Regardless of how cliché this introduction is, I have to say that citizen journalism is in its infantile stage of growth in Singapore. The Internet is an idealized conduit for many to air their opinion, and perhaps as a ripple effect many are clamoring for their views to be heard. Unsurprisingly, the mainstream media is quick to latch on this trend with a host of online portals for the hoi polloi to participate in and for them to subsequently score some column inches in the local newspaper.

This of course bodes well for a nation often accused for its apathy towards current affairs and societal matters.

But what many fail to discern is the difference between positive citizen journalism and negative citizen journalism. Of course, the underlying motivations behind citizen journalism is the same, that is, to push for a greater good in Singapore and to air otherwise unheard opinions. Yet in the pursuit for voices to be heard are we neglecting better methods that lie within our own fiefdom?

The main source of my ire, specifically, is budding citizen photojournalists who ostentatiously play the shame game by whipping out their handy camera phones. All this, without seeming to hold a modicum of respect for other individuals and the capability to posit a thought of the consequences of their actions. Though their motivations may be positive, their actions indicate otherwise.

Let me first clarify that I am NOT a victim of these budding citizen photojournalists, nor do I stand in the camp of the people they have photographed with regard to their wrongdoings.

Take the oft-photographed incident of seat-hogging on public transportation. Yes, it is a moral and ethical issue for youths to give up their seats to the needy. But for people to turn against them via the shame game through photography such that these individuals can be lambasted on Internet forums and lampooned on local newspapers is a shameless act by itself.

It makes infinite more sense for these self-supposed vigilantes to approach these guilty youths themselves and to politely request for them to give up their seats. It is, at the end of the day, NOT a right but a courtesy issue. What’s wrong with leaving the comforts of the ‘cushy’ MRT seats, going up to the person, nudging him awake (if he’s pretending to be asleep) or catch his attention (if he’s pretending to be oblivious) AND asking them to give up their seats?

Wouldn’t that be more likely to create an immediate, positive effect? Would wantonly uploading a photograph onto national portals yield the same effect? Are these people even members of these portals? Even if they are, couldn’t a “this-won’t-ever-happen-to-me” attitude be omnipresent?

Ditto, to some of the photos that appeared on a local tabloid newspaper over the past week.

A woman openly eating on the MRT: photographed and published, rather than kindly warned about the repercussions. Wouldn’t it be a better deed for the keen watchdog to approach her, and inform her of the possible fines in case of sheer ignorance?

A bus driver guiding traffic along the KPE and subjecting himself to danger: photographed and published. Okay this does not go along with the main throttle of my argument but for the driver to stop along the side of the road just to take that shot – isn’t that a case of a pot calling the kettle black?

While the motivations of these purported vigilantes are inherently positive, what is the point when it insinuates a lack of conscious courtesy and politeness in a nation that is quick to infringe on the privacy of other people? All this, at the expense of what could be an immediate and positive resolution to the conflict one views upon. Or could the root of the problem be incommunicado, a sheer ignorance of the perks of open communication?

Age & Politics

February 27, 2008

A sobering lesson on how we should never let age get to us, to keep on pushing beyond our own self-determined limits, to discover just how much we are missing and how much we can achieve in life, and to take the plunge to live life to the fullest comes in the form of an octogenarian.

Eighty-nine-year-old grandmother Ms Maimun Yusof has, very likely, set a record as Malaysia’s oldest political candidate. After four failed attempts, she finally managed to get her name on the ballot, thereby living her “lifelong dream”. Her persistence and dogged determination culminate in her efforts as can be seen from her cycling door-to-door in a bid to canvass votes for her parliamentary seat contest. She even had to withdraw her life savings to pay for the deposit to contest in the elections! While the odds are stacked against her, such a true blue down-to-earth approach pledged with sincerity certainly comes as a breath of fresh air at an era where millions of dollars are injected into politcal campaigns by a single political candidate!

Read more about the story, as well as an insight to Ms Maimun Yusof’s extraordinary campaign.

In the meantime, for the US Presidential Elections this year, Republican frontrunner candidate John McCain, at the age of 71, deserves some plaudits as well for his firm stance on US politics as well. While decidedly not as old as Ms Yusof, he is possibly considered old in the US electorial context, judging from the dig on McCain by Oscar host Jon Stewart. He joked that the Oscar, at 80, “automatically makes him the front-runner for the Republican nomination”!!

*While there are countless of other inspirational stories out there; the above examples just seem rightfully apt in this year of elections.

Political Booboos

February 27, 2008

In the eyes of many commoners alike, presidents of a country ought to be virtuous leaders. By virtuous, one should upkeep and uphold positive moral values – being fair, decent and positively compassionate. One, who is able to serve as a good role model for the citizens of the country, and connect with them as well. One, who is able to lead and make prompt and decisive actions to bring the nation forward during crunchtime. One, who is able to stay calm and react appropriately when faced under intense pressure.

Under fire French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been in the limelight in recent months for all sorts of non-politically related issues. From his marriage to supermodel Carla Bruni hogging the headlines (especially their high-profile courtship), the general impression has been that Sarkozy is not taking his presidential position seriously. Never have I recalled, in recent memory, has a President been in the headlines so often for reasons bordering on the abyss of media-whoring.

Little wonder that his popularity has fallen to the lowest since his election last May, with him trailing Prime Minister Francois Fillon by almost 20 percentage points, the biggest gap between a president and his premier since 1993.

To make matters worse, Sarkozy has been known to be an impulsive leader, and the recent weekend tirade just serves to exemplify that, with it not being the first time Sarkozy has openly reacted to insults, with insults. The following is an excerpt from British newspaper “The Sun”:

Mr Sarkozy is seen moving through the crowd at an agricultrual show on Saturday when the man tells him: “Oh no, don’t touch me.”

The president, still smiling, responds: “Get lost, then.”

“You disgust me,” the man says. (Tu me salis)

“Get lost, you stupid bastard,” Sarkozy fires back.  (Alors, casse-toi pauvre con)

Here’s a video of the incident:

More videos of booboos by Sarkozy:

French President Walks Out on 60-Minute Interview

A heated exchange with French fishermen last November

Little wonder of the need for the French government to play down the embarrassing situations by labelling it “not very significant”, “reinforces the image of an impulsive president”!