#BLM & #CLM: Being part of an oppressed group and standing in solidarity

#BlackLivesMatter and #CyclistsLivesMatter

I have come to realise that just as Black people, or darker-skinned people in general, are the most oppressed group of people on Earth when it comes to race and ethnicity, cyclists are the most oppressed group of people on Earth when it comes to the mode of transport or travel.

This realisation came to me recently while I was mulling over activism on social issues, particularly issues on anti-Black racism and anti-cyclist sentiments that have persisted for many years.

For a start, what do #BlackLivesMatter and #CyclistsLivesMatter have in common?

On the surface, both of these liberation movements seem unrelated and disparate because one has to do with race and the other has to do with the mode of transport or travel. But I would venture to say that both the Black community and cycling community have been subject to systemic oppression and inexplicable hatred from others for the longest time.

For the Black community, the age-old enemies have always been “micro-aggressions, white privilege and white supremacy“. Through centuries of white Euro-centric media propaganda as well as colorist traditions and mindsets in various parts of the world that favour white skin or fair skin over dark skin, the most sacred spaces in Black people are “often filled with stories of trauma, internalized racism and the struggle of self-love“.

Black Lives Matter Black Friday
Over the years, many of our Black brothers and sisters, though they were unarmed and innocent, have been subject to police brutality especially in USA. (Source: Wikipedia)

Similarly, for the cycling community, the enemies are usually prejudice, ignorance and classism. On pavements or sidewalks, cyclists are often unwelcome as they are seen as a menace or nuisance by many pedestrians. On roads, cyclists are also regularly harassed or bullied by many motorists who drive cars, taxis, buses or trucks.

cyclistslivesmatter
Cyclists often face hatred and resentment from motorists who do not care about sharing roads with those on bicycles (Source: Cyclists Lives Matter Facebook page)

Both the oppressed groups – the Black community and the cycling community – often feel like they don’t really belong to the societal system because they don’t fit into the perceived norms. They are also often subject to unfair or negative stereotypes.

For example, whenever the issue of anti-Black racism or police brutality on unarmed Black people is brought up on social media or discussion threads, someone would attempt to derail the conversation by mentioning some negative stereotypes such as Black-on-Black crime instead of acknowledging that the problem of racial discrimination and institutional oppression does exist. The irony is that Black-on-Black crime is a direct result of White supremacy and internalised racism. If not for White supremacy, would Black people (or people of colour in general) be struggling with internalised hatred towards themselves and towards one another?

Similarly, whenever the issue of anti-cyclist sentiments is brought up on social media or forums, someone would attempt to deflect from the issue by talking about errant cyclists who knock down pedestrians on sidewalks or who flout traffic rules on roads. While there will always be a handful of rude or inconsiderate cyclists who give the majority of cyclists a bad name, it doesn’t detract from the reality that cyclists in general are discriminated and not given equal space, whether on pavements or on roads.

black-lives-matter-friday-1356
Standing in solidarity with the oppressed as one humanity, and as one family of brothers and sisters (Source: http://www.seattleglobalist.com)

Contrary to negative colonialist views of Black people, Africans and African Americans in general are some of the most amazingly warm, humane and hospitable people in their own right. They have contributed to many important inventions and shaped the American culture, and they excel in art, sports, music and entertainment, to name a few. Without Black musicians, for example, there would be no rap, R&B, rock and roll, and soul music as we know and hear them today.

Similarly, cyclists are changing the world for the better in a number of ways. They take up less space and help ease traffic congestion on roads. They are environmentally friendly, as compared to motorists driving greenhouse-gas-emitting vehicles. Many of them also advocate a healthy lifestyle.

It is time for the world to acknowledge that Black lives do matter and cyclists’ lives do matter. It is also time for the world to stop subscribing to negative stereotypes of Black or darker skinned people as well as of cyclists and stop harming or killing them, and start appreciating them for who they are and how they contribute to the betterment of the world in their own ways and start standing in solidarity with them.

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President Obama’s speech in Canada

Video information

President Barack Obama spoke to Parliament following the North American Leaders’ Summit. Obama spoke on wide range of topics including the close relationship with Canada, gay rights, equality for women, terrorism, climate change, immigration and the economy.

“When refugees escape barrel bombs and torture, and migrants cross deserts and seas seeking a better life, we cannot simply look the other way. We certainly can’t label as possible terrorists vulnerable people who are fleeing terrorists.

We can insist that the process is orderly. We can insist that our security is preserved. Borders mean something. But in moments like this, we are called upon to see ourselves in others, because we were all once strangers. If you weren’t a stranger, your grandparents were strangers. Your great-grandparents were strangers. They didn’t all have their papers ready. They fumbled with language faced discrimination, had cultural norms that didn’t fit. At some point, somewhere, your family was an outsider. So the mothers, the fathers, the children we see today — they’re us. We can’t forsake them.

So, as Americans and Canadians, we will continue to welcome refugees, and we can ensure that we’re doing so in a way that maintains our security. We can and we will do both.”

President Barack Obama

An open conversation on race and racial slurs

This post is an example of how we can have an open dialogue or conversation on race, in which we call out one another and hold one another accountable with regard to racial slurs, while standing together in solidarity to deal with racism as one united people.

LLAG:

Last week, I posted an article about the infamous anti-Asian slur “chink.”

To my surprise, 50% of the folks on this page didn’t even know it was a slur.

“OMG, ‘chink’ is a slur?”
“Wait, are you sure ‘chink’ is racist? I’ve been saying it for years!”
“Oh, please! ‘Chink’ isn’t even that bad!”

Since then, I’ve noticed just how ignorant and racist activists can be towards Asian-Americans — without even realizing it. The subtle xenophobia and back-handed compliments from activists is only getting worse.

I expect it from white supremacists, but I don’t expect this bullshit from activists, especially POC. Shit, I’ve been called everything from “Chinaman” and “chink,” to “yellow bastard” by self-identified “woke POC.”

As an Asian-American activist, the support I receive feels like an exception to the rule. I’m the “cool” Asian who gets it, who deserves respect from non-Asian POC, but the rest of my Asian-Americans don’t deserve equal recognition.

I feel like I’ll never be American enough for non-Asian POC support. And the minute someone disagrees with me, the minute someone finds my arguments or my writing style unsavory, I’m automatically associated with everything racist about Asian culture: the Chinese laundry commercial and Blackface in K-POP. I’m Kim Jong Un, Pearl Harbor, and a Korean Hair Shop, all rolled into one.

Xenophobia’s relationship with anti-Asian racism is rarely talked about in the activist community. No one wants to admit it, but there has always been an attitude of “you Asians came to this country after all of us, so you don’t know what social justice is. Your activism is appropriation.”

The only thing Asian-American activists can do is continue to speak, even if no one wants to listen…

—–

One commenter wrote:

I’m well versed in things that insult people. I have had that racial slur hurled at me by my own family members because of the shape of my eyes and my above average abilities in science, math and art. Because of that, I knew that the c word is an insult. Dehumanizing is the nature of these epithets. The reason, imho, why SJWs seem heavily burdened…is that when we say a sentence we do the work of making sure we don’t step on anyone in order to advance our causes. White supremacists don’t have to do that. They make asinine black and white statements. So, our movements are slow moving and solid.. while white supremacy is dominant but weak. If a SJW was to employ the same tactics as white supremacy…we would defeat out whole purpose. Our growth is slow and painful…conversations like these are VITAL. I don’t subscribe to a ‘privilege in oppression’ as some SJWs do. My oppression is not more valid than yours, but, if you don’t share that I can only feel my own pain and break my own yokes. I appreciate this post because it reminds me that we are a chorusof voices…different tones…different pitches…but our ultimate goal is to harness the energy of all of these voices and create a harmony that breaks the foundation of white supremacy and crumbles the ivory tower to rubble. But, we can’t do that until we loose the shackles in our minds. I understand that I can oppress people. I am careful not to. I will listen and ask questions to banish my ignorance. I hope my fellow SJWs are comitted to doing the same.

Another commenter wrote:

I call disingenuous willfully obtuse bullshit on people not knowing that this is slur. It’s been used in all media and said by well-known people in political power as a targeted insult towards Asian-Americans and Asian in this country. I’m Gen X and my mom is a Baby Boomer and m-fers from those generations and previous ones knew that word was an f-ing slur. So, yeah, I will point blank call anyone a liar to their faces that put on the Scarlett O’Hara act and pretend that they know nothing’ about nothin’. Pretend ignorance of slur doesn’t shield you from catching metaphorical or literal hands.

Another commenter wrote:

There is nothing wrong if you never heard the word chi*k used. I never heard anyone use it too. That is the main reason why I like this site. It allows me to learn about other POC’S plight in america and I love how it intercepts. I really never had any close Asians friends until I met my significant other 2 years ago. I kinda did live in a bubble for most of my life. Obviously, I was always aware about racism. Like I would typically just call my sister or friends about BLM topics or other injustices in America. But this has been the first year I have fully submerged myself to embraced SWJ activist pages.

I stand by LLAG’S post most of the time, but on occasion a topic typically regarding Asian people is posted and I respond and either misunderstood or condemned . In the case of Chin*y eyes I was guilty and took accountability that I used it when I was a teen . Trust me iam not the only person who said it without understanding it was a racial slur and never heard the word chink used especially as a result of my culture, neighborhood, upbringing and exposure to Asian people. I find it problematic that a POC can take accountability on their ignorance and be called a liar, stupid and many other negative comments. Everyone is acting like they never made an ignorant comment against another poc race. Maybe social media is the reason why so many people are aware, but generation x and above for POC did not have these privileges and I find a lot of these comments to be so judgenental, condescending, self righteous which I fear will hurt your message on ending white supremacy. I only share these comments because I deeply care about the work and message you bring to life on this page. I may not have been knowlegable, but iam wise and own up to my mistakes. We all weren’t raised the same, come from all walks if life and neighborhood or exposed to a specific POC or racial slurs

I commented on her comment, saying:

I can relate to this, and it is commendable and courageous of you to be open and honest about your experiences and observations. I believe we all, including myself, have been ignorant in some ways or other. I am a Singaporean Chinese (based on the social identity assigned to me by the society) growing up in Southeast Asia, and have never heard of “chink” or been called a “chink”, so I am also ignorant of this term or its origin and perceived connotation. While I don’t recall using racist terms myself, at least the overt or recognised ones, I was taught by my Indian neighbour to address his elder brother as “ah neh” when I was a young boy more than 30 years ago, which means elder brother in Tamil. Today, I became aware on social media that some Indians find “ah neh” racist and offensive, so I suppose perhaps the meaning of this word has changed or evolved, depending on how people use it and how the recipients receive it, and so on. I think it depends on who says the word, and how it is said, and so on. I am coming to realise that some words such as “ah neh” might have been used as terms of endearment or neutral ways of addressing others in the past, but are now used in a derogatory way by some other people, so it is understandable when those on the receiving end of the intended racial slurs want to vent about it, which invariably may make those who are ignorant of the implications of these terms feel uncomfortable and guilty and condemned, especially if we have used them before without knowing these terms are considered racist. Like you said, those comments that come across judgemental, condescending and self righteous may hurt LLAG’s message on ending white supremacy. Indeed, I think having such open dialogues is helpful, when we own up to our mistakes and give grace to each other instead of judging and condemning like some comments here, as it brings about greater awareness and understanding among one another, so that we can continue to hold ourselves and one another in accountability and stand in solidarity together in our advocacy for racial harmony and equality. May we all continue to stand united in our struggle for a better and more equitable world.

She replied to my comment, saying:

Thank you! I truly don’t take offense to anyone and hold no grudges. Life is too short and I rather empathize/love POC when I disagree with them. In all honesty, I love this page, the message, how much I have learned, grown, the solidarity amongst all POC is so beautiful. I think it is ok to sometime disagree, but why be so critical of other POC, especially when they admit to their transgressions.. Together in numbers we are much stronger and white supremacy wants to divide all poc. The reason why I had the urge to to share with so much conviction is because I believe in the message LLAG is spreading and admire his work dearly even if i might be called stupid, a fraud or dishonest. In many shape and form we all fall short to ignorance, like this case for me, for you the Indian word and for others it might be something else. But one of the best measure to eradicated white supremacy and call out our ignorance is accountability. Thank you for sharing I truly appreciated your sentiment as it aligns with mines.

Someone else commented:

I can only guess that people didn’t know that was a slur because, they are ‘woke’ when it comes to their own oppression and marginalization. Further, some ‘woke’ folks, as it has been said, are transphobic, queer-antagonistic, misogynior, misognistic, and bigotted themselves. It’s like if they don’t experience the oppression themselves then, it’s not a thing. Sound familiar? My being aware of how things systematically affect me, helps me understand how things MIGHT affect other groups of people. However, I have learned that different things affect people in different ways, so I have to listen to their experiences and don’t discount them. It’s what I want, just to be heard. For me, my pain from systematic oppression is not greater than anyone’s, I just feel like I can relate to another’s struggle. However, their struggle is their own, just as mine is my own. Maybe we can get together and walk a little ways a bit. One of the great things about the activist community is that we have used the term POC as a signifier of shared struggle. One of the bad things about using the term ‘POC’ is that there is some erasure. I realized that within the activist community I as an African American POC have privilege because black issues and how they impact the black community are the ones that are the most talked about. Often to the detriment of other POC communities. I try to either talk about those other issues affecting other POC communities or at least bring attention to them. However, I’m also conscious of staying in my line and not talking over people in that group. And just repeat those things that were told to me by members of that group. We, as African Americans, have a duty to help out other marginalized groups and give them space to talk. Activism is NOT a zero sum game. Helping another group with their issue will not set us back at all. Trust, we’ve been at it for at least a good 400 years. I am NOT woke. I’m not claiming that at all. I’m still learning, and getting things, learning how to stay in my lane, learning about nationalism, xenophobia, and how this stuff affects dark skinned Muslims from certain places and learning stuff. I’ve been called out on stuff lately, and instead of fighting against it, I just admitted I was wrong and learned from it. I think we have to help out our fellow people in the activist community, be conscious of how we sometimes erase others identity, give each other space, use our privilege, and listen to each other. Also admit when we are freaking wrong, don’t be afraid of being called out. That’s how we learn. Say thank you, and move on.

Being an activist doesn’t necessarily mean you’re conscious. For example, you may be well versed on women’s rights, but clueless on racial inequality. When your ignorance is called out, don’t get defensive. Learn from it and move on.

How in the world are people using that and not knowing it’s a slur? It even sounds like one! If the word is used to describe a race of people and it’s not used on government surveys, then there is a good chance that it’s a slur. Maybe growing up in the south gave me good exposure to racist crap so I would know not to repeat it. Asians have been here long enough for most Americans to know better. Especially now since you can literally google a list of racial slurs and which group it is used against.

So what I learned growing up some Jamaicans would refer to Chinese people as Ms. Chin or Mr. Chin in the marketplace in Jamaica short for Ms. China. Jamaica has a huge population of Chinese Jamaicans. I don’t think POC realized that the message could be or possibly is construed as racist.

I never heard these term, but most likely heard about the eyes comnents from a the Jamaican community. I like to also say Haitians directly call fair skin haitians grimo or grimelle. It means light skin male or light skin woman. However these words in Creole are not offensive to blacks in Haiti.

 

Immigration and border imperialism

I came across this video on Facebook, and decided to comment as follows:

Isn’t it true that the Europeans were responsible for migrating to America and colonising it at the expense of indigenous American Indians resulting in their genocide and at the expense of the black community who bore the ignominy of slavery? How convenient and supremacist of the European descendants to claim ownership of the land and deny other immigrants the chance to migrate to America using their own discriminatory laws as a pretext to protect their privilege. What makes these white Americans think they are superior or have more rights than others?

Someone responded:

#1. Indigenous means that something occurs in a place originally. That it did not migrate or emigrate from somewhere else. Ex. Corn and potatoes are indigenous to the Americas; rice is not because it originated in Asia.

#2. The term Native American is a misnomer. The peoples known today as Native American came here from Northeast Asia over a land bridge that was where the Bering Straight is today. The land bridge became submerged some 12,000 years ago. The genetic link between ancient Asians and ancient people in America has been proven through the DNA testing of the Clovis baby and the oldest human Asian remains.

#3. The Native Americans of the 1400s and 1500s had no knowledge of the existence of counties or the concept of landownership and borders

There were no states or countries in the Americas at that time. There were cities in Central and South America but not in what became the USA and Canada. Hence, there were no immigration laws. In effect, America belonged to nobody. People inhabited the land but did not own it until Europeans brought that concept with them. In effect, the land was up for grabs.

Until their hunting grounds and way of life was threatened, the Indians felt there was plenty of land for everyone. The Europeans got greedy with their need to own and control everything around them. That’s when the trouble started. The United States did not have immigration laws as we know them until the 19th century.

As our population grew, the US citizens saw the need to regulate the new immigrants. We decided to be like all other countries so adopted immigration laws to control who could come in and for how long. We didn’t want criminals or immoral people. Nor did we want the ill, infirm or indigent. Most countries in the world have changed hands over and over throughout history. Many countries have disputed borders to this day. Still they have immigration laws that are respected by other countries. Why should America not expect the same respect for our immigration laws?

It seems to be a reasonable comment with a sincere question at the end, so I decided to respond in kind, after doing a bit of research and support my opinions with facts.

All immigration laws need to be reformed, if not abolished altogether. Border imperialism only serves to perpetuate greed and tribalism, and cause displacement and oppression for those subject to imperialism. Humanity is ever evolving, and it is time we evolve past tribalism and imaginary borders.

If we were to apply the same standards of immigration laws in America today in the days of Christopher Columbus, he would be the first criminal and “illegal immigrant” to be deported back to Europe, instead of being celebrated as America’s “founder”.

“Columbus’ acts of cruelty were so unspeakable and so legendary – even in his own day – that Governor Francisco De Bobadilla arrested Columbus and his two brothers, slapped them into chains, and shipped them off to Spain to answer for their crimes against the Arawaks. But the King and Queen of Spain, their treasury filling up with gold, pardoned Columbus and let him go free.”
http://www.manataka.org/page2777.html

There were no immigration laws before Christopher Columbus stumbled upon America because the native Americans were so kind as to share land and resources with fellow human beings. In fact, Columbus “noted that the gentle Arawaks were remarkable for their hospitality. “They offered to share with anyone and when you ask for something, they never say no,” he said. The Arawaks had no weapons; their society had neither criminals, prisons nor prisoners. They were so kindhearted that Columbus noted in his diary that on the day the Santa Maria was shipwrecked, the Arawaks labored for hours to save his crew and cargo. The native people were so honest that not one thing was missing.”

The native American Indians were far more evolved than most other peoples, in their very humanity. We would do well to emulate them and learn to share land and resources with one another and treat one another as brothers and sisters, regardless of differences in artificial group identities such as race, nationality and so on.

Another person responded:

Good grief Jimmy Tan- you are talking ancient history. Step into the current crap that’s happening…far worse than ever before. If you don’t like it here or if we are being so unfair to you, you have the option to go to your favorite country! Isn’t that amazing!

To this comment, I replied:

Oh yes, it’s amazing how violence and oppression are increasing due to border imperialism. Privilege blinds us to the pain and sufferings that the displaced and discriminated, predominantly made up of brown and black people, are dealing with. Watch the video above and learn how 492 Tamil refugees, including young children, landed on the shores of Canada in 2010 and were incarcerated for the “crime” of migrating to seek a better life and were labelled as “terrorists”. It is ironic how white privileged people tell others to not come to America “illegally” while they have no qualms invading other nations in Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas, and steal their land and resources and subjugate the indigenous people.

My answers to a survey on Singapore’s foreign workforce

Q: What are your opinions on issues related to the foreign workforce?

I support having more foreign workforce to contribute to the economy and build infrastructure. It gives them opportunities to visit and stay in Singapore for a longer term if they want to. I hope working conditions and basic human rights will be further improved for the foreign workforce because they deserve fair treatment as much as anyone else, regardless of social status, income level or nationality. Meritocracy and capitalism cannot be used as justification for perpetuating inequality and discrimination. We must never lose our humanity because we ourselves were once immigrants based on our ancestral history.

Q: What is your opinion on local-foreigner relations?

Locals must learn to co-exist in harmony with foreigners and accept and embrace differences in cultures, mindsets, appearances and so on. Racism must be discussed openly, as uncomfortable as it may be. Contrary to unfounded fears, having open conversations won’t lead to greater divisions because it is through such conversations that we increase awareness of how we may have inherited racial prejudices and negative stereotypes from the media, peers and so on, and how we can be more mindful of our attitudes towards them, such as not using racial slurs or making racist jokes. We need to learn to cultivate self-respect in order to respect others who are different from us.

Q: What should policymakers consider for foreign workforce policies?

Continue to encourage foreign workers to come and work in Singapore. Increase the quota of foreign workers in companies and businesses. Make sure they are treated fairly and equally by their employers, regardless of which countries they come from. They are our valued guests Treat them as you would like to be treated when you are a guest working and living in a host country.

Q: What do you think of the policies on the foreign workforce?

Allow flat owners to sublet their rooms for a minimum period of 1 month instead of 6 months to ease the problem or difficulty of foreign workers finding suitable accommodations. To ease traffic congestion, make existing infrastructure safer and more conducive for walking and cycling. Set aside dedicated cycling lanes on roads wherever possible to encourage more locals and foreign workers alike to cycle. Cycling helps ease cost of transportation for the commuters, and is environmentally friendly too.

Cycling is political

Cycling in Bukit Batok nature park
© Photographer: Jimmytst | Agency: Dreamstime.com

Cycling is itself political, and it would be futile to separate cycling from politics. The act of cycling itself is a political statement. Whenever we choose to ride a bicycle, we are challenging the status quo of the power structure in the society that favours the rich, powerful and privileged people who predominantly drive cars. We are subverting the classist system that treats cars as status symbols. We are helping to reduce the impacts of environmental degradation caused by pollutive motor vehicles run on fossil fuels. By switching from travelling by motor vehicles to bicycles, we are also easing traffic congestion on the roads. Last but not least, cycling empowers the marginalised and disadvantaged, and restores equality to them.

Then again, I am coming to realise that the moment I become more actively involved in politics, I begin to experience pushback in the form of repression and dissenting voices from some people. For example, last night when I shared a photo of a fellow countryman riding a bicycle in Love Cycling SG Facebook group and commented that he was living by example, the group admin deleted the photo. I decided to post a question in the group to ask the admin why the photo was removed. The admin deleted that post as well without explanation. This gave me the impression that the admin wasn’t interested in dialogues and was unwilling to be held accountable for their actions. I decided to post one final time to call them out for being discriminatory.

I also decided to leave the group with my dignity intact (remembering the importance about being true to myself and not succumb to groupism). I am in the process of working through my thoughts and emotions based on the responses to my post by articulating them in this blog:

If I didn’t challenge the admin like this and let things slide, the discrimination would continue. The fact that photos of ruling party members riding bicycles are allowed but not other party members shows this group is indeed partisan and discriminatory. It smacks of hypocrisy.

This episode underlines a fear-based climate and controlling culture that inhibits free speech and expression of our fundamental human rights. It keeps people repressed, small-minded and immature. I refuse to allow myself to be intimidated or humiliated or talked down at. I am hurt and disgusted by their treatment. I need strong and forceful language to speak my cause. The fact that admin initially refused to respond to my post shows they were not willing to be accountable for their actions. It reminds me of the same way a former prime minister depended on his lawyer to defend him when another politician confronted him directly in the law court.

I chose to leave the group with my dignity intact. If anyone is inspired, it is to encourage them that they too can stand their ground and let their voices be heard for the sake of justice and equality.

So the admin finally replied, saying the photo was linked to SDP Facebook page, and was deemed “political”.

Firstly, why didn’t he clarify earlier? He could have chosen to reply my question in my earlier post instead of removing it without explanation. Why wait until I challenged his action publicly and called out on the apparent discrimination and lack of transparency and accountability?

Secondly, does the link itself denote a infringement of the rules regarding “no political statements”? If so, then I would say it is double standard on the part of the admin because they have allowed photos of politicians from the ruling party to be posted in the past. In any case, the reason the link of SDP Facebook page was shown together with the photo I posted is because the photo doesn’t belong to me, and when I shared it via Facebook, the link was automatically shown. If I were to save the photo in my computer and upload it onto the Facebook group, I would have to acknowledge the source, and SDP Facebook page would still need to be mentioned.

The point I want to make is that the link of SDP Facebook page alone doesn’t necessarily constitute an infringement of the rules, or else the rules would have applied to all other political parties in the past.

In reality, cycling and politics invariably overlap because it is through politics that policies are formed and mindsets are shaped to influence the cycling culture in Singapore, for better or for worse, depending on how we live by example through our cycling activities and conversations, as well as our interactions with pedestrians and motorists.

At this point, I am glad to have removed myself from the group as it might not be worthwhile getting into a debate with them, and this blog can serve as a platform for my voice to be heard. At the very least, I am glad the status quo in that group is being challenged and political awareness about justice and equality is being increased, I believe.

 

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.

A global revolution for environmental conservation, world peace and social justice

Soil erosion, Southfield. Days of dry warm south westerly winds and bare fields provide the ideal conditions for windblown soil erosion. The fine particles of sandy soil become airborne and get into everything. Here by Southfield a plantation of young trees is being sand blasted. (Wikimedia)

I have been musing about how I can reconnect to the despair and outrage at the state of the world I felt when I was a young boy – environmental destruction, societal oppression, religious indoctrination and so on. At the same time, I am also inspired and encouraged by today’s younger generations that bring fresh energy, enthusiasm and vision to champion for a better future through challenging the inhumane and unjust system that serves only the minority of “elites” at the expense of the majority of humanity.

Russell Brand Arthur Premier
Russell Brand (Wikipedia)

Incidentally, I came across an article by Collective Evolution after my musing just now, and I dare say people like Russell Brand, who enthused in a recent interview video about the world revolution, is doing a good job in bringing more awareness and passion to more people about the need for a world revolution and how we all can be part of it in our own ways.

I also recalled having come across the phrase “rage against the machine” some time ago, and I decided to google it just now, and I learnt from Wikipedia that it is the name of an American rap metal band that was formed in the 1990s. I learnt that the band has composed and sung a number of songs to address injustice and oppression imposed by the political and capitalistic systems. I guess the word “machine” in the name “Rage against the machine” is probably used to allude to the propagandistic machine used by the elite to “brainwash” the masses. I was reading about one of their songs called “Wake Up”, and I noted from Wikipedia that the band’s frontman has been actively addressing inequality and speaking about the need for everyone to unite as one.

 At the Big Day Out in Australia 2008, De La Rocha gave a speech discouraging globalism, saying it makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. He applauded the crowd for voting out former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, then broke into screams of “Wake Up”.

Zack de la Rocha and Tom Morello of Rage Again...
Zack de la Rocha and Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine at Coachella 2007 (Wikipedia)

At the band’s June 8 2010 gig at the O2 in Dublin, Ireland, De La Rocha gave a speech discussing the current economic system and how multinational companies are blaming the middle/working class for the problems that the multinational companies themselves caused. De La Rocha was quoted as saying:

“You know I’ve been getting really frustrated turning on the news recently and listening to all this talk. All this talk about Ireland and all this talk about Portugal and all this talk about Spain and all this talk about Greece. And all they seem to be saying is “Oh the people in Ireland and Spain and Greece and Portugal oh they had it too easy”. And the very companies that run these stations like CNN profited so greatly from the housing bubble and crisis that they created. The very people that created the economic recession are the first to blame to us for the reason that it came about. And I’m sick of them saying this over and over again knowing full well that the reason we have pensions that the reason we have vacations and the reason we have 8 hour work days is precisely because of the kind of actions that our brothers and sisters are taking in Greece right now. People taking to the streets against the wealthy class who have been robbing us all for years. And in the face of all this propaganda I wanna say, we have here to unite here in Europe, we have to unite here in Europe across ethnic lines across religious differences across racial lines and it’s now the lines are clear. It’s us against the wealthy plain and simple. It’s time to wake up. WAKE UP.”

[From “Wake Up (Rage Against the Machine song)]

I have come to see that the main problem is the mindset or the system that creates a social divide among people, or as Thich Nhat Hanh put it, “we are here to awake from the illusion of separateness”. As Charles Eisenstein of the Occupy Love movement in the below video also said, “this shift of consciousness that inspires such things is universal, 99% and 1%, and it’s awakening in different people in different ways”.

Here’s sharing an excerpt of my blog in which I was musing about the case of revolution, which I was re-reading in view of the above video about the love revolution.

“Many look at the twentieth century as a time of great economic and technical advance, but history, while recognizing the technical innovation, will condemn this century as the most vile in man’s history.  The miracle that began in Greece, expanded in Rome, flourished in the Renaissance & Enlightenment and finally found its modern form in the western liberal democracy has been been gutted by a century of materialism, enslavement, slaughter and greed.”

(From “The Infomocracy Dilemma: Revolution or Disengagement?” by Robert Bonomo)

Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In response, I wrote:

“I agree with the gist of the message of the above-mentioned article that the best way to counter or overcome the self-serving regime controlled by mega corporations in the long run is “enlightened disengagement”. While protests and occupy movements have their place in creating awareness, the longer term and more permanent solution is within reach of each of us individuals – by consciously and actively making decisions in our daily life to disengage ourselves from the consumerist culture and propaganda and the like as much as we can, and to participate in collaborative and environment-friendly activities, such as reusing, reducing and recycling materials, buying locally produced organic food, spending within our means, seeking our own spiritual paths, and so on.”

(From “A very condensed case for revolution“)

Yes, to me, awareness is the first step, and then it involves a conscious decision to disengage ourselves from the system or the mindset of the consumerist culture, and at the same time, to participate in activities that contribute to a more humane world and a more sustainable environment, while spreading awareness through our day-to-day living and sharing of useful resources with others.

“Something Every Student, Teacher and Person Should See”

This article “Something Every Student, Teacher and Person Should See” by Arjun Walia from Collective Evolution resonates with me about creating our own reality and doing the things our heart desires instead of following the crowd in a consumerist culture. Like what the article says, “When you follow your heart, you can access the magic that’s all around us, the non-physical phenomenon that can help us on our quest”.

Alan Watts – What if Money Were No Object? NorthStarNetworker.com

As a dear friend said, “once we have dereligionized and deconsumerized ourselves, there is not much left to live for, other than loving people and making this world a better place”. Yes, being free from religious conditioning and consumerist culture enables us to focus on what really matters in life – loving our neighbors as ourselves through sharing the Earth’s resources which belong to everyone, and making the world a better place through using our gifts and talents. We will also enjoy the true treasures of the world with awe and wonder – the beauty of Nature, music, poetry, art, friendship and so on.

The Dark Side of Chocolate

Video information

While we enjoy the sweet taste of chocolate, the reality is strikingly different for African children.

In 2001 consumers around the world were outraged to discover that child labor and slavery, trafficking, and other abuses existed on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, a country that produces nearly half the world’s cocoa. An avalanche of negative publicity and consumer demands for answers and solutions soon followed.

Two members of US Congress, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Representative Eliot Engel of New York, tackled the issue by adding a rider to an agricultural bill proposing a federal system to certify and label chocolate products as slave free.

The measure passed the House of Representatives and created a potential disaster for Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland Mars, Hershey’s, Nestle, Barry Callebaut, Saf-Cacao and other chocolate manufacturers. To avoid legislation that would have forced chocolate companies to label their products with “no child labor” labels (for which many major chocolate manufacturers wouldn’t qualify), the industry fought back and finally agreed to a voluntary protocol to end abusive and forced child labor on cocoa farms by 2005.

The chocolate industry fought back. Ultimately, a compromise was reached to end child labor on Ivory Coast cocoa farms by 2005. In 2005 the cocoa industry failed to comply with the protocol’s terms, and a new deadline for 2008 was established. In 2008 the terms of the protocol were still not met, and yet another deadline for 2010 was set.

Almost a decade after the chocolate companies, concerned governments and specially foundations spent millions of dollars in an effort to eradicate child labor and trafficking in the international cocoa trade, has anything changed?

Miki Mistrati and U Roberto Romano launch a behind-the-scenes investigation and verify if these allegations of child labor in the chocolate industry are present today.

This image was selected as a picture of the we...
This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Czech Wikipedia for th week, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After watching the documentary “The dark side of chocolate”, I am looking at chocolate in a very different way. It is depressing to see how children were misled or abducted by child labour traffickers to be transported from Mali to Ivory Coast to work as slaves in the cocoa plantations. Since much of the world’s cocoa comes from Ivory Coast which has yet to comply with the protocol’s terms to end child labour on cocoa farms until today, most of the chocolate sold in various countries could well be a result of the ongoing child labour. Choosing not to buy chocolate would be one way to redress or deal with this human injustice, besides spreading awareness. The documentary also shows how capitalism may give rise or support child labour in this lucrative industry since plantation owners have been able to motivate some local people to be involved in child labour trafficking by paying them, which they would most likely otherwise not have done so if not for the inhumane, self-serving monetary system.