Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hope, Love, Pragmatism and Barack Obama

I've been thinking a lot on hope recently, especially Barack Obama's message of hope, of unifying a deeply divided nation, of not doing things the same way with the same mindset.

I've begin to wonder if Singapore had gotten it all wrong.

I've been thinking of the 27 girls and the principal that has asked for them to leave the school in hopes of not pulling down the overall grade of the school. What a blow it must be to the girls! I do not wish to rehash the opinions of other bloggers on this issue. What I do wish to do is to abstract this a bit further.

We are familiar with the Singapore Mindset: Practicality above all, survival as the primary consideration. Survival requires us to make hard decisions. Practicality drives these decisions. There is no room for dreams, compromise, or hope. Winning the game must dominate all.

Is this correct?

I look back on Singapore's history, often cited as an economic miracle of proper governance, and of making hard decisions to survive. We did what we had to, and we did it well. We adopted a hard-nosed pragmatic mindset to survive, and we've done well. We've kept to it till this day.

Why is it, then, that while keeping this pragmatic mindset, we as Singaporeans have become increasingly dissatisfied with pragmatism? What has actually changed? I suspect it may be that we've forgotten that hope and pragmatism aren't always enemies.

We have forgotten that what drove Singapore during its early independence was not just the goal of feeding mouths and putting roofs over our heads. It was also the hope that there would be better days ahead, that what we would suffer for now would ultimately be repaid to us tenfold.

That was the difference. That was all the difference.

Yesterday, I read the Barack Obama has gotten the Kennedy family's endorsement, not because he had the best policies, or the greatest chance of putting them into action. He obtained it because he is slowly teaching a nation how to hope again.


In the recent past, I spoke to a friend of mine, troubled with love problems. Her problem was simply this: she did not want to enter into love again without some assurance that it would work out. I found this an entirely rational response and completely unwise.

My response is simply this - if both sides do what is rational, love will never happen because each side is treating each other at arm's length waiting for something to happen. The only way for something to happen is to break the deadlock, do the irrational, take the leap of faith.

In that sense, is it ultimately pragmatic to lose love or to gain love? I don't know, but I do know that equal parts of pragmatism and hope ultimately worked better than mere pragmatism.

As far as I know, my friend and her current beau are still happy together.


The Singapore Mindset has permeated all aspects of our culture. Pragmatism above all. In truth, I have nothing against pragmatism. It is the exclusion of hope that I fear.

We need hope. We must have hope. History has shown time and time again what men without hope do. Hope curdles easily into desperation. The lack of hope turns easily into despair. Yet, for such a fragile thing, hope remains eminently persistent, for no one can give or take away hope, only displayed as an fine light in hope that others will follow.

I hope. Do you?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Starting Over

I feel my one-month absence from training.

Yesterday's training was very much about easing back. I don't think I did badly, apart from a moment where I was seeing stars after wrestling. My shoulder muscles have shrunk, my paunch is returning, but my CV is somehow better - I attribute that to all the walking and running around I did during NS.

My load-bearing doesn't seem to have suffered. Then again I wasn't wearing my full armour. That being said, I think my wind has improved and it's translated into more willingness to press the attack. I also tried out a few other things that I otherwise wouldn't have done, which suits me just fine.

My pivoting seems to have deteriorated and my sword is all over the place - evidence that continuous practice is the best way of maintaining form.

That's all to report for now. I am still chewing over some aspects of my training but I feel it's a bit premature to write them down. Suffice to say, I'm thinking hard on the comments that have been left on my blog - especially Illka's comments about yielding only to superior pressure.


I also seem to have developed a congestion in my chest area. I feel laboured when I breathe and a slight cough seems to be developing. I have no phlegm though. I suspect it's the warm weather conditioning I acquired in NS conflicting with the air-con environment.

Apart from this, I don't quite feel 100% psychologically. I feel much better after training though, so I think it might just be a function of venting aggression and frustration from NS.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Returned to Sender

I'm back from ICT.

Many many weird things happened. I'm certain I cannot speak of any of these events. All I can and will say is...I'm appalled at the depths of which SAF officers will sink to protect their careers.

Having lost the first three weeks of the year, I'm now in an odd time warp where I'm slowly adapting to the new work year while the new work year seems studiously intent on avoiding me.

In other news, I've not been to training since the year started. I'm going on Sunday, for sure, and I have a lot to think about with regards to swordsmanship.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Am heading off for national service on the 3rd. Will be blog once I get back.