On Happiness

February 19, 2014 at 5:24 pm | Posted in Being Me, But Seriously | Leave a comment

…[S]o as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation.

That’s from our Pledge. Recently I’ve read a lot about the achievement of happiness . And I am often reminded of a famous document that had the words “pursuit of happiness” in it and the discussions on what happiness means.

My first point is that the pledge speaks of achieving happiness but it is not for ourselves but for our nation. I think that is too often overlooked. The pledge is to achieve happines for our nation. So the next thing to discuss is what does it mean “happiness for our nation”. There are several ways to take this, one is to say that the sum happiness of all members of the nation should be positive (i.e. the majority is happy or the super majority is happy). Another is to  say that every single member of the nation must be happy. A third position would be that the happiness of a nation is more than the sum of its members. It is the national psyche, the national sentiment or the national spirit. Whichever method you wish to apply, it would be difficult to measure.

So we’ve established that happiness is for the nation, and that there are several ways to look at how to measure. Now to discuss what happiness is.

Associate Professor James Rogers points out that “happiness” the American Founding Fathers were referring to is not “a subjective emotional state.” He notes that to them it meant “well-being”. He cites James Madison’s point that “[t]aking the word “interest” as synonymous with “ultimate happiness,” in which sense it is qualified with every necessary moral ingredient , the proposition is no doubt true. But taking it in its popular sense, as referring to the immediate augmentation of property and wealth, nothing can be more false. ” He has some religious themes as well, but I think as a secular nation, Singapore should avoid throwing religion into the mix when defining its happiness. Professor Rogers concludes the part on happiness by saying that happiness can “be understood centrally as a sort of virtuous felicity, perhaps in the sense of Greek eudemonia” (eudemonia definition from Wikipedia: simple Platonic defintion states that it is the good composed of all goods; an ability which suffices for living well; perfection in respect of virtue; resources sufficient for a living creature).

Dr Carol Hamilton explores the origin of the phrase “pursuit of happiness” and believes that Thomas Jefferson borrowed the phrase from Locke. Locke tied the happiness with liberty, and that we should pursue “true and solid happiness”, not imaginary happiness. As Dr Hamilton puts it:

“It is not merely sensual or hedonistic, but engages the intellect, requiring the careful discrimination of imaginary happiness from “true and solid” happiness.  It is the “foundation of liberty” because it frees us from enslavement to particular desires.”

Locke was looking to eudemoniaas well. And the Greeks knew that happiness was not “wealth, honour or pleasure”, and that “Virtue [is] the foundation of happiness.” To this end, happiness as decribed by the Greeks, Locke and Jefferson, is tied to the “civic virtues of courage, moderation, and justice”, and since these are civic in nature, the happiness that they refer to is basically in our pledge, it is the happiness of a community or nation.

To be sure, if everyone in Singapore possessed civic virtue, people would actually be happy, and we would actually be a truly happy place. Each of the virtues listed by Dr Hamilton can only lead to true and solid happiness.  Not the emotional happiness that is fleeting, but a true lasting happiness permeating through society. Now time for me to seek out happiness for myself and for the nation…

How the Hell do we know?

March 22, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Posted in Being Me, But Seriously | 7 Comments

[Disclaimer: I know Dr Janil Puthucheary personally]

I find it very interesting that people make such a big deal about Dr Janil Puthucheary’s father and his history. Some folks will find any reason to not vote PAP, even going as far as to cast aspersions about Janil’s filial piety. As an outsider, I have no real idea what the younger and elder Puthucheary’s relationship is like. I only know Janil and have never met the elder Mr Puthucheary.

I feel rather incensed that outsiders feel as if they know the relationship between father and son better than the parties themselves. So I had to go online to check out what the older Mr Puthucheary feels about his time in Singapore (before moving to Malaysia). As far as I can tell, I do no think that he begrudges what happened to him. I’m not saying that he didn’t suffer, I’m saying that he put it behind him. I think the older Mr Puthucheary did not transmit any sense of anger or hate to his children, which is a good thing. I would never dream of burdening my sons/daughters with my personal struggles. Unlike most folks, the elder Mr Puthucheary is a generous and big hearted man, he doesn’t hold long grudges and is willing to accept and support the choices his son makes. I can only hope that I will be as generous and supportive a father as he has been to Janil.

As for Janil, I believe he has very strong empathy for the residents that he works with. I knew him before he popped up as a possible candidate for the PAP, and I believe that he is truly sincere and passionate about serving the residents. He has a great sense of humour, friendly and is a very helpful person. He spent time talking to the residents in a gentle manner and tried to figure out how he could better help them. He really didn’t mind dishing out free medical advice to the other volunteers who asked.

I do not see a problem for fathers and sons to disagree about politics and to join different parties. And I agree with the older Mr Puthucheary that service to the community is far more important than the ideology. I leave the ideological bickering to the party hacks on all sides. All I know is that, I would vote for Janil because of his character and personality. Unfortunately, I doubt he will be standing in my constituency.

So I ask all the sensible Singaporeans out there to judge my friend by his personality and not the history of his father, especially when his father does not harbour any ill will to those who made him suffer.

I will say one thing about his first press conference though… He really needs to relax more and practice more. Hah!

Could Not Resist

March 3, 2011 at 9:34 am | Posted in Being Me | Leave a comment

Must the Gah’men intervene on everything?

January 24, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Posted in Being Me | 1 Comment

There was a letter sent to Today on today (yeah I know… funny) requesting the government cap prices on essentials, and bak kwa. I hope the writer is not suggesting that we have a bak kwa price regulatory authority, along with a bak kwa police.

Personally, I don’t eat bak kwa (despite my mother’s best efforts to hoist the bak kwa on me). I also, personally, do not think there should be a price cap on bak kwa. It isn’t an essential item. I am sure our ancestors made do without bak kwa during Chinese New Year.

The writer also mentioned poultry, fish and cabbage, but I am sure other food stuff will also go up. What I would like to know, is if NTUC also raises prices.

If the big supermarket chain don’t change their prices, then I see no reason to introduce a price cap. It is up to the consumer to decide for themselves what price they want to pay for food. The local wet market sellers may be keen on turning a quick profit during this festive season, but you have the choice to go for a substitute good in the local NTUC. I know people like to point out the difference between “fresh” and “refridgerated” meats, but honestly it makes no difference. Meat is meat. And let’s be honest, you will have to refridgerate the “fresh” meats you buy from the wet market anyway, because you need to have it last past the 2 day public holiday.

I would also like to suggest to the writer to go to JB to buy food if the prices are really capped there. It is a viable option for many Singaporeans, as can be seen by the long jams at the Causeway every weekend.

I know that there are poorer members of our community that will need help during this period. I am sure the various welfare organisations, as well as the Comcare committees of all constituencies, will be distributing food to needy families during this festive period.

A cap is not a good idea because it depresses the actual value of the goods sold, and distorts market forces. It also imposes a financial burden on the goverment. Subsidies are hard to remove once given, and people will expect prices to remain at that level forever, even as real costs escalate. It also mean added bureaucracy for the monitoring of prices, and the implementation of price caps. That is money wasted. I am not a big fan of bureaucrats, and the less of them out there the better.

A better idea is to exercise your spending power, head to the cheapest seller and send a message to those who are price gouging that you will not be taken for a fool. And please, no bak kwa police.

Some Interesting Facts from the 2010 Census

January 6, 2011 at 10:36 am | Posted in Being Me, But Seriously | Leave a comment

Found some interesting stuff from the Advance Census Release of the 2010 Census. [Comments are all tongue-in-cheek]

Our overall population grew from 4.0279 million to 5.0767 million in 10 years.

Citizens grew by 8.20% but their share of the overall population fell from 74.13% to 63.64% [Make more babies!]
PRs grew by 88.17% and their share of the population grew from 7.14% to 10.66%.
Non-Residents grew by 72.96% and their share of the population grew from 18.73% to 25.70%

In terms of ethnicity (CMIO):
Chinese fell by 2.7% (76.8% to 74.1%) [Make more babies!]
Malays fell by 0.5% (13.9% to 13.4%)
Indians grew by 1.3% (7.9% to 9.2%)
Other grew by 1.9% (1.4 to 3.3%)

Also 22.8% of the Resident population (Citizens and PRs) were not born in Singapore [Make more babies!]
Malaysians made up the bulk forming 44.74% of the non-Singaporean Resident population, seeing a real increase of 80,600 Malaysians (22.39% increase from 2000)
China/HK/Macau made up 20.17% of the non-Singaporean Resident population, seeing a real increase of 20,200 of them (13.03% increase from 2000)
Indian Sub-Continent made up 14.47% of the non-Singaporean Resident population, seeing a real increase of 63,100 of them (104.47% increase from 2000)
Indonesian made up 6.14% of the non-Singaporean Resident population, seeing a real increase of 21,900 Indonesians (67.38% increase from 2000)
The rest of Asia made up 10.53% of the non-Singaporean Resident population, seeing a real increase of 67,700 of them (302.23% increase from 2000)
The rest of the World made up the remainder (3.95%) seeing an increase of 14,500 of them (89.5% increase from 2000)

Here’s the real interesting bit. As it stands, there are now more females than males in Singapore (1:0.974 or about 50.65%), as for the non-Singaporean Resident population about 55.80% of them are female.
Malaysia: 56.68% female [I wonder how many of you are going to Ipoh to look for wives?]
China/HK/Macau: 58.49% female [Who go Chengdu to look for wives ah?]
Indian Subcontinent: 46.09% female [Why no one go Bombay to look for wives?]
Indonesia: 66.18% female [No good men in Indonesia?]
Rest of Asia: 58.00% female [Japanese wife fetish?]
Europe: 36.90% female [Please go to Nordic countries to find wives]
USA & Canada: 48.20% female
Australia & NZ: 47.60% female
Others: 50.46% female

As for born-in-Singapore residents 50.86% are male. [There! You have your justification to find a non-Singaporean wife. Not enough Singaporean girls].

I look forward to the full census data and what interesting insights they reveal.

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