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.

Origins (2014) documentary

Origins (2014)” is a very important and meaningful documentary. I found it to be a useful reminder and summary on how looking back on the origins of our species some 20,000 years ago can enable us humans to understand the keys to the survival of ourselves and our planet. Yes, I have always believed that, however simplistic as it may sound, one way to resolve the problems in modern societies, whether chronic health issues or socioeconomic woes, is to go back to Nature, back to the original and ancient wisdom and ways of our ancestors who live and thrive in traditional, nature-based societies.

Indeed, our bodies and souls are designed to flow in synch with the timeless rhythm of Nature instead of the artificial clocks of the system, and it is like experiencing the deep reset in our circadian rhythms whenever we retreat and re-immerse ourselves in the bosom of the forest or the coolness of the river or the breeze of the sea. I like especially the part shown in the 48-minute segment of the video on how people can reconnect to their true selves and Nature by doing qigong and meditation in the peaceful nature sanctuary, such as by the river.

I also agree with the need for people to support traditional local farms and farmers’ markets that offer live, grass-fed, free-range, organic food – indeed each of us has the power to help ourselves and the environment through the choices we make, such as choosing where to get our food from.

Can We Think Outside Of MONEY

Video information

“How To Change The World” FREE eBook: https://www.facebook.com/HTCTW.book

Please Share: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1378320215750156&set=a.1378306645751513.1073741828.1377606342488210&type=1&theater

In this video, Elina St-Onge shares observations about Money, Scarcity, Ownership and Government. If you want to know more, check out her eBook: http://cdn2.collective-evolution.com/assets/uploads/2014/01/How-To-Change-The-World.pdf

Scarcity is a myth, as it is caused by mis-distribution of resources.

“Basically, economic growth means that you have to find something that people once got for free, or did for themselves, or for each other, and then take it away and sell it back to them somehow. By turning things into commodities, we get cut off from nature in the same way we get cut off from community.” Charles Eisenstein

Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

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Alain de Botton examines our ideas of success and failure — and questions the assumptions underlying these two judgments. Is success always earned? Is failure? He makes an eloquent, witty case to move beyond snobbery to find true pleasure in our work.

Transcript of the TED talk

For me they normally happen, these career crises, often, actually, on a Sunday evening, just as the sun is starting to set,and the gap between my hopes for myself, and the reality of my life, start to diverge so painfully that I normally end up weeping into a pillow. I’m mentioning all this, I’m mentioning all this because I think this is not merely a personal problem. You may think I’m wrong in this, but I think that we live in an age when our lives are regularly punctuated by career crises, by moments when what we thought we knew, about our lives, about our careers, comes into contact with a threatening sort of reality.

It’s perhaps easier now than ever before to make a good living. It’s perhaps harder than ever before to stay calm, to be free of career anxiety. I want to look now, if I may, at some of the reasons why we might be feeling anxiety about our careers. Why we might be victims of these career crises, as we’re weeping softly into our pillows. One of the reasons why we might be sufferingis that we are surrounded by snobs.

In a way, I’ve got some bad news, particularly to anybody who’s come to Oxford from abroad. There is a real problem with snobbery. Because sometimes people from outside the U.K. imagine that snobbery is a distinctively U.K. phenomenon fixated on country houses and titles. The bad news is that’s not true. Snobbery is a global phenomenon. We are a global organization. This is a global phenomenon. It exists. What is a snob? A snob is anybody who takes a small part of you and uses that to come to a complete vision of who you are. That is snobbery.

The dominant kind of snobbery that exists nowadays is job snobbery. You encounter it within minutes at a party, when you get asked that famous iconic questionof the early 21st century, “What do you do?” And according to how you answer that question, people are either incredibly delighted to see you, or look at their watch and make their excuses. (Laughter)

Now, the opposite of a snob is your mother. (Laughter) Not necessarily your mother, or indeed mine, but, as it were, the ideal mother, somebody who doesn’t care about your achievements. But unfortunately, most people are not our mothers. Most people make a strict correlation between how much time, and if you like, love — not romantic love, though that may be something — but love in general, respect, they are willing to accord us, that will be strictly defined by our position in the social hierarchy.

And that’s a lot of the reason why we care so much about our careers and indeed start caring so much about material goods. You know, we’re often told that we live in very materialistic times, that we’re all greedy people. I don’t think we are particularly materialistic. I think we live in a society which has simply pegged certain emotional rewards to the acquisition of material goods. It’s not the material goods we want. It’s the rewards we want. And that’s a new way of looking at luxury goods. The next time you see somebody driving a Ferrari don’t think, “This is somebody who is greedy.” Think, “This is somebody who is incredibly vulnerable and in need of love.” In other words — (Laughter) feel sympathy, rather than contempt.

There are other reasons — (Laughter) there are other reasons why it’s perhaps harder now to feel calm than ever before. One of these, and it’s paradoxical because it’s linked to something that’s rather nice, is the hope we all have for our careers. Never before have expectations been so high about what human beings can achieve with their lifespan. We’re told, from many sources, that anyone can achieve anything. We’ve done away with the caste system. We are now in a system where anyone can riseto any position they please. And it’s a beautiful idea. Along with that is a kind of spirit of equality. We’re all basically equal. There are no strictly defined kind of hierarchies.

There is one really big problem with this, and that problem is envy. Envy, it’s a real taboo to mention envy, but if there is one dominant emotion in modern society, that is envy. And it’s linked to the spirit of equality. Let me explain. I think it would be very unusual for anyone here, or anyone watching, to be envious of the Queen of England. Even though she is much richer than any of you are. And she’s got a very large house. The reason why we don’t envy her is because she’s too weird. She’s simply too strange. We can’t relate to her. She speaks in a funny way. She comes from an odd place. So we can’t relate to her. And when you can’t relate to somebody, you don’t envy them.

The closer two people are, in age, in background, in the process of identification, the more there is a danger of envy — which is incidentally why none of you should ever go to a school reunion — because there is no stronger reference point than people one was at school with. But the problem, generally, of modern society, is that it turns the whole world into a school. Everybody is wearing jeans, everybody is the same. And yet, they’re not. So there is a spirit of equality, combined with deep inequalities. Which makes for a very — can make for a very stressful situation.

It’s probably as unlikely that you would nowadays become as rich and famous as Bill Gates, as it was unlikely in the 17th century that you would accede to the ranks of the French aristocracy. But the point is, it doesn’t feel that way. It’s made to feel, by magazines and other media outlets, that if you’ve got energy, a few bright ideas about technology, a garage, you too could start a major thing. (Laughter) And the consequences of this problem make themselves felt in bookshops. When you go to a large bookshop and look at the self-help sections, as I sometimes do, if you analyze self-help books that are produced in the world today, there are basically two kinds. The first kind tells you, “You can do it! You can make it! Anything is possible!” And the other kind tells you how to cope with what we politely call “low self-esteem,” or impolitely call “feeling very bad about yourself.”

There is a real correlationship, a real correlation between a society that tells people that they can do anything and the existence of low self-esteem. So that’s another way in which something that is quite positive can have a nasty kickback. There is another reason why we might be feeling more anxious, about our careers, about our status in the world today, than ever before. And it is, again, linked to something nice, and that nice thing is called meritocracy.

Everybody, all politicians on Left and Right, agree that meritocracy is a great thing, and we should all be trying to make our societies really, really meritocratic. In other words, what is a meritocratic society? A meritocratic society is one in which if you’ve got talent and energy and skill, you will get to the top. Nothing should hold you back. It’s a beautiful idea. The problem is if you really believe in a society where those who merit to get to the top, get to the top, you’ll also, by implication, and in a far more nasty way, believe in a society where those who deserve to get to the bottom also get to the bottom and stay there. In other words, your position in life comes to seem not accidental, but merited and deserved. And that makes failure seem much more crushing.

You know, in the Middle Ages, in England, when you met a very poor person, that person would be described as an “unfortunate” — literally, somebody who had not been blessed by fortune, an unfortunate. Nowadays, particularly in the United States, if you meet someone at the bottom of society, they may unkindly be described as a “loser.” There is a real difference between an unfortunate and a loser, and that shows 400 years of evolution in society and our belief in who is responsible for our lives. It’s no longer the gods, it’s us. We’re in the driving seat.

That’s exhilarating if you’re doing well, and very crushing if you’re not. It leads, in the worst cases, in the analysis of a sociologist like Emil Durkheim, it leads to increased rates of suicide. There are more suicides in developed individualistic countries than in any other part of the world. And some of the reason for that is that people take what happens to them extremely personally. They own their success. But they also own their failure.

Is there any relief from some of these pressures that I’ve just been outlining? I think there is. I just want to turn to a few of them. Let’s take meritocracy. This idea that everybody deserves to get where they get to, I think it’s a crazy idea, completely crazy. I will support any politician of Left and Right, with any halfway decent meritocratic idea. I am a meritocrat in that sense. But I think it’s insane to believe that we will ever make a society that is genuinely meritocratic. It’s an impossible dream.

The idea that we will make a society where literally everybody is graded, the good at the top, and the bad at the bottom, and it’s exactly done as it should be, is impossible. There are simply too many random factors: accidents, accidents of birth, accidents of things dropping on people’s heads, illnesses, etc. We will never get to grade them, never get to grade people as they should.

I’m drawn to a lovely quote by St. Augustine in “The City of God,” where he says,  “It’s a sin to judge any man by his post.” In modern English that would mean it’s a sin to come to any view of who you should talk to dependent on their business card. It’s not the post that should count. According to St. Augustine, it’s only God who can really put everybody in their place. And he’s going to do that on the Day of Judgment with angels and trumpets, and the skies will open. Insane idea, if you’re a secularist person, like me. But something very valuable in that idea, nevertheless.

In other words, hold your horses when you’re coming to judge people. You don’t necessarily know what someone’s true value is. That is an unknown part of them. And we shouldn’t behave as though it is known. There is another source of solace and comfort for all this. When we think about failing in life, when we think about failure, one of the reasons why we fear failing is not just a loss of income, a loss of status. What we fear is the judgment and ridicule of others. And it exists.

You know, the number one organ of ridicule nowadays, is the newspaper. And if you open the newspaper any day of the week, it’s full of people who’ve messed up their lives. They’ve slept with the wrong person. They’ve taken the wrong substance. They’ve passed the wrong piece of legislation. Whatever it is. And then are fit for ridicule. In other words, they have failed. And they are described as “losers.” Now is there any alternative to this? I think the Western tradition shows us one glorious alternative, and that is tragedy.

Tragic art, as it developed in the theaters of ancient Greece, in the fifth century B.C., was essentially an art form devoted to tracing how people fail, and also according them a level of sympathy, which ordinary life would not necessarily accord them. I remember a few years ago, I was thinking about all this, and I went to see “The Sunday Sport,” a tabloid newspaper that I don’t recommend you to start reading if you’re not familiar with it already. I went to talk to them about certain of the great tragedies of Western art. I wanted to see how they would seize the bare bones of certain stories if they came in as a news item at the news desk on a Saturday afternoon.

So I told them about Othello. They had not heard of it but were fascinated by it. (Laughter) And I asked them to write the headline for the story of Othello. They came up with “Love-Crazed Immigrant Kills Senator’s Daughter” splashed across the headline. I gave them the plotline of Madame Bovary. Again, a book they were enchanted to discover. And they wrote “Shopaholic Adulteress Swallows Arsenic After Credit Fraud.” (Laughter) And then my favorite. They really do have a kind of genius all of their own, these guys. My favorite is Sophocles’ Oedipus the King: “Sex With Mum Was Blinding” (Laughter)(Applause)

In a way, if you like, at one end of the spectrum of sympathy, you’ve got the tabloid newspaper. At the other end of the spectrum you’ve got tragedy and tragic art, and I suppose I’m arguing that we should learn a little bit about what’s happening in tragic art. It would be insane to call Hamlet a loser. He is not a loser, though he has lost. And I think that is the message of tragedy to us, and why it’s so very, very important, I think.

The other thing about modern society and why it causes this anxiety is that we have nothing at its center that is non-human. We are the first society to be living in a world where we don’t worship anything other than ourselves. We think very highly of ourselves, and so we should. We’ve put people on the moon. We’ve done all sorts of extraordinary things. And so we tend to worship ourselves.

Our heroes are human heroes. That’s a very new situation. Most other societies have had, right at their center, the worship of something transcendent: a god, a spirit, a natural force, the universe, whatever it is, something else that is being worshiped. We’ve slightly lost the habit of doing that, which is, I think, why we’re particularly drawn to nature. Not for the sake of our health, though it’s often presented that way, but because it’s an escape from the human anthill. It’s an escape from our own competition, and our own dramas. And that’s why we enjoy looking at glaciers and oceans, and contemplating the Earth from outside its perimeters, etc. We like to feel in contact with something that is non-human, and that is so deeply important to us.

What I think I’ve been talking about really is success and failure. And one of the interesting things about success is that we think we know what it means. If I said to you that there is somebody behind the screen who is very very successful, certain ideas would immediately come to mind. You would think that person might have made a lot of money, achieved renown in some field. My own theory of success — and I’m somebody who is very interested in success. I really want to be successful. I’m always thinking, “How could I be more successful?” But as I get older, I’m also very nuanced about what that word “success” might mean.

Here’s an insight that I’ve had about success.You can’t be successful at everything. We hear a lot of talk about work-life balance. Nonsense. You can’t have it all. You can’t. So any vision of success has to admit what it’s losing out on, where the element of loss is. I think any wise life will accept, as I say, that there is going to be an element where we are not succeeding.

Thing about a successful life is, a lot of the time, our ideas of what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. They are sucked in from other people: chiefly, if you’re a man, your father, and if you’re a woman, your mother. Psychoanalysis has been drumming home this message for about 80 years. No one is quite listening hard enough, but I very much believe that that’s true.

And we also suck in messages from everything from the television, to advertising, to marketing, etc. These are hugely powerful forces that define what we want and how we view ourselves. When we’re told that banking is a very respectable profession a lot of us want to go into banking. When banking is no longer so respectable, we lose interest in banking. We are highly open to suggestion.

So what I want to argue for is not that we should give upon our ideas of success, but we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas, and make sure that we own them, that we are truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough, not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of a journey, that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.

So I’m going to end it there. But what I really want to stress is by all means, success, yes. But let’s accept the strangeness of some of our ideas. Let’s probe away at our notions of success. Let’s make sure our ideas of success are truly our own. Thank you very much. (Applause)

Chris Anderson: That was fascinating. How do you reconcile this idea of someone being — it being bad to think of someone as a loser with the idea, that a lot of people like, of seizing control of your life. And that a society that encourages that perhaps has to have some winners and losers.

Alain de Botton: Yes. I think it’s merely the randomness of the winning and losing process that I wanted to stress. Because the emphasis nowadays is so much on the justice of everything, and politicians always talk about justice. Now I am a firm believer in justice, I just think that it is impossible. So we should do everything we can, we should do everything we can to pursue it. But at the end of the day we should always remember that whoever is facing us, whatever has happened in their lives, there will be a strong element of the haphazard. And it’s that that I’m trying to leave room for. Because otherwise it can get quite claustrophobic.

CA: I mean, do you believe that you can combine your kind of kinder, gentler philosophy of work with a successful economy? Or do you think that you can’t? But it doesn’t matter that much that we’re putting too much emphasis on that?

AB: The nightmare thought is that frightening people is the best way to get work out of them, and that somehow the crueler the environment the more people will rise to the challenge. You want to think, who would you like as your ideal dad? And your ideal dad is somebody who is tough but gentle. And it’s a very hard line to make. We need fathers, as it were, the exemplary father figures in society, avoiding the two extremes, which is the authoritarian, disciplinarian, on the one hand, and on the other, the lax, no rules option.

CA: Alain de Botton.

AB: Thank you very much. (Applause)

success quote by maya angelouI have listened to the excellent presentation by Alain de Botton about a kinder, gentler philosophy of success, and I agree we can create our own ideas of “success”, since “we are truly the authors of our own ambitions”. This will free us from the anxiety of thinking we are not measuring up to the society’s definition of “success” and from the fear of being judged for not conforming to the society’s norms and ideals of being “successful”. Like what he said, “we live in a society which has simply pegged certain emotional rewards to the acquisition of material goods”, and I like his witty take on someone driving a Ferrari as “somebody who is incredibly vulnerable and in need of love”, as it is usually the case for such people who rely on material gains or status symbols to define or prove their worth, when actually they have lost sight of their true worth which is intrinsic and eternal, as compared to external temporal things they are attached to. I also agree with his insight that the so-called “meritocracy” can never truly or fully materialize in any society because of “too many random factors”, due to circumstances not within our control or in our favor – meritocracy is ultimately based on a performance-based mindset, that can result in snobbery, elitism and illusion of separation and classism. Indeed, a person’s true value cannot be measured by what he has achieved by society’s standard or how much possessions he has, nor can a person’s success be defined by these things, since these are subjective and subject to changes over time.

Incidentally, I came across this quote just now that resonates with me.

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”

~Rumi~

Yes, and I think this may well tie in with Alain de Botton’s exhortation for us to “make sure our ideas of success are truly our own”, and not subscribe to others’ definitions of success. When we do things from our soul, and we feel a river of joy moving in us, making the world a better place in our own ways, whether it be encouraging others or sharing edifying materials with others, like what you are doing, we are far more successful than those who are trying to climb up the proverbial corporate ladder in the marketplace just to prove their worth or compete with their peers.

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.

“We are the zombies”

I have checked out this reflective post by George Elerick, in which he wrote at the end, maybe movies are “more like mirrors, reflect back to us what we have forgotten we already know about ourselves”, as movies can serve as a critique of the society in terms of how we operate under a particular culture or system on a daily basis, and yet largely remain unaware in the drudgery of life that revolves around consumerism and entertainment in a capitalistic, competitive world. Too often, we humans are reduced to no more than automations in an inhuman and inhumane system to function in the machinery of economics, to keep the system going, and so on. Education itself can easily become just another propagandistic tool to impose a one-track view of “success” on the younger generations just to fit into the molds of rank-and-file economic systems that tend to favour the privileged and the powerful. The imagery of zombies used in the post is somewhat apt as it describes people who are living outside yet are dead inside, which can describe anyone who happens to be caught up with consumerism, workaholism and so on, to the extent of losing touch with our own soul as well as others as well. It is therefore vital for everyone to remember to slow down and reflect on the really important things in life, such as seeing and relating to people as people instead of objects, rediscovering our true humanity (that is free from the dictates of the superego or social ethics) and our connection to the Earth, as mentioned in the upcoming book “Love letter to the earth” by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Our true worth as human beings and children of the universe

“I pray that you allow yourself to wrestle with these questions — about the quality of your love and the depth of your service to humanity”.Dr Cornel West

I learnt from Wikipedia that Cornel West is an American philosopher who is inspired and influenced by Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Ralph Waldo Emerson and other philosophers and civil rights activists. His quote reminds me of Socrates’ quote about living a life worth living by examining ourselves, such as the quality of our love and the depth of our service to humanity. I agree as these resonate with me about living loved and loving others, and as Einstein also said, a life lived in service to others is worth living. It starts with self love that radiates outward to others, and a revelation that we are all one and interconnected.

Yes, what really matters in life is the quality of our love and the depth of our service to humanity. It reminds me of Mother Teresa’s quote “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” I don’t subscribe to the society’s mindset that focuses on accumulating material things and attaining outward achievements and success because these things do not define our identity – they are an illusion that the world is attached to when they have forgotten or do not know their intrinsic worth as human beings. There is an innate dignity in each of us, regardless of what we do for a living. I choose to believe small things done with great love are what really matters in life, and they cannot be measured in any concrete form or economic term because they are priceless and comes from the heart – they may be small acts of kindness, or words of encouragement, or sharing of edifying materials, or simply sending peaceful thoughts to bring about world peace. Yes, as I have learnt, research has shown that when we do nothing and just sit and meditate, we can actually bring about world peace.

“In the early 1980’s practitioners trained in the art of meditation were placed at various trouble spots throughout the Middle East. With clockwork-like precision, each time the practitioners began their meditation which focused on the feeling of peace, crimes against humanity dropped, emergency room visits declined and traffic accidents went down. Statistics reversed each time the meditations ended. This happened with such regularity that those conducting the experiments were able to calculate the minimum number of people meditating on peace, needed to effect a change in a community, or the world. The number is surprisingly small: the square root of 1% of any population.”

(From “Guided Meditation for World Peace“)

I think the economic system as it is today tends to devalue and dehumanise people because it attaches a false value on human beings based on their so-called “net worth” in their businesses and so on. It is sad when those who think they have a lot look down on those who have little because they do not realise they are all one and equal at the very core of their beings. Each of us is equally valuable simply because we are children of the universe. We cannot add or diminish our value by what we do or not do. We are interconnected in a living ecosystem, and each of us has gifts and talents to use to serve one another, and no one is greater or more important than one another, no matter how much we accomplish or how much we have.

flowers in the city
Like flowers, we bless and beautify the world with our presence and fragrance when we simply bloom and blossom right where we are.

Even in the natural world, we see trees and beautiful flowers that do not attempt to accomplish great things; they simply grow and blossom where they are, and the whole world benefits just from their presence and fragrance. In the same way, we human beings do not need to try to accomplish great things; just by loving and accepting ourselves for who we really are brings great peace and tranquillity to the world, and whatever we do that comes out of this revelation is only a natural extension of our blessing to others, whether it is in the form of small acts of kindness, or words of encouragement, or sending peaceful thoughts to the world, and so on. This may sound unrealistic to the monetary-based and economically-minded society, but that is how I see life from a holistic and naturalistic perspective.

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You’ve Felt It Your Entire Life – Are You Ready To Be Free? The Global Awakening

“You’ve felt it your entire life that there is something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. Do you know what I’m talking about? The Matrix. The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. What truth? That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind.

Deep inside, you have always known the truth, that none of this has to be this way, that there is more to life than what we’ve been told, that your life has a greater purpose. You are here to wake up.”

~ Collective Evolution

“If you started informing people who are misinformed, you would spend the rest of your life informing people that are misinformed.” – Charles Manson

“Only psychos and shamans create their own reality” — Terence McKenna

I think this video is about challenging the mind-numbing influence of mass media and not conforming to the societal norms. It will take a conscious effort for us to be free and stay free from the conditionings of the propaganda. Terence McKenna, who was a shaman, lecturer and philosopher, has advocated the need to liberate ourselves too by creating our own reality. I like the following quotes which relate to this topic.

“We are caged by our cultural programming. Culture is a mass hallucination, and when you step outside the mass hallucination you see it for what it’s worth.”

“Personal empowerment means deconditioning yourself from the values and the programs of the society and putting your own values and programs in place.”

“You are a divine being. You matter, you count. You come from realms of unimaginable power and light, and you will return to those realms.”
Terence McKenna

Yes, we are divine beings and co-creators of our own world. We are in the world but not of the world system. It takes a continual act of balancing between the reality of living in the world system and the creation of our own reality to rise above the shackles of the values and programs of the society through our own personal empowerment.

Are You Ready To Be Free? The Global Awakening

Video information

The Time Has Come!
Feel Alive by Ralph Smart. The New Book Now Available Below:
http://www.infinitewaters.net/books

Much of what Ralph Smart shared in the video resonates with me, such as being in Nature feels liberating as we can be ourselves, whereas in the city, it can be hard to be ourselves all the time due to the pressure to conform to certain expectations of the society – he shared that when he was in the city, he felt as if his spirit was driven into the ground. According to him, we are turning back to Nature because there is nowhere else to go, and when we are in Nature, our thoughts are organic and free, like the organic/natural/unprocessed food we eat that contains natural information, not mechanical or processed.

I agree that Nature reminds us of our true intrinsic value – we are the original currency, not money, and Mother Nature makes the earth goes round as Nature facilitates our lives. He added that being free means feeling lighter, and loving and accepting ourselves for who we are, which is not based on our titles or qualifications or religion or colour, or based on what others tell us. So, to live free is to” know thyself” – to recover our vision about ourselves and be our authentic self, not based on what television tells us. Last but not least, breathing the clean fresh air in Nature expands us/our consciousness from within, creates inner peace and equilibrium, and promotes longevity.

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Thoughts on “Thrive – What on earth will it take?”

I watched the first hour of the video documentary and then read the rest of the video transcript online – there is much information to be absorbed, though mostly it is a recap of what I have been learning the past year, since similar documentaries and movies such as Zeitgeist and Waking Life have covered part of the message, which revolves around the possible world domination by certain elite members in terms of energy, food supply, education, healthcare and finance. I find the first part of the documentary interesting, such as the director’s wondering whether “the sun gods were not advanced civilizations coming from another part of our galaxy… the ones responsible for sharing the knowledge of this (torus) code” to help humanity tap into the freely available universal clean energy that is non-combustible and non-pollutive, unlike oil and coal.

As for the part about world domination, from my understanding so far, there are probably some truths in how the global elite seeks to gain more power and influence to control the masses. My personal take is that each of us can live with that awareness and question everything, especially the propaganda and mass media, and the power is within us to be the change we want to see in the world. In that sense, I can agree with the documentary’s suggested solution, so to speak, about following our own inner guidance and live “a vibrant and lively inner life, that is truly the navigator of the path”. We can also help create awareness in our own ways and invite others to question the status quo alongside with us, such as in our blogs and so on.

I remember Jesus had said we are in the world but not of the world. World domination has been attempted by one empire after another since ancient history, and the Roman empire was an example of such during the time when Jesus ministered in Israel in the first century AD. Interestingly, Jesus also advocated a nonviolent and peaceful approach in dealing with the “illuminati” of that day and age – the principalities and powers who mainly sought to control the masses through greed and competition. I believe Jesus’ message is just as relevant today, in that even as we are living in a world system that is marked by greed and competition, it is possible for us to build and manifest the kingdom of God on earth through peace and nonviolence. While on the surface, it might appear as if we are “slaves” to the corporate system and the corporations and central banks are the “masters”, but in reality or in the kingdom of God, we are the true masters because “blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” (according to the sermon on the mount) whereas the ones who seek to build their empire with material wealth and power at the expense of others are the true slaves because they are slaves to their own greed and jealousy and to their addiction to illusory materialism. So regardless of how bleak the world may seem and how much inequality there is in the world, I believe that even as we seek to address the problem of injustice and inequality in our own way, those of us who can experience the kingdom of God on earth are the true “illuminati” who live a peaceful and joyful inner life.

avatar - our great mother

I also like what this message says “Our great mother (Nature/Universe/Earth) does not take sides, she protects the balance of life”. Yes, I believe the universe has its way of balancing and correcting itself. So even though it might seem as if the “global elite” and those who discriminate and oppress others to gain power and influence have the so-called upper hand, it is only a matter of time that they will face the consequences, or they will be transformed and won over by the power of love eventually somehow – the oppressors shall be freed from their own slavery and the oppressed shall be delivered from the oppression because Jesus has exposed the shame and greed at the cross – this will be a win-win situation for both sides because ultimately we are all one, and winning is only possible when all the children of Mother Nature benefit together as one.