28 March 2015

Opting Out

I am a bit footsore and feeling quite somber.

It has been a bit of an emotional evening. I decided to go and pay my respects to Lee Kuan Yew. He was Singapore’s first Prime Minister and is the father of the Island’s current Prime Minister.

He died earlier this week at the ripe old age of 91 and the entire country has been in official mourning. 

Mr. Lee has been on display at Parliament House since Monday and all my local friends and colleagues have been to pay their respects. The talk has been around how long they all had to wait in queue to pass by his coffin.

I went past Parliament House yesterday and the line was more than a kilometer long so I decided to wait until today.

My wait was 3 hours but I didn’t mind at all.

I stood amongst many generations of Singaporeans who queued patiently and quietly.

Singaporeans love a queue at the best of times.

At the worst of times as well it seems.

I didn’t see any other Ang Mo lining up this evening but I am sure many thousands have.

Lined up.

An Ang Mo is a foreigner.

In the Hokkien language it actually translates to “red haired”.

I am an Ang Mo but I am no ginger.

Mr. Lee was a very great man and was well regarded as a leader and a politician around the world.

I chatted away to the people in the queue with me and was interested in hearing why they held the Prime Minister in such high regard.

Their reverence was such that they considered him to be like a father figure and from what I understand he was very much a patriarch.

He took what was an impoverished and resource less little island and turned it into an economic powerhouse.

His son has continued what has father started and the achievements of this little island are quite remarkable.

If I were a Singaporean I would be very proud.

I think most Singaporeans are.

Very proud.

Mr. Lee epitomizes my concept of Singaporeans. They are smart, humble and incredibly decent and polite people who I like very much. I know I have written much about their strange laws and funny ways that might be a little derogatory at times - but the Island is actually a very nice and pleasant and peaceful place to live. The mixed cultures from China, Malaysia and India – combined with the colonial history make it an interesting place to reside and let’s face it – if I didn’t like it or the people – I wouldn’t stay here.

Singaporeans don’t make a lot of noise about their success as individuals or as a country and it is this sense of dignity and a lack of hubris that I find endearing. They just go about their business.

It is the direct opposite of the Americans who still seem to think they are the worlds most powerful and greatest country despite their dodgy economics and their shady politics. Their patriotism is as fierce as it is misguided.

Americans continue to invade and occupy foreign countries in their war mongering ways I think just because their economy is reliant on it.

Singapore has never invaded anyone.

They never will either.

Not physically anyway.

They invade financially.

They are shrewd and clever in all things money.

Australians too are a bit misguided. We continue to call ourselves the "lucky country". I suppose we are in many ways.

We are blessed with natural resources and have plenty of land and bountiful beauty.

There is still much bigotry and ignorance though,

There is much growing up to do.

I culturally cringe at times.

But home is home.

This is my sixth year of residence on the Island and whilst I have pondered quite a bit about leaving and I am nomadic by nature – I don’t think I will anytime soon.

Leave that is.

One of my very favourite Singaporeans actually lives now in Australia.

She is smart and pretty and adventurous and funny and I chatted to her not long after hearing of Lee Kuan Yue’s death.

She told me that with Lee Kuan Yew's death she felt very far from home.

I thought that was very poignant.

I thought it was very sad.

Coincidentally one of Australia’s former Prime Ministers died on the same day as Lee Kuan Yew.

His name was Malcolm Fraser.

I didn’t feel much emotion at all at his passing and there is no way I – or most Australians would have lined up to pass their respects.

I racked my brain trying to think what he had achieved for my country and I couldn’t think of anything. What I remember him most for was that he once attended a global economic forum in Washington and got so drunk that he took off and then subsequently lost his trousers.

It made the front page of newspapers around the world.

Nice one Malcolm.

The day of Lee Kuan Yew and Malcolm Frasers death is also the day I opted out of all Social Media.

I did so because dangerous dudes are looking for me.

Chill out Mum.


Nah – they’re not really.

That dangerous.

I opted out of social media because I was sort of warned off by a work dude.

It was a strange call really. I don’t know the chap very well but I think he was a journalist in a previous life.

I know a few of them actually.

Journalists in previous lives.

Hey Nams.

How are you doing?

The guy rang me and said he wanted to talk ‘out of left field’. That’s a baseball term that immediately annoyed me.

You know what it means.

It was implied rather than directly suggested that my writing might be politically incorrect.

I certainly hope so.

It was suggested by the former journalist that I might damage the good name of my Employer through my writing.

I didn’t think so but I was prepared to listen.

The example of Qatar was offered up and I had to ponder about what I had written about that desert oil rich country.

I was reminded they were a very big client of my Employer and I then remembered that I had written once how Qatar were slaughtering and maiming Nepalese workers by the thousands.

I wrote about this because they are.

It is horrific.

I have many Nepali friends - and a lot of who are working in the construction sector in the Middle East. Qatar is spending billions of dollars building soccer stadiums and facilities in the desert for some future World Cup – whenever that is.

The work conditions and death rates are inconceivable.

Whenever I go to Kathmandu the number of amputees that I see horrifies me. Hard working and very decent people have been terribly maimed on building sites in Qatar where the concept of health and safety is non existent.

Nepalese labour is cheap.

Qatar doesn’t give a fuck.

We should all be outraged.

We should all make a big noise.

I erred by putting something about this on LinkedIn.

The Facebook for professionals.

The work dude read it.

I was warned off.

So I deleted my LinkedIn account and thought fuck it – I will disconnect myself from Facebook too.

It was an easy call.

I don’t miss them at all.

The work dude suggested a number of times that ‘we all need our outlets’ and that my writing was an ‘outlet’.

Do we?

We might.

I don’t think I write as an outlet though.

My writing is not some sort of faucet either.

What the fuck?

I have always written.

I like the attention.

I like words and I like putting them together.

I like selling my books and having people tell me they like them.

I don’t mind people telling me they don’t like them either.

I just like being read.

However I like my job and the obscene amount of money I am paid - and I like paying very little tax here in Singapore.

I like that a lot.

So opting out of LinkedIn was no big deal.

There is a lot of drivel on LinkedIn.

There is a hell of a lot of boastful fuckers shouting their greatness to their wannabe peers.

"Look at me. Look at me!"

To my shame I was amongst them - and it was once a bane of my life.

A couple of years ago I rather foolishly allowed an Australian Journalist refer to my LinkedIn profile in an article. It was my summary actually. She indirectly referred to me as a guru and she printed my name as a direct link to my profile.

My surname became a hyperlink.

Who would have thought? 

The journalist was from the BRW - which is an acronym for the Business Review Weekly. It is a Fairfax publication. She writes very well and I like her material.

I like it a lot. 

When this journalist lady asked me if it was OK to write about my LinkedIn profile I didn't give the matter much thought. In fact I gave it as much thought as I gave writing my summary. Which was very little.

Thought that is.

It was very spur of the moment.

It was done on a whim.

It mentioned very little about my work - I just randomly scrawled down a few of my likes and dislikes. There was a word limit and I could have written more. 

Much more.

In fact this is what I wrote:

I am Peter.

Peter is me.

I am he.

I am an Australian expat living and working in Singapore. An ‘expat’ is an expatriate.  It is someone who lives outside of his or her native country – in case you didn’t know.

How time has flied. Or is it flown? Either way it seems to have passed very quickly.

I live here alone and I miss my family.

I miss them a lot.

Living in Singapore sometimes delights me but it often bores me.

Mostly it baffles me.

It is weird and wonderful and at times woeful.

The natives are friendly but it is a transient place.

People come and go.

They hither and thither and they breeze in and out.

It is a rotating door.

I travel a lot for my work and I spend a ridiculous amount of time on planes and in airports.

I like to read a lot.

I devour books and sometimes I write. 

Just for me. 

Words do it for me. 

They really do.

I like to swim and surf and the ocean is my friend. I recently discovered a love for mountains too.

Big ones.

I often talk to strangers.

This sometimes alarms people - especially on trains and buses but less so on planes.

I don't know why. 

I mean no harm. 

It is a cautious world that we live in. 

I talk a lot and I often pat stray dogs.

I have yet to be bitten.

I stand and give up my seat for old men and women when I catch trains and buses and it annoys me when others don't.

Stand up that is.

I have opinions and I voice them and I mostly speak my mind. Occasionally it is to my detriment. Age and experience has taught me that it is wise sometimes not to.

Speak my mind.

Silence can indeed be golden.

Biting my tongue hurts though and sometimes a fucker just needs to be called a fucker – no matter the repercussions.

When faced with choices and making decisions I endeavour to do what is right. I am acutely aware that I fail some of the time but I try not to do much wrong. I try very hard not to cause any harm.

I believe that it is better to be reckless and right than to be culpable and erroneous. 

We should all of us challenge everything.

I admire and respect kindness and I value morals.

Remember them?

The words “Please” and “Thank You” are easy to say and they carry weight.

So too does a smile.

Mother Teresa said, "Peace begins with a smile" and who could or would argue with a Saint? 

Not me.

I want peace.

I often crave and yearn for it.

I believe that we are formed by what we desire and we are shaped by what we experience.

I would like to say I never lie but that would be a lie - however I try to be honest most of the time though.

Or is that a lie?

It isn’t.

Is that?

It is not.

I do not like spiders or snakes or bats and my favorite animal in the world is the wombat.

There is no hatred or war or divorce in the wombat world. 

I also like whales and dolphins.

I have swum with them before. 

Guns frighten me and I don't get wars.

Violence appalls me.

I don't think of myself as a coward but some things scare me.

I am fearful of clowns and cornfields and being buried alive.

If I were ever to see a clown emerging from a cornfield with a shovel in his hand I would run like the wind.

I fear losing people who are close to me - although I know that this is inevitable and it has happened before. 

I found such loss harrowing and excruciating.

Grief is a deep wound that takes much time to heal and there are often scars.

Tempus anima rei.

Time is the soul of things. 

I am sometimes terrified about tomorrow.  

I can make a killer curry and I also make a mean pesto sauce. The recipe for the pesto sauce was handed down to me from my Hungarian great grandmother. It has a secret ingredient that would surprise you.

I like anchovies - however they are not the secret ingredient.

I ring my mum on Tuesday every week. If I don't ring her she worries and it worries me when she worries.

This only worries her more.

And so it goes.

I wish I could speak French, Italian or Spanish, as I think that they are musical languages. I also like listening to Welsh and Irish people because to me they also sound like they are singing.

I think that giving is generally better than receiving and I truly believe that those who have - have a responsibility to those who have not. I used to feel that I was living to work but I don't anymore and I feel better for it. 

Life is short - live it fast.

An Investment Bank employs me and it is a BIG one. My job mostly satisfies me although occasionally it baffles me. Irrespective, I am happy to take my Employer’s money as it keeps the wolves from my door. 

What I do is not who I am though. I once thought it was.

Then I grew up. 

I now value contentment more than success - but that is easy to say.

I swear quite a lot and much of the time I don’t fucking notice. They are just words and are forms of expression and emotion. I am aware though that my profanity upsets some people.

I don’t give a fuck.

I like to go to places that are difficult to get to and where my I-Phone has no reception.

Such places are getting harder to find.

It doesn't stop me seeking though.

It never will.

I waiver between being an agnostic and an atheist but I believe in myself - most of the time.

I am my own faith. 

I am a cautious optimist and I believe that most people are inherently good. 

Until proven otherwise.

I try and learn something new every day. It is not that hard and it doesn't take that much effort. 

I understand that winning is not everything and I have learnt much more from losing. 

I am more experienced in losing as well.

My life is littered with mistakes but I have moved rapidly on from them for my ability to change the past is something that I long ago accepted as being an impossibility.

However I love things that seem impossible.

Erring has made me stronger - and perhaps wiser.

I try to shun temptation unless I can’t resist it.

The unfairness of inequity often disheartens and infuriates me and I worry too what legacy we will leave to our children – and our children’s children.

I am a bit of a worrier sometimes.

I seek wisdom but I understand that it is difficult to find. I know that we cannot find it in books or on the Internet and we will never stumble upon it.

We accumulate it - through our experiences. 

I think that Goodness is the key to everything. 

"Bonitas non est pessimism ease meliorem"

"It is not goodness to be better than the worst".  

However this is all just my opinion. 

This is just a bit of me. 

That was it.

So when the BRW article was published I was shocked at the number of responses I attracted.

I was swamped with connection requests and messages. There were also direct emails and Facebook friend requests. There were thousands of them.

They kept on coming.

Every day.

Some people wrote to me just to say that they also liked wombats and others suggested that we could go wombat spotting together!

Several dozen messages were received saying I was an inspiration and I attracted a number of cyber stalkers. 

For fuck sake. 

I put a post up on LinkedIn a couple of days later asking people to please stop.

I told them that my inbox was being clogged and that some people were getting creepy.

My update said fairly succinctly that I am NOT inspirational and I am most definitely NOT a guru.

I informed all of these anonymous people that I do not want anymore Facebook friends and I would not accept friend requests.

I tried to let them know that I am just a very ordinary bloke trying to make my way quietly in this world. 

It all died down in a few months though.

I am joyfully heading back to Nepal again for a few days in a couple of weeks.

It is a country I love to go to as often as I possibly can.

In Nepal being LinkedIn means walking arm in arm with someone you love.

In the Himalaya the strongest and best ‘connections’ are with the mountains.

They are as spectacular as they are holy to the mostly Hindi population of the country.

In Nepal ambition is the hope of putting food on the table at the end of each day.

It is not a vocational aspiration.

For the Nepali people opportunities are simply far and few between. They are definitely not job vacancies and they are certainly not career changes. 

It is all so much more simple over there.

I am so looking forward to knocking the petty out of Peter.

In the mountains I will be able to LinkOut. 

I very much need to put my life back into perspective. 

For a while at least.

When the line finally moved this evening and I approached Lee Kuan Yew’s coffin I bowed my head slightly in reverence and respect.

You were the dude Mr. Lee

Vale sir.

May you rest in peace.

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