Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Where's my party bag?

The Lady Gaga Fun Pack Song Saga caused me to think: children's party bags.

I remember the first birthday party I organized for my son, at four, and a young lady refused to leave the house asking very loudly, "But where's my party bag?"

Her mum said, "Darling, you are holding it."

The point is this little girl was not going to leave until she was given a party bag.

Since when did party bags become de rigueur?

Growing up when we had no birthday parties AT ALL, to be invited to the party was the treat. Fun, games, party (=treat) foods. We bought presents for the birthday boy and girl, not expect to be given party bags. OK, this was during the dinosaur age.

So why put so much emphasis, even have a song butchered, on a "fun pack", a party bag?

As has been expressed by other Singaporeans before: Why do we need a song about a fun pack in the first place? It is, as my son would say, “a blunt pencil” (pointless).

Is it because the organizers think that the recipients are not clever enough to know what to do with the contents? (The same reason we do not have juries in law courts, because we are not clever enough to discern who is/not guilty.)

There have been whisperings about how people won't bother to wave the flag if no one reminds them.

It has also been alleged that some people go to the NDP only for the fun pack. They don't bother to stay for the parade. If this is true then it appears that we are fast advancing towards another “uniquely Singapore” trait – being “yau kwee” (ie greedy).

Thankfully the revulsion expressed by many Singaporeans towards this song shows that we have not come to that, just yet.

Meanwhile I live with the dubious honour of being a Singaporean thinking: Other nations boast of beautiful poetry like the “Ode to a Nightingale”. Singaporeans have, in a manner of speaking, an “ode to a fun pack”.

How great is that?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Going gaga over intellectual property, right?

Assuming that the original songwriter has not given permission for the song to be used this way, the Lady Gaga NDP Fun Pack Song saga is a reflection of the lack of respect for intellectual property rights in Singapore.

If this infringement has been approved at the highest level it is a shocking indictment on our moral standards. A standard being led "from the top"?

There is a very simple solution. Again come back to "do to others as you would like others to do to you".

My son, aged eleven, won't even think to violate intellectual property rights like that simply on the premise that one day, one day in the distant future, he might write a song, a piece of music, invent something fantastic etc.

Then what? Would it be fair that people used his work without paying for it, a result of hard work, trial and error, etc?

Likewise he refuses to take something that is not his. Violating intellectual rights is theft. No ifs, no buts.

If Singaporean artists/artistes are not able to see like this eleven-year-old, then they clearly do not have the confidence to be able to produce something quite spectacular and successful.

See also Copyright and Integrity

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Made/Maid to rest

Straits Times is not running this letter, so I am copying it here. Added some footnotes to make my points clear.


Allow me to look at the “maid* off days” and minimum wage debates together.

When our forefathers first came to Singapore there was no minimum wage, but they often had sympathetic employers who awarded wages according to their work as well as needs.

If an employee got married or had another child, the employer raised his wages. If one were a good and trustworthy employee, employers did that to ensure that his business continued to thrive. It was self-preservation.

I was once a single foreign worker. I understand the strong desire to be with someone from the same country, speak the same language, or eat familiar foods**.

Foreign workers (not only domestic workers) carry with them a personal, social and cultural baggage. This baggage needs to be set down, re-packed and perhaps shared at timely intervals.

When was the last time an employer organized a party for the maid, allowing her to invite her compatriots, cook some familiar foods, in a safe and convenient environment, simply “to chill”?

Our forefathers did that. They had their village and clan associations. They played, worshipped and celebrated together.

From a biblical perspective*** maids should have a day of rest every seventh day. When I had worked continuously for weeks to meet project deadlines, my body always told me that I needed both physical and mental rest. That is how our body is designed.

Rest does not mean doing nothing. Rest does not need to be on a Sunday. Rest should not mean maids must spend it outside her employer’s home. Rest could simply mean not having to do the chores whether at home or on a family outing. “Ma’am” or “Sir” could change nappies, no?

Sure, some families need “cover” for those days that their maids are off. Why have our entrepreneurs not started a weekend maid service?

This is going to cost money****, you say.

If we desire that our loved ones are being well looked after, then it is our prerogative to treat our maid as we would like to be treated.

Would YOU work on minimum wage, with only two days off in a month?

* I used "maid" instead of "foreign domestic worker" to reduce number of words.

** We see these workers out in the parks sharing food.

*** Note also the Bible also admonishes the Israelites to treat their "aliens" well, remembering the time that they too were aliens.

*** If families can only afford to employ foreign domestic workers with little left over for anything else, then perhaps they might consider life without the maid.

When was the last time your Residents Committee organize a party or event for all the foreign workers in your area? The RC could provide a safe environment for these workers. But does anyone bother?