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Friday, May 05, 2017 - 00:27 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

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A For Academia (Part II)

"Singaporeans at large must learn to question. Even if I can't stand (for election), never mind, but Singaporeans must stand up and think whether this is right.
If all of us stay silent I feel sorry for this place.

- Dr. Tan Cheng Bock

Foundational Principles

"No. Not even in the face of Armageddon.
Never compromise.

- Rorschach

Having gone over the negatives of academia in the previous post, one might fairly wonder why anybody might ever be attracted to such a life. The way I see it, academia's lure lies in two precepts (and, in a cinch, free food):
  1. To discover (new) truths
  2. To disseminate said truths

The right to pursue and discuss ideas that are unfashionable, unpopular and inconvenient to the powers-that-be is a cornerstone of academics, which is why hostile takeovers (and non-democratic term extensions) of the state apparatus have invariably involved the suppression and closure of universities [N.B. This is also one of the main reasons behind the institution of tenure, which is to protect professors from having to self-censor themselves to the whims of the reigning monarch (or overbearing colleagues), at least to an extent.]

Since this is so often at odds with competing power-hungry institutions (most notably governments and religions, when they're not contending with each other), proper colleges tend to be embroiled in a perpetual struggle to maintain their academic integrity. Note, for instance, the constant questioning over whether Yale's local tie-in will ever be able to truly, freely express itself, and not find its reputation for unbridled inquiry (already at a premium here) hocked off for tainted silver.

But, even in the home of liberty, this right is under threat.

...until TRUMP praises Hitler, and then it'll be:
how dare you besmirch an animal lover? REEEEEE

It could hardly get more ironic. Berkeley, birthplace of the Free Speech Movement that drove America's civil rights development, has of late been infested by violent masked anti-First Amendment blackshirts, with the tacit approval of administration sellouts. The GOD-EMPEROR's legions remain unbowed, thankfully, and have assembled to repel the scourge of basement-dwelling Soros lackeys. With any luck, Milo will retake the hallowed grounds later in the year, to remind the world that GREAT AMERICA does not yield to terrorism.

I'm only growing ever more convinced that the rioters are intellectually bankrupt - guy proposes a passive defence, and he's a monster, but business as usual (i.e. bombings) under the previous chap, and it's all a-ok because he speaks so eloquently... and wait, are you a racist? Meanwhile, the War of Information continues, with Google regrettably deviating from their original "don't be evil" principles, by partnering with hopelessly biased "fact-checkers" to impose censorship, all the while pushing cringing baseless globalist twaddle of their own.

Fortunately, one gets the sense that the Truth is prevailing, in the battle against fake Fake News. Wikileaks is thriving against the uproaringly-hilarious gumption of the CIA calling them a "hostile intelligence service" (maybe they are, but what are you?). As for Facebook, it looks like they've finally had enough of the Germans trying to blackmail them, and are now admitting that they had been exploited by governments to spread propaganda. And, for the cherry on top, Russia is investigating CNN for illegally influencing their paliamentary elections. The best timeline, folks!

Speak now, or forever hold up the daisies.
(Source: r/the_donald)

Unfortunately, Singapore is some distance from the frontlines in this war, wth action limited to the usual bashing of alternative news sites, even as our national broadsheet continues passing over a Member of Parliament's commentary on pertinent issues of significant public interest, in favour of soliloquies on being bereft of an oven (buey tahan liao, lah)

In truth, however, much of the local flavour of propaganda is slowly unravelling. For example, the long-running "asset appreciation" line has been thrown into disarray with the no SERS warning, with the relevant minister somehow still trying to explain how a depreciating asset remains a good store of value, especially given our demographics and the lease setup (shades of the hedgie's excuse on [predictably] losing to Buffett here). Hearteningly, this hard truth is increasingly being recognized, by men of taste and style.

But, back to the main point: the spirit of an academic, I believe, rests in his determination to read, to think, to speak; if ordered not to, he must ignore; if forced into silence, he must quit; if pressured by political influence, he must resist; if threatened to change his opinion by religious fundamentalists on pain of death, he must die without recanting. This is the measure of a soul dedicated to knowledge and the truth, wherever they may lie. Not promise of gold, nor empty accolades, shall sway him from his mission - to know.

Was there ever anything else to it?

"Beware he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart, he dreams himself your master."

- Commissioner Pravin Lal, Alpha Centauri

Innovation By Mantra

"Innovate faster."

- the latest bright idea from the Ministry of Manpower

You can't say they aren't trying. A decade ago, it was only about working faster (and cheaper, and better), but now, advice has advanced to innovating more quickly. Any day now, I expect the official solution to tackling (the increasing prevalence of) poverty and low social mobility to be stated as "earn more money". In fact, it's come to stealing others' lunches, from guarding one's own, so I suppose the incumbents have resorted to daylight robbery as the core of our next developmental masterplan.

Definitely, the flow of propaganda - so deeply embedded in citizens' micromanaged lifestyles - continues unabated, but one senses that nothing has changed. It'll be the same pitiful hot-housing ladder-climbing from childhood, the same seeking admission to brand-name schools (which have fortunately mostly survived the culling brought on by failed population policies) by hook or crook, the same utterly pragmatic tertiary education (it seems that the best selling point they could find for the arts and social sciences was "Taking Local Businesses Global"!), and after it all, the bombastic self-declaration of victory ("Singapore overtakes Silicon Valley as No. 1 for global start-up talent" [?!]; I mean, it was funny the first time, much as I respect my alma mater, but jokes can get stale.)

In their defence, the incumbents have not been too stingy about allocating funds when it suits their fancy (though it of course still pales when compared to the black hole that is Our Most Successful Investment Firm), with a billion-dollar "innovation fund" being newly announced (too late for the last batch of guys who came up with solutions, sadly)

Netizen confidence appears muted, though, as they [justly] pointed to the government's at-best-spotty record of picking winners, with more than a few pointing to the EDB and NCB's miserable treatment of Sim Wong Hoo - one of the few local entrepreneurs who even came close to creating a global brand - as evidence that the government bureaucrats probably wouldn't recognize innovation if it fell out of a tree and hit them with a stick; hmm, maybe if we get it to mismanage town councils (contrast airtime given to the AMK case)...

Anyway, the point is: you want real innovation, you gotta let go, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

The Example Of FAS

"This team isn't ours, they are all naturalised, not a single Qatari is playing, this team plays with no soul.
I would rather lose 0-20 with Qatari players, than play with Messi or Cristiano.

- a bunch of Qatari kids displaying more understanding of the true meaning of sports, than the local ministers

When FIFA - ass-ridden from top to bottom with corruption FIFA - comes after you for hanky-panky, you know it's bad. Well, that's what happened to the Football Association of Singapore, which come to think of it, could be recognized as a microcosm of our greater political system.

I don't want to go into how many grand plans to Make Singapore Football Great Again there have been over the past decades, but let's just say it's gone from bad to worse. Hariss not managing to get an overseas stint was just unlucky, but when the national team's ranking has dropped below even our press freedom ranking - 171, to be precise - one has to think that there are systematic issues. I mean, Daniel Bennett isn't bad, but he's 39 years old, and with due respect I don't think he's exactly Paolo Maldini - surely there has to be some other young-and-eager talent available?

And then one reads about how national players are earning less than S$3000 a month, and how the CPF Board is investigating S.League clubs for not making CPF contributions to top it off (not that it'll help much; though, The State's Times was at least willing to state the obvious on this shambles), and one wonders how they got Bennett to turn up.

Anyway, when FIFA forced the FAS to hold a proper election (my word, what has the world come to?), I had some faint hope of an actual shake-up, with the organization moving away from the usual assortment of former incumbent politicians and army retirees put to pasture. I mean, it's just kicking a ball around, for heaven's sake! If you want to fix the Elected Presidency, or keep an iron grip on Our Kinda Successful Investment Firm, I can at least understand the logic, but surely allowing some outsiders in for once to tackle the zombie that is the FAS can't be that sensitive?

Well, it turns out, cannot. And frankly, it's hard to imagine that there was so much crap to uncover. Hougang United chairman Bill Ng stepped up, and almost immediately got involved in the matter of a missing S$850000 from Tiong Bahru FC (also under his control). The FAS incumbents challenged his version of the tale, before it was revealed that they were in the same bed, with everyone soon hauled up by the CAD. Somehow, the election was allowed to go forward, and the incumbents' alternate team (maintaining the usual makeup) duly won, leading to a Freudian slip by our trusty national broadsheet.

The most interesting revelation, however, was that despite S.League clubs apparently being skint, Tiong Bahru FC - an amateur club that doesn't even pay its players, mind - had S$850000 to just give away... what the heck, they collected over S$36 million in annual revenue, of which S$5 million was pure profit? To put that in perspective, the entire S.League budget can be estimated to be around S$14 million, and total grassroots spending on football, S$0.25 million.

Oh, they basically operated a casino.

This somehow feels at once fitting and horrific, given the local environment, and while the newly-installed admins are spouting the expected buzzwords, I would be extremely - if pleasantly - surprised if anything at all changes. Oh well, at least my second team Brighton and Hove Albion got promoted.

By the way, I'm off travelling for the next two weeks, so expect updates to be light.

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