Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Brexit: the sequel

Update 13/07/2016:  Democracy and prosperity are closely linked

Update 30/06/2016: Concessions from France and Finland

First of all, this post refers: Owch! Should have bought Euros on 23rd June*

Referendum day last week was a very, very wet day for most of us.

Some of us struggled to the polling stations to cast our votes. Others, mainly young people, were having a great time wallowing in mud ... and either did not bother, or forgot to vote. My heart bleeds.

So, a week after, they are still out on the streets protesting the results, asking for a second referendum, etc.(O, maybe they have stopped, as it is raining again.)

No, young people, that is not how the real world works. You had one chance, just as everyone else in this country who is eligible to vote.

You took the trouble to ensure you got yourself the £228 (+ £5 booking fee) ticket to get to Glastonbury. But you were too lazy to make the arrangements to vote (by post or proxy). Tough.

You whinge about us 'old people' not caring for your future, when the exact opposite is the truth. Hopefully, in 30 years' time, when you get to my age, you will understand the personal sacrifices we (the 'old people') had to make.

Such as my shares losing value, big time, overnight. Sadly Richard Branson lost a bit more in his Virgin empire. My heart bleeds, again.

Or that the value of our properties would go down, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer so accurately predicted with his crystal ball. (In reality, no one knows.)

While some banks were losing share value as they gambled with other people's money, I was here, watching my personal nest egg haemorrhaging away. Just how much further could it fall? Some of us saw that the future of Britain was important enough to accept that we will take a personal hit.

So DON'T even dare say that I am being selfish.

Truth is, everyone was expecting volatility after the vote if 'Leave' resulted. However, as Lord Digby Jones said (paraphrased), "Hurray for the people who -- despite knowing that homes and shares might lose value -- there is something far more important than ... value of shares and homes."

There is something called 'democracy'. (See Video.)

Simple question: What IF the Remain vote has won by the same margin? What IF the Leave voters are the ones now out on the streets?

Would the Remainers not also say, 'Suck it up. You voted 'Leave'. 'Remain' won.'

While we are imagining things, let us also imagine that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to leave, and for some inexplicable reason England and Wales voted to remain by exactly the same margins. What then?

Would England and Wales be made to leave even when England and Wales wanted to remain?

I suspect if 'Remain' had won, the 'Leave' campaigners would just accept that this was the will of the people and carried on. (It is far easier to maintain 'status quo', inertia, whatever.) Why can't the Remainers have the same grace?

This mirrors what happened in my gym. (I am diligent in going to the gym due to early-onset arthritis, just in case you are wondering.)

A few gym members have been intransigent in attending instructor-led classes when they had not booked or had been too late to book. These few people kept disrupting the classes, arguing about why they should be let into the class/pool. Eventually the gym management implemented an onerous booking system requiring booking online, collecting a physical token, submitting the token to the instructor, etc. This was all down to a few members not having the grace to accept that if the class is full, there is no room for those who have not booked. Try to remember to book the next time.

The poor staff members now have a lot more to do. Instructors continue to receive verbal abuse, etc. from these few vocal people. At least, at the gym, the management could terminate their membership. But British citizens on British streets??!!

I made one other observation: many 'Leave' supporters were reluctant to make their stand clear on social media. My one friend who did was shouted down by others. Bullied, even. Not until after the 'Leave' result did 'Leavers' 'come out of the closet' on social media to explain why they voted 'Leave'. That was how toxic and intimidating the situation had been.

Why did the bookmakers fail to pick up this trend? A simple and perhaps simplistic answer is that these 'Leavers' are not gamblers, unlike the bankers and others who are.

I am also appalled by how people were going, "What about my house in France?", "What about my holiday this summer?" and "Who is going to pay for this?", etc.

Why should I care if you own a house in Britain and another in France when lots of young people cannot afford to buy their first home? (Rather like Singapore where people own both HDB and private properties and then complain that their children cannot afford to buy their own flat.)

If, as Mr Osborne said, property prices are going to drop, those young people who previously could not afford properties are more likely to buy one now.

When the banks do move their businesses abroad, they could always take their British staff with them. If they or the EU staff now working in Britain sell up, the house prices will come down to benefit the young people.

Worse, still, are the many British nationals who live abroad most of the year and do not pay any tax. They swan back to Britain whenever they need medical attention because it is free on the NHS. (There are in fact restrictions for those who have been away for more than six months.)

What about your summer holiday? Shame on you if you jet off somewhere instead of supporting local business. Incidentally, due to the weaker sterling, lots more tourists can now be expected. hospitality businesses can look forward to more custom. Is this not good?

Who is going to pay for your EU-funded research? Actually, Britain has been paying that all this time through what they pay into EU. It just comes to you 're-badged' as EU funding. Ultimately, the funding will be returned to British students.

Incidentally, if the pound continues to slide, lots more parents outside the EU can now afford to send their children to university in Britain, not only the rich and spoilt children of Chinese and Russian oligarchs. (Uhm, the pound is rebounding.)

I've said in the previous post that this country has, for a long time, been too lazy to train their own professionals: doctors, nurses, etc.

See what has happened to English football. Labour ministers around the world, take note. Train your own precious people instead of relying on foreign talent.

Meanwhile, for the young people who insist that they want to live in the EU: The last time I checked, the EU is still open to them. They could pick any of the other 27 countries and move there before they stop this freedom of movement between Britain and the EU.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Owch! Should have bought Euros on 23rd June*

But it was raining a lot, and I was aching from a physiotherapy session.

Friday morning, checked my phone and was shocked that the 'Leave' vote was ahead of 'Remain'. Someone from Singapore Whatsapped to comment. I still thought, maybe they have got it wrong. Surely, 'Remain' were going to triumph! Surely, I thought.

I voted weeks ahead by post. I have been called an 'economically-illiterate racist'. Here's why I am an 'Outer':

Having studied south-east Asian history and Singaporean (ie foreign), the ideology of self-rule is important. The sovereignty of a nation is important.

How could a country like Britain allow itself to be subjected to the diktats of Brussels? Imagine Johore telling us how to spend our money!

Never mind that the EU is run by overpaid, unelected bureaucrats. I went to school with one. He flew into London every week to attend class. Nothing against him personally (except that he thinks Foucault is the answer to everything). It was an illustration of the waste of money that Brussels and Strasbourg expect British taxpayers to tolerate.

[Much of local and national governments departments and QUANGOS are also money-wasting agencies.]

Immigration was touted as a major issue. I have no problems with immigration. I am an immigrant myself, albeit a reluctant one.

When controls were lifted on new accession countries, my local area was suddenly flooded by what can be best described as beggars.

How does a man with no legs (only thigh stumps) sitting (standing?) on a bit of wood on castors manage to get to Britain? Had he come to Britain for work? He had clearly been shipped in here by people traffickers or gangmasters to make a living by begging.

In the short 50 yards or so that he rolled himself with hands protected by some bits of fabric or bandage on his specially-designed wooden device, at least five well-meaning Britons dropped money into his begging cup.

Freedom of movement means that the vulnerable can very easily be exploited.

The other 'evil twin' in this equation is the generous benefits system.

Most parents get more in Child Benefit alone in one week than they get for a month in whatever Eastern European country they come from. Theoretically there should be no 'welfare tourism'. In reality, lots of EU migrants come over to the UK simply because they can and claim benefits as soon as they can.

My voluntary work has led me to encounters with many such migrants who simply rock up to Britain 'because I prefer the education in Britain' and expect us to provide for them and their children.

[NB. There are different types of EU migrants: most of my EU friends work and work very hard, pay taxes, interact with Britons, buy a home here, etc. Another would do the minimum work and claim maximum in-work benefits, sending most of these back home, to build their villas. There is another group with few resources to work in this country like the man on wheels described above. There are possibly other types.]

It is possible that I deal with the worst of the economic migrants and welfare tourists. With every additional one of these, the British public becomes less willing and able to deal with the genuine asylum seeker.

If the benefits system were scrapped tomorrow, I might have voted 'Remain'. Why are there thousands camping in Calais trying to get to Britain. France is a safe country. Why do they not seek asylum there?

If migrants want to come to Britain despite not getting any social benefits, then they are very welcome.

There is another effect of this mass legal and illegal in-migration: complacency and laziness.

Why invest in nurse/doctor/other professional training when we can easily import EU citizens?

Indeed why invest in education at all when we can depend on eager EU migrants to staff farms, cafes, restaurants, factories, care homes, supermarkets, bus companies, etc?

Meanwhile, thousands of Britons are left to rot on the welfare system as they cry, "No jobs, there are no jobs."

If there are no jobs, there will not be such high in-migration from the EU.

So which is true? There are jobs or there are no jobs. They appear to be mutually-exclusive conditions to me.

For so long as we remain in the EU, corporations and government will not bother to think where they could draw literate and diligent labour from. If these supply lines are cut, there is a chance that there will be a re-think of how we teach our children.

Better still, scrap the welfare system, so that children will aspire to be successful in something when they grow up. It is heart-breaking for me to see how in a country where everyone gets free education and health care, there are families who have spent generations on the dole.

This cannot be right. Our generous welfare leads to a poverty of the soul. Hence the obesity and mental illness.

Another classmate noted 'we shouldn't have come to this', and she is right. The intransigence of Brussels has led to the referendum. If they had been more amicable in renegotiation, then the result might have been different.

But the EU bureaucracy has grown so cumbersome. It has, like many organization with good intentions, suffered mission creep. Not being accountable to the people who fund them (they are unelected), there is no way we can keep them in check.

Perhaps Brexit will make Brussels think again about their mission goals.

Meanwhile, 'self-rule'!

Sadly Britain does not seem to know what to do at the moment.

I try to imagine how our forefathers felt as we cut our umbilical cord from our colonizers. Not just in Singapore, but elsewhere in the world. It will be great if more Britons could feel a little more like that.

Video: Former (economically illiterate?) director of the CBI, and business minister, Lord Digby Jones tells BBC Breakfast that the UK has a "golden opportunity"

Me, economically-illiterate? I am probably guilty as charged. But it goes against every fibre of my body to think that a nation like Britain is not able to thrive on its own again. Interestingly, some of my 'settler' friends from other ex-colonies think like me.

This is an opportunity for Britain to reform so much of its social infrastructure that is so wrong, and in so many other areas of public life.

There are many of us who are keen to work with you on that. We can put the 'Great' back in Great Britain.

Update: 27th June 2016 -- Way forward? A cross-party group to work on exit, taking into view the opinions of cross-section of electorate, including those who voted remain.

Update 2: 27th June 2016 -- businesses threatening to leave. Like the rich individuals who threatened to leave if a particular party comes to power, only people with the power and money can afford to leave. Just as many 'refugees' in this country are the richest and most powerful from where they originate. Those without the resources are left behind. Just as many Britons do not have the wherewithal to do that. Leaving is not an option. Threatening to leave shows these agencies do not understand the plight of the common people.

Update 3: 27th June 2016 -- There is one downside to this result: that of racism rearing its head and possibly extreme right-wing activists who have mistaken a vote to leave the EU for a right to abuse those who look foreign. This is tragic.

*It was fascinating to hear how some Britons were only concerned about the value of their holiday money, European football and whether we could still compete in Eurovision.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

How to read scriptures wrongly

[OK, I might have used the word 'wrongly' wrongly but it is more impactful in a title than 'How not to read scriptures'.]

In the light of recent atrocities I recall how I once sat in a department seminar at which a sociologist was adamant that the Christian Bible wrecks family relationships.

I reflect on this also in the context of some Muslim friends struggling with Ramadan falling in the period where we are enjoying the longest of days.

We are approaching the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere where on 21st June the sun will rise at 0443 hours and set at 2120hrs. Pity the Muslim student who is sitting national exams.

The sociologist quoted in part from Luke 14:26 saying that the Bible teaches believers to 'hate their father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters'.

The verse in its entirety is:
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple."
This sociologist assumed that this text should be interpreted literally by all Christians.

How wrong could she get? What sort of anarchy would we have inherited if every believer since the resurrection of Jesus had been hating their father and mother? Is this even logical?

I won't go into an exegesis of Luke 14:26. You could read more on this link and here.

In short, we could say 'hate' was used to suggest how our love for God must trump all other loves, to the extent that the way we love our parents could be considered 'hate'.

In other words, on a scale of 1 (hate) to 10 (love), we should love God at 10 and hate our parents at 1.

But if we put this whole scale on a significantly larger scale (A for hate to Z for love), then the whole of the first scale is in fact between Y and Z in the second scale, while rape and murder would fall into the 'A' zone.

Hyperbole. See definition.

Then there is the issue of letting Scripture interpret Scripture:
As a hermeneutic approach, "Scripture interprets Scripture" is the idea that we should read a passage in the light of the entire Bible. It also states that we should interpret confusing passages based on clear passages. (Source)
Thus we interpret this hating of parents in the light of, for example, the fifth of the Ten Commandments:
"Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." (Exodus 20:12)
And if anyone has difficulty with this (as some people hold that the Old Testament is full of bloodshed, and full of contradictions), then let us go straight to what Jesus taught: "Love your neighbour as yourself".

I have not, hand on heart, studied the Koran, but is the requirement for fasting 'from sun up to sun down' literal? And if so, within what historical and geographical context did this instruction originate?

Being thus ignorant, I ask, what if Ramadan falls in the period of the shortest day, as would be the case in the southern hemisphere?

Nobody here complains when Ramadan falls in winter. In London, the shortest day will see the sun rise at  0804 hours and set at 1554 hours.

I mean, that is nothing more than missing a brunch rather than a fast, isn't it? Do believers then just go, 'hurray, a short fast!'??

What are the first principles of fasting?

Jesus taught about fasting thus in Matthew 6:16-18:
“When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
My Muslim friends in Singapore have very regular sunrise to sundown hours. What if these hours shift as they do when we move away from the equator?

If Ramadan falls in winter, do Muslims extend their fasting to at least 12 hours so that they could feel the impact of a fast? I don't know. By the same token, could my Muslim friends get away with fasting for just 12 hours in winter so that they could continue to perform their normal duties at work and school?

What should the theology behind Ramadan fasting be? Just fast between sunrise and sundown according to Mecca sunlight hours?

The letter of the law or the spirit of the law?

Is it acceptable that one fasts fastidiously from physical food but harbour evil in their hearts?

Whatever the answer may be, whether you are Christian or Muslim, gay or not, an Alice Fong or a Bryan Lim, I will subscribe to what Jesus said in the following context:

The Greatest Commandment
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”