Being Singaporean,  Bitching

The Issue vs. The Problem

There’s been a lot going on in this little dramatic spot of an island the last few months. The Blogfather has been quietly watching from the sidelines without the usual commentary that I’d post up as I usually would the years before, primarily because as compared to previous years, these recent spate of events have been more… intense.

Consider this entry on Wikipedia on OB Markers, which notes then-Minister of Information and the Arts George Yeo as saying “that it is difficult to define exactly what the OB markers are in advance” (that very well-respected then-minister has since retired from the political scene, to administer information very artfully through his team of writers in alternative news website, then lists topics (allegedly) long held to be out of bounds by state media – race, religion, homosexuality, and political criticism.

Topics which are no longer out-of-bounds by today’s standards, not because the state media is having a change of heart on OB markers, but because the local social media scene has very openly and vehemently slapped these very topics hard on the big green table known as our country without regard for what the state thinks. Look at what we have:


Certainly, our world has changed. I hesitate to say for the better, but it is a step forward nonetheless, seeing as we are exploring uncharted territory – whether we like it or not. But after a few years of wading through the stories, you realise the issues remain more or less the same, but the problem changes.

Wait, what?

One of the more poignant pieces of advice a parent can get in the modern age of child psychology is, “Scold the behaviour, not the child.” (Incidentally, I learnt this from another lesser-known dad blogger who can make a killer Teochew-style steamed fish.) As I experimented with the idea back when Xan was about to embark on his terrible twos, and I realised the idea behind it can be applied to pretty every aspect of life that involves problem-solving – personal, familial, social, work life, politics, religion, etc., because people like to take things personally, thereby messing up what could otherwise be a civil discussion.

Too often, the issue that needs solving has very little if anything to do with the people you’re trying to solve the issue with, but these last few socio-political incidents, especially, have gotten so personal it’s not only become more difficult to tell who’s right or wrong, but almost impossible to separate the unnecessary naming, blaming and shaming from the actual issue that needs solving in the first place.

You want to talk about homosexuality/homophobia? Wearing a certain colour, romping around in a big green field with your family and friends and shouting to the skies about how much you identify with your own beliefs with maybe a few thousand others is not going to gain you a better understanding of what’s outside the well you so proudly live in. Times like this really call for dialogue, not drama. So stop acting like children, all of you (no offence to my own children), and bloody talk to each other instead of around each other for a change, like these nice people are asking you to.

You want to figure out the CPF system? Bloody talk about CPF. It’s been more than a month already since this became a hot potato topic after Roy Ngerng’s series of unfortunate events, and now for some reason, we now know Roy is gay and jobless, the PM’s lawyer has his name immortalised into an adjective (“Haha, dude’s been Davindered, LOLx”) and we also have that elderly lady’s home address, but we’re all no closer to understanding what implications the new changes to CPF (or all of CPF) have on us simple folk on the ground.

You want to talk politics? Acknowledge the system isn’t perfect, and may never be, but don’t keep saying it’s good or bad when it isn’t entirely good or bad. All this rhetoric about who came up with the system, who should get credit and who should just join politics or shut up, doesn’t address the fact that audience that’s being forced to watch you fling crap at each other really just wants to get on with their lives, but can’t until you solve the issue you’re so expertly not talking about.


The Blogfather truly believes there exists a capacity in every individual to empathise with all sides in any given issue – religious, atheist, straight, gay, local, foreign, young, old, public servant, private citizen. But that doesn’t mean I would stand blindly with any of these groups, especially when I see that none of them are actively trying to solve the issue they have at hand. These people are the problem that stands in the way of the issues they’re trying to solve. They form the very trait that’s made us mockery amongst the brethren around us for far too long already – that all we know is complain.

Solve the issue without becoming the problem, can?

And now that I’m done complaining and trampling all over OB markers in the process, I’m going back to work now.


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