Saturday, May 31, 2014


What is the point of a Singaporean citizenship or for that matter any citizenship? This question was asked by the Apostle Paul when Roman soldiers tied him up and beat him. Unlike that of a subject - in a Kingdom - citizens have certain rights. Being a subject of a King - comes with it obligations - you are a servant. You serve the King. In a democracy - the rulers theoretically work to serve you, the citizen. Of course as a citizen you are obliged to pay taxes, serve in the military (to defend the nation), observe the laws etc..

The whole idea of citizens and democracy is not an Asian concept. It came from Greece and Rome. The ancient Greeks were great thinkers - and came up with a system of representative govt - democracy.

Asian values and culture - despite all its hype - never did have this. It was all Kingdom based. Master-servant. Ruler-subject. In an age where most people can read, write and has a reasonable amount of education - kingdom based - elitist rule - does not work.

However, the level of government - the quality of govt - in a representative democracy is highly related to the educational level of the people. When I mean educational level I'm also talking about the quality of analytical thinking of the people. There are some road sweepers who probably have got more wisdom than University professors or politicians. I'm not sure whether a society - which is obsessed over reality TV, gossip celebrity magazines, and who are willing to pay millions of dollars to sports people while whinging over the pay over kindergarten teachers, doctors etc..  - can elect good politicians.

In Singapore we are tied to the idea of an elitist form of government - so we pay lawyers, doctors, engineers military officers to be our leaders. To a large degree because of "the long-standing one party rules all" system we have adopted - the government - the politicians, the judiciary, the military all come from the same mold. Thankfully, the Spore govt has a high educational level standard.

One problem we however are going to get is that they all seem to think the same. And when there is really only one level of govt - there are no check and balances. No one watches over what the govt does.

Does a wolf think the same as the deer?

We pay huge sums of salaries to these leaders and hope that we will get a great result.

But you look at the huge fuckup that happened with the Global Financial Crisis. Were any highly paid bankers and CEOs who drew salaries and bonuses 10000 times the level of ordinary workers - were any of them prosecuted or made to pay for the damage they caused?

In a Kingdom - the king was accountable to noone except God or Heaven.

In a democracy - the leaders were accountable to the people. The question that all citizens should be asking is - how are they holding their governments to accountability?

I don't believe in revolutions - personally I blame the French Revolution of 1789 for creating WW1, WW2, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot etc..

But I do believe in educational evolution- when the people become wise and learned, they will naturally want to elect good quality leaders.

In a democracy you get the government you deserve.

Personally I look at the debating sessions in the Australian parliament - and it looks worse than an unruly kindergarten. How can politicians (and media) who are engaged in petty quarrels - one stupid fight was over one politician who said the word, "meow" to another politician.

The only thing I can say is - give a shit over who you vote into power. The minute you say "they are all the same" - you're literally bending yourself over to get fucked.

11th day

Gosh I've been here over 10 days now. We are still in Vuda Point Marina. Yesterday we had to untie a tender from the topdeck and launch another into the water. Its all very "new". New Terminology, new habits, I'm also finding myself spending much too time on facebook - as its the only outlet I have to the "normal" world.

Yesterday we went to Latoka market - a wet market.  It reminded me of the old Take-Kah market in Singapore.

Its 10am. Everyone is working now on the ship now.... except me...  :( I think I must be the laziest Singaporean in the world.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Attracting capital to Singapore... at what cost?

Well, obviously Singapore needs a lot of foreign investment. I think most citizens can accept that.

But at what cost though?

One metaphor that comes to mind is that of the tropical fishtank aquarium.

Ok, so you have guppies.. Everything seems fine. But you want more. So you introduce a dozen of piranha fish - competition will be great.

Hey, guess what happens next.


I think expecting the guppies to evolve and cope in such a small environment is a silly proposition.

So far so good

Its been nearly a week since I'm here at ICE.

When you go on this sorts of trips you imagine its going to be a voyage of discovery - and while you find different people, different places to see - you also learn about yourself if you care to take notice.

Self-awareness. Quite often we do things without realizing what or why we are doing it. Sometimes when we react even violently to situations its because of some problem we have had in the past. I have a problem doing math because my father used to mock me with exasperation for not comprehending the solution. And when there happened a thorn was placed in my side. Now a certain amount of trepidation occurs when I approach something new which I don't understand. But I grip the thorn now and bear the pain. I seek to overcome. And if I fail, I try again.

But one "problem" or trait I have - is that I'm drawn to what is secure and comfortable. One day I didn't even leave the boat. I just sat around, facebooking, reading. I'm not sure whether that is healthy. I need to go out more and socialize. After a courier trip to the airport I had the taxi driver drive me to eat curry crab but instead he took me to a fancy restaurant to eat chilli crab - which cost US$50 per 100grams . I didn't complain - I just wanted to give the Fijian crab a try. I notice a stranger sitting alone and - rather than endure my taxi driver's conversation about business ventures - I excused myself and walked over to this total stranger and struck up a conversation. The person was working as a French interpreter and was here on a business seminar trip. The interpreter was also from my Melbourne and also like me - bored and looking for a conversational partner. Like me this person was also planning for a change in vocation.  We talked and chatted and made friends on facebook. This wouldn't have happened if I didn't pluck up the courage and talk to a total stranger.

Meeting people has been a challenge. I fear rejection. When I was in Primary School I just had one friend - a rather horrid friend I might add. He bullied me. He made fun of me. He treated me like shit. And like a fool I endured it.

I wonder whether it was because of my inherently patient disposition that allowed me to remain in that friendship - or whether it was because some parental conditioning - my mother used to beat me ferociously because she had an uncontrollable temper and was often provoked into doing it by her mother, my grandmother. Both attend church religiously btw.

Anyway, meeting people is a challenge. Its also like a voyage of discovery. You go somewhere - you may find a pleasant land with pleasant people - or you may find a place where they skin you alive and boil you for soup because they are hungry.

Which reminds me of a song by the Eurythmics, "Sweet Dreams", "I travel the world and 7 seas. Some of them want to use you. Some of them want to abuse you. Some of them want to be amused."

But I think we owe it to ourselves to do it - to challenge ourselves, to explore the unknown. To seek a better world. To learn more about our world. To try different things. To experience a life other than the one we know.

Sitting alone in a cave or sitting at home watching TV seems like a terrible waste of a life.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tonga Expedition Trip

I'm going to be changing the name of my blog to A Singaporean in Tonga to document my 6 month trip with the boat ICE - its captain Don McIntyre, Jane Chou, Paul Brown,

The purpose of the expedition is to search for sunken ships from the 16th century in Tonga. Centuries ago, when Spain was a mighty empire - the Spanish Empire used to sail its ships from Latin America filled with gold and silver that its soldiers took from the Incas and South Americans to Asia to trade for silk, spices, porcelain, etc.. The profit on these voyages were tremendous - over 4000%. Back in those days, simple household goods like nutmeg, cloves were worth more than their weight in gold.

Some of the ships would sail pass Tonga in the South Pacific to "refuel" - they depended entirely on wind to cross the vast ocean. And the trade winds would take them to isolated islands in the pacific like Tonga where they would restock food, water and even wood to repair their ships. Apparently 10% of the trade ships would pass through Tongan waters. Some of them never made it and sank.

We hope to uncover some of these ships.

The photo below was taken at Fiji where our boat is currently docked.