It has been said that one of the drawbacks of living in the internet age is that we become addicted to information, often meaningless, often incoherent, often irrelevant to our daily lives. We are faced with a glut of information, and we have nobody to sieve through the mess of it all and make sense of it for us.
So we try to make sense of it ourselves. We pick and choose the content we want to read, from following the right Twitter accounts to subscribing to the right blogs, the ones we consider integral to our thought process and world-views.
But in curating content we build walls, first in our minds, then in the spaces we live, work and play in. We speak of the internet as the technology that will lead our society to greater openness, inclusivity and tolerance. Yet we have only succeeded in separating the technocrats from the tool users, the internet users from everybody else.
I see this in Singapore today. The young grow increasingly restless, symptomatic of a generation that isn’t quite sure how to approach a world where instructions aren’t quite clear, where schools become increasingly archaic and backward, and schoolteachers have to compete with the latest YouTube sensation to make any headway with lessons.
The elderly expect to be treated with respect, but are instead ridiculed, viewed as dinosaurs in the digital age. They are rarely, if ever, seen as sources of wisdom, cast aside by the allure and accessibility of online forums and Facebook pages. They view the internet and all its accompanying goodies with suspicion and pessimism.
This sharp divergence creates two schools of thought. The first school houses the rioters and protesters of the world – Ankara, Stockholm, Sao Paulo – vociferous in their disagreeing with their countries’ governments. Ditto Singapore, from the comforts of the state-regulated Speaker’s Corner. Some of them, many still in the prime of their youth, don’t know what they are rebelling against, but do it all the same. It’s become fashionable to be anti-authority, to cry for civil liberties, to completely ape the youth of the West.
This school encourages everybody to have an opinion, to know their rights, to follow their own dreams – never mind if those dreams don’t make much economic sense or result in a straining of familial relationships. This school doesn’t believe in stoic calmness.
The other school is typically seen as ignorant, yet to see how they’ve been fooled by the government they voted in, still clinging to the traditions of their forefathers, still conservative in a world of expanding opportunities. It still subscribes to the age-old view that no system, no matter how refined, can replace the collective experience of its people. This school still uses the old content, context and curator.
This school encourages good old common sense, putting others before themselves, respecting the elderly and learned, maintaining the status quo. I suppose one could say that the disadvantages in following such a school is that change and innovation are hampered, and many of its adherents continue to do things the tired, old way when other new-found methods work much better.
I don’t see things in black and white, so I can’t say with complete conviction that one school is better than the other. I suppose it’s no different from asking if the way things were done in the past are better or worse than the way things are done today. Each era had its pros and cons, though I must admit I have an affinity for doing most things the old-fashioned way.
But to drop all clear and rational thinking on the basis of “we are living in the year 2013 now, so we should do this and that or accept this and that” is just plain stupid. Yes we live in the age of the internet. Yes it’s affecting our cultures, our religions, our schools and workplaces. But human beings are still human beings.
They still love, hate, eat, get angry, get worried, grow old, die. They are still prone to irrational and stupid behaviour.
I’ll illustrate with an example. Today, people think that because technology has enabled the average man (and woman) to voice their views on just about anything, they should then, be free to voice their views on just about anything. It’s like saying, hey look, we have a bomb that can blow up an entire city, who should we drop it on?
As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, unbridled freedom of expression only serves to harm society. When scriptwriters, journalists, movie directors, music executives are given license to create content for news, music, movies and television, they inadvertently manipulate the evolution of popular culture, and sway opinions on everything from family and society, to law and order, to governance in a country. They are the foot soldiers of postmodernism, where truth is no longer absolute.
No matter what year we are living in, we need some form of guidance, from history, from the high courts, from Him. To think we alone know what’s right and true for society is at best foolish, and at worse, arrogance.
Take Pink Dot Sg for instance, the movement that aims to bring the LGBT community into the mainstream. For all their preaching on greater understanding and acceptance, they have no qualms considering people who view homosexuality as a sin as bigoted and prejudiced.
Pink Dot’s “love” extends only to their kind, the lesbians and gays and activists desperate to overturn 377A, the criminalisation of sex between men. Anybody who disagrees with their arguments for homosexual behaviour are chastised in the strongest possible terms. Their vitriol extends to religious leaders who uphold the teachings of religion, which denounce same-sex unions.
In their fight to bring their lifestyles into the public space, they come up with a multitude of reasons which argue for homosexuality. They claim some animals exhibit homosexual behaviour, to those who say it is unnatural. They claim that being homosexual is a genetic predisposition, to those who say it is a choice. They say that God would not consider their actions sinful, to those who remind them of Sodom and Gomorrah.
To those not merely satisfied with external appearances perpetrated by popular culture which normalises gay behaviour, these reasons do not hold water.
To begin, an animal cannot be seen as the default reference point when considering what is natural, or normal. Rather, one must look to civilisation from the beginning of time and ask if same-sex relationships are normal. Logically, because the human race has propagated itself for thousands of years, man-woman relationships are what’s natural. You cannot be sitting here today reading this if your ancestors had same-sex relationships.
Next, this idea about being “born gay”, one that perpetuates the notion that to punish gays would seem cruel. But let’s implant this logic into deciding the fates of society’s criminals: the murderers, rapists and thieves. Would you accept letting them off scot-free because they were born to murder, rape and steal? What if I had a gene that made me prone to violent behaviour? Would I be then allowed to commit as much violence as I wanted? Would it make my violence acceptable?
Of course, to group gays together with murderers and rapists might seem a little harsh. But the point I’m trying to make is that a person who breaks a law cannot use the “born this way” argument to legitimise his breaking of the law. Sure, the law may seem ridiculously offensive to gays, but it’s an accurate reflection of Singapore’s mainstream values, which are obviously dictated by the majority who live here.
Furthermore, just because a person is in support of 377A doesn’t mean that he is therefore discriminatory towards gays. While I support anti-drug laws, because of the untold damage drugs can cause on society, I neither look down on nor hate a person just because he’s addicted to drugs. I know that despite his addiction he can make a meaningful contribution to society, that he has some goodness in him, perhaps more than other non-addicts. But I cannot in good conscience accept his drug-taking.
Unfortunately, the LGBT community doesn’t see what they do as wrong, or that Pink Dot has the capability of leading impressionable young minds to consider experimenting and ultimately following such alternative behaviour (or maybe they do). To them, their actions are nothing to be ashamed of, not to be taken as sin, not wrong in the eyes of God. And why should it be, when even the most conservative of leaders must tread carefully when commenting on the issue, lest they be seen as prejudiced and bigoted.
So before you get caught up in their snazzy marketing campaign this year, before you join the hordes of other youth looking to appear modern and Western by parroting their view, before you say yes to other pink-shirted citizens of Singapore this June 29th, think. Take a moment to clear your head and think.