Saturday, June 30, 2007

Histories, Memories, & Sentimental Values

Today marked the end of the fate of my country's National Stadium.

Built in 1965, it had witnessed many great moments of her country, not just in the sporting arena but, throughout her entire life of service, significant events that are of political, cultural and certainly national interests.

For one, 1965 was the year that Singapore was separated from 'Malaysia', a name adopted in 1963 when the 'Federation of Malaya' was formed. This was with the inclusion of Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak, where there were 14 states altogether. Along the way, politically-charged tension and conflicts unsettled the union, and subsequently the 14-state Federation was reduced to 13 when Singapore was being expelled out abruptly.

On 9 August 1965, 'Independence' was formally thrust into the hands of Singapore, an island of 697 square kilometres. From the lack of natural resources like clean water, (crude) oil, gas, timber, sand, to human supplies like commercial plantations, industrial skilled workers, and military forces, and to hardware infrastructures like power plants and security systems, Singapore is virtually a sovereign state with her gates opened wide. Notwithstanding the fact that in that critical time, those left on the land of Singapore were no more than lowly-educated immigrants of China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and several parts of Asia.

The future of Singapore was certainly bleak and hopeless then, with its path ahead dimmed and treacherous.

Against this turbulent background of national unrest, the idea to have a "stadium of our own" was mooted - a gathering ground for all races and identities to engage in not just watching the sports activities, but with one another. The hope for all Singaporeans adopting a common nationality, sharing the torch of a common awareness for their own fate and future, is thus sealed in each and every concrete block used for the construction of it. Singapore has finally gotten her own national icon she can be proud of.

The laying of foundation was completed in 1970, and upon its official opening in 1973, the National Stadium has welcomed many prestigious and prominent figures from all over the world. From 'moon-walking' with Michael Jackson to rocking with Deep Purple, and to swaying with Robbie Williams, from Muhammad Ali 'floating by' and gracing the venue and to Pope praying with his followers, from regional tournaments to pre-Olympic qualifying soccer tournaments, and the unforgettable annual National Day parades that remind us of our country's sudden yet painful birth, the National Stadium certainly has stood testament to a whole two generations of sentiments and emotions throughout these 34 years.

In this prime age of maturity and completeness, she humbly bows out of this memorable journey of fulfillment, lending way for a newer and more sophisticated 'Sports Hub'.

On one hand, it is sad to see something so meaningful and memorable leaving those whom are sentimentally attached to it; on the other hand, it's peculiar to think that an inanimate building could trigger the emotional senses of so many, nameless, faceless, ordinary and common people. Some maybe of prestigious backgrounds, but many more are the ones whom we meet along the way and chatted with, the ones whom we may easily overlook when on the rush.

Yes, a building maybe lifeless; however humans have always been endowed with this unique sense of space and time, where since time immemorial, we have had perhaps learnt to look up to the sky in search of answers to queries for time of weathers, changes of seasons, positions and locations, and ultimately, the meaning of their existences to the graceful lights of gods. Answers which could only be found in the starry heaven of stars and light.

As the world evolves and modernises, humans no longer look up to the sky for that definitive moment of enlightenment. Yet, we may still never be able to move away from the inherent desire to looking out for and up to an awe-inspiring structure, a magnificent building, or simply a defining icon. It is from there that humans return to their primal, natural instinct of accepting a life grander, a presence stronger, and a significance larger, than their very own. It is from here that they would begin to understand that apart from their own microcosmic existence, there lies a greater self than any individual. It is called 'humanity'.

It is only from here and with this understanding, that the true meaning of common identity and co-existence shines. Where once it was a building constructed with bricks, cement and sand, it now radiates with brilliance, memories, sentiments and emotions; where once it was a building planned and drawn up from blue prints and devices, it has risen from the concrete foundation to instilling life and historical values into its admirers; and where humans have stepped in to witness the grandeur of the undying spirits of sportsmanship, it might also be the very spirits that the building became respectable and memorable.

True and indeed, the magnificence of any building or site is only as much as the significance of historical values written by the hands of those humans residing there. Without those who fought, struggled, pained, teared, fallen or risen victorious, there would be no memories to begin with; neither would history be written, nor sentimental values imprinted and treasured.

Life awakens life, and polishes it. In these final hours before the unavoidable disintegration of this monumental structure, there certainly will be thousands who reminisce the beautiful images and unforgettable moments that have appeared in the course of their lives; pictures and scenarios which only they can feel and comprehend fully the significance of those memories.

While others, or even future generations, may not come to grasp the weight of this special relationship shared between this entire generation of Singaporeans and the building itself, the truth remains that there will always be one 'National Stadium' in the heart of every Singaporean who has the opportunity to step in, breathe its air, witness its silent grandeur, and be immersed in her brilliant lights of historical significance. Without a doubt, memories of this stadium will definitely come to stir and pulsate steadily in the lives of many Singaporeans, in the many many years to come.

Witnessing the humble birth and progress of a Third World country to First, the National Stadium has indeed been like a quiet lady guardian for Singapore's past three generations, lovingly overlooking on all those who have given their all. Like an actress crowned with a tiara adorned with colourful gems, she's bowing out gently and majestically for the last time, after countless rounds of applause and encores.

Farewell, National Stadium.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

For The Record VI - Of Human Trafficking And Child Abuse

I have just finished two exams, which I have taken the course in last December and began in March this year. In a short span of three months, four assignments were submitted, and two papers tested on.

In the midst of these intensive activities, I am truly grateful for the good fortune bestowed upon me, which allows me to enjoy good physical and mental conditions through this trying period. I thus managed to keep myself engaged with the world I'm living in still.

Among the many incidents and accidents that have happened in recent weeks, the tragic incidents of human abduction, trafficking and slavery, together with the appalling discovery of child abuse, caught my attention and seized my thoughts. I am compelled to therefore ensure the events are documented here, as a form of record and archive for present and future references, permanently.

7 June 2007 - a group of fathers from Henan province, all whom had lost contact with their children, published a letter on a Chinese on-line forum 'Tianya Club'. Prior to this they had given up their belongings and properties, traveled almost country-wide with the hope of locating their children. Their search led them to confirm that about 2,000 children were being abducted and sold to these kilns at Shanxi province, whom 400 were from Henan. Upon entering the kilns as undercover workers to further their investigation, they saw unkempt, undernourished children being held captive and forced to work from dawn till dusk and with little food and water. Many were slaved and traumatised, some severely punished by beatings and branding with heated bricks when re-captured after found escaping, ultimately leaving a few disabled.

The fathers managed to rescue about 40 children before their efforts were obstructed by the local police - the law enforcers had taken side with the kiln owners. Leaving no alterante venue to seeking out justice, these fathers turned to the virtual site to publish their letter. Their pleading cries was finally heard and responded.

The letter sparked an outcry of public sympathy and support that led to the attention of a CCP (China Communist Party) Politburo member. In addition, journalist Fu Zhenzhong, who is with a television network in Henan province, was the first few to venture deep into the kilns and the syndicate's operations several times, disguising as a father of the lost child and asking for help, shed the light of truth and justice on this issue.

12 June 2007 - after relenting to pressure mounted from all sides, the police and local authorities activated 35,000 police officers to launch a massive raiding on all the 7,500 kilns in Henan province. At the end of the four days' crackdown 120 people were arrested, with 217 people rescued; among them 29 children.

16 June 2007 - in the Shanxi province, 331 people were rescued from the illegal kilns, of which 9 were children. The total number of 'slave workers' rescued thus far to 548 (ref: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-06/16/content_895699.htm)

10 June 2007 - in Baghdad, Iraq, US and Iraqi soldiers made a grisly discovery on an orphanage that housed 24 severely malnourished and abused boys, aged 3 to 15, whom some were tied to their beds while many others were lying naked on the cement floor of a darkened room, without any windows.




Incidentally, the kitchen shelves were packed with canned food. They were not handed out to the children but believed to be sold to local markets
(ref: http://www.cbsnews.com/elements/2007/06/18/iraq/photoessay2942940.shtml).



12 June 2007 - the US Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons released its 'Trafficking in Persons' report, citing numerous forms of human trafficking, namely 'Labour Trafficking', 'Bonded Labour', 'Involuntary (Domestic) Servitude', 'Debt Bondage and Involuntary Servitude', 'Forced Child Labours', 'Child Soldiers', 'Sex Trafficking and Prostitution', 'Children Exploited For Commercial Sex' and 'Child Sex Tourism' (ref: http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2007/82809.htm). Unfortunately but yet without doubt, the last two categories manifest and reveal a 'demand-and-supply' predicament the world is still wrestling with.

As Secretary of State Ms Gondolezza Rice defined in her letter to the report, "trafficking in persons is a modern-day form of slavery, a new type of global slave trade. Perpetrators prey on the most weak among us, primarily women and children, for profit and gain. They lure victims into involuntary servitude and sexual slavery". True to these words, humanity in this 21st century is indeed witnessing the barbaric acts of preying and slavery being committed again; deplorable deeds that should have long faded and be gone into the emptiness of human memories and histories.

20 June 2007 - eight days after this report, Australian police arrested four men accused of being part of an international internet paedophile ring. The internet chat room used by this syndicate, ironically, was named 'Kids the Light of Our Lives'. It featured 'real-time' live videos of child sexual abuse. Inclusively, pictures of prepubescent and pubescent victims being subjected to horrific sexual abuses were also uploaded and shared amongst themselves (ref: http://www.thewest.com.au/aapstory.aspx?StoryName=392612).

With four arrested and one convicted in Australia, the Australian Federal Police described the latest incident as the "tip of the iceberg".

Against the report of Trafficking In Persons, these incidents speak of a larger, more complex and deeper issue - on one hand, they revealed the inefficiencies of the laws, and the unhealthy, under-developed legal systems China and Iraq are having, which consequently fail to reach into the depths of the society's rural backyards; on the other, they demonstrated the inabilities of wholesome, legal systems to reaching into the depths of disorientated minds and all the more, gravely distorted lives.

While the starry stars above us may shine brilliantly for the next ten thousand years, displaying an aura of eternal light and dazzle, it is really the moral laws within each and every human that govern and decide the very thought and action of a single being in that moment of definition. On this note, even the grandeur of the Universe may pale in comparison to the mysterious complexities of the human mind. It is perhaps then of humanity's innate mission to, by their own hands, conduct a self-salvation on the platform of lives' inner reformation - possibly the only route for them to revert themsleves from this tragic, repetitive whirlpools to the pre-destined happiness and youthful joy.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

In Pursuit Of Correctness & Truths

I have been engaging e-mail exchanges with one 'cult expert' for several days. He, in his website, has labeled Soka Gakkai International, and particularly my Mentor Daisaku Ikeda as a cult and cult leader respectively.

I highlighted several points to him, and he replied to me with his largely-based on-line resources and news, something people love to read and forward to others. The general mood of this is that the more sensational the news are, the more people being interested in them. Sad to say, however, this is also the face of the common crowd we see of this world today. News of serious nature don't really make a good cup of leisure tea for people to savour; rather they would love to go after emotive tabloid news and entertaining gossips. Such is the mental vacuum of today's humanity.

I replied to him that most, if not all of his information, are from on-line sources. None are seen or heard by himself first-hand. Worse, he would either deliberately or subconsciously go for inaccurate news and reporting, collating them into his database, and comfortably labelling someone or group as of 'cult nature'.

Incidentally, upon browsing through his website, I came to one page of him posting his past history and records. He had committed a few mistakes during his younger days, and along the way, he must have encountered several reservations of his character and integrity by people who do not know him well. He had posted his own records alongside a detailed explanation of what had actually happened, and what has become of him now. He has, in his own view, changed for a better person.

We did an active and lively exchange of mails. He did not come to acknowledge what I have laid down and shown to him, of what the SGI has been doing for the past 30 odd years. He makes no effort in attempting to understand my side of the argument, where I have tried to introduce the ideals of Daisaki Ikeda and SGI to him. Throughout the episode, he had loyally defended his thoughts and perspectives on the credibility and correctness of SGI and Daisaku Ikeda. Painstakingly as it was, I listed out several of his mistakes, namely:

1) ignorant about facts - the members of SGI do nothing less to promote local as well as international Peace, Culture and Education; they do Not engaged in some weird, cult practices that promote self-sacrificing and/ or destructive movements.

2) ignorant about culture - Japanese has one of the highest and strongest tabloid gossiping media culture. Ikeda had been accused of a rape charge, but was filed as a CIVIL suit and not a criminal. At the end of the whole episode, the court dismissed the whole case twice.

3) ignorant about media functioning - all sorts of news go round the world. Papers simply re-publish and re-print them. That's how the 911 or Tsunami can be made known to the world in less than two days. Reporters don't go to the site physically to take the shots and write the news. They merely forward and re-forward the news, print and re-print, and sell their papers. In addition, the episodes of Iraq and Afghanistan showed to the world how the media can be manipulated by people, particularly the politicians.

4) ignorant about history - Ikeda was the first few Japanese to openly declare the importance of normalization of relationship between China and Japan, way back in 1968 when the tension was high and politician killed for upholding that ideal. He held dialogue with Professor Arnold Toynbee in 1975 and have been submitting peace proposal since 1983. His 200th honorary award was from the Beijing Uni, which was awarded to him because of this monumental effort toward peace.

5) inconsistent in analysis - "Soka Gakkai's sordid history" refers to the members doing wrong and Ikeda was held responsible. However, the Pope, with all respect, isn't held responsible for the Catholic priests sexually abusing young boys in the church. A clearly biased analysis here.

While the content may be personal, the underlying issues aren't. Too often, the general masses are being caught up too easily in this invisible web of 'delusion'. They see what they want to see, what trigger their senses and excite their emotions, and take belief in them. While this may not have any grave danger when pursuing entertainment news, ungrounded 'facts' being presented as 'truths' carry devastating harm and severe warping on one's mind and heart - they take root in one's consciousness and sprout from there. Consequently the mind will be distorted and deluded, while the heart corrupted and biased. No longer can the arrow of truth be penetrated into him - he has chosen to live a life based on the sentiments of sensational excitement and superficial presentation. The more the truth is presented to him, the more he'll get disgusted.

Joan of Arc and Galileo are two fine examples in the human history that exposed to us how dark and evil the deluded hearts and minds can be - they both died in the hands of the power-hungered cowards and ignorant religious insanities respectively; those who only took faith in what their minds have told them. In the age of superstitions and fanaticism, both these martyrs sacrificed their own lives when they attempted to forward their own race, immersed in the temporal joy of superstitious divinity and religious means, as well as the ceremonious offering of their souls for a greater mundane, secular power.

"One of the greatest mistake humanity has committed in the 20th century was the mixture of facts and truths, and regarding them as similar," so said Josei Toda, second president of Soka Gakkai. Nothing could be truer than these words. Where the sun rising from the East is a well-known fact, the truth remains that it's the Earth revolving around it. This simple yet universal observation by Josei Toda concluded the repeated tragedies occurred on humanity - superstitious beliefs, upon ignoring scientific analyses and objective observations, became the murderer of truth.

What the world now, as Daisaku Ikeda declared, is a philosophy that awakens the authentic humanism in every single human life. It is only through this flowering of an awakened consciousness that humankind can once more embark on the journey of hope and revitalisation. It is in fact a return to one's own innate nature of pure, innocent joy of knowing another person working for the happiness of others, and not demeaning them.

Without false pretension and make-up, and be basked in the warm light of sharing that joy, happiness, troubles and sadness of another human soul, is truly indeed the actual mission of what we are here for - to live a connected life here in this world, shared by billion others, and making it a joyful place and a meaningful, memorable journey. Without this, all worldly achievements would be like castles built on sand. Fragile and temporal, they would fade away into the channels of history in no time, forever vanishing the footprints marked by a life once existed and present in this world.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Struggle For A Breathing Humanity

I have been turning in at very late hours, about 4 plus 5 a.m., of the morning lately; it has in fact been over two months that I could barely lie down in my bed at the time of midnight.

Reason being that I have taken up a course, which has begun in March. Though the schedule was never close to being hectic - four days of lectures and two assignments for each subject, where I have just two subjects in total, the immensity of urgently needing to manage my time well presses hard on me. A deeper exploration, consciously and conscientiously made, dawned on me that its really a question of how discipline I am.

When one doesn't obtain a good and sufficient amount of sleep as he or she desires, there's a tendency to have an inner frustration developed, constantly waiting for the right time to explode and break out. Tiredness indeed has its own destructive force - it breaks one's clarity down and confuses the mind. No other group of humans than the POWs (Prisoners Of War) understood this fearful yet silent force better - many were tortured simply by being denied the right to sleep when they were imprisoned by the enemies. Along that dreadful path of war-time confinement some had developed hallucinations and become mentally ill at the end.

"Nothing is more barbaric than war", so says my Mentor. In the basest condition of life, every mean of torture is luxuriously created.

I have to admit here that my health is never considered very good from my younger days. I have always been plagued by symptoms of 'heatiness', a term used in the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) to describe and diagnose the presence of 'internal, excessive heat'. Common flu, running nose, sore throat, watery eyes, fever and cough are of no strange illnesses to me.

Coupled with an innate, inborn impatience, anger and stress got the better of me constantly, and in many instances, regrettably, I succumbed to it by allowing my senses and logic be taken over. Thinking back now, I find myself wordless in the face of my past misdeeds; a simple "be more careful in future" caution is the only reminder I have of my footing into the realm of anger.

However, as of lately, I have noticed a change in my health condition: I have not fallen sick for the past three months, ever since I began my course, which saw me sleeping at a much later time, and waking up at 9 a.m. still to proceed for my work. In short, I have felt very concretely a thin flow of energy running through my body, recuperating and continuously generating a fresh stream of strength that allows me to carry on with my daytime work even though I was already quite worn out the night before.

This has definitely come to me as a surprise, though a pleasant one. For I, one who have been suffering running nose, constant sneezing and barely half-opened swollen eyes throughout my teen and adult years, could have enjoyed a good consistent condition of my health and immune system! How long ago have I stopped being tormented by the fact that I could never changed this condition, I actually could no longer recalled it. However surely, I could feel one single source for this one single change - the restructuring of my heart.

Yes, its quite a simple change in fact. One's heart is all that one needs to change. Why is that so? I somehow knew the answer to all these improvements, which I would quietly tap on my shoulder and be glad that I have done it. It is the letting-go of several emotional burdens and weights, which I have let them sunk into the 'field' of my heart and taken roots there. These weights, commonly known to others as 'negative memories' or 'grudges', have occupied a significant portion of me, which I would carry them wherever and whenever I go. True to the theory of 'Oneness of Body and Mind', I indeed have unknowingly become a grungy person who holds negative views on virtually anything that comes along the way. Nothing has meaning to me anymore. No joy could be derived from matters which seemed enjoyable to others, and certainly, those people who find joy in living out their lives are simply deemed pathetic to me. Life adopts a grayish profile as far as I see it, though on appearance alone, I express a livelier, jovial attitude to my environment. It is simply nothing but a coverage to my sniggering cynicism.

Suddenly, with my inner self opening up and bowing humbly to this admittance, every thing and matter lightens up. Not only I look at every piece of falling leaf with a totally different perspective, I feel every life coming forth around me. It is this enlightening condition that I realised for once that every living soul in this world is endowed with this wonderful fountain of clear energy and youthfulness. The moment one is able to tap into this vast, inner pool of strength, he/ she will enjoy this endless feeding of energy and clarity. All he/ she needs to do now is to use that pool of energy and exert him/ herself in the physical world, developing progress for the environment and generating positive, forward-moving episodes for humanity. One's heart, though invisible, is truly reflecting and shining out like a movie projector, onto this gigantic canvas called 'the world'.

It is also from here that one comes to see for himself why has confusion arise in the world. Different people holding differing views for himself and the world, and desiring different matters, would wrestle with those who live not only for themselve but others also. Thus, as these two groups project both their narrow-minded desires as well as embracing, humanistic dreams onto their surrounding and the world-at-large, differences are created and conflicts generated. The battle for humanity, thus, lie not in changing the external realm; it should and must begin with the inner reformation of each living, breathing human being.

On this note, it is also worth knowing that whoever goes against his inborn innate humanity, that person is in fact suffering by his own hands; he is slowly tightening the rope that has been placed around the neck of his own inner humanity. For every hurt he does to his surrounding and people who care for him, he is in fact strangling his own inborn compassion and living soul. They who are viewed as 'rebels' or social outcast are in fact the most pitiful of all, for they are slowly murdering their own humanity on a day-by-day basis, gradually transforming their own lives into a beastly one. It is at this point that one's decision to either embrace or condemn these outcasts would come to determine which direction the world will take. The larger the flowering of humanistic values blossoms in this confusion-filled world, the stronger a breathing humanity could live and progress; any other direction would retreat the entire world back to the dark ages. The struggle of humanity truly lies in the unseen dimension of each single human life.