Monday, April 20, 2009

"We didn't start the fire..."

In today's edition of The Straits Times (ST), one would find on the second page of the main section an opinion piece ("Dangerous turns in domestic dispute, ST, 20/4/2009) written by Mr. Paul Jacob, Deputy Political Editor for the ST, regarding the ongoing dispute between the "old guard" and the "young Turks" within AWARE.

Fall not into the trap of "Us versus the Christians"

In all fairness, I must confess that I do agree with some of the sentiments expressed by Mr. Paul in his opinion piece.

Well, I do agree with him that this ongoing dispute within AWARE will, if it is not settled amicably soon, have a considerable negative impact on the organisation's reputation, that is if this negative impact has not already manifested. If damage has already been done to AWARE's reputation, I suppose an Odyssean dispute will only make things worse.

Also, I too find it somewhat unhealthy and unhelpful that this ongoing dispute within AWARE has perhaps been increasingly conceptualised as a struggle between liberal secularists and conservative Christians. With regards to this, I must clarify that while some of my blog posts here may have been critical of some aspects of Christianity, I am not anti-Christian per se; in fact, I have several friends who happens to be Christians and who I get along well with, notwithstanding our differences in religious beliefs. [Note: As such, I was somewhat hesitant to allow certain comments on this blog that may be construed as being anti-Christian but recognising that they were not "seditious", I ultimately allowed them]

As Mr. Sam Ho succinctly puts it:

"Be pro-diversity, not anti-Christian Fundamentalist.

Do not play the same game of polarisation that others are playing. If they blow up their side of the bridge, you are not obliged to blow up your side. If you do so, you are no different from them. (ironically, "us" and "them" already imply polarisation)".

And as Mrs. Constance Singam, a former president of AWARE, said in an interview with the ST ("Constance Singam quits as Aware adviser", ST, 19/4/2009), "I am not at all happy where this is going. This is not a gay versus Christian debate".


However, I nevertheless found some of the other sentiments expressed by Mr. Jacob in his opinion piece rather perplexing, if not hypocritical.

For one thing, it would seem to me that Mr. Jacob, in his opinion piece, is blaming the two feuding camps within AWARE and their [online] supporters for "marketing this dispute to the public and being prepared to air dirty linen", thereby "sullying the name" of AWARE.

He also expressed concern, if not annoyance, at how AWARE's "old guard" and their online supporters have perhaps "involve religion and drag in the church" into the ongoing dispute. Similarly, Mr. Jacob appears to fault the same people for "digging up and citing statements that some in the new team made publicly and in their private capacity about issues such as homosexuality".

Who started the fire: The ST or the bloggers?

Hmm... In light of the above, I cannot help but wonder if Mr. Jacob has been reading the reports and articles that the newspaper he works for has been publishing about this ongoing dispute regarding AWARE. Correct me if I am wrong but it would seem to me that the ST itself have also partaken in the transgressions that Mr. Jacob is expressing his concern/annoyance about!

In fact, I would contend that the ST has played a major role in publicising this ongoing dispute (or as Mr. Jacob puts it, "marketing this dispute to the public") within AWARE and portraying the new executive committee (exco) of AWARE as being Christian conservatives.

I mean, it would seem to me that it was the ST which first provided the spark to this saga with its first report ("Unknowns knock out veterans at Aware polls", ST, 10/4/2009) on this ongoing dispute. It should be noted that this was also the article that first implicitly portrayed members of AWARE's new exco as being conservative Christians who are anti-homosexual through, to borrow Mr. Jacob's words, "digging up and citing statements that some in the new team made publicly and in their private capacity about issues such as homosexuality".

[As the song goes: "It only takes a spark to get the fire going..."]

Adding fuel to the fire

The ST then perhaps added fuel to the fire with its subsequent reports that repeatedly and consistently made references to the Christian and anti-homosexual affiliations of members of AWARE's new exco. It even had a special feature last Saturday (18/4/2009) which explicitly mentioned, albeit briefly, the Christian background of some members of the new exco.

Also, the same special feature had an article that explicitly mentioned how some of the members of the new exco have linkages with a mother-daughter pair of conservative evangelical Christians and are members of a particular local church which has expressed a strong anti-homosexual stance in the past (and, if I am not wrong, continues to do so).

And, interestingly enough, it was as though the ST was concerned that readers will not know which Christian denomination this particular church belongs to and where it is located, in light of how the abovementioned article explicitly mentions these details.

Hence, considering the above, it would seem rather hypocritical and unfair for Mr. Jacob to place all the blame onto the "old guard" of AWARE and their online supporters and to perhaps adopt a "holier-than-thou" stance/tone. This is considering that the online discussion about the ongoing dispute within AWARE is perhaps largely feeding on the spark and fuel that the ST has provided.

A hint at possible government intervention?

Finally, I also raised my eyebrows (figuratively speaking) at the final two statements made by Mr. Jacob in his opinion piece.

These two statements were:

"The responsibility rests with both camps [within AWARE] to put their house in order. And soon.

Otherwise, somebody might need to step in and knock some heads together."

Hmm... Perhaps I am reading too much into these statements by Mr. Jacob but it would appear to me that, with these two statements, he seems to be implicitly suggesting that it may be necessary for an external actor/agency, possibly the government, to step in to intervene in the ongoing dispute that AWARE is embroiled in.

While I understand where Mr. Jacob is coming from with this sentiment of his, I would however be hesitant towards having external/government(?) intervention in what is essentially a civil society dispute. There may be some weed amongst the grass but this does not mean that the gardener or banyan tree should try to intervene.


For those of you all who may find the various in-text citations in this post somewhat distracting, I apologise. I have rushing two academic essays in recent days (even though it is supposed to be already "reading week" and students should be given time to prepare for their upcoming exams) and I guess I am still caught in the "must-properly-cite-everything-I-made-reference-to" mode. I would also have used the Chicago style of citation/referencing but in-text citations was more convenient and less tedious.

1 comment:

Name; Weiye said...

Reminds me of Mathia Lee's first article that the first report on ST might have something to do with the government.

Maybe they are really making use of this opportunity to step in and regulate?

Conspiracy theory.

Ultimately, it really boils down to equality, and I hope that equality will be the focus of the debate, rather than focusing on the religion or sexuality.

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