"to rescue truth from beauty and meaning from belief"

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Sex & The Minister

I address this blog to my fellow younger citizens, Singaporeans of my children’s generation, born in the 1990’s. “Sex in small places” concerns them. Beyond the funny responses and factual criticisms is a bigger issue at stake – the mindset of the ministers they vote for, whose thinking will influence their future, their lives. It’s much more than just sex and is surely no small matter.

Josephine Teo had all the time in the world to reply to the “question on whether young people are not getting their flats early enough to have children.” But

with a straight face, Mrs Teo declared: “You need a very small space to have sex.”

She cannot try to wiggle her way out by claiming that her reported words “might not have captured everything in the way I intended.” And, now, wants to switch to “an honest conversation on how, as a society, we can get ready for Millennial family.”

Unless, of course, she’s (Alice in Wonderland) Humpty Dumpty, “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” Nope. ‘You need a very small space to have sex’ is basic
subject-verb-object English with simple words whose meaning is clear enough.

So, no, no, no. Don’t change the subject. Cannot!

Aside from the avalanche of responses directly engaging her “sex in small spaces”, the more relevant question, the mindset issue is, “What informs such a cheeky, cavalier, condescending reply from a senior minister?” Or, what guides her to reply with the words she did?

To uncover what’s behind her reply, we just need to ask her a simple question:

“Would Josephine Teo tell that to her own three children, would she?”

It’s highly unlikely, if not rather obvious, that as a mother, she would not tell that to her own children. So, why is she dishing out such advice to our millennial citizens?

Because “sex in small places” applies and is good enough for little people, for peasants. The retort is similar in vein to another minister asking, “Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?” It’s pompous and patronizing. But it’s how an ‘actsy-borak’ airhead would talk to those she considers to be beneath her station in life, simpletons, peasants.

So, “sex in small places” reveals a mindset that thinks…

While our children have sex;
They, the elites’ offspring, well, they make love.
While our children must make do with a very small area;
They, their elites’ offspring get a new condo with their S$mil salary in a year.
While our children have to put up in their parents’ HDB 4-roomer;
They, their elites’ offspring are gifted a new wing in their bungalow.
And while to us they preach the virtues of self-reliance;
They, the elites, well, they get to practise self-actualization.

My fellow younger citizens, you and your lives are no more than a problem for the PAP ministers to solve, to social-experiment. You are a digit, a number in their statistics game, another brick in the wall.

You can either believe Josephine’s euphemistic, soothing doublespeak, “In this day and age, it is not possible for us to say that you are somehow bad, you are not doing your part for society”. Or, you can put the pieces of how she and her colleagues have been talking down to, patronizing us on various matters to form the consistent picture of who they really are, what they think of us. They reveal their true selves unconsciously, inadvertently, unintentionally by how they answer to our concerns. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks
The truth, my young friends, is they want to mould you into happy idiots….

I’m going to find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we’ll fill in the missing colors
In each other’s paint-by-number dreams
And then we’ll put our dark glasses on
Have ‘sex in small places’* until our strength is gone
And when the morning light comes streaming in
We’ll get up and do it again
Get it up again

I’m going to be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
To the heart and the soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
Though true love could have been a contender
Are you there?
Say a prayer for the Pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender
…Jackson Browne, 1976, (* with apologies)

So, Josephine, would you tell your own children, your colleagues’ children, “You need a very small space to have sex”? Would you? If not, why say that to our children?

Law Kim Hwee


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Jo Teo Confuses, Confirms and Corroborates

Context is, of course, very important to interpreting and understanding what’s said. But before we can proceed, we need to ask, if Jo’s motivation is to ‘clarify’,

– Why then does she not include verbatim both the ‘suggestion’ or question asked and her original response at the REACH Post-Budget 2015 Public Forum, 26 Feb?

– Why did CNA & Today delete the original report of the Forum? Were they ‘instructed’ to do so, by whom?

Without knowing what she was responding to and the original reports, how does it help readers to compare what and why she finds it necessary to clarify after nearly a fortnight.

She Confuses
As it is, the uploaded videos at REACH, PAP F/B & Youtube are absent her reply. We only have CNA & Today original reports i.e. “She addressed one participant’s suggestion that national servicemen should be paid more. While she noted the importance of giving NSmen recognition, Mrs Teo said service for the country cannot be measured in dollars and cents.”

Since she prefaces her clarification with ‘My recent comments on National Service appear to have caused a stir, wouldn’t the logical first thing to do be to refute the reported remarks and context? As only ‘110 participants’ attended the forum, uploading the video of the relevant part will also allow everyone to listen, watch and weigh in more intelligently.

Note also that she did not repudiate both the part about ‘one participant’s suggestion’ and her reported response i.e. while she noted the importance of giving NSmen recognition…service for the country cannot be measured in dollars and cents.’

Instead, of directly addressing the unclear report, she introduced unverified, her own perceived, unverified view and projecting herself as a leader ‘sensing the disquiet’. With that, she then rephrases her reply as ‘the contributions of NSmen cannot be valued in monetary terms. What the SAF provides by way of the allowance cannot be used to measure the high levels of their contribution – it cannot be measured in dollars and cents.’

In effect, she paints herself as a leader while using a personal, emotional spin to nudge fence-sitters, marginal supporters and the mal/mis-informed voters (FMMs) to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Bottomline and specific to the episode, in not repudiating the report and introducing unverified info without the requisite video for readers to understand the original words and context – combined with the now un-cached report – she comes as someone caught with her pants down and then taking 2 weeks to dream up a narrative to confuse the FMMs .

Suffice to observe that her case as she makes it out to be will not stand muster to a basic court appearance on at least 2 counts; concealing and removing evidence.

Hence, instead of clarifying, she tries to confuse her way through.

She Confirms
Moving away from the specifics of this episode, let’s try to piece her words and conduct as a Senior MoS.

A little over a year ago, in response to the initial Marina Coastal Expressway foul-up, she said, ‘We cannot have the attitude that everything will be perfect from Day One. If we go in with that attitude, it can only mean that we have to build in a lot of redundancy.’

Even for SMEs, whether offering goods or services, the most basic operational philosophy is ‘getting it right the first time’. Many of us have also heard and read of Goh Keng Swee’s modus operandi along the same line. Lee Kuan Yew (when he was younger and not given to hubris and lowered standards about 50-year floods) once related at a National Day Rally how he insisted that when he picked up his phone in his official car, it’s got to work! Period.

Do not the 2 episodes (readers here, please list more snafus here) suggest that Jo Teo is not fit for her job as a Senior MoS and should go back to being an MP?

Furthermore, it is said ‘out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks’. So, there is no need for any hearer or reader to ‘twist’ her words as her supporters (in particular, Calvin Cheng) allege. Her conduct is plain enough for the reasonable person to see. Jo Teo believes deep in her heart that there is ‘service for the country’ and, well, ‘service for the country’ – depending on who dominates parliament to assign the monetary recognition level. (NB: Nowhere is there any call for the same level of monetary recognition as ministers. All calls are for what is reasonable as ‘recognition’ e.g. where ministers insist on pegging at the top 10% earners, some ask only to measure against current cost-of-living. So, who is twisting whose words?)

With this, Jo Teo confirms that she has more than reached her level of incompetence and that for all her words and (debatable) charm, she believes in her own sense of entitlement, supposedly, as a PAP-sanctioned ‘talent’, never mind service to country.

She Corroborates
As a junior amongst full minister, her conduct appears to corroborate how more and more citizens are perceiving the PAP leaders, that they are out of touch with us and that, when confronted with a slip in word or action, they lack the courage or integrity or both to admit to being human sometime, to apologise but instead try to divert or deceive their way through.

Still fresh in our memory is Khaw Boon Wan’s sham Butterfly Lover talk-cock (sorry, no better English term than a Singlish one) to deflect over-complacency and professional neglect of duty in his ministry’s tender evaluation.

The worst and highest level event of the PAP’s shameful, self-deluding ways is PM Lee saying, let’s move on, after Singapore’s renowned terrorist, Mas Selamat, escaped while sacking a low-ranking guard and letting uncle-in-law Wong Kang Seng (who incidentally organized a casual makan session that resulted in his nephew making PM-elect back in 2003/4).

There we have it, Jo Teo’s clarification and conduct serve to corroborate the perception that PAP leadership is unlike the original PAP of their fathers’ days. They have become self-serving, touchy narcissists lacking in competence and integrity.