All the forum letters are about stupid things. Time for editors to act

I turned to the Forum pages of the Straits Times today, as well as previous days, and noted the sort of letters being published.

The main themes focused on banal exultation of irrelevant and perversely insidious moral values, brainless enquiries/complaints, beating the hollow drum of patriotism, sterile corporate template replies to enquiries/complaints which mostly avoid the issue and responsibility, glowing praise of the government, petitions from peasants to the Emperor, thanking taxi drivers, totally pointless shit and basically plain idiocy. Here are some of the letters:

. Long Live the Great Leader - a paean to an exalted figure, gushing obsequiously in praise of him;

. Condoms encourage promiscuity - about why we should ban condoms so only married couples will engage in congress;

. Why is company racist? - complaining about how a company's ad did not keep to the requisite quota of 1 Chinese, 1 Malay and 1 Indian (with 1 Other if budget permits);

. Smile, Singapore! - about how we should have heeded the Government's call to welcome the world with smiles;

. Singapore is truly meritocratic - about how a WASP immigrant from the USA, despite all odds, managed to secure a high-paying job here, in contrast to the discrimination he faced at home due to his being on Medical Leave all the time;

. Worms because of unethical supplier - about how there were worms in a restaurant's soup because the supplier let an expired batch through (ignoring the fact that the cook and waiter should have spotted the worms while serving the soup);

. Town council should not raise conservancy charges - begging the town council not to raise conservancy charges;

. Singapore Boleh! - about how we should emulate Malaysia in having a nationwide "Boleh" campaign, and urging us to insist to one and all that Singaporean hawker food tastes better even if we would secretly rather drive up to JB to eat.

The other letters are about inconsequential concerns and events. These are time-wasters and sad to read:

. Haze is getting bad - about one person's breathing problems;

. Speeding may cause accidents - about as informative as saying that old age kills;

. Taxi driver picked me up - about how a taxi driver deigned to ferry the letter-writer.

These letters do not provide any wholesome and meaningful points. The more a person reads them, the more he would be made to feel that life is hopeless and meaningless since this is the best that Singaporeans can come up with.

Forum letter writers are happily ripping off the editors and the public by giving us stupid letters that piss us off. It is useless to bar only children and those below 18 from reading these letters as the tasteless letters in the Forum continue to defile intelligence and common sense.

Where are our educators? Why are they silent on this sad state of affairs? What does our conscience tell us about such letters being printed in public? Do we have a conscience at all?

One may argue that we have a choice not to read these letters. But if it Hobson's choice everyday with such low quality letters, where is the freedom for one to choose a wholesome and good letter when none is available? The alternative, not to read the Straits Times and drink deeply from its overflowing cup, is surely unthinkable.

What about the public's right to read good letters? And why do we create for ourselves a famine of intelligent, meaningful letters?

A letter that is worthwhile reading would give hope to the viewer about the future of Singapore and Singaporeans.

A good letter should result in stirring a person's mind to think critically, possibly on issues never before considered or which no one else dares to raise. A good letter should result in stirring one to reject hitherto acceptable half-solutions. A good letter should teach us at least one non-obvious thing. A good letter should elegantly yet adequately deal with pertinent issues.

How should we rate a letter for its value? We should not give ratings to reflect its worth based on banality, idiocy, lies, half-truths and brainwashing, but instead focus on good wholesome values such as prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude.

Unfortunately, none of these good values can be found in the letters mentioned above.

Letters that espouse the desirable values are rare. These are all not published in the Straits Times Forum. I particularly enjoy reading those on blogs such as [redacted to remain a non-political observer and avoid becoming a partisan player in blog politics].

Yet if it remains only an online blog post, it alone would not be able to help us make further progress, especially if most people continue reading the Straits Times and the Straits Times Forum.

It is not enough just to point out society's ills. Society must also be willing, aware and able to change.

I would like the Board of Straits Times Editors to critically review and evaluate the quality of the letters currently being published.

The guiding principle of the authority should always be driven by good and responsible values that promote critical thought.

And it should not be influenced by the editors' undiscerning taste that leads to a sense of hopelessness for the intelligent reader.

XXX

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October 17 2006
All the movies are about sex and violence. Time for censors to act

I turned to the cinema pages of the Life! Section in the Straits Times last Saturday and noted the sort of movies being shown in town.

The main themes focussed on violence, crime, death and sex. Here are some of the movies:

. The Black Dahlia - about Hollywood's most infamous sex murders;

. Dead man's shoes - about revenge;

. Silk - about spirits;

. Death Note - about death;

. The Departed - a crime drama;

. Wet hot sake - about sex, sleaze and sensuality;

. My Summer of Love - more sex and sleaze.

The other movies are about inconsequential events. These are time-wasters and sad to watch:

. Talladega Nights - about brainless and crazy people with fast cars;

. World Trade Centre - a disaster;

. Rob -B-Hood - no theme.

These movies do not provide any wholesome and meaningful lessons in life. The more a person watches them, the more he would be made to feel that life is hopeless and meaningless.

Movie directors are happily ripping off the public by giving us worthless movies that harm us. It is useless to bar only children and those below 18 from watching these movies as the tasteless pictures in the media continue to defile good sense and morals.

Where are our educators? Why are they silent on this sad state of affairs? What does our conscience tell us about such movies being screened in public? Do we have a conscience at all?

One may argue that we have a choice not to watch these shows. But if it Hobson's choice everyday with such low quality movies, where is the freedom for one to choose a wholesome and good movie when none is available?

What about the public's right to see good movies? And why do we create for ourselves a famine of morally enriching shows?

A movie that is worthwhile watching would give hope to the viewer about the meaning of life and its purpose.

A good movie should result in stirring a person's mind and heart to do good for society. It should focus on wholesome family values of love and care, and respect for the elders and the government.

How should we rate a movie for its value? We should not give ratings to reflect its popularity based on violence, crime and sex, but instead focus on good values such as kindness, gentleness, love, peace, goodness, faithfulness, self-control and joy.

Unfortunately, none of these good values can be found in the movies mentioned above.

Movies that espouse the desirable values are rare. These are 'Chariots of Fire' and 'Akeelah and the Bee'. I particularly enjoy watching Jack Neo's portrayal of our primary school system in 'I not stupid'.

Yet if it remains only a portrayal of our country's meritocratic education system, it alone would not be able to help us make further progress.

It is not enough just to point out society's ills. The movie's director should have concluded the show with lessons on corrective measures for the public.

I would like the Board of Film Censors to critically review and evaluate the quality of the movies currently being screened in public.

The guiding principle of the authority should always be driven by good and responsible values that promote hope, compassion and love.

And it should not be influenced by the public's lust for sex, violence and death that leads to a sense of hopelessness for the viewer.

George Lim Heng Chye