everyday processes and handling to manage them. A break in controls is a production problem, ie, the operational factors. Production problems must be fixed but it is impossible for production problems to be eliminated. You could bring the number to a very small occurrence but zero is impossible. I wonder if conversations are brought awry when we talk about levels of intolerance in operational risk. It’s at most an ambition, at worse a denial.

This leads me to wonder, if this is a fuzzy concept to measure management. If so, the collection of operational risk data is something to reflects the management at the point of measurement. It can never be forward looking and looking back makes no sense if there are upheavals in management.

MOE Resource Library

I was helping the older child log into his Student Learning portal. I mucked about the site and discovered they is additional learning resources. They have them for most subjects. The kids were fighting me on the laptop to try out the activities. I think they can do this all day if I let them.