All You Need to Know About the US and Same-Sex Marriage

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Why was gay marriage legalised? Are same-sex marriages right or wrong? What’s the big deal about US and same-sex marriage anyway? Find answers here.

June 26, 2015 – In a landmark opinion, a divided Supreme Court on Friday ruled that same-sex couples can marry nationwide, establishing a new civil right and handing gay rights advocates a historic victory. – CNN (June 27, 2015).

Undoubtedly one of the biggest news in 2015, the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court was highly publicised by all major international news media and has sent shockwaves across conservative and religious groups throughout the world. Do conservative and religious groups have any basis for their dissent? Has the traditional constitution on marriage been compromised?

This article examines the basis for the unprecedented 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court to legalise gay marriages and concludes whether LGBT couples has the right of way for their union regardless of gender, versus whether the premise of marriage should be a union between that of a man and woman.

Now that ‘the dust has settled’, I would like to approach and examine the subject of the US and gay marriages. Yes, US legalisation will have far-reaching effects on a global scale. But, for the friends and others who are lighting up their Facebook profiles with rainbow color selfies, and those who are wearing white tees to object the legalisation of gay marriages, I thought that you should know what the case is about before you decide which camp you want to root for.

While this topic is one that I am personally concerned about and have spent considerable amount of time researching into, the article will be lengthy and perhaps even boring in-between. Commenting as a non-US citizen, some of the information I have gathered pertaining to the US Constitution might be slightly inaccurate and I seek your understanding on this. I will also try to break down the definitions and jargons into easy-to-understand terms to aid in your understanding on the issue.

For the purpose of this informational article story, the words; gay, same-sex and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) will be used interchangeably and is not meant to be derogatory at any point within the article.

1. What is the US Constitution?

We have been reading a lot about the LGBT community and activists demanding for their ‘constitutional right’. What is this ‘constitutional right’ that US citizens are entitled to? And on that note, what is the US Constitution?

The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the United States of America which came into effect on September 17, 1787, twenty years after the issuing of the Declaration of Independence. The US Constitution was made up of several binding articles that ‘established America’s national government and fundamental laws, and guaranteed certain basic rights for its citizens’ (The U.S. Constitution, n.d.). In fear of dictatorial tyranny of the federal government, the groundbreaking law; the Bill of Rights – 10 amendments that guaranteed basic individual protections such as freedom of speech and religion – was established as part of the US Constitution to protect the rights of all US citizens.

Another unique move by the US federal government was the separation of power into three different branches; the Legislative (Congress), Executive (President) and the Judicial (Supreme Court). Each is in charge of their own domain (To find out what are the responsibilities of each branch, click here). The distribution of federal power creates a system of check and balance that prevents the abuse of power.

2. What is Constitutional Right and Constitutional Law?

In July 9, 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was made and adopted to the US Constitution. According to the US Constitution and the following Amendment Bills, citizens have the fundamental right to freedom of speech, religion, marriage, privacy, equal protection, parent one’s children, just to name a few.

The Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause within the Fourteenth Amendment states that US citizens have the ‘fundamental right to marriage’.

So, US citizens are entitled to their constitutional rights. One of which being the fundamental right to marriage.

3. Which Branch Governs Constitutional Laws?

In 1996, then US president Bill Clinton signed and passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), defining marriage as the ‘union between one man and one woman as husband and wife’. The act also gives power to the state in deciding the legitimacy of gay marriages in accordance to the respective state laws. This law was vetoed (struck down) by the Supreme Court in 2013. Meaning to say, DOMA became invalid, reverting the law on marriage within the confines of the constitutional law.

Here, we see that while the US president may be one of the most powerful person in the world, he does not have the final word when it comes to laws pertaining to the constitution. The Supreme Court does. This is an example of the check and balance between the three branches within the US federal government.

4. Constitutional Law vs State Law

While constitutional (federal) law outlines the framework of the laws that govern the nation as a whole, the state (there are a total of 50 states in the US) has the freedom to exercise its own state laws within its state. Marriage (Who is allowed to marry, how it is dissolved, etc) is regulated by the states themselves and this was established by the Supreme Court. But there is a catch. The state has the right to exercise its own state laws as long as it is within the premise of the constitutional law.

In the case of the state, the state does not have the power to prohibit a marriage without valid reason (Legal Information Institute, n.d.). So, when there is a conflict in ruling due to difference between constitutional law and the state law, the result is the supremacy clause (Daunt, Jan 28, 2014) where the federal law prevails, giving the federal government the right to overrule the ruling by the state if they so choose to pursue the case in question.

So, according to the constitutional law, US citizens including the LGBT community, has the constitutional right to marriage, even if the spouse is of the same gender.

5. What Sparked The Saga in the US?

In June 2013, gay couple James Obergefell and John Arthur filed for marriage in gay-friendly state, Maryland. Arthur was dying and the two wished for Arthur’s would-be death certificate to list him as ‘married’ and Obergefell to be his surviving spouse. When they found that the state they were residing in; Ohio do not recognise gay marriage and certainly would not condone their request, they filed for lawsuit against the state for discriminating same-sex couples. The case was escalated to the Supreme Court. After two years and many extensions, 5 of 9 Chief Justices voted in favour of granting same-sex marriages, forming the majority which – according to the Fourteenth Amendment – recognises same-sex marriages in all states, further negating the laws of states which banned anti-gay marriages.

6. Why Is Gay Marriage Recognition Such a Big Deal to the LGBT?

According to Human Rights Campaign (n.d.), there are a total of 1,138 benefits, rights and protection entitled to every legally married couple in the US. These includes social security, tax, immigration, employee benefits and continued health coverage. And of course, there is also the recognition of the other half in their baby’s birth certificate and their spouse’s death certificate; benefits which are irreplaceable by money.

So, the lobbying for gay marriage recognition is beyond simply trying to remove discrimination (discrimination can never be fully gotten rid of, in a sense. Take 21st century black racism for example. I will leave this topic to another post). Monetary and intangible benefits are at stake.

Hence, the lobbying for gay marriage recognition.

7. Why Does/Should This Concern Me?

Prior to the ruling by the US, there were already 20 countries who recognises same-sex marriages. But when the US becomes the 21st country to recognise same-sex marriage (Roberts and Siddiqui, June 26, 2015), the world listened. And the world responded, both in favour and against the decision.

Like it or not, the US wields much power and say in the world today (though China is going to take over sooner or later). The US and its collective group of citizens and companies have much say in international organisations like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, United Nations, et cetera. Even popular culture is influenced largely by the US through Hollywood and MTV. When we talk about globaliation, more often than not, we are talking about western (US) imperialism.

Think of the US as the ‘head prefect’ in school and the other countries as either lower perfects, or mere students. All students may have their own rights, but when the head prefect speaks during assembly, everyone listens. Hence, the US does hold considerably-huge influencing power over other nations, especially the minor countries.

The victory for the pro-LGBTs presents the triumph of the LGBT agenda in a major country. Liberals, pro-LGBT lobbyist and activist can use that legitimisation as a form of leverage for the fight in their own national frontier – Singapore and the Pink Dot movement, etc. You will rejoice or despair depending on which side you’re on.

8. Why are the Conservatives Making a Big Fuss?

The internet broke on June 26 when results of the ruling were announced. Never have we seen such a strong separation of camps between the LGBT community, activists and their non-gay sympathisers, versus that of the conservative and religious groups. One man’s treasure is another man’s poison. While the pro-LGBTs wave their rainbow flags in celebration of the triumph of Love, the air of celebration were not shared with dissidents from the other camp.

In January 2013, it was reported that a lesbian couple is suing The Sweet Cakes by Melissa Bakery for refusing to bake a wedding cake for their wedding (Silverstein, Feb 4, 2015). Fast track to 2015, Melissa Bakery is being sued and ordered to pay up to $150,000 to the lesbian couple for their refusal to bake that wedding cake. Herein lies the problem; reverse discrimination. While LGBT discrimination is real, so is non-LGBT discrimination.

There’s also numerous issues such as the fear of normalisation of LGBT within the traditional family unit, LGBT approval that leads to legitimisation and advocacy, LGBT institutionalisation (Kumar, June 28, 2015), concern on future lobbying for other undesirable union such as polygamy, bestiality or incest, shakeup between heterosexual majority and homosexual minority in the future, LGBT reeducation and assimilation in minors, rise of surrogacy industry, and the list goes on.

Theologian John Piper shared his concern; “states cannot ban same-sex marriage, “Homosexuality is not new for America or history. What’s new is not even the celebration and approval of homosexual sin. What’s new is normalization and institutionalization. This is the new calamity. It approves and institutionalizes the sin of homosexual intercourse.” (Kumar et al., June 28, 2015).

9. Is It Valid for Conservatives to Cry Foul?

While there are definitely much truths in all of the concerns laid across by the dissenting groups (and I myself being a Christian), we must understand that the Chief Justices of the Supreme Court were not incorrect in their decision to validate gay marriages as US citizens’ constitutional right, in accordance to the constitution. If I may borrow a line from the film Ted 2, the court ‘rules by reason and not by emotional conviction’.

There is also the concern for the children raised in LGBT families to be highly dysfunctional and there has been numerous adults from LGBT families speaking up on this. But, being born to a heterosexual family does not guarantee the absence of dysfunction either. In fact, we are arguing that dysfunctional heterosexual families created many LGBTs, isn’t it? Hence dysfunctional children is not a strong case to put out there against gay marriage recognition.

Also, while the US is technically a Christian nation, they also believe in the separation between the state and religion. Hence, it is difficult to overrule the decision on grounds of religious anarchy.

Hence, because every US citizen are entitled to their constitutional rights, the conservatives and the religious groups has no basis to overturn the decision made by the Supreme Court at all.

10. What’s Wrong About The Ruling

We have established that it is every US citizens’ fundamental right to marry another individual of the same gender according to the constitution. We must now understand that while gay marriage entitlement may be a constitutional ‘right’, there are moral dilemmas and repercussions that result from the ruling. While the case is ruled from a legal rather than a moral standpoint, there are real repercussions that will come forth from the June 26 ruling.

We must ask ourselves, “Is legalising gay marriage wrong?” Does constitutional right necessarily make it right? While it is established that marrying a same-sex person is every US citizen’s constitutional right, we need to decide if legalising and approving gay marriages which thereafter lead to potentially legitimising, advocating and normalising the gay movement is desirable or not (The potential problems are as stated above in point 8).

But yet, there will be an irregularity if we were to call for a veto on gay marriage recognition since the US approval for other vices such as prostitution, gambling, tobacco industry is not governed from a moral or ethical, but a legal ‘constitutional right’ standpoint.

So unless we are calling for the ban of other vices, calling for the reversal of the gay marriage recognition would be inconsistent. And in order for us to make an appeal against the ruling, we must also seek for the revision through a new Amendment on the US Constitution for matters which including other vices.

11. Nature or Nurture

So to conclude, in order to decide if the legalising of gay marriages is right or wrong, we must first and foremost address the question; ‘Is being an LGBT a product of nature or nurture?‘ If being LGBT is a product of nature, that would mean that future lobbying by conservatives and pro-family activists is rendered invalid since there is sufficient evidence to prove that people are born with these tendencies. If being LGBT is a product of nurture, that would mean that governments need to look into rehabilitation of these individuals and the revision through the Twenty-Eighth Amendment to the US constitution. Based on this truth, the LGBTs will have no basis to call for gay marriage recognition.

This is the question we must solve beyond all other debates that is being held today. But this is also the most tricky since it is a matter of scientific verification which can be either proven for or against depending on the idiosyncrasies, bias and method of research by the researchers and scientists. RW

References:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/marriage

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lesley-daunt/state-vs-federal-law-who-_b_4676579.html

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/07/09/3677437/fourteenth-amendment-anniversary/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obergefell_v._Hodges

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution#Due_Process_Clause

http://www.history.com/topics/constitution

http://www.congressforkids.net/Constitution_delegates.htm

http://theusconstitution.org/text-history/2996

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Constitution

http://www.quickmba.com/law/sys/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Marriage_Amendment

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/06/26/politics/supreme-court-same-sex-marriage-ruling/

http://www.christianpost.com/news/john-piper-celebrating-homosexual-sin-isnt-new-but-institutionalization-of-it-is-140928/

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jun/26/gay-marriage-legal-supreme-court

http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/an-overview-of-federal-rights-and-protections-granted-to-married-couples

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/oregon-bakery-pay-gay-couple-refused-cake-article-1.2103577

Do Singapore’s Athletes Deserve Support and Funding?

PHOTO: Mothership

PHOTO: Mothership

Following the 84 gold medal haul at the 28th SEA Games, Singapore must decide if Singapore’s athletes are worth supporting.

Shanti Pereira (Athletics), Charmaine Soh (Netball), Soh Rui Yong (Marathon), and of course Joseph Schooling (Swimming). These athletes are probably household names by now. And they are only a faction of athletes who brought home the gold from the recent 28th SEA Games.

Singapore saw the biggest medal haul since their last record of 50 Gold, 40 Silver and 74 Bronze at 1975’s SEA Peninsular Games, breaking 25 Games record and bringing home 84 gold, 73 silver and 102 bronze medals.

According to Channel News Asia, a total of 747 athletes and 347 official represented Singapore in the Games – the largest ever team representing Singapore at a major games. A total of 421 athletes made their first appearance at the SEA Games in this edition, and Singapore took part in 36 sports over the past 18 days of the competition.

PHOTO: Sen Washiyama, Sport Singapore

The athletes were not alone in their celebrations. Countless Singaporeans poured out their congratulatory messages for the athletes on the various social media platforms. Furthermore, news of Singapore’s draw against Japan in the World Cup qualifiers (putting Singapore at the top of the Group E table of the 2018 World Cup Asian Zone qualifiers) only made celebrations sweeter.

Truth be told, it was no surprise that Singapore would have organised a highly successful 28th SEA Games. But the 28th SEA Games also revealed something else; Singapore’s athletes can perform in high level competitions, and Singaporeans do want to support their athletes.

That also set into motion one burning question that Singapore has perhaps avoided for a long time; do Singapore’s athletes deserve (financial) support and funding?

1. Government Support

Singapore’s marathoner Soh Rui Yong’s story was published on Straits Times on 19 June 2015. Soh defended Singapore’s SEA Games marathon title and retained the gold medal. Not one to settle, Soh has already departed for United States for further training and has expressed his desire to bring home an Olympic medal from the 2016 Rio Games. That dream costs at least $20,000 in airfare, accommodation and race registration fees which he has yet to secure.

PHOTO: TODAY

CNBC ran a story titled ‘The toughest race for Olympic athletes is the one for funding’ early last year. The article explained that even medal-winning Olympic athletes from liberal countries like the United States and Canada face difficulties in their medals pursuit. Though the process has been a long and delayed one, more governments are beginning to back their athletes up financially – even though the level of support may be insufficient and extended solely to medal-winning athletes. However, some countries like the United States continues to let private sectors be athletes’ main financial support.

Beyond competing for podium finishes, government funding and support is crucial to the athletes’ development in their respective sport. I refer to a Channel News Asia programme whereby Singapore’s number two tennis player shared that she faced much difficulties raising the funds for international tennis competitions overseas (I can’t even find her name on the internet!). Win or lose, athletes gain much experience and exposure of their respective sport on an international level. It is pointless to compete against another fellow national player when they already know the other’s performance standards and capabilities. Athletes understand that winning a SEA Games medal is not the pinnacle of their career. There’s the Commonwealth, Olympics, and many other single-disciplinary events that they are gunning for!

PHOTO: Channel News Asia

Our athletes need to compete with other overseas athletes who are better at the sport than they are, for them to improve. But money is needed to send them abroad. They should be spending time training and focusing on winning the competitions rather than worrying on how to raise money to compete at those international competitions. They need to know that their fight to win medals for their home country is not a lost cause – that their country will support them.

The recent SEA Games has indeed proved that our athletes can bring home medals and are capable in doing even better. The ball is now in our government’s court. Can we back our athletes in their pursuit to bring glory to their country?

But tackling this question also brings to mind another hot button issue, can we as fellow Singaporeans accept sports athletes getting paid as much as us, if not more?

2. National Recognition

Referring back to Singapore’s number 2 tennis player, it’s disheartening that I can’t even locate her name on the internet. Besides government funding for competitions, we need to inform the public on who to support. An estimated 100,000 attended the 28th SEA Games Opening and Closing Ceremony out of which Singaporeans make up the majority. Figures excludes Singaporeans who watched the ceremony on television.

PHOTO: Seah Junwei, Sport Singapore

Singaporeans also showed up in force for competitions where Singaporean athletes were competing for gold; Netball, Swimming, Bowling, Athletics, Badminton, Silat, etc. But that few weeks of intensive press coverage of the athletes on newspapers and new media is not enough. We can’t possibly have a SEA Games or a YOG in Singapore every year to psyche us up and tell us who to support, can we? How can Singaporeans support and cheer for their local athletes if they don’t know what/how/where/who to rally behind?

We need more national recognition for our athletes. Feature them and their sport more frequently on television, radio, newspapers and online. Tell us about the domestic leagues for tennis, rugby, floorball, gymnastics, water sport, etc. Tell us where are they held and how can we attend those matches to show our support. Put them up on the public billboards and posters. Tell us who to support.

3. Private Sponsorship

As with other countries, we cannot simply rely on government funding alone. Private sponsorship and support can also go a long way to bringing these athletes to places.

PHOTO: TODAY

It’s comforting to know that there are companies out there in Singapore who see the value and substantial rate of investment in sponsoring local athletes. It was announced late last year that local brand Tiger Balm has appointed Singapore hurdler Dipna as their brand ambassador, giving her the financial assurance to train full time following her graduation from Nanyang Technological University’s Sport Science and Management degree programme. But a handful of such companies isn’t enough. And should sponsorship only apply to sports and medicated oil related companies?

It’s interesting to note that before former number 1 golfer Tiger Woods’ mistress woes, Woods has endorsement deals or sponsorships with numerous companies which have no direct correlation with the sport. Among the list of sponsors include Kowa (Japanese pharmaceutical company), Rolex, NetJets (private jet company), AT&T (US telecommunications company), TAG Heuer, TLC Laser Eye Centers, American Express, Gillette, Buick (General Motors), Accenture (multinational management consulting company) and even a food company – General Mills. These companies don’t have anything in common with golf!

Our athletes definitely do not even come close to Woods in terms of star power and return of investment, but less prominence also equates to less in endorsement fees. Instead of pouring thousands of dollars into advertising, supporting an athlete might be a much better investment. That few thousand dollars in sponsorship can mean a lot to these athletes. As companies in the private sector look to harassing on Corporate Social Responsibility to improve their brand identity, reputation and branding, the idea of supporting our local athletes as a form of CSR should also be taken into consideration.

While tax deductions are available for corporate donation to charitable and not-for-profit organisations, can the government also consider extending this privilege to companies who choose to financially back athletes? This incentivises the sponsoring of athletes for private companies while transferring the burden of funding athletes from governments to companies in the private sector. A win-win situation for all.

To sum it up, the 28th SEA Games proved that Singaporeans do and will support their athletes. Give them a cause, give them a reason. Give them athletes that they can rally behind, and you can be sure to find Singaporeans decked in red, cheering on Team Singapore. But we need to fund our athletes and bring them onto the world’s stage. Get them exposed to the top competitions and athletes. Give them a chance to shine. Give Singaporeans someone to be proud of. RW

References:

http://golf.about.com/od/tigerwoods/f/tiger-woods-endorsements.htm

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/live-blog-sea-games-2015/1895262.html

https://www.redsports.sg/2015/06/07/sea-games-marathon-men-soh-rui-yong-wins-gold-in-23456/

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101374365

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/sea-games-team-singapore/1918476.html

http://news.asiaone.com/news/sports/tiger-balm-backs-dipna-sea-games-2015

URGENT: Save the Rohingya

20 MAY 2015 UPDATE: Indonesia and Malaysia has agreed to offer 7,000 migrants temporary shelter. But with more than 140,000 migrants believed to have been displaced, countless many might not fall within the 7,000 figure.

“My people are rotting. Our kids are hungry and thirsty. It’s been seventeen years of oppression and we still don’t have peace.” These are not the lines from a movie film or play.These are words from a Rohingya refugee. By now, many of us would have at least heard of the plight of the Rohingya Muslims also known as the ‘boat people’.

They are branded as one of the most persecuted communities in the world by the UN, yet nobody knows their name. They are the forgotten people. In recent weeks, the escalating violence has displaced more than 90,000 Rohingya people. Villages are being burnt, people are being abducted, concentration camps are being created, women are being raped and children mercilessly killed. The persecution against the Rohingya can be described in no other terms but that of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Forced into a corner, the Rohingya make a desperate attempt to travel to Thailand, Malaysia and other neighbouring countries for survival only to be rejected entry.The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar by sea since ethnic and sectarian violence erupted.

As I read every piece of news reports about the Rohingya, I ask myself this question – “What am I going to do about it?”

Screenshot_2015-05-20-23-00-22I have decided. I have decided to put my money where my mouth is. I have donated US$100 to Partners Relief & Development. I will also donate US$1 for every share of this post on Facebook, capped at US$100. 

I’m not rich, far from it. I am not even a Muslim. While I may be a Christian, the value of life supersedes religion, race and language. Beneath the skin, we bleed the same colour.

You can also take matters into your own hands.

Here’s how you too can help:

1. ‘Donate’ your Social Media accounts to the Rohingya

Partners Relief & Development’s team has put together a series of images on their Facebook to let your friends and family know that you are passionate about helping the Rohingya. Like, share and use this picture for your Facebook cover picture to encourage your family and friends to do the same. Join them and worldwide activists in their efforts to give a voice to the otherwise forgotten people.

2. Share the video

Produced by a studio back in 2012, Rohingya – The Forgotten People shows the current situation of the Rohingya less the media smokescreen. You can create further awareness by sharing this video with your friends and family: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rLlh2WpTqj0.

3. Donate your money

I spent hours scanning through the internet, looking for credible and secure charity organisations who are actively helping the Rohingya (and not scamming donors’ money). Disappointingly, many big charity organisations are silent on this ‘politically sensitive’ issue. Partners Relief & Development is one organisation that I have found credible and have been providing aid to the Rohingya as early as 2012. Support their cause, donate at give.partnersworld.org. Other charity organisations you might want to consider include Muslim Aid, Help and Muslim Charity.

Thank you for your compassion.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

– John 13:35

References:

http://wearehelp.org/rohingya.php#.VVyPCfmqqko

http://www.partnersworld.org/

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/20/hundreds-more-migrants-rescued-off-indonesia-as-pope-calls-for-help

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/19/asia/rohingya-refugee-ships-explainer/index.html

Giveaway: The Lottery of Birth

Hey guys! I’m very excited to share with you the biggest (and only) giveaway!! Follow the steps below to find out how you can win. Firstly, make sure you have a mobile phone with you. Then turn on the mobile phone, access the camera app and switch to face cam. Now, look at that person reflected on the screen and repeat this to him or her, “I have already won.”

Yes, you have already won. You’ve won the lottery of birth. Did you know that according to Global Issues and Compassion International, 80% of the world live on less than $10 a day and 600 million children live in abject poverty. Bring in ethnicity and religion into the mix, and you have genocide by the tens of thousands. In a sense, you and I had a 4 in 5 chance of being born to a poor family, residing in a poverty or war-stricken country. But instead, we were the 1.

Even as we sleep soundly tonight, know that there are people crammed up in boats waiting to die.

 
The disparity is apparent between the rich and the poor, the dominant race and the minority, the thriving and the dying. Bangladeshi and Rohingya migrants made Straits Times front covers (again) on last Thursday’s papers. In a sadistic twist of fate, the article positioned below the migrant’s story was about Singapore topping the world’s most comprehensive education rankings.4379_001

Did you know that the Rohingya Muslims accounts for one-third of the entire Myanmar population? Did you know that 140,000 Rohingya Muslims are forced to live in 21st century concentration camps? Did you know that Myanmar is the No. 1 country most susceptible to sate-led mass killing? Even as we sleep soundly tonight, know that there are people crammed up in boats waiting to die. Because the governments in the vicinity has chosen to turn their backs on the Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants for fear that they will be staying in their country for good.

While our perspective to this issue is very much determined on which camp we belong to (whether you are one of the Rohingya migrants or one of the Singaporean/Malaysian/Thai/Indonesian/American, etc), can we seriously price our country’s economic and social ‘growth’ above human lives? So far, none of Myanmar’s neighbouring countries are opening their doors to the migrants (with exception to the few thousands whom were accepted by Malaysia and Philippines), the migrant’s home country Myanmar has forsaken its own people, and America the world’s superpower and apparent champion for world peace and stability is deafeningly silent on the entire situation. There are many implications to accepting these migrants but countries are possibly more afraid of upsetting their citizens for accepting these refugees.

Vicious is the cycle of poverty and violence. Knowledge is power, but without access to knowledge, even a witty child is no match for guns and hunger.

 
Our handling of such crises shows that we have not really grown much as a collective human race, after all this years. We continue to draw and reaffirm geographical, economic, racial and religious lines. Before we put on our high hats to condemn the migrants for choosing to travel here illegally or for killing each other over food, I wonder can we say the same for ourselves if we were trapped in that situation?

A person’s access to education, food, safety, housing (and happiness) is almost a hundred percent determined by whom and the accompanying circumstances he or she is born to. And with that, their futures both the bright or the grim. More often than not, we are a byproduct of our circumstances. A child born to a poverty-stricken family in a war-torn country is almost certain to stay poor or participate in criminal activities as he grows up. Vicious is the cycle of poverty and violence. Knowledge is power, but without access to knowledge, even a witty child is no match for guns and hunger. What kind of life is that when you worry that you might not live to see another day?

Yes, you have already won. You’ve won the lottery of birth.

 
So here I am, taking some time to write an entry away from the usual content. I would like to ask us, as a collective human race.. Will we let income, racial, religious and culture differences separate us even further, or will we prize the value of human life – regardless of race, language or religion – above things that really, is not as valuable as a human life?

As we tell ourselves to be glad that we won the lottery of birth, can we ask ourselves how can we do better? As we retreat within the comfort of our blankets tonight, can we ask ourselves how can we help others like the Rohingya migrants who ‘failed to win the lottery of birth’?

Reference:

http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats

http://www.compassion.com/poverty/poverty.htm

http://endgenocide.org/conflict-areas/burma/

Let’s Talk About Art, For Art’s Sake

A while ago, I was discussing about the blogging scene in Singapore with an ex-colleague. We were talking about how topics covered by the conventional blogs are typically composed of topics such as food, night life and fashion. And since I am passionate about the arts (and having worked in that industry for a period albeit brief), I naturally brought out the subject of writing about the arts. My colleague – with every good intention – advised me otherwise. He said “Don’t write about the arts. You will kill your readership. Write about food and lifestyle. Singaporeans love that.”

While I understand what he meant since almost all known Singaporean bloggers made their name through writing about those topics, I just can’t forsake [writing about] the arts. For the purpose of this entry, the term ‘Art’ or ‘The Arts’ will be used interchangeably as creative arts, performing arts, fine arts, literary arts and visual arts, etc, at any given time.

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

– Spanish Artist, Pablo Picasso

Not gonna lie, I googled that. Laughs. But how true that statement stands. Yet, the Arts is not for everyone. In a developing third world country where their basic needs of food and shelter are not met, Art is relegated into third, fourth and often last place. I mean, if you don’t even know if there’s food on the table for your children and family tomorrow, you can forget about the Arts. But when society matures, when our basic needs are met, that’s when we can [take active steps to] truly appreciate the Arts as well as the art of living, puns intended. Only a mature society or community is able to truly appreciate Art.

With the introduction of modern film photography, one of the prime objectives of Art as a form of capturing reality and documenting history became obsolete within a short span of time. Instead, the Arts became almost exclusively reserved for creative expression. Rather than capturing history, Art now transcends beyond its interpreted medium far greater than the meeting of human needs. For with Art, a performer or artist can evoke a variety of emotions for reasons not commonly explored. Joy, serenity, peace, sorrow or even anger. Art can be used to remind us to pursue our forgotten dreams and aspirations. Art can be used to challenge cultural, social and political norms and injustice. Art can be used to shed light on environmental issues. Art can be used a medium to rally a nation for a cause. The importance of the Arts and its overarching themes explored and shown to its audience stretches beyond the canvas, performance or sculpture piece.

museums

Singapore enters into her ‘silver years’, hitting the big five-o this August. We have survived the tough initial years of turmoil, having emerged from the rubbles of war as one of the Four Asian Tigers and possibly, the leader of the four. Ours is the rag to riches story written by our pragmatic and relentless statesmen and policymakers. Our Government also understand that while pragmatism has led our country out of survival mode into prosperity, it is time we as a nation understand and appreciate Art like a cultured lady who knows her wine – beyond the rational fact that Arts is a rather unexplored but feasible market. All of our museums are packed with programmes and themed exhibitions the whole year round, our statutory boards, the National Heritage Board and National Arts Council are pushing for the Arts like never before, pumping an unprecedented millions of dollars into the industry every year in a move that would only seem ludicrous just a decade or two ago. Just this month alone, we have the Affordable Art Fair 2015, the Da Vinci exhibition at the ArtScience Museum that runs till May, and the Singapore Yacht Show which for the first time, features an Art auction among its line of programmes catered to the rich and famous.

art show

Our Government is opening our doors to the Arts world. In the recent years, we have seen so many important exhibitions and performances brought into the country. It’s high time Singaporeans get acquainted with Art.

“The principles of true art is not to portray, but to evoke”

– Polish-American Novelist, Jerry Kosinki

One of the most important misconceptions that the lay Singaporean has about the arts is “I don’t understand it” or “Arts is not for me.” But I feel that we all have that innate ability to connect with the underlying themes communicated across the different art forms. Through my observation and interaction with artist friends though, I also discovered that while there are many talented artists and performers out there, many fail to communicate their emotions and aspirations adequately across to their target audiences. I spoke to one of my artist friend, telling him about the times I would leave an exhibition with no idea at all what the artist is trying to convey.

That artist friend told me that “It’s like that in the industry lah! People tend to think that an exhibition they don’t understand is a good exhibition!” It’s saddening because art is so important and even fundamental to our existence. The art of Art appreciation continues to elude our people in terms of its importance and priority. It’s saddening because Art is so important and even fundamental to our existence.

“Like Friendship, Art has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

My personal interpretation from a quote by British Novelist, C.S. Lewis

I did not google for this quote this time. Laughs.

I have decided. I will continue to write about Art. I will continue to use this space to write about art and event listings for all things pertaining to the Singapore arts scene. Art shouldn’t be too ‘chim’ or ‘too confusing’ to understand. Though I have not written for a while, I am really excited to be engaged to write content for an Art Auction Catalog for the Singapore Yacht Show 2015. No prizes for the right guesses who I wrote it for. I believe a good copy is fundamental to the public education and appreciation to the arts. This is especially needed since the Arts industry is severely misunderstood and neglected. We need to create more conversations about the Arts over the media and public sphere so that Singaporeans in general get to benefit from it. So for Arts’ sake, let’s talk about Art.

To a better year for the arts scene,

Reuel Eugene.

Writer’s Note: I will be opening my (freelance – I have a day job) services to art galleries, exhibitors and auctioneer. For all copywriting, event listing, media and PR enquiries, kindly email me at kairoscommsg@gmail.com.

Photos:

All photos from Google. I do not own any of the photos shown here.

13 Photos That Defined Citizens and Foreigners’ Love for Singapore’s Founding Father

IMG_8996

I was at the queue on Friday afternoon and later on at night. The view was unforgettable.

The City Hall area was never this crowded.

The young, the old, the local, the foreigners, the nation’s inhabitants showed up in force to send their revered founding father on his last journey.

Companies and their employees shuttered their doors to distribute food and water aid to the crowd at no cost.

There was an unprecedented show of kindness as Singaporeans and Foreigners alike looked after each other while queueing together.

The crowd soldiered on for hours through the sun and through the night with one singular desire to pay their respects to Mr Lee.

Even if all that queueing was just for a few seconds before him in the Parliament House.

Our Prime Minister came to thank the people for being here but was also comforted and gained strength by his people.

No man is greater than the country, Mr Lee would say. But for some people, Mr Lee is Singapore. For Singapore’s success, why we have safe and clean streets, clean tap water, sound education, island-wide greenery and enjoy the rewards of diligence at work, Mr Lee have played an immeasurable role from implementation to execution. For most, Singapore (and her success) and Mr Lee is synonymous.

These are 13 moments I personally witnessed that defined the people’s deep love for our late former Prime Minister, Minister Mentor and founding father.

Writer’s Note: In the interest of the subjects within the frames, the photos are not to be used for personal, commercial, editorial or any other purposes unless permission is given otherwise.

IMG_9031

IMG_9054

IMG_9033

IMG_9007

IMG_9045

IMG_9103

IMG_9123

IMG_9111

IMG_9016

IMG_9212

IMG_9190

IMG_9197

IMG_9185