Friday, 29 August 2014


Was having lunch at the coffee shop, when the cries of "Lai loh! Lai loh!" (i.e., "coming!") filled the air. The carpark ticketing uncle had been spotted, and now off go the sirens! All the guilty patrons paused mid-activity, got off their seats, and scampered over to the carpark to generally do something about the situation. The ticketing uncle looked over at the coffee shop and raised his hands exasperatedly, his facial expressions spelling out "walaoeh" rather palpably.

This is a community at work, and in this seemingly trivial example lies a powerful message. Power doesn't exist in a vacuum. There is no power without social endorsement of that power, and when a group of people do not obey, then the powers that be no longer exist. This is a trivial example, but the logic prevails in other, more consequential circumstances - such as in corrupt police forces and illegitimate authoritarian governments.

The community and its sounders at the coffeeshop serve to police the neighbourhood they care about in their own way, and that's why this silly little example is trivial yet heartwarming. The community is the most important, protective, and inclusive unit of society and through it the abuse of power from a source external to the community can be prevented. There are so many things that compromise on community spirit these days. When we lose community, we lose what is rightly ours.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Function before Form

We heat dead meat over a fire to kill bacteria before consumption. Then we make all sorts of cuisines as varied expressions of the ability to do this, to ascribe status differences to different groups of people, to satisfy tastes and preferences.

We wear the skin of dead animals or the woven products of plants. Then we make all sorts of fashion styles to denote rank and satisfy whims and fancies.

Survival defines the function, culture defines the form.