Allocating blame

We blame others for our misfortune. We blame others for our failures in life. We blame luck when we make poor decisions. Allocating the blame to other things is always the easiest way out for ourselves. After all, when someone else is at fault, it’s out of our control isn’t it? There’s nothing we can do?

I think I’m rather fortunate to be in the position that I am today. Luck does play a small role in enabling the chances that I was awarded. Yes there are certain times where I could have done better, but still, it has been great.

But the difference is that I have chosen to accept responsibility for myself. If I fail, it’s because I didn’t study hard myself. Or I didn’t do my due diligence. I didn’t ask other successful people their method of achieving success. I didn’t read widely enough.

There are things we all can do to improve our lives and constantly upgrade to value add ourselves. Soft skills such as giving presentations, dealing with difficult people in our workplace or office communication. Other skills like improving our current trade, or even how to invest in stocks. We can read the news more widely or choose to read more books. There’s always something we can do.

Like I have always said, it’s about how hungry you are for something. If there is something you really want, you will go all out to do it, and sacrificing some of the other less important parts of our lifestyle. Like spending 1 hour looking at 9Gag. Like spending 1 hour on the train staring at the air. Life is a matter of balance and priorities. At the same time, we should not lull ourselves into a comfortable zone where we get used to being unproductive. Once we get used to reading and learning, it will always be easier to continue this lifestyle.

Perhaps we all need to start moving in the right direction.

Moral Courage

I thought I would just write a short post on moral courage, which seems to be sorely lacking in society today. I feel that Moral Courage is the courage to speak up against people in powers if you feel that what they did is not right. I specifically choose the words “not right” instead of “wrong”, as “wrong” seems too strong a word. Chances are there are times where the person might have done something which is not desirable, and can be improved, so I termed it “not right”.

What I think is this: Our lack of moral courage stems from how we are educated as kids, and our lack of basic responsibility that comes with maturity. If we were never encouraged to speak up in class, we wouldn’t speak up to raise suggestions to improve current processes, flawed as they may be; or just slightly cracked.

Case in point: We always do reviews on what happened in the day; how we can improve certain processes or dynamics. At these times, it is great to have participants speak out on what they thought were the bad points and how they thought it could be improved.

I once did raise a point up during such reviews, and the situation was this: As trainees, we have to maintain sufficient hydration to reduce the chances of heat exhaustion during physical training like runs and exercises. As such activities are usually conducted in the morning, we are always required to drink water the night before (at least 500ml). What usually happens is that sometimes you drink right before you sleep, and hence you have to wake up and go to the toilet; which is rather detrimental to good rest. Otherwise you can choose to hold it there, but then you wouldn’t be resting rather peacefully would you?

Would a suggestion of drinking water some time before we sleep be a good enough solution? I think it would, and it would definitely help everyone. If it was a valid safety regulation in your company, would you have raised the issue?

Or perhaps the question is: Would you raise the issue knowing that you might get condemned by peers whose mentality and maturity are different from yours? Considering how people who are usually more vocal gets sidelined from the “group”, I think most people are contented with just not speaking up.

What if the situation was more severe? If we couldn’t find the courage to speak up for lesser events, would we have the courage to speak up for other situations? Or would we just encourage the “suck it” mentality?

As future leaders in our respective fields, companies, and what have you, it is always important or rather imperative to have this reflection process within ourselves and within our groups, and to encourage people to speak up, so as to constantly generate new ideas and improve company processes.

I would just like to end off with something I thought:

It does not matter what position you hold in an organization, be it a junior staff or just a cadet, but the behaviour and actions that you carry defines you and defines how valuable you are to your organization. Like a small ant being able to carry 50 times its weight, a small staff can carry an idea improving productivity and morale that grows exponentially.

Of increasing university places in Singapore

Recently, there has been talk asking the Ministry of Education to increase the number of places in Singapore for undergraduates. MOE has chosen to not increase places at the moment, instead asking questions that make much sense, like whether there is enough capacity for more graduates in this country.

Seeing how some of my friends haven’t found jobs yet – I’m a fresh graduate, class of 2011 – I, too wonder if giving more places make sense. What if we increase the number of jobless graduates? Would one day the average graduate have to do work that doesn’t require the standard of a degree? Or the analytical skills that comes with it?

I saw a post today on TOC that asks a valid question. Why do we bring in so many foreign talent on degree passes then? Are they taking up spaces that could have been given to a local graduate from our universities? But then the other voice calls back, and asks, does giving people the chance to become graduates necessarily make one smarter? It is undeniable that people are different. Some are born smarter than others, or nurtured to become better. At the entry stage before they enter universities, they might have been smarter than us. If, after going through university, those foreigners are smarter than the additional X% that we allow to enter our universities, then what now?

As long as the additional X% don’t do as well as foreigners, it makes no sense to shut foreigners out totally and increase spaces for more undergraduates. And, seeing how some of my coursemates and juniors always scratch their heads and feel so demoralized whenever the semester ends, I wonder if people academically weaker than them would have a better time? It’s an exaggeration but, it does seems a little torturous to put academically weaker people in that position where they cannot grasp the concepts, get pass degrees and end up not finding a job.

If, these X% ends up working in lower paying areas comparable to before they had a university education, then where does the education benefit them? You pay fees but your pay doesn’t increase, does it make any investment sense?

This post sounds elitist, but I am not trying to be one. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it makes sense. Unless we realize that foreigners we bring in would be lousier than the X%, then we got a foothold to base our arguments upon. But that is a matter of perspective. In the interests of our nation, I think any foreigner who cannot do as well as our lousiest graduate ought to be send home – that is, after all, a matter of survival; survival of the fittest at work.

So then, will anyone write articles or do case studies to show that the foreigners brought in are lousier? Will anyone hit the argument where it is needed most? Surely if we continue whining, everyone would treat you as noise, and you have no one to blame but yourself?

And to show a different point other than the number of university positions, I want to raise an example. I didn’t get a scholarship, and lots of foreigners are getting scholarships. In a way I thought it was right for the companies not to offer me on when I had applied, as I was not as smart, mature or far sighted than those peers of mine that made it there. And if it was any comfort, I think I did better in life than I would have been if I took up a scholarship and got bonded. There’s always people smarter than me, I accept that. Time for us to face the truth too.

Death Penalty

I read this in the papers today. I think it gives you something to think about. Our laws are not as “just” as we think they are. There are plenty of unjust cases where we cannot be truly sure of a person’s guilt.

A case for discussion on death penalty
I REFER to last Wednesday’s article (‘Man accused of murder freed after 6 years in jail’).

This case supports Maruah’s position that various aspects of the death penalty in Singapore contravene international human rights norms.

The principle of proportionality requires that the death penalty applies only to the most serious cases.

Singapore also allows someone to be convicted based solely on his confession to the police. It is difficult, if not impossible, for an accused person to prove that his confession was involuntary.

Maruah calls for the death penalty to be unavailable in cases where the conviction was based only on a confession, as well as especially rigorous supervision of police interrogations in potential capital cases, such as having video-recording of interrogations.

More importantly, Ismil Kadar reportedly has an IQ of 73. Maruah is troubled by the apparent lack of safeguards when interrogating persons with mental disabilities, and asks the police to clarify the protections that are in place.

More fundamentally, Maruah believes that it would never be just to hang a person with mental disabilities based solely on his confession.

The recent introduction of criminal discovery, 13 years after the Law Society first called for it in 1998, has addressed the historical disadvantages to the defence in the criminal justice system. But we have to wonder if there had been potential miscarriages of justice before this.

The irreversibility of the death penalty demands the most rigorous of processes before someone is convicted and hanged.

Maruah believes that Singapore needs to have an open and informed debate on whether the death penalty has a place here, and if so, in what shape and form.

Maruah also calls for a moratorium on executions in the interim. Cases like Ismil’s demand that we do this, to ensure that Singapore never comes close to hanging an innocent person.

Peter Low
Death Penalty Committee

Casinos, Social ills and Governance

There has been talk about the casinos ever since the Presidential Elections started heating up. This time, TOC’s post on Tan Kin Lian stirred up emotions again, and the arguments about casinos have not changed nor matured over the years. One would have thought opponents of the casino system be more hardworking at collating arguments and restructuring them to withstand the test of time.

This is what stirred the debate:

Tan Kin Lian: it is not the job of the government to stop Singaporeans from gambling at casinos.

As usual, many opinions were placed forward. Yes, even opinions that has nothing to do with the argument at hand, just mildly related to the topic of casinos.

In this post, I would just briefly touch on some of the arguments I have seen, and provide my opinion on those arguments.

1. Casino is a social ill
Opponents of the Casino system often talk about the social ills that come along with the casinos being built in Singapore. Supporters would then quote that there were already gambling ships available etc, but in my opinion, building one casino does increase the accessibility, thereby making it easier for some people to gamble; especially those that do not like to gamble aboard ships. However this then begs the question: “Does the benefits of the casino system outweigh the social ills?”. Opponents could possibly argue that “Any form of benefit is irrelevant as the social ills are a high cost to pay”, which does make sense. However a new question is this: “If we can come up with policies that eradicate or minimize such social ills, doesn’t that allow us to reap the benefits of the casino system without the harmful parts”? However at this moment nobody seemed to be arguing strongly that the current policies are inadequate, more seem to just be contented at arguing generally about the social ills.

Besides, midway throughout the discussion I note that someone mentioned how casinos have been around Macau for a long time, yet the citizens are not affected by it. I am not too sure how accurate this information is, but if it is true, we could strive to emulate it, thereby weakening the stance of the opponents.

2. Casino brings in jobs for foreigners, not Singaporeans
Now, unless we know people working inside, or have been into the casinos, most of us would not know anything about the situation, yet a huge proportion of people freely go around claiming that the casino only brings in jobs for foreigners. If the postings of a person in the discussion is to be believed (as she worked there), the casino does provide jobs for the people in the lower rungs (dealers etc) but the jobs in the higher rungs are left to the foreigners (managers etc). I won’t be too surprised that the foreigners occupy the managerial positions. I guess a study has to be done by the government to determine if the position was filled by a foreigner because no one else could occupy it. Since the casinos are a new addition to the Singapore landscape, it is not surprising that most of us do not have any relevant skills or experiences in managing casino operations. Hence I wouldn’t be surprised if the high management were all occupied by foreigners, as long as they had the relevant experiences.

3. Casinos are built using taxpayers money etc etc and hence it makes no sense to levy the $100 on citizens
To tell the truth, I always felt that the income tax in Singapore is quite low as compared to other countries like the United States. Calculating my income tax based on my starting salary always makes me feel happy that I am not contributing much money. The point is, most of us pay less tax than that in the form of income tax, and the amount of money is not enough to pay for basic services like policing, subsidizing of education for our children etc. Then I realize that since we pay so little tax, our tax is probably not used to built the casinos. These tax that are so abundant are from the ultra rich who earned a lot of money, or are buying properties and what have you not such that they pay much more tax than the rest of us. I know this point of view is not solid, but it just gives me this sense of perspective. Hence I won’t argue against casinos by riding on the taxpayer’s monies argument unless I pay so much tax that I feel gross injustice at the levy. Chances are, if I pay so much tax, $100 is negligible anyway.