Women and Sexuality: Heather, the Totality

I read this book recently. Here’s a vox article about it (I like vox).

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‘Being a girl’ isn’t an identity I think about often. This book was quite badly received by the public, but I quite liked it because it made me think about things I didn’t really consider before and felt it was quite apt in Singapore’s context. Basically it’s about a very privileged family and their relationship with a construction worker who hits on the daughter.

I come from a privileged background, like Heather. She doesn’t see danger in places, in people. She easily speaks to the construction worker, Bobby (so relevant to Singapore) and her father is angry. “To her attempted rapist, Heather is purity to be defiled; to her father, she is purity to be preserved; to herself, she is just … pure” (Vox, 2017). Similarly, I don’t feel afraid in Little India, and I feel annoyed when my male friends – my mother too, not about Little India, but she always talks about the dangers in the world – ask if I am. Why should they ask? Is it 1) chivalry/ ‘masculinity’ – which I think is bullshit, 2) racism, even worse, 3) is it because I’m really ignorant of the dangers of the world? Could I be like Heather, unaware of the effect I (women) have on other people (men)? I am like Heather, I want to see and be part of goodness in the world, I am unhappy sometimes at the lack of ‘good’ in the privileged people around me, but also unable to be better than I already am (*aside, thought about this over the weekend and realised the importance of community and support. I think I’m currently not in the best environment yet. It’s possible to do things that are different, alone, but I’m currently faltering?), I’m uncomfortable in a comfortable place. Indeed, are there inherently dangerous places and people in the world?

About sex though. Mark, the father, is unhappy that a construction worker, Bobby, looks ‘sexually’ at his daughter and spoke to her. (Is it a class thing? Weiner didn’t address it). I wonder about the experiences of men, and fathers. Surely they’ve objectified females before, had lustful thoughts. I wonder what their thoughts in relation to their daughters and spouses are: do they feel angry if another male thinks dirty/graphic thoughts about those females, do they empathise and understand, do they have a right to be angry? And females too: we usually don’t talk about the sexual wrong doings that females commit against men, but…? What are they? Do Filipino women make eyes at Singaporean men?

Additional links about gender:

Paedophiles. We need to look at them in a different way. They can’t control their feelings, their sexual orientation. Many of them don’t end up sexually abusing children. They may be constantly unhappy with themselves and never receive sexual fulfilment. I’m thinking about this in relation to gays (to an extent)? Gays being seen as a ‘mental illness’ in the past and we’re more accepting now, but, to what extent should we accept ‘deviant’ sexual behaviour? And also, to what extent are sexual orientations ‘natural’/innate/ ‘I always knew’: people weren’t always sexual (young children), can preferences change?

‘I’ve lived as a man and a woman – here’s what I learnt’. Love this stuff. Very interesting too. I liked the perspective brought forth: in the same era she was a male and female and hence could judge the differences both sexes faced. She didn’t talk so much about being transgender (which actually may be something she identifies more with? I don’t know).


(Over)population and Resources

I’ve been thinking about resources, their availability and usage. This came about because I was watching Avengers, Infinity Wars (wasted my time lol). The main motivation of Thanos wanting to get the infinity stones was to wipe out half the population since he believes that the world is overpopulated. Which reminded me of Dan Brown’s Inferno, which also discusses overpopulation. I think it’s a pity that this issue isn’t well discussed in pop culture.

I like the new A level geography syllabus which discusses resources. I’ll do a super quick run down here: 1) there is the traditional, Malthusian perspective: indeed, overpopulation is a real thing. There has to be an inherent limit to growth. More people = less resources. Population grows exponentially, but agriculture production increases ‘linearly’. 2) HOWEVER, Malthus’ predictions didn’t come true? He was sceptical of innovation and technology. There comes in Boserup’s thesis. More population = more knowledge, ideas and progress in technology. This fabled ‘limit to growth’ has not come, will not come, because we always think someone will come to save us. Some super gifted prodigy will come up with something to solve our problems. 3) David Harvey’s POV, which in A levels, talks mainly about how ‘amount of resources is not the issue, but rather, the distribution and access to resources.

Some personal thoughts about overpopulation and resources to think about, not sure if I’ve written these ideas here before:

  • Yes, indeed, we currently produce more than enough food to feed the population. Where is all the food going to? An issue about uneven distribution, food wastage, food being fed to food (plants to animals)?
  • Is it really true that we have enough food to feed the world though? Right now we do, but it’s unsustainable? Won’t food production greatly diminish due to climate change? Aren’t we already over-extracting fish from the oceans? (Even though fish prices have not increased and fish production is still going up, those numbers don’t reflect the ‘absolute’ number of fish in the ocean. Perhaps, one day, the price of fish will simply shoot up unexpectedly).
  • Yes, we have enough resources for everyone, but at what level of lifestyle? If everyone lived like Kenyans (idk, arbitrary example, just thinking about a place with a low carbon footprint), we could further increase our population. But do we want to live like them? I think people want to live like, idk, Americans/Europeans, Singaporeans, Japanese? Places with huge carbon footprints. So, indeed, we should decrease our population?
  • (I wonder what God envisioned when He said in Genesis to ‘be fruitful and multiply’). To what extent! (A Christian once told me that he didn’t think too much about the environment – i.e. just not something he was very aware of, didn’t think that he needed to think about too much – because the world was going to be screwed anyway, God will come before things get too bad? I didn’t quite understand his point of view, and I’m probably misinterpreting his words, but… yes, how does faith fit in with the topic of population and resources?)

‘Popular’ Christian Culture: politics, good looking politicians and music (Part 2)

I’ll try not to cram too many thoughts into this post and I’ll try to make it coherent and readable.

First question: What does it take to become a pastor?

Just like we have many notions about what it takes/means to be Christian/how Christians should look/behave, etc., we’ve a set idea about what church leaders should be. Usually pastors are:

  • Age represents wisdom, education, knowledge, makes them respectable (age is correlated with wisdom, especially in the Asian context)
  • Because. Patriarchy. And the historical context of males usually being more educated, and somehow religion has become more about knowledge rather than wisdom and faith?
  • Well dressed. Because, ‘Sunday best’. Yet they can’t wear/have expensive/ostentatious things lest they stumble others or distract themselves from God. Just like how monks/nuns take vows of poverty, so pastors are held to a similar standard?

(Many other side questions about: how should churches be run? Democracy? Theocracy? We need a prophet to ordain leaders like in the bible? HAHAH. Should churches be involved in politics: Jesus’ answer about taxes; give Caesar what is his and God what is God’s. Hmm kings did not have much interaction with Jesus, I mean, they didn’t really ask Jesus for wisdom and help. Also, should pastors be allowed to have expensive things? What does it mean to love God?).

I brought up this question about pastors because this (image we have of pastors) = not entire good/I’ve heard complaints. 1) It’s unsustainable? Why do we have so many old pastors in church, where is the next generation? Are they not bringing up the next generation? Injecting fresh blood = innovation when it comes to faith (thinking about ‘traditional church’ growth rates as compared to Hillsong? controversial video right here!! 2) these old pastors/old fashioned ideas = too much focus on tradition?

But young pastors/new church (those that look like they attract lots of ‘millennials’) are getting lots of fire (the video above). Criticisms include

  • Not having a lot of substance; the gospel is diluted/no rigorous study of the bible?
  • Looking too fashionable (not that it’s wrong per se, but to me looking fashionable often correlates with how important image is to people. Being fashionable/being attractive often ends up = worshipping looks. Idk, but do you think it’s possible to take lots of pictures/be super good looking/go on Instagram a lot/be able to comment about how to post the best picture etc, but also be comfortable without social media and not ‘worship’/get too caught up with it?)
  • We’ve problems with church pastors being intimate with political figures (more so a problem in US, I think. Trump/Hillary) or even people’s feelings about Justin Bieber being Christian (he’s not a good role model? He doesn’t always behave very Christian like??). People are indeed naturally judge-y, huh?

Oh. I’m meant to write about Christian music too. HAHA. Actually this segment was just going to be about questioning why Christian music has become so popular, unlike the unpopular Christian culture described in the previous post. Some answers I got were: it’s easy to listen to music casually without really listening to the lyrics, it’s short unlike books and movies (no need to commit, and besides, everyone likes music but not everyone likes books), you don’t need to purchase the music to enjoy it (get more publicity). STILL. These answers seem quite inadequate?

‘Unpopular’ Christian Culture: literature, books and movies (Part 1)

I don’t read much, if any, Christian literature and I don’t particularly like movies. I remember feeling ‘ashamed’ when I’m at a Christian meeting and someone asks if I’m reading a Christian book and I say no. That happens(ed) semi often. The excuse I usually give is that reading Christian lit = reading fan fiction, to me. I rather read the bible which has more substance, real truth? Christian lit has little appeal, to me? I’ll be using literature/movies/culture a little interchangeably here.

There have been quite a lot of videos/pieces written about why Christian movies sucks. Here’s a good video on why Christian movies suck. I’ll write a short piece on why these movies are deemed bad:

  • The purpose of Christian content: is it for Christians, or for non-Christians whom we want to ‘evangelise to’? That determines how good/bad it is. But if it’s mean for evangelism somehow it’s usually bad?
  • Some issues include: too preachy, normal people don’t understand (e.g. what is ‘sin’ in our postmodern, post absolutist world?), Christianity has too much history/content/knowledge and normal people get lost when they read these books/watch the movies.

Personal thoughts on how Christian culture isn’t great:

  • Limited genre? The Christian culture that I know comes in the form of
    1. Children’s cartoons/storytelling and bible stories (veggie tales!! Which is nice)
    2. Historical retelling (Jesus film, Moses)
    3. Bibliographies/real things that happen. (Missionaries life stories, contemporary incidents like ‘God’s not dead’)

Where is the imagination in Christian literature? How about things that appeal to people? A best-selling book? How about other genres like science fiction? Why is most stuff non-fiction? Yes, there is some stuff out there – I read a re-telling of John/the gospels when I was younger. It was quite interesting, an accessible way to understand the historical context/possible struggles the apostles may have faced during that time. Things like family, relationships, etc – but generally it didn’t hold appeal/not interesting. A case of ‘bad acting’/writing? I’m not sure.

  • The storylines are flat. No nuance in characters, contemporary issues about race, etc? It’s generally quite a predictable plot? (A Christian movie worth checking out is Silence (2016) though! I read the plot/watched the trailer and indeed it is good).

There’s lots more stuff about Christian culture that could be written about: the issue of Christian music/MVs and their popularity which belong to a whole other post (stay tuned to part 2!) But some closing thoughts regarding this issue:

  • We need Christian artists and not Christian art (we have a too narrow perception on what Christian art is?) I’m thinking of ‘covert’ Christian music I like: Starfield, switchfoot, (sleeping at last?), Relient K. Mumford and sons

Once again questioning the aim of Christian culture. Entertainment, evangelism and accessibility for other people to think about and know about issues in Christianity?


New book recommendation!

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[I’m thinking back to Afterworlds; tbh, I think I should not have recommended it. Yes, it has interesting perspectives and ideas – e.g. I’ve never read a book which talks about the publishing process, nor an ‘American’/mainstream book writing about Hindu gods/Indian characters – but. The plot/writing style isn’t to my taste.]

I really liked this book. I’m a little annoyed that it’s a series (Wildcard, the next book, is only coming out in September 2018). I’m not sure if I like it because it’s fresh (I don’t read many books in this genre, i.e. AI/technology/gaming, I’m thinking perhaps movies like Ghost in the Shell will be similar in genre) or if it’s because it’s actually good. But I’m going to say that it’s good. And I shall go read/watch more about AI stuff. I’m still a little uncertain about my feelings regarding YA literature. And romance in books (part of YA lit? The romance feels artificial? Out of place? Does not really contribute too much to the plot).

Reasons why it’s good:

1) It’s well written! Good writing style. It’s nuanced and there are plot twists which are not exactly non/predictable.

2) I like that the characters (all? the main ones?) are not clearly good nor bad. It’s nuanced, real.

3) Interesting concepts that I can relate to. Yes, some of the stuff is rehashed ideas; e.g. using technology/AI to build security systems; is pre-emption a bad thing, what if it controls people? Is it ethical to control people (to what extent can we control) to ensure crime is eliminated? How good can algorithms be at deciding if the crime should be stopped – if humans can’t agree on what’s universally right/wrong, surely we cannot use technology to fight crime (tech is much better than us at stopping crime, but the creator of the tech has the power to decide what are considered crimes and which crimes to stop).

4) Though these concepts are relatable/fairly simple to follow, it’s well tied in with the story. You can understand where the characters come from no matter which side they take – e.g. do they want tech to control the world, or not want tech. A peaceful solution or a violent one.


Mental states/our identity

I realised I don’t write much about mental health/illness/states, but it’s stuff I think about quite often. I thought I’ll explore this topic today.

Firstly, seeking mental help is a huge privilege. Mental illness sometimes become an issue only rich people can afford: if you are poor, you either 1) don’t survive, or you’ll find some way to cope, 2) are too distracted with trying to survive, living day to day and have no time to think hard enough to, idk, fall into depression or something (one of the causes of depression?). Mental illness treatments takes time, money, resources. The underclass of society remains disproportionately under diagnosed and treated?

Next thought: why don’t people want to seek treatment/diagnosis? I’ve thought about insurance issues and the stickiness of the label. Will getting a diagnosis affect your future job opportunities? Insurance premiums (pre-existing conditions; will the insurance pay for this)? Even if you know something is wrong, you may not seek treatment because of the consequences. Besides, you are coping aren’t you? You’re alive.

Also, the science behind the diagnosis. Getting counselling or psychiatry/medicalisation of your mental disorder. I’ve written quite a bit of stuff about this before. I’ve taken the ‘medical’ test in a (semi-medical) setting: arbitrary questions and answers. ‘2 weeks’ as a time frame of consistent unhappiness. What’s ‘happy’ anyway; the usefulness of that label? Yes, I get that it’s meant to be subjective. Science is indeed not immutable; the normal is determined statistically rather than ‘factually and concretely’.

But, mental states can be determined ‘concretely’ (to an extent), scientifically, through lab testing. Checking to ensure that your depression is not caused by thyroid dysfunctions, checking your blood. Which leads us to a more philosophical question with disconcerting realisations.

What makes us, us?

Humans are composite, complex creatures, I get that. I’ve been thinking about how much/little control we have over ourselves: our moods are determined by hormones, diet, weather, etc. And approaching things like medicine from the Traditional Chinese Medicine way; looking at a person’s health in a holistic manner, therefore prescribing a different set of drugs and medicine based on the individual’s diet, lifestyle, etc., rather issuing a universal drug.

I wish I weren’t so dependent on ‘human needs’. Simple things like food, sleep, but also things that are ‘more beyond my control’, like my genes and hormones (which can change). How can I ‘not behave like myself’ if I am hungry/tired? Does that mean that those traits are innate within me – i.e. if I do not have sleep I show my true colours? This self is controlled by something else that is not me? How much control (and therefore responsibility) do I have over myself? (I personally don’t understand this: eat vitamins/balanced diet and you’ll be happy. But. 1) People who are depressed may already be doing all this, disproving this point. 2) You’re not naturally happy if your happiness depends on food? You’re only happy because you are eating these things. This is akin to a ‘next level’ coping mechanism. Food is a drug? HMM I know that there is a flaw in my argument here, but I don’t know where. If someone can spot it, please comment!) I know that it’s also about discipline; that’s why people fast. They’re trying to train themselves that despite uncomfortable situations, they’re still in control and can ‘be themselves’, rather than succumbing to sins of, idk, anger or something.

I wonder how we’ll be like in heaven/the afterlife, without these things that make us who we are. Without these things that are necessary. What is our essence? We’re made up of all these human things that control us so deeply. How will mental states/emotions look like in the afterlife?

Social science degree = teaching career?

Teaching is really tough. Difficulties include: 1) the academic side of things; which could include 1.1) getting students to pay attention in class and listen to you. It’s especially difficult with teenagers or young kids. Trying to illicit a positive response, or any response, from them. Or, 1.2) overly enthusiastic students who don’t know boundaries. They may ask you ridiculously difficult/unrelated questions. Or you can’t get them to shut up. 2) The non-academic, behavioural side of being a teacher, be it 2.1) pastoral work, when you 2.1.1) care too much for your students and get overly involved in their personal lives, which is also an emotional issue, or 2.1.2) do not care but have to act like you do. 3) The monetary side of things; teachers aren’t really known for getting paid very much? Depending on what kind of teacher you are too: private teachers have to do things like marketing/advertising to get students too? 4) Time; your hours are really not confined to the classroom. Getting emails, text messages from students and bosses. Having to plan your lessons, set test papers and mark homework. The list could go on. Complains about parents, bosses, etc.

A friend and I had a discussion about why there are so many social science graduates (and humanities/arts grads too. I use social science loosely here).  in the teaching field. I personally like what I’m studying and don’t think I could major in something else, but having so many people assume that I’m going into teaching makes me question my place in the world. Is that what a social science degree is good for? To mainly teach? It has no practical purpose in society except to educate the next batch of people? It’s a field of work that everyone should study (in our compulsory education curricular) but few people should major in? Do many social science students actually end up teaching?

[And also, what makes a good teacher? Enthusiasm and passion? Rather dependent on who the student is; the student determines the teacher, to an extent. Are social science students inherently good teachers?]

The answer is unfortunately, yes. I remember my first geography lecture and the prof commented that about half the geography graduates will end up teaching. But let’s break down this issue further, because mere affirmation is not interesting.

No, social science students do not usually become teachers. It seems like many of them end up teaching because other jobs that they take up are likely unrelated to their course of study, so we don’t remember what degree they graduated with. For example, a good percentage of my social science friends who end up in the private sector are in marketing. Many others are in government sector jobs not directly related to their major. We have this mindset that the degree you get = related to what you end up doing. Which is a valid assumption. Why else will you study/take that major?

Social science students also do not usually become teachers. There are many opportunities out there which are related to (a field of study). I’ll use my major since I’m most familiar with it. For example, in geography, yes indeed, you can become a teacher, but you can also work in government sectors like urban re/development, transportation (mapping routes? Managing spaces. There are modules on transport geographies), tourism (a huge area of study in my uni), housing, public areas, water/environment sectors, etc. Private sectors: consultancy (for all the above industries). International relations? UN? NGOs?

But yes, opportunities does not = actual jobs. These places are limited (so statistically half the graduates end up as teachers due to high demand in teaching). Or, even if there are many alternative opportunities, the number of opportunities are spread out across many sectors. It’s a statistical blindness issue: e.g. if each alternative job take up 3% of graduates and as a whole take 60% of grads, ‘teaching’ as a singular job take up the other 40%, making us think that most grads end up there. It’s just easier to remember ‘teaching’ and make the link.

But, if YES social science students do end up mostly in teaching, what’s the repercussions? Do they end up there because they have no choice? Teaching = high demand, and more or less the best pay that a social science grad can get?

Or do most end up teaching because it’s ‘part of their DNA’, the desire to teach is innate. We like to discuss, to think, we love knowledge and therefore want to spread it? (Arts, more specifically) is a discipline about sharing and teaching, so it’s natural that where most graduates will teach. I say arts and not social science because. Social science has quite a lot of ‘pragmatic’ use in society (e.g. doing research about specific spaces and how people interact with them can have huge impacts/implications on different groups like the elderly/disabled. Whereas the practicality of arts is a little more difficult to find? E.g. yes, I understand that history shapes geopolitics, but that’s quite a niche area which means limited jobs? Would like to hear from an arts student about this)