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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Hi guys, long time no post so here goes. I was at the Sikh symposium yesterday (saturday) with a friend from 1.30 pm to about 8pm. On the whole it was a pretty interesting day, with interesting characters and interesting speakers. Most importantly, the food was free. So I thought, perhaps i should share this interesting event with you interesting people (pardon the limited vocabulary. but interesting seems such an apt word. heh.)

Ok lets do this lit style since we all identify with lit. First, analyze title of poem. In this context, I will attempt to relate "The Sikh Symposium" on a highly superficial and literal way. When I first read about this symposium I thought:" hey, considering the nature of these talks (about singapore economic and socio-political landscape), what had Sikh got to do with it?" The topics were really quite broad based with no hint that its target group were sikhs so I thought that maybeit was organized by the Sikhs (who are, if you don't know, very good lawyers and basically smart people). We were supposed to, as suggested on the SMB to report at 1.30, so me and my friend did (surprise surprise i was early haha. no lah actually i took a cab...) At 2.15, we could still count the number of people in the auditorium with our hands (so that would probably be about hm... 5+5 = 10? siiiigh. should have been late lah. this is what you get for being early...have to wait... haha jk.) What was perhaps more interesting was that of these 10 or so, close to 70% were. Sikhs. (puts full-stop before sikhs for suggested effect.) Well, then it dawned on me that perhaps the Sikh symposium was titled Sikh symposium for some reason other than the fact that it was organized by Sikhs. Nonetheless, lest I am perceived to be racist (I really have no grudge against Sikhs), it was really interesting being in a setting with close to 80% of the people not Chinese, making me effectively a minority. In Singapore, we Chinese being the majority and all, you often dont get the chance to feel what it's like to be a minority. Regardless, the feeling (of being a minority) was really only temporory, reflecting perhaps the multi-racial non-discriminatory (at least on the surface level) of Singapore.

So having established the context to which the following narrative will be (what else) narrated, we shall proceed to do so, as all lit students, by first discussing the characters of the play (oh woops did i say play, make it symposium). As with all symposiums (here I begin to use play and symposium interchangeably) there are the speakers (Ferdinand, the Cardinal, Duchess, and Antonio etc.) the audience (courtiers of the court, castruchio...), the people with questions (malcontents like Bosola), and the people who sleep (hm. who sleeps in malfi?). Alright, the speakers. The speakers in the symposium were pretty much smart people in their own rights. There was Minister Lim Swee Say, whose keynote address was pretty much a linear narrative (recounting his childhood with the occassional, or perhaps not so occassional allusions to singapore being great and all...); then there was Mr. Tay Kheng Soon, one of the prominent eco-architects of Singapore; Mr. Ong Ye Kung, from the workforce development authority (interesting place i shall talk about later); Mr. Viswa Sadasivan (this guy who was like... mrbrown's predecessor in the areas of media and government commentary) and Professor Kirpal Singh (rmb the compre we recently did about the liberalizing of singapore and literature w/o hedging?) among others. Oh yes, and Eleanor Wong was supposed to be speaking but she was too busy conferring the public service star on a certain JBJ.

Mr. Lim Swee Say was perhaps the most understandable and thus the most boring of the lot (I think I heard his address before when he came to Chinese High for a talk...hm...) But perhaps that's what all opening address do - prepare you for what is to come (well. it can't get any more boring than this, can it.)

Well boring it wasn't but it was certainly confusing. Mr. Tay Kheng Soon the speaker starting the session was really confusing. His talk on "staking a claim in the global economy: challenges and strategies" was really rehashed into some eco-architecture, radical education thingey. In fact, his powerpoint presentation had more question marks than full stops (he'd probably get a high grade for lit. heh.) But one interesting thing he mentioned was about this school in northern thailand, situated among the peasants and funded by Thailands condom king (yea. you didn't read wrongly) who was radically different in its approach to children education. There, children are the teachers of their parents. That says alot in itself already. Really radical. Every day, the students (10 year olds) would start the day by doing a mindmap of what they wanted to learn for the day. Everything was self initiated by these 10 year olds. In addition, these children were also in the process of running a telecommunications/radio broadcast center in the heart of their village, providing help in education around their precinct, playing an active role in, through their priveleged education, raising the literacy level of less fortunate children in neighboring neighborhood schools. Listening to him talk about this was really wow for me.

Another interesting person, or perhaps more interesting, was the agency that he came from. Here was Mr. Ong Ye Kung, chief executive of a little known government agency called the Workforce Development Authority. Of the person and the contents of his speech, I am unable to provide any clues on, considering that every symposium must have its fair share of sleepers. However, it was really interesting to find out what the Workforce Development Authority was all about. Essentially, this government agency was supposed to bridge the social divide between the rich and the poor through what he termed "an adult learning infrastructure". This is, simplistically, school for adults, where workers can go through experiential and practical learning to equip themselves with skills that would enable them to find work should they be retrenched. It was a really interesting concept concretizing what we often hear about retraining the workforce and all, providing the framework in which the topic of social divide could be discussed. But before that, it was also interesting that he raised up the question of toilet cleaners. Did you know that in Japan, there are actually specialist toilet cleaners, people who this agency paid a good 60,000 dollars to come here to train toilet cleaners? You see, in Japan, people perfect their art even if it were as menial as toilet cleaning, you could get quite far. (60k lehh..anyone wants to follow me to Japan to learn the art of toilet cleaning?) However, in Singapore, we just do what is probably what is sufficient to keep our incomes.

(Argh I got lots to say but this is such a time consuming thing. Bleh. Characteristic of many lit essays, at least for me, is the inability to finish it due to lack of time or lack of patience. I shall try to make a working conclusion and continue some other day. siiigh. national day rally now...)

So really, symposiums like these are worth attending. You get to listen from some very anti-establishment, whiney people voicing out their concerns/complaints (if they are the same) about Singapore. You get to hear from some pretty smart and interesting people talk about smart and interesting things (well, its all about definitions isn't it. smart...interesting...hah.) And most importantly, If you do attend the Sikh symposium, you really get some radical change in perceptions with regards to the majority/minority dichotomy. Among other issues. Hoped you had fun reading this entry. Jerryale signing off.

7:18 PM}

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