Monday, May 17, 2004

Straightening the Straits Times (8)

Someone left a message in the forum not too long ago that I should “focus on commenting on more substantive topics like Alpa-S bootlicking of SM in latest twist to SIA saga”. As much as I would like to comment on more substantive topics, you must remember I have very little incentive to do so actually. In case you don’t already know, I’m not getting paid to do all this. Besides, I have a regular job to hold down, bills to pay, mouths to feed, and games to play. Push it a little more and I’ll have zero bedtime.

But I don’t work for the civil service, so I’ll try, as much as possible, to respond to demand. But first, I’ll respond to the comment made by the abovementioned poster. Just to keep everybody in the know, I’ll reproduce the message here:

“Dunno what the fuss is about, Stephen (Re: the culling of 5,000 chickens). Bird flu is a topic charged with ramifications beyond the simple taking of chicken lives (the mosquito example re: dengue was just plain stupid, come on, you don’t need to practice culling mosquitoes!). Millions of birds have been culled in the region, so what's your point? Natural for government to adopt a pragmatic approach. I think it is reassuring to many Singaporeans, contrary to what you may say. Media blackout wise, it is [the] government’s prerogative, I don’t think this is “nation shaking” news. It may be unfortunate for these 5,000 “lau koay boo” (old mother hens), but unless you’re from a belief system that espouses the sanctity of ALL life, it’s them or us, frankly. Health is a fundamental topic. Focus on commenting on more substantive topics like Alpa-S boot licking of SM in latest twist to SIA saga. That’s more interesting.”

Naturally, we can agree to disagree. I understand your pragmatic approach to the issue – nothing wrong with it. While I don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion that all life is sacred (indeed, some people are only alive because it is illegal to kill), I wouldn’t adopt a cavalier attitude towards fellow animals, if I were you.

Not long after I posted my piece, Andy Ho wrote a commentary in the Straits Times (Feb 25) titled “5,000 hens is a small price to help ready S’pore for bird flu”. In it, he argued that “few outside the industry know that hens which are raised to lay eggs are culled when they cost more to upkeep than their eggs are worth”.

Furthermore, he added, “in countries with land to spare, old hens, if healthy, may end up in someone’s backyard”. But since “there are too few yards here”, there’s nothing wrong with the culling exercise because “the 5,000 hens were going to be culled anyway”.

In each of those instances, substitute “old hens” with “old folks” who have outlived their productive worth, and one will be treading dangerously close to the Nazi ideology of Aryan supremacy. Are we to say that old folks, particularly those who are not healthy and poses a strain on our healthcare system, should be done away with since they cannot contribute much, cost more to sustain and are going to die anyway?

When will we stop to play god in this whole ecosystem?

The Chinese have a saying that’s the equivalent of “what goes around comes around”. Surely, we wouldn’t be looking forward to the realities depicted in “The Planet of the Apes”. Or chicken, for that matter.

Old and unwise
Another attempt to marginalise people who have reached a certain stage of maturity is demonstrated by our second finance minister, Lim Hng Kiang, who was quoted in a news report (ST, Mar 12, “Ngiam’s tale on Esplanade at odds with records”) as saying “Mr Ngiam Tong Dow is a respected ex-civil servant, but sometimes his recollection of what happened may not be totally correct”.

Recalling his own situation (emphasis mine), Lim said that “being an ex-army officer, many times we gather together over beer, we’ll talk about old times and recall war stories. And as you get older and older, the war stories… they may not actually have happened.”

(Maybe that’s what gave rise to Lee Kuan Yew’s delusion of grandeur these days.)

Until the official records are revealed to the public, it’s just a case of one’s recollection against another’s.

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