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Reader demands apology for distasteful Straits Times writing

Reader demands apology for distasteful Straits Times writing

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ST sub-headline sends one into a blinding rage, he claims.

On the front page of The Straits Times Home section today (April 2, 2012), there is this story that is published:

But what I’ll like to do, is to pull your attention to the sub-headline:

Honestly, I didn’t even read the article. I just glanced at this sub-headline and immediately flew into a blinding rage.

This sort of attention-grabbing antics dealing in double entendre should not be tolerated, even in a country like Singapore, with our advanced literacy skills.

Saying that “Aids come in handy” is disrespectful on so many levels to so many countries in the world today that are ravaged by Aids.

It is similar to saying that Khmer Rouge did Cambodia a favour by making everyone equally handicapped.

Or that Joseph Kony is just doing an Angelina Jolie by adopting a lot of children.

This is sickening. And there needs to be an apology for such editorial oversights.

I do realise that the ST article in question is not even on the subject about Aids the disease.

Yes, the meaning is taken out of context.

However, it doesn’t matter to me or you. And here’s why.

This is because there is always that likelihood, however minuscule, that this sub-headline can be construed to mean just that: Aids is a disease people should contract because of the conveniences it affords.

Yes, I know this doesn’t even make sense at all.

But that’s the real problem.

Does quantum physics ever make sense to you? No, right?

But do people still buy it?

Of course!

Herein lies the beating heart of the issue: I would like to re-iterate that headlines of this sort, especially those on the front page, can be hugely misleading, especially when misread.

Do you know how many protests in the world were started as a result of misinterpretations and misreadings?

If international best-selling author Salman Rushie bothered to rename his 1988 storybook “The Satanic Verses” to “Cherry Pie Pecan Girlfriend”, none of his troubles would have occurred.

No mullah from a theocratic state would have threatened to kill him. No money would be put on his head.

The countless number of effigies of the balding author would not have been senselessly burnt around the world to release untold amounts of carbon dioxide and anthropomorphic greenhouse gases that today, threaten to kill Johnny Polar Bear.

And he would still be dating supermodels in peace.

Look, all I’m saying is: Today is already April 2. It is not even April Fools’ Day any more. Why should The Straits Times pull such kinds of childish stunts?

We all know that newspaper sales are going down faster than Man United’s Nani or Joo Chiat’s streetwalkers can get on their knees, so there is a need to pique the readers’ interest into buying a copy.

But as long as I’m required to do a double-take, this means there is something wrong with the writing.

And I’m not even a mullah.

I know, I can choose to be whatever I want.

I can choose to be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic or atheist, and hence, forgiving or ignorant.

But I precisely chose to be offended in this case.

And you know why?

Because I can.

And when I can, that only means countless other people with too much free time on their hands can too.

Which also explains why there are more electrifying moral outrages than electricity outages in our First World Country.

Yours sincerely,
An Outraged Straits Times Reader

Optimism is not happiness

Optimism is not happiness

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Call the Bhutanese people optimistic, not happy. Here’s why.

By Belmont Lay

The Bhutanese people. Photo by rajkumar1220.

Recently, the Singapore parliament witnessed an orgy of debate.

This happened after the Workers’ Party’s Sylvia Lim mooted the idea that the happiness of Singaporeans should count for something in the bigger scheme of things as the Bhutanese people are happy and there is a bona fide measure of happiness in Bhutan and happiness is an official pastime there…

Or something like that.

And everyone inside and outside the Internet jumped up and down and went back-and-forth for quite a bit, extrapolating on how Singapore can measure happiness and how it should be instituted as part of our public policy-making too.

Curious as a cat, I went to read up about what makes the Bhutanese people supposedly happy-clappy.

I was half-expecting to find snippets of facts telling me things like how Bhutanese men are hung like horses.

Or how girls look like Fiona Fussi during their teenage years and eventually grow up looking like Fiona Xie. Or Angelina Jolie.

And also probably how Bhutanese children, raised on a diet of rainbows and wild fairies, are born into the company of unicorns, where the river they play in flows with chocolate.

And how they have cotton candy for beds, as they wake up and fall asleep, exposed to the bliss and tingling good vibrations of true democracy.

And I was suspensefully waiting for a factoid or two to pop up telling me how the Bhutanese people probably also have their version of HDB flats,¬†where everyone truly has a home, albeit one that isn’t over-subscribed.

Or prone to speculative pressure.

Or ran by Mah Bow Tan.

But alas, no. No such luck. These are not the things that make them happy.

First and foremost, the Bhutanese people look like, well, most other Bhutanese people.

As I was to find out, the main source of income for them is derived from generating hydropower electricity.

Which is primarily sold to India. A surprising fact considering it is a country with an even lower standard of living compared to Bhutan.

Selling electricity, nonetheless, is what allowed the official Bhutanese economy to double the GDP per capita to, wait for it… S$2,200 per year. (Which incidentally is what a 16-year-old can make in a month in Singapore selling blogshop clothes.)

But in reality, the money that is made from hydropower largely goes into the government coffers.

So that counts toward nothing for each Bhutanese person, whose net worth is equivalent to the amount of maize he or she picks for a living.

A traditional agricultural society it is then for them, and just so you should know, therefore, that female infanticide is still carried out there as baby boys are favoured.

Thus, “imbalance” is too mild a word to describe the female-to-male ratio, as they are faring much worse on that count than India. The proper word describing the female population would probably be “decimation”.

On a broader scale of population control, Bhutan spent a good part of their time managing the population in the past by banishing people to Nepal.

You’d think with things looking to be a bit in the doldrums, alcoholism is rife, and you’ll be correct. Three out of 10 patients in hospital wards die of alcoholism in Bhutan. Well, it could also be due to the Bhutanese brewing their own rice-based liquor – for fun.

And terrifyingly, 70 percent of Bhutan is made up of forest cover, with a decree that they are planning to keep it that way. Forevermore. Come hell or high water. Or global warming.

Which means the people there either live in or under a tree.

And do you know what staying in a forest does to you?

Well, I do. During National Service, I was dropped off in a Bruneian jungle to spend two nights to see if I will die of diphtheria or foot rot or make my way out alive.

The feeling after one sleepless night was that of being sucked dry by mosquitoes the size of wasps.

After which, I was left with an overall sensation, or the lack of any to be precise, that my body had been ravaged by a Pontianak and a wild boar. At the same time.

Therefore, given their lot in life – as you can see most of which is unpleasant – it is a miracle the people of Bhutan can still claim to be happy. Not just that, but also claim the title of being the “happiest” people on Earth.

Which brings me to the point of today’s missive: It is pointless arguing about what makes the Bhutanese people happy.

It might be worth more than a second look at the problem of mistaking “optimism” for “happiness” .

Because it is quite apparent that “optimism” is what enables the Bhutanese people to get by, given the circumstances they face.

And if they can derive a huge dose of it in the face of crummy conditions, it vindicates Monty Python.

You can be mistaken and call it “happiness” for all I care, and it doesn’t matter – as long as it gives more power to the people.