Monday, January 07, 2013

Why you shouldn't read everything in the newspaper

There's been a run of beautiful days in Singapore; blue skies, a warm sun, the kind of weather when a young man thinks not of work, but of skipping down the Park Connector Network, illegally plucking flowers to wear in his hair. I didn't have the courage for that sort of thing, so I skulked inside and read the newspaper.
The Straits Times has some funny old articles, the best of today being an attempt to conflate democracy, gun massacres, and rape. At least, I assume it was written with satirical intent.

Why else would you start by asking if shootings and rapes were connected because they were in democracies, answering your vapid question by saying "no", and then to fill up the remaining column inches, build an awful argument to say that democracy causes shootings and rapes, and so if people complain that Singapore isn't democratic, you should take that to be a Good Thing?

This wasn't some mentalist writing into the letters page with a selection of green ballpoint pens and paper with the lines drawn the wrong way. This was written by the head of a 'political consultancy'. Gems included the futility of democracy if there's sexism in a society (isn't it a shame that women have never got the franchise anywhere?), and the direct link between democracy and everyone having as many guns as they want.
It's funny; I didn't think there were dictatorships all the way across Europe. It was like the fevered dream of a stereotypical nutjob, paranoid that the UN were coming in their black helicopters to steal his .50 calibre machine gun. Except written to make it sound like that was a positive outcome and proof that democracy doesn't work.

It's not like any laws in the history of the world have been enacted in a democracy, after all. Er...

There's this strange place called Europe, of which lots of people have some odd ideas. Like healthcare being completely free (without realising the tax burden is higher there to pay for it), or every social democrat being a rapist with a pair of Glocks.

Still, Singapore is an idyllic society with absolutely no violence, sexual or otherwise, which is why it confused me to turn the page and find a letter about the recent stabbings of teenage boys (by teenage boys) in shopping malls. The correspondent's proposed solution is to have big signs outside shopping malls, showing the consequences of violence, and warnings trailed before films in the cinema.

I don't know how the proprietors of the shopping malls would think about a big hoarding outside their entrances, displaying stab victims, and there's no time to play anything before the films anyway, unless they stop showing the plasticine animation that teaches us it's men's duty to fire guns and women's duty to make them sandwiches.

There's lots of good things about Singapore. I'm not sure why you'd think the best way to increase the standing of your country was to criticise other ones though; you don't make people think your child is more beautiful by pointing out how ugly everyone else's is.

Maybe I shouldn't read the newspaper. Before, there was inconsequential stuff about a department spending too much on folding bicycles, and a constant grumble back and forth between people who think housing is too expensive and those who think the prices should keep going up (just until they've made a profit on their investment). Perhaps nobody else is reading it anyway...


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