Monday, 15 October 2007

Rotting Sandals & Worldy Affairs

T'is the season of the Rotting Sandal.

In other words the wet season looms once again, although it is noticeable that as yet we have not had the deluges experienced last year.

Why rotting sandals?

Well, the uppers on leather footwear tend to part company with the sole after prolonged wet weather. No amount of glue seems to remedy the situation and it is entirely desirable to choose footwear that is sown rather than glued.

Then there is the 'mould surprise' where, after a period or prolonged storage in a non-airconditioned environment, strange fungi-like growths of varying hues sprout from the sandals. The moral is to frequently air any stored leather goods, especially shoes.

A visit to Isetan today revealed that the insidious American commercial culture is alive and well in Singapore. Halloween is gaining a strong following amongst the young.

Given the foothold that fundamentalist Christianity has gained in Singapore in recent times, it seems an odd juxtaposition of values.

Not to be outdone, the Brits have sent us a container load of out-of-season Xmas puddings. These are now proudly displayed in that most British of establishments, Marks and Spencers. Mind you, at $19 per modestly sized pudding, there are few takers.

So a year and a bit on, what are the thing I miss from my former life in the 'West' ? Firstly life in the 'West' is a misnomer. It should be 'Life Down South'

Not a great deal. In my day to day life, probably the ability to hold an in-depth discussion on world affairs - in fact hypothesising on anything in a global context.

I am not sure why this is so (and it certainly doesn't apply to everyone I live and work with), but it is often very difficult to strike up a conversation of any topic beyond the boundaries of Singapore.

I don't think this is because Singaporeans are any more insular than other races. Perhaps there is a level of prosperity and contentment here that narrows their focus?

It would also be wrong to suggest that all Singaporeans respond in this way - they do not. I have met many who have travelled or lived overseas who are more than happy to put the world to rights.

My second observation relates to hierarchy. At times there appears to be an almost a departmental paralysis when it comes to decision making. I have experienced this inertia in the telcos and banks in particular.

Few are prepared to stick their neck out on an issue or make a creative suggestion for fear of being wrong. Decision making is often governed by a desire to please those higher up the pecking order.

There is however hope in the creative contribution now being made by the better educated young. They have been prepared to ask questions of politicans here on the matters that they see of significant importance.

I am currently reading the first autobiographical volume of Lee Kuan Yew's memoirs entitled "The Singapore Story".

Having seen the Minister Mentor in action on local television I have marvelled how a man in his eighties still has such a sound judgement of world affairs and Singapore's opportunities.

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