Deconstructing the modern education system 

How is it possible for us to be in an education system and still remain ignorant and detached from the reality of life outside of the societal system? For example, in schools, we learn about the indigenous people in the natural habitats, but how well do we really know and understand the extent of the impact of development on their lives?

Case in point: villagers choking, suffering and dying from the ill effects of haze of forest peat fires in Indonesia in 2015. Do they not have the same rights to live unharmed? In fact, do they need to be registered by the government to be considered citizens or residents having the rights to dwell in the lands where their own ancestors lived?

One reason why I don’t buy wholesale into the education system I was schooled in is because it was mainly designed and formulated through the western colonialist lens. As much as it can be helpful to study ecology through a western perspective, such as learning how to classify regions based on types of climate and vegetation and so on, it is limited when it comes to understanding the nature of the rainforest from the viewpoint of indigenous people who have been living in the rainforest for generations.

When we apply the capitalist, consumerist and materialistic approach to study rainforests, we seem to be fighting a losing battle with the capitalistic economic system over forest conservation.

Ecotourism can easily treat rainforest as just another commodity, as much as ecotourism is needed to raise critical awareness of social and environmental issues.

How do we resolve this dilemma?

For now, there are only questions; no easy answers. One thing I remember Navin, an Eco-Cameron tour guide, said: Nature will recover by herself. Humankind may end up destroying ourselves, but Nature will always recover.

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Cameron Highlands notes (an exploration of Nature conservation theology)


Having spent a couple of days in the cool and green Cameron highlands in Malaysia, which happens to bear some ominous signs of increasing development and air pollution from the traffic and from the surrounding regions (specifically the temporary haze from the forest peat fires in Sumatra), and especially after taking part in a tour of a tea plantation and mossy forest that is soul expanding, thought provoking and spirit connecting, I felt a need to type a blog and try to make sense and articulate some of my thoughts while taking a long, sleepy bus ride back to Singapore on the third day.

No (as I would like to clarify to myself), this is not a diary or journal for the sake of romantising Nature or academic meandering (as much as there is sometimes an inclination for me to do so). This blog is neither for development nor against development in an absolute sense. It also isn’t really about modern civilization versus ancient civilization. If anything, it is about bridging the gap between these two (if that were possible at all). Ultimately, it is an attempt to put together seemingly raw unfiltered thoughts, like raw apple cider vinegar, hoping to find a coherent message or two from the mishmash of ideas.

The natives or the original inhabitants of Malaysia who have sought to modernize Cameron highlands, or Malaysia in general, appear to have lost sight of the natural beauty and heritage of their lands. Why? Because in their quest to develop the economy and build infrastructure, they are trying to generate more income at the expense of the environment, the wildlife and the remnants of the indigenous people (eg Orang Asli) who retain their ancient self-sustainable lifestyle and culture.

It takes the outsiders such as the westerners to bring the message of nature conservation to the Malays, to remind them to save their own land and culture. The strange thing is that these westerners do not speak their native language; rather the Malays were taught to speak the English language.

Through colonisation, the Malays became westernized and sought to be modernized and ended up destroying their own environment and culture. Now, westerners – many of whom used to colonise Southeast Asia – are telling the Malays (or more specifically, the government and large corporations) to conserve their own heritage of nature and culture.

Can anything be more paradoxical than that?
One question may arise at this point: why is it considered strange that the westerners do not speak the language of the local Malays? Wouldn’t that be expected of foreign colonialists?

Yes, but I believe there is a significance to this self-evident fact. For example, isn’t there a passage in the bible that says “you shall be ruled over by people whose language is foreign to you”? Doesn’t it sound like the experience of the indigenous people in Malaysia when they were colonised by westerners for a period of time?

Similarly, isn’t there a passage that says “because you have rejected the gospel, it shall be preached to the Gentiles and and those who did not seek me shall find me”? Wasn’t it the case whereby the inhabitants of Malaysia refused to listen to their own native prophets and continued to destroy the environment in the name of development, and the good news of nature conservation is preached to the foreigners, who in turn shall bring back the gospel to the inhabitants of Malaysia, not in their native tongue but in the foreign English language? By rejecting their own and risking doom and destruction to their land, the message of salvation comes from outside their land.

Once again, how paradoxical can it be?

Now, who is the messiah? Who are the prophets? What is the gospel in this context?

I venture to say in this context that the messiah is our true self that defies time and space, and any form of outward identification, such as nationality, gender, race, language or religion. The prophets are the voices of the ancient spirit that reminds people of who they really are and warns the people who are oppressing the less privileged and destroying the environment. The gospel is the good news of our true identity and the call for us to reconnect to Nature, thereby reconnecting to our own soul and humanity.

Cyclists and HDB carpark gantry – discussion on social media

The below discussion is an excerpt from Love Cycling Singapore Facebook group.
Francis Chu

4 hrs · Edited

I noticed many HDB carparks are being upgraded to auto payment gantry. The bollards in the photo are intended to stop motorcycle going in without paying. But at the same time it cause trouble for bicycle users. I’m wondering if there are better simple solutions that allow bicycle but stop motorcycle from entering without paying?
(to use the pavement next to the gate would require dismount and bring up the bike)

Francis Chu's photo.

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Jimmy Tan

Indeed, it seems to show how transport infrastructure isn’t holistically designed, and cyclists become disadvantaged once again in this case.

  • Lim Charlie

    I can empathize if your commute includes crossing multiple carparks with such gantries.

    I do not commute daily, but much of my 12km commute is spent pedaling on the roads rather than lifting my bicycle. So I apologize if I sounded condescending.

    What you are trying to do now is actually to change the world to suit you, to make things more convenient for you.

    Commuting here in Singapore, its not a race where you try to shave off precious seconds by being hard on the saddle. The road conditions and urban area is just not meant for that.

    Good luck in finding a solution for yourself.

    Like · Reply · 2 · 3 hrs
  • Jimmy Ng

    Like · Reply · 3 hrs
  • Francis Chu
    it is good to have different opinions and exchange of idea. thanks for sharing.
    Like · Reply · 3 hrs
  • Dennis LH Cheong
    But bicycle being a legitimate vehicles, there is no reason to forbid entry to car parks. This isn’t about changing old existing things to suit us. This is about voicing out overlooked issues in new implementations.
    Like · Reply · 1 hr
  • Roland Lee
    This is about for all ages of cyclists,not just the fit one. Think of children, senior cyclists,electric wheelchairs ,prams etc..
    Unlike · Reply · 2 · 1 hr
  • Lim Charlie
    I have yet to see wheelchair users or those with prams using the car park entry. SERIOUSLY? Those folks have access from pavement to road most of the time.
    Like · Reply · 1 hr
Jimmy Tan
Roland Lee, precisely. Every weekend, I would push my mother’s wheelchair from her flat to the supermarket, and we have to pass through a gantry in the car park downstairs. One pavement nearby has an uneven or bumpy surface, while another doesn’t have ramps, so we would rather use the car park than those pavements along the way. We are fortunate that the gantry pole in this carpark doesn’t extend all the way to the end, and she was able to pass through. If it were other carparks where there are bollards or full-length gantry poles blocking the way, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the wheelchair to pass through the car park entrances.
  • Chiu Kok Onn
    Fairness…. wait never charge.. car users will complain and the issues of why motor bike need to pay coe will surface again.. never ending problem. Actually i am more concern for wheelchair users..
    Like · Reply · 3 · 2 hrs
  • Lim Charlie

    Did you realise that this idea, of making it “free parking” for motorcyclists, is actually at someone else’s cost?

    I find it interesting that this suggestion was brought up just so for the convenience of a small group of cyclists who find it troublesome to lift their bikes onto the pavement and push for a couple of meters?

    As a cyclist and also a motorcyclist, I think this is wrong.

    Like · Reply · 2 · 2 hrs
  • Chiu Kok Onn
    Of course i wish that there are free parking everywhere and for everyone.. too bad we can’t. ..
    Like · Reply · 1 · 2 hrs · Edited
  • Lim Charlie

    Yes, I also want free parking, until someone I know made me realise that, if it’s free, HDB/URA/property developers would not be obliged to provide for motorcycle parking. The theory is, “why provide free parking when I can ban entry for motorcycles and convert those spaces for MORE car lots?”

    We already see many shopping malls in town banning motorcycles.

    My take is this, there is no point that us cyclists raise hell about the inconvenience when we are not paying for anything except the cost of the bicycle. Makes sense?

    Nobody owe us anything. We CHOSE to ride, even when we know of the problems.

    If anyone / organisation /ministry wants to help us, I’d be more than grateful. But I do not expect anyone to do so, much less demand for it.

    That’s just me.

    Like · Reply · 1 · 2 hrs
  • Chiu Kok Onn
    Fully agreed
    Like · Reply · 1 · 2 hrs
  • Francis Chu
    For space utilization, carpark is most unfairly allocated to cars, because everyone contributed to the land value and construction cost, but only drivers get to use the space by paying a token fee.
    I am inclined to let motorcycle parking free, because first they don’t take up much space as a car, second it will help to reduce those motorcycle park (free) on pavements blocking other people way.thirdly, it can solve the issue we are discussion with minimum effort and cost.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 2 hrs
  • Lim Charlie
    But allowing free parking would mean that HDB/URA/property developers ABSORB the costs. Someone is still paying for it, just not the motorcyclists/cyclists.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 2 hrs
  • Jimmy Tan
    Let them absorb the costs lor. They are so rich, with their high salaries and all that, whereas the rest of us can only afford bicycles and motorcycles. Why do we have to play to the tune of the rich, powerful and privileged who seem more interested in preserving their own elite turf and marginalising the less privileged?
    Like · Reply · 1 · 1 hr
  • Dennis LH Cheong
    I don’t think the current charges is enough to entice provision of motorcycle parking spaces. Most likely there is a requirement written somewhere.
    Like · Reply · 1 hr
  • Lim Charlie

    HDB, I would think so. But not for private developers.

    Jimmy Tan, that is exactly that kind of mindset that sets us all back.

    Like · Reply · 1 hr
Jimmy Tan
Lim Charlie how would the marginalisation of the less privileged be the way forward in life? To me, it looks like capitalism and elitism has created and perpetuated the problem of socioeconomic inequality and class consciousness. I consider that as backward and tribalistic.
Wow, did you just flip through the dictionary and challenged yourself to form a sentence of all the words you like? When is this a marginalization when you expect others who are more successful to pander to you? To cut through the chase, what you have said can be summed up with “self entitlement”.
  • Jimmy Tan
    Haha, maybe you were caught off-guard because I used a Singish word earlier. Please don’t look down on others, my friend.
I wasn’t looking down on anyone. But it is true that I was caught off guard by your views.
  • Francis Chu

    As Sivasothi mentioned, this is not an issue for those fit and strong and mainly use the road. But there are many bicycle users are less strong and need to carry children or heavy goods on their bicycle as in this picture. For them this is a real everyday issue.

    Francis Chu's photo.
    Like · Reply · 4 · 1 hr
Irene Malone
agreed, I have an old ‘dutchy’ bike and it is often laden with all my work stuff. I can dismount of course but I do hope Singapore will start planning for bike infrastructure soon. It is disheartening to see how much media is devoted to cyclist bashing; cars don’t want us on the roads, we shouldn’t be on the pavements… I do sneak onto the pavements myself and I feel very guilty about it but a work colleague who cycles the same route only just got out of hospital after being sideswiped by a truck. He is lucky to be alive.
  • Francis Chu
    Just to capture the few creative solutions mentioned so far:
    1) Let motorcycle to get through free of charge, shorten the gantry bar so both bicycle and motorcycle can go through slowly. Dennis LH Cheong
    2) install stronger scanner aka ERP style, remove the barrier but install hump to slow down traffic at entrance/exit. Afiq Syazani
    3) shorten the bar to let both bicycle and motorcycle to get through. install stronger scanner so that it can reach the end of the bar and deduct fees from the IU from motorcycle Alex Goh
    4) prove a narrow by-pass on pavement/ behind pavement. Install chicane to stop motorcycle from using this bypass. Lena Tan
    5) Provide a push button at the far end of the bar, for cyclist and pedestrian to open the gantry for a few seconds. Hung Hoang Kim
    6) use camera to capture those motorcyclist sneak through, just widen the gap for bicycle. Alex Ong
    Wow, not bad for a 2 hours brainstorming session!
    If any of these idea work that would be great.
    Zon Yip, Irene Malone, Sivasothi N., Kelvin Hor B B, Stevy Cladia
    Like · Reply · 4 · 1 hr · Edited
  • 1 Reply
  • Lim Charlie I like all the ideas. But they all comes at a cost. Now, how many are willing to PAY for those implementations?
    Like · Reply · 1 · 1 hr
  • Tee Hai Yuan Bicycle RFID tag or card that you can tap at the gantry terminal to let you pass, to pay or not to pay, is the thing that out of our control. But we hope that the small fee of RFID can make everyone convenient a bit.
    Like · Reply · 1 hr
  • Shaun Tan What is to prevent other users from using the bicycle tag?
    Like · Reply · 57 mins
  • Lim Choon Keong
    actually our neighboring highway have very strong eps system readers installed at their tolls… reading up to 15m..
    Like · Reply · 1 · 49 mins
Ivan Liew
IDEA: Place pivoting barrier so that the space to go through is near the centre rather than the outer edge. When a motorbike squeezes through, they are near the IU receiver so will get deducted anyway. Bollards not necessary then bikes can pass through.
Unlike · Reply · 1 · 17 mins
Why I participated in the discussion

– The implementation of the gantries affected me as a cyclist.

– It also affected wheelchair users, as I come to realise.

– Some commenters were rather dismissive in their comments, and downplayed the issues

– One particular commenter came across as argumentative and obnoxious
Why I responded to his comment

– I believe in speaking up for the less privileged, and my voice matters

[Add]  Ok, so he has responded to my latest comment. Obviously, he was being argumentative and using ad hominem. It would be a waste of time and energy to respond to that if he doesn’t understand capitalism and elitism and is satisfied with the status quo. Then again, I couldn’t resist making a comeback as he seems to be looking down on others who are not as “successful” as those he deems deserving.

Ironically, his facebook page has a quote by MLK about speaking up and not being silent. I suppose it is about whose side we choose to take – do we side with the oppressed and marginalised or the privileged and powerful?
“how would the marginalisation of the less privileged be the way forward in life? To me, it looks like capitalism and elitism has created and perpetuated the problem of socioeconomic inequality and class consciousness. I consider that as backward and tribalistic.”
To be sure, being active in social justice can be rather energy-sapping and time-consuming. I am supposed to be catching up with work in office today, but got sidetracked reading and contributing to the facebook discussion.

We are all connected?

Haze over the region –

Are we all connected?

Hell yea, you betcha.

“Economic development,” you say.

How about environmental destruction?

Isn’t there a price

not only we pay

but also future generations?

But nay, as always,

we prefer short term gains.

“From swamp to city,”

You say to us,

As if that’s success.

No way. “How so?”

If one suffers, then

all suffer together, right?

We are all connected;

We can isolate ourselves

and live in bubbles –

work, family, entertainment, etc

At the end, nothing…

Nothing really matters, yea?