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If Ned were in Parliament… October 24, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

( This whole post is not meant to impugn on the Parliament of the Republic of Singapore, that sacred and untouchable institution, by law said to be free from all fault, Mr Chiam, Mr Low and Ms Lim not included of course.)

Mr Speaker sir, I have had the benefit of reading my learned parliamentarian’s speech and shall now attempt to engage in such a discussion with as little emotion as ever, since I am of course extremely unwilling to subject my learned parliamentarian to the “harrassment” she was subjected to by rather “violent” people after her comments on homosexuality was made known. Of course I shall not comment on whether the article was well researched or not for I am but a simple faceless netizen without the impeccable credentials of a professor, what more a law professor. Nevertheless I find it rather strange that she should be surprised by such rancour; after all if you insinuate that a person is a sexually depraved monster you can’t expect him to come up to you with a smile and give u his other cheek for you to slap.

That aside I must say that as my learned friend Aaron has said, I am confused as to the idea of the “conservative” majority. In fact I must question just what makes a person a conservative majority? His homophobia? His desire to have three children? The fact that he goes to church? Indeed, Ned believes in ideals such as honor and justice, concepts dating back to the middle ages and beyond. So am I a conservative?

Moving on, my learned parliamentarian has said that the repeal camp is “marinated” with fallacies which obscure what is at stake. She claims that the repeal will subvert social morality, destroy the common good and undermine our liberties. Such a statement must receive a cautious reply. Regarding liberties one can respond with but one question, “What liberty?” But snide comments on Singapore aside, one must wonder what is the liberty and common good is she talking about. Furthermore what social morality is there to be safeguarded. Indeed I would also contend that social morality can be safeguarded by criminalising adultery, raiding Geylang, dispensing with Casinos (or if you would prefer IRs). Indeed, I find it rather weird that marital rape is still permissable under the law! So it is socially moral to rape your wife! Fascinating is it not?

Now on to harm. Indeed I do not dispute that harm can be intangible or tangible. The question is what harm? If A and B engage in homosexual intercourse in the bed room, what harm can there be? Maybe they made too much noise and woke their neighbours; the law relating to nuisance will deal with that. Maybe if they were in a hotel room and they broke the bed, then negligence will deal with that. Is there a need to impose criminal sanctions on people?

On the issue of science, one must wonder on what basis does the learned parliamentarian diss science, it is undeniable that scientists do have certain subjectivity (as do judges and all of us) but one cannot deny that research is in itself an objective enterprise. Indeed if one would like to rubbish science then one would have to do better rather than dissing science using rather doubtful examples of homosexuals who have turned straight (see this post for more information on that).

Furthermore, having a law and not enforcing it (or claiming to anyway) makes a person confused. As the late Lord Denning once so eloquently said, ” it tends to the discredit of a legal system in a country if its Parliament makes laws or its courts make orders which they cannot enforce“ Indeed what happens if A hears his neighbours getting it on, and knows that his neighbours are definitely both male? If A calls the police, would the police say, “Sorry but we are forbidden to enforce the law!” Indeed it would be a mockery of the law if there is no desire to enforce it. I do agree however that the retention of 377A does send a strong signal; to the inquisitors, this is a sign that the government does look favourably on them; this is in essence a tacit approval for them to commence their hate campaign against fellow human beings. This law is a signpost, that the law considers homosexuals to be no better than rapists; true from a strict literal interpretation it says nothing of that sort but from a broader perspective it does suggest that homosexuals are criminal or criminally inclined.

Furthermore I fail to see why the call to repeal a law which is discriminatory is tantamount to hijacking human rights. Indeed calling for the repeal of 377A is an action which shows great respect for this idea of human rights. Those calling for repeal are not limited to homosexuals; in fact NMP Siew is himself a heterosexual. Mr Hri to is most definitely not homosexual. I myself, last i heard am as homosexual as Aaron is homosexual. Indeed the composition of people calling for repeal is more varied than what is suggested by the learned parliamentarian; I know Christians who seek to repeal the law but do not approve of homosexuality, and Aaron has at times said he was slight homophobic. All those seeking repeal seek these things: That religion be kept out of the picture and that people be treated as equal as possible. Its a matter of human rights and attempting to fudge around with concepts such as equality and fairness cannot change the fact.

I now turn to the matter of the petition to Keep 377A. It maybe that there were 15 000 rather concerned people who signed. However one must question whether this is a good indicator of anything if “Jesus” himself signed the petition. Furthermore, just because many people say its right does not make it right. In National Service it is common for people to be tekaned, does this make it any more right? What about the murder of Jews? What of the prejudice against the african americans or africans? Did the fact that society deemed it right make it anymore right? There was also a time not too long ago when Christians were fed to lions in the Roman Arena.

Unfortunately not only is my time short, I must admit I lack the eloquence of my learned parliamentarian. Therefore I shall end off by addressing her use of history. While I must admit I do not know much about homosexuality in China, save that there were Emperors who were homosexual, I must say that I find it interesting that she talks about how there were the “bad old days” in Greece where homosexuality was allowed. Indeed it is rather interesting that she talks about the bad old days. I would like to highlight this salient fact to this august assembly, that the very institution, nay the very place, nay the very act, to wit, of debating now, indeed our very idea of government stemmed from those bad old days. These bad old days also gave us the Hippocratic Oath sworn by doctors, and philosphers such as Aristotle. In fact the bad old days of Ancient Greece gave rise to heroic men such as the 300 Spartans who chose to stand and die at Thermopylae. One must wonder whether one can find 300 NS men willing to do the same in morally upright Singapore. And with regards to Sodom may I highlight this interesting piece done by Mr Wang, it provides a rather interesting perspective.

But I have said too much, and fear that I would be subject to a rigorous analysis which would tear my argument apart. Indeed I fear that will be burnt at the stake by the Inquisition like Joan of Arc and thus shall say no more. Save this, I too was raised to believe, stand up and to speak for a cause. To speak up for what is right. And I say now that retaining 377A serves only to bolster those who seek to spread fear, hatred among members of society and that is stands, not as argued for morals, but for sheer prejudice, sheer disregard for the feelings of fellow human beings.

Sir, I long to be a member of a compassionate society, a city of possibilities; a place where men practise what they preach. But for 377A, this would forever be a way distant fantasy.

A Mega Post on a Mega Topic I October 23, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

377A. The law which has been cited in the blogosphere time and again. In fact, it appears that 377A has been cited more regularly than the law of defamation or the laws on public gatherings itself.

However matters have finally come to a head. As of this moment, NMP Siew Kum Hong would have submitted the petition to repeal Section 377A. Needless to say such a move is unprecedented, with some fellas beating their chests. In fact there was even a letter (part of a chain of letters whose quality was far from satisfactory) that deigned to chide NMP Siew for “overstepping” his role as an NMP. Indeed besides the usual “high” quality letters to the ST forum affirming 377A and demeaning fellow humans, some people went even further; several sites dedicated to the retention of 377A were created, and there were calls for a massive walk near St Andrew’s Cathedral (this brings to mind the People’s Crusade and the Children’s Crusade; though of course the two events where part of the skeletons in the wardrobe of the Catholic Church). Of course the validity of these websites must be doubted given the fact that “Jesus” was a signatory to the petition to keep 377A.

Of course, being the pessimistic person that I am I tend to think that the law would remain the same; the government would probably resort to the arguments that the majority say nay, that we are an Asian society with those mysterious Asian Values and then talk about how they will not actively enforce the law. Singapore being Singapore, the fact that there is no clear economic benefit to be gained from repeal, vis a vis the clear economic benefit to be reaped in allowing the Casinos (aka Intergrated Resorts), the law would remain, equality and fairness be damned, as far as homosexuals are concerned. Regretable but true. Nevertheless one must applaud NMP Siew for daring to make a formal challenge.

My fellow blogger FO has written a rather interesting post on this issue. However with all due respect I have to disagree with certain portions of his article.

It is of course, desirable to seek to change the mindset of the pro-retention camp. Education, either expressly or implicitly, could help change the mindsets of people so that in time to come the idea of repeal will not be anathema to some.

Unfortunately such a situation is unlikely to flourish in Singapore for a variety of reasons.

A perusal of the ST archives will show how much space those who are anti repeal have in the mainstream media. Observe the level of homophobic content and the scarcity of rebuttals. Thus it is unsurprising that Prof Michael Hor decided to publish his article on TOC instead; this would keep his content free from adulteration. Furthermore anecdotal evidence proves that the Christian lobby is rather prevalent, what with those family groups hiding a rather Christian agenda to influence people against homosexuality. Of course I admit that I am taking a rather pessimistic view of the situation but unfortunately as the facts stand there is nothing to make me feel that the “soft” approach can work, given the evidently skewed field. In fact I daresay it is entirely possible that with the dominance of certain groups in the public sphere there is a high chance that more impressionable people will be imprinted with the idea that homosexuality is disgusting, criminal.

Of course, that is not to say that this petition will do anything other than to raise hackles on both sides, in fact judging from the current parliamentary debates it is highly unlikely that parliament will decide to repeal and will probably leave it as it is, no doubt to the delight of some. Nevertheless this formal challenge constitutes a baby step in progress and is a sign to all those seeking to exert insiduous influences in society that there are people who do not take too kindly upon these sheenanigans and will try to stop them, as far as possible.

As of this moment I have had a chance to look at the parliamentary debates. I must say that I am rather confused by the logic of NMP Thio’s argument. It seems to lack the clearness that underlies Prof Hor’s article, with the fudging of issues. In fact i find it rather interesting that she actually says homosexuals deserve rights, the same as we all have. If that is the case should there not be a stronger case for repeal given the fact that the 377A criminalises the homosexuals right to intercourse? If heterosexuals can have intercourse then why can’t homosexuals do so? Once again the slippery slope argument materialises; by repealing 377A you will open the door to more demands for rights. Though it may be true that there will be those who will argue for same sex marriages, conversely the same could be said for the Christian Right, if the law is retained than this would serve to empower these rightists who will attempt to foist more of their dogma upon “right thinking” members of society.

Regarding her point on harassment, it is true that there are many times where criticism becomes nothing more than ad hominems, unfortunately this is a risk all bloggers, and I daresay most people take. Rather than gripe about it would it not be better to consider the reasons behind it? And if one does so one would realise it is inevitable to be subject to such harrassment. After all, you are essentially advocating an argument that a person is immoral, base and depraved just because he happens to have a different orientation from the norm. Sure it all sounds fine if you start talking about protecting children but if you pause to think, are homosexuals not children too? Are they not fellow humans who should be entitled to protection of the law and not have a section of the law which deals expressly with them?

Most of the above is just a mere restatement of what I have been saying. In fact NMP Siew and Mr Hri Kumar have done a better job at this. Nevertheless I really wonder what is so moral about dehumanising a fellow human being through the use of laws. Furthermore to those who think that homosexuality will result in the downfall of Singapore, might I remind you that Ancient Greece had some rather interesting homosexual practices, and yet their philosphies and ideals have lived on. Indeed it was the adaptability of the Romans which spelt the end of Ancient Greece and not homosexuality. But I am tired of this debate where I essentially rephrase and restate what ever I have said. The only way out in this deadlock would be to repeal 377A, because it is fair and just to do so.  Perhaps all of us should just stop and “climb into the skin” of a homosexual; how will you feel if you were a homosexual and there is this law which makes you criminal? How would you feel reading the ST letters labelling you as an anathema to man kind? How will you feel being dehumanised? And having done that we could then understand the anger and sadness that some experience and will be less likely to dismiss calls for repeal as activism, shit stirring and what have you. Or not if you believe that you have received divine instruction.

Anyway I find it rather interesting that homosexual is considered immoral while marital rape is not. How queer. As my fellow blogger puts it, man have more ways to rape wives with the repeal of section 377(?). So much for morality.

Much Ado About Exploitation October 7, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

Several rather interesting letters have appeared in the ST forum recently. To sum it all up, these letters share a common content; all of them talk about the situation in Myanmar; in addition all of them are, explicitly or implicitly, critical of Dr Chee Soon Juan’s organisation of a petition against the military junta and the Singapore government. Simply put, these letters amount to an accusation that Dr Chee is “exploiting the situation“.

And all these accusations reminded me of an old post, made during the aftermath of the furious debate regarding minister’s salaries. After that rather acrimonious debate PM Lee’s announcement that he was going to donate part of his increase to charity was met with scorn and accusations that it was all for show. Of course it may very well be all for show but at the end of the day one could say that everything a person does is for show. What has happened in Dr Chee’s situation and perhaps in Mr Lee’s situation is the work of preconceived notions which prejudice a person’s mind and makes men misconstrue their actions.

Perhaps there is some truth that Dr Chee is leveraging on the situation in Myanmar; although this is contrary to M M Aung’s and some others belief that he is doing it as part of his long running battle with the PAP; the fact that the petition to the Singapore government is a petition to stop arms sales, to do more in this crisis, disproves the idea that Dr Chee is getting innocent people involved in his feud with the PAP. At most one could say that Dr Chee is trying to gain international recognition for his efforts in Singapore; but is this wrong? Is this exploitation? 

I daresay few people actually embark on a course of action without hoping to gain from it. In fact even a person who does charity for the sake of charity can be said to “gain” intangible benefits, though thats a rather extremely example. In any event if one were to accuse Dr Chee of “exploiting the situation” to his own benefit one might as well accuse the organisers of the Myanmar Awareness activities from NUS, NTU and SMU of exploitation. You could accuse them of exploiting this incident so as to curry favour with their professors and impress future employers. And if doing anything related to Myanmar is exploitation why end there? Might as well accuse Aaron of blogging to gain the notice of the powers that be so as to improve his standing in society. Might as well accuse Mr Brown of “exploiting” the people’s dissatisfaction. Might as well accuse Ned Stark of exploiting the ST and society so that Ned can gain fame in the blogging community.  The list of accusations go on. And just a few months ago was not Lee Hong Yi accused of exploiting his position to gain a reputation in society?

In any event, it is rather difficult to define exploitation in these instances, easier to define exploitation in terms of forced labour. Anyway exploitation or not, what matters at the end of the day is the consequences, the end. There are instances where the end justifies the means and perhaps in this instance it can be said to be so, assuming of course that the so called accusations of exploitation is even valid in the first place.

* Unfortunately it appears that ST has refused to give Dr Chee the right of reply, and so the majority of Singaporeans will continue to perceive him as an opportunist.

October 3, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

Free Burma!