In China&#039s quest to conquer world soccer, admirers experience remaining guiding


SHANGHAI: Big revenue signings and investments in storied European clubs, and the backing of a president who is an avid soccer fan: Items really should be hunting up for hundreds of thousands of Chinese supporting the “attractive match”.

Not so, say some prolonged-time soccer fans like Bian Minming, who fear the match is remaining taken away from them.

Chinese football’s new-discovered dollars also means a deluge of hefty-handed corporate sponsorships, and Bian and other folks say that hampers Beijing’s goal of nurturing a grass-roots base for the sport and homegrown talent.

Followers view a community soccer match in between Shanghai SIPG Football Club and Shanghai Greenland Shenhua Football Club in Shanghai, China. (REUTERS/David Stanway)

All footballing nations have struggled to stability the passions of business sponsors with those people of hardcore admirers, but in China, inspired by President Xi Jinping to grow to be a soccer superpower, buyers hold all the playing cards.

All 16 clubs in China’s major league have been pressured to include the names of new entrepreneurs or sponsors in their staff names – constant alterations that irritate admirers. Other individuals clubs been pressured to go house, in some cases extra than when.

“The soccer affiliation desires to study,” explained Bian, who protested moves to rebrand Shanghai Shenhua, the club he follows. “The league should not let clubs to maintain altering names, for the reason that only then will they be capable to catch the attention of extra admirers.”

The Chinese soccer affiliation did not reply to a ask for for comment.

China is at this time internet hosting some of Europe’s largest clubs, who flock to China to tap a hundreds of thousands-solid pool of admirers and some deep-pocketed buyers.

Manchester United experienced been thanks to just take on Manchester Metropolis, now aspect-Chinese owned, in a pre-period match afterwards on Monday at Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium – their 1st derby outside the house England – though the match has been cancelled thanks to temperature issues and the state of the pitch. The build-up to that match, in the center of a chaotic Chinese league period, experienced overshadowed even very last week’s clash in between Shanghai Shenhua and city rivals Shanghai SIPG.

Followers of Manchester United Shanghai fan club chat at their club in Shanghai. (REUTERS/Aly Tune)

Getting foreign talent may perhaps boost fascination – China used extra in the wintertime transfer window than the total English Premier League – but as with the Gulf States, sporting activities industry veterans warn it will do little to raise the house-grown talent that China desires if it is to attain Xi’s ambition of just one day profitable the Globe Cup.

China at this time ranks 81st in the world, guiding St Kitts and Nevis, whose population of fifty five,000 would healthy into Shanghai SIPG’s stadium.

“China’s major-down tactic to anything does not healthy soccer at all,” explained Cameron Wilson, who runs Wild East Football, a news web page devoted to Chinese soccer.

“You require a stable and prolonged-standing soccer lifestyle to crank out a provide of men and women who have grown up observing, enjoying and most importantly, loving soccer.”

HUNDRED-12 months Golf equipment

Previous 12 months, China drew up a far-achieving reform program aimed at reinvigorating the domestic match, which it explained was “lagging in all respects”.

High on its agenda was generating “hundred-12 months clubs” rooted in community communities and nurturing a authentic grass-roots sporting lifestyle. To attain this, it explained it would curtail the electric power of wealthy buyers to relocate or rebrand teams on a whim.

But for now, revenue speaks loudest.

Even as it identified as for a bottom-up sporting lifestyle, China also demanded the establishment of ‘competitive brands’ and set a focus on of inflammation the sporting activities industry to 3 trillion yuan (US$450 billion)- six times the approximated benefit of the current international sporting activities market place – by 2020.

Of study course, without having sponsorship, China’s clubs would have no possibility of importing intercontinental stars such as previous Arsenal and Roma striker Gervinho or Senegal’s Demba Ba. This kind of banner signings have fuelled valuable Tv offers – but not however homegrown results.

“There are dissimilarities in lifestyle, in the countrywide character and custom,” explained Waley Ho, founder of Reds in Shanghai, a Manchester United supporters team. “It will nonetheless require time.”

Followers of Manchester United Shanghai fan club chat at their club in Shanghai, China. (REUTERS/Aly Tune)

Followers say the elimination of sponsors’ names from club crests would go a prolonged way.

Shanghai SIPG, fashioned in 2005 and explicitly modelled on Manchester United – launched in 1878 – has by now been through two relocations and two name alterations. It is now named following the Shanghai International Port Team, a state backer with the sources to shell out a Chinese record of extra than fifty million euros (US$fifty five.fifteen million) to sign Brazilian intercontinental Hulk from Zenit St Petersburg.

Bian and other Shanghai Shenhua admirers protested in 2014 following their new entrepreneurs, the Greenland Team, declared plans to change the club’s name and set the group’s symbol on the club crest. The club did not reply to requests for comment.

Inspite of a compromise, which observed the club rebranded as Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, admirers talking following very last Sunday’s derby versus Shanghai SIPG explained they nonetheless hope the owners’ name can be eliminated – even if they can see an upside.

“Without the need of them, we would not have Demba Ba,” shrugged Bian.

(US$one = .9066 euros)

(Reporting by David Stanway Enhancing by Clara Ferreira Marques and Ian Geoghegan)



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Scandal rocks Democratic Bash truce on eve of convention


PHILADELPHIA: US Democrats scrambled on Sunday (Jul 24) to incorporate detrimental revelations of an insider effort and hard work to hobble Bernie Sanders’s White House campaign that threatened an uneasy truce on the eve of the party’s convention.

Democrats converge on Monday on Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Enjoy”, to elevate Hillary Clinton as the party’s nominee who will battle Republican Donald Trump in 2016’s presidential election.

Soon after a difficult-fought most important campaign, the get together experienced been heading to the Democratic Nationwide Conference significantly more unified than the Republicans, whose fissures have been laid bare this 7 days as they verified brash billionaire Trump as their flag-bearer.

“In Philadelphia we will offer a very unique vision for our nation,” Clinton pledged. “Just one that is about constructing bridges, not walls, embracing the range that makes our nation terrific.”

Her quest received a strengthen Saturday when she launched Tim Kaine of Virginia as her operating mate, a savvy Spanish-speaking US senator with a shiny smile but “a spine of metal”, in accordance to Clinton.

But even as the get together basked in the lovefest that was the initial Clinton-Kaine rally, there was a whiff of scandal that could badly rattle get together unity.

A cache of leaked email messages from Democratic Bash leaders’ accounts includes at the very least two messages suggesting an insider effort and hard work to hobble the upstart Sanders campaign that experienced competed with Clinton – which include by in search of to present him as an atheist to undermine him in really religious states.

The Vermont senator on Sunday recurring phone calls for the resignation of the Democratic Nationwide Committee’s chairwoman, whose management was previously under fire and whose impartiality was named into concern by the leaks.

“Debbie Wasserman Schultz must not be chair of the DNC,” Sanders told ABC’s “This Week.” “And I feel these email messages reiterate that rationale why she must not be chair.”

CNN reported on Sunday that get together officers experienced decided Wasserman Schultz would not discuss at or preside more than the party’s 4-working day convention in a final-ditch bid to appease a furious Sanders camp. “She’s been quarantined,” it quoted a top Democrat stated of Wasserman Schultz.

‘OUTRAGEOUS’

Sanders, along with Very first Lady Michelle Obama, is one of the headliners on working day one of the Democratic convention which “gavels in” at 4pm (2000 GMT) Monday in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Heart.

Former president Invoice Clinton is the star on Tuesday, whilst President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden just take the stage Wednesday.

Even though Sanders has publicly endorsed his previous rival, several of his most fervent supporters are organising protests in Philadelphia, with the premier predicted on the convention’s opening working day.

Various thousand protesters converged on the streets of Philadelphia around City Corridor on Sunday, several of them Sanders supporters and individuals supporting renewable vitality and anti-fracking endeavours

Numerous in the Sanders camp have voiced disappointment with Clinton’s alternative of a centre-remaining operating mate, and the electronic mail revelations have been only established to gasoline the resentment.

Activists march as a result of downtown ahead of the start out of the Democratic Nationwide Conference (DNC) on Jul 24, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Illustrations or photos/AFP)

Clinton is “disingenuous, not genuine,” Laurie Cestnick, coordinator for the Occupy DNC Conference protest group, told AFP. “We’ve occur to see that she’s aspect of a corrupt technique.”

Just one of the incriminating email messages appeared to exhibit a top get together formal conspiring to present Sanders – who is Jewish – as an atheist in purchase to undermine him in especially religious states.

“I feel it can be outrageous, but it is not a terrific shock to me,” Sanders told CNN on Sunday. “I imply, there is no concern to my intellect and I feel no concern to any goal observer’s intellect that the DNC was supporting Hillary Clinton,” he stated.

Trump pounced on the leaks as he attempts to scoop up disaffected voters who sense Sanders – a self-explained democratic socialist in the beginning dismissed as a fringe prospect – was denied a reasonable shot at the nomination.

“Seems to be like the Bernie individuals will fight. If not, their BLOOD, SWEAT and TEARS was a full waste of time. Kaine stands for reverse!” Trump tweeted.

‘CORRUPT SYSTEM’

Sanders delegates have been further discouraged when their endeavours to finish the party’s use of superdelegates – grandees who are free to vote for whomever they pick at the convention – largely failed throughout a collection of rules committee votes, in accordance to The Washington Write-up.

But Sanders delegates gained a compromise victory when the committee agreed to seem at reducing the variety of superdelegates in the nomination procedure, a little something Sanders has long demanded.

There was a decidedly anti-Hillary sentiment among the activists flocking Sunday into Philadelphia, the place police have been intensifying security functions. “Hillary is more of a warmonger than Trump!” yelled one woman as she passed out flyers.

But others in the town echoed Clinton’s message as she seeks to turn out to be the initial feminine commander in chief, eight yrs right after Obama produced record as the nation’s initial black president.

“We shouldn’t be fearful, we’re Us residents,” delegate Patti Norkiewicz of Florida told AFP, two times right after Trump offered a dim vision of a country besieged by chaos and violence. “We must be proud, united, and we’re authorized to disagree,” she stated.



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ASEAN pushes for South China Sea breakthrough


VIENTIANE: Southeast Asian international ministers will hold crunch talks in communist Laos on Sunday (Jul 24) at a summit by now overshadowed by infighting more than Beijing’s sabre rattling in the South China Sea.

The accumulating in Vientiane is the to start with important regional talks given that the UN-backed tribunal ruled before this thirty day period that China did not have historic legal rights to broad swathes of the strategic sea.

US Secretary of Condition John Kerry, who comes in Laos on Monday, and Chinese International Minister Wang Yi are between the delegates attending meetings on the sidelines of the summit.

The 10-member Affiliation of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which features 4 associates who have competing claims with Beijing more than parts of the strategic sea, has extensive presented alone as the most effective place for China to negotiate with neighbours more than disputes.

Beijing has resisted that approach, insisting that territorial disputes ought to be settled bilaterally.

In new yrs ASEAN has struggled to current a united entrance against China with allegations that the regional superpower has cast alliances with more compact nations around the world like Laos and Cambodia by assist and loans.

The UN tribunal ruling was a victory for the Philippines, which brought the case, and fellow ASEAN associates Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia who also declare parts of the South China Sea.

But it infuriated Beijing which rejected the verdict and has ramped up each its rhetoric and military manoeuvres in the disputed waters in the final two months.

ASEAN diplomats have been doing the job on a joint communique to be issued at the stop of the five-day meeting but disagreements have festered on how to approach the tribunal ruling.

Those associated in talks advised AFP that Cambodia, a staunch Beijing ally, has so considerably opposed any point out of it.

A doing the job draft of the communique acquired by AFP on Saturday showed the segment titled “South China Sea” as blank.

LATE Night TALKS

“Our property is in a mess correct now,” one diplomat associated in the talks advised reporters late Saturday as the day’s makes an attempt to attain a consensus arrived to a shut.

Washington has backed the Philippines and other South China Sea claimants against Beijing, arguing for no cost passage by what it considers global waters.

A Condition Section formal explained the US would push for ASEAN to relieve tensions more than the South China Sea and locate prevalent floor.

But the formal extra: “I’d put a little much more worth on the conversation that comes about between the ministers on their own than I do in the often lengthy and torturous prose that is pulled jointly by the workers afterwards.”

It is not very clear irrespective of whether Kerry intends to meet his counterpart Wang for talks for the duration of their check out.

Chinese strain was blamed final thirty day period for a startling show of discord by the bloc, when nations around the world swiftly disowned a joint assertion unveiled by Malaysia just after an ASEAN-China meeting.

That assertion had expressed alarm more than Beijing’s pursuits in the South China Sea. Cambodia and Laos have been afterwards fingered as being guiding moves to block the joint assertion.

The ongoing deadlock in Vientiane has led to fears of a repeat of a 2012 summit in Cambodia where by the bloc unsuccessful to problem a joint communique for the to start with time in its background due to the fact of disagreements more than the South China Sea.

A failure by ASEAN to respond to the tribunal will do little to counter criticism that the bloc pitfalls veering into obscurity as a conversing shop with little genuine diplomatic clout.



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Clashes rock Syria&#039s Manbij as IS ignores ultimatum


BEIRUT: Islamic State group militants clashed on Saturday (Jul 23) with US-backed fighters in the Syrian town of Manbij, pursuing their intense defence of the militant stronghold and ignoring a deadline to leave.

There are escalating fears for the destiny of civilians trapped in Manbij, formerly a essential quit along IS’s offer route from neighbouring Turkey into its self-styled Islamic “caliphate” in Syria.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) penetrated the town 1 month in the past but have considering that been hindered by a bloody IS counter-offensive amid concerns about civilians.

On Saturday, IS militants appeared to disregard a 48-hour ultimatum to leave issued by the Manbij Military Council, a essential SDF member.

“The 48-hour interval is around, and there will be no more possibilities like this 1 for Daesh (IS),” a commander from the council advised AFP on problem of anonymity. IS has “not responded” to the SDF’s present and in its place “attacked our positions”, he mentioned.

The ultimatum arrived after at least 56 civilians, including small children, ended up reportedly killed Tuesday in US-led coalition air strikes close to Manbij. The commander pledged that his forces would “intensify our attacks on their remaining positions”.

The council’s spokesman, Sherfan Darwish, stressed in an on the web assertion on Saturday that SDF forces in Manbij “are fully commited to securing secure passage to the best of their capability for any civilian capable to flee Daesh (IS)’s brutality”.

Countless numbers of civilians have currently fled Manbij, which is in Syria’s northern Aleppo province. Additional than 50 percent of Syria’s population has been displaced considering that the conflict erupted in 2011, and at least 280,000 folks have been killed.

‘FIGHT LIKE WE Haven’t SEEN’

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights mentioned SDF forces ended up advancing in Manbij, moving steadily north from districts they currently regulate in the west and south.

An SDF field commander within Manbij advised AFP on Saturday that the primary clashes ended up “close to the protection quarter in the centre of the town”.

The civilian deaths in Tuesday’s raids sparked an intense backlash from activists and legal rights groups, and a contact from a distinguished Syrian opposition physique for the coalition to halt its air marketing campaign till a extensive investigation is concluded.

An Syrian female in Manbij on Jun 23, 2016, wherever IS fighters are accused of utilizing civilians as human shields. (Photograph: AFP/Delil Souleiman)

The coalition has mentioned it is investigating the studies of civilian fatalities in the town of Al-Tukhar, fourteen kilometres (nine miles) from Manbij. Bombing raids have in the meantime continued unabated, with the Pentagon reporting nine strikes close to Manbij on Friday.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Chris Garver mentioned Friday that IS was mounting an exceptionally tough fightback. The struggle has intensified as SDF models go further into the town, he mentioned, “which is sort of different than what we saw in Ramadi and what we saw in Fallujah”, two Iraqi metropolitan areas from which militants ended up ousted this year.

“It is really a battle like we have not witnessed in advance of.”

Garver estimated that the SDF experienced seized roughly 50 percent the town, an location nevertheless housing at least two,000 civilians.

IS USE ‘HUMAN SHIELDS, BAIT’

IS was utilizing residents “as human shields and as bait” in buy to draw SDF fire toward civilians, Garver included.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman accused IS of “pushing small children toward the frontlines” as it experimented with to protect its positions.

Garver mentioned Tuesday’s controversial air raid was named after the SDF “observed a huge group of Daesh (IS) fighters in a convoy who appeared to be readying for a counterattack”.

The coalition later been given studies that there may well have been civilians blended in between the militants, he included.

Before this year, the coalition mentioned 41 civilians experienced been killed in its bombing raids in both equally Iraq and Syria considering that August 2014. But the Britain-centered Observatory says that 594 civilians have been killed in coalition raids throughout Syria – more than 100 in Manbij alone.

IS and its militant rival Al-Nusra Entrance are not provided in world attempts to stop the battling in war-ravaged Syria. Repeated attempts by Washington and steadfast regime ally Moscow to fortify a nationwide ceasefire have mostly failed, with violence continuing.

Dozens of civilians died in bombardment Saturday, the Observatory mentioned, with 10 killed in raids by unidentified warplanes in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor and 8 lifeless in suspected Russian strikes in the northwest.

Air raids killed seven family customers, including 4 small children, in the central Hama province, and an additional 8 folks including 3 small children east of Damascus, it mentioned.

The besieged elements of northern Aleppo city ended up also pounded including with barrel bombs, killing twelve civilians in quite a few neighbourhoods.



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Strange & Funny Foods Merchandise Names – Just for Pleasurable



In this article are some amusing and impolite foodstuff names! Sometimes advertisers just get it wrong. A mix of amusing, impolite, and crazy foodstuff names from all-around the entire world. Unbelievably Strange & Funny Foods Merchandise Names
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Curry /ˈkʌri/, plural curries, is the generic English expression primarily utilized in Western tradition to denote a large wide range of dishes whose origins are Southern and Southeastern Asian cuisines, as properly as New Environment cuisines influenced by them such as Trinidadian, Mauritian or Fijian. Their typical function is the incorporation of sophisticated combinations of spices and/or herbs, commonly together with contemporary or dried incredibly hot chillies. In primary conventional cuisines, the exact collection of spices for every dish is a make a difference of nationwide or regional cultural tradition, spiritual exercise, and, to some extent, family members preference. Such dishes are identified as by specific names that refer to their elements, spicing, and cooking techniques. http://www.howtocookgreatcurry.comTraditionally, spices are used the two full and floor cooked or uncooked and they may be added at distinctive instances throughout the cooking approach to generate distinctive final results. Curry powder, ready mixture of spices, is mainly a Western idea, courting to the 18th century. Such mixtures are frequently imagined to have initially been ready by Indian retailers for sale to users of the British Colonial authorities and military returning to Britain. Dishes identified as “curry” may containhttp://www.howtocookgreatcurry.com meat, poultry, fish, or shellfish, possibly by itself or in mixture with greens. They may in its place be fully vegetarian, especially among the those for whom there are spiritual proscriptions in opposition to ingesting meat or seafood.Curries may be possibly “damp” or “dry.” Damp curries consist of important quantities of sauce or gravy centered on yoghurt, coconut milk, legume purée (dal), or stock. Dry curries are cooked with really very little liquid which is permitted to evaporate, leaving the other elements coated with the spice mixture. The key spices observed in most South Asian curry powders are turmeric, coriander, and cumin a large selection of added spices may be bundled depending on the geographic area and the foodstuff remaining bundled (white/purple meat, fish, lentils, rice and greens). Curry was adopted and anglicised from the Tamil word kari (கறி) meaning ‘sauce’, which is commonly comprehended to necessarily mean greens and/or meat cooked with spices with or without the need of a gravy. In accordance to this principle, http://www.howtocookgreatcurry.com

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Culture of always needing to win thwarting mature debate: Kindness Movement’s William Wan


SINGAPORE: William Wan is known for his work as General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, and his observations and criticisms of how “kind” Singaporeans really are, and what more they can do, have rarely gone unnoticed.

As a practising lawyer in the early 1970s, Wan pioneered pro bono work for those who could not afford a lawyer, well before more contemporary initiatives such as the Law Society’s own pro bono programme. His credentials are strong, but have his efforts to make Singapore a kinder place actually worked?

Wan went On the Record with 938LIVE’s Bharati Jagdish on this, tackling elitism and what it will take for public discourse to become more mature. They first spoke about his spirituality, how this differs from his religiosity and how it remains his driving force.

William Wan: I have always believed that the character of a person is far more important than the achievement of a person. In the same way, I think that the character of a nation is far more important that what we have achieved materially and in every other way. I think I am essentially a spiritually-inclined person. Some people may think I’m a religious person. I think that that may well be so. I have a religion. Many people have religions. But religiosity and spirituality could be distinguished a little bit. Spirituality goes to the very depth of my being; I feel that I am not just a machine, a mechanical person. And so I read books on spirituality. I reflect, I meditate, I contemplate and I always ask myself “What is the purpose of life? How can I make a difference?”

Bharati: What influences your spirituality? Aside from religion.

Wan: Maybe that’s the way I am composed. I was a science student during my school days, and I ended up excelling in literature, in poetry. So there is that part, that soft part of me that is always wanting to come out of myself and make changes for good.

Bharati: Was there any particular person who influenced you as well?

Wan: I grew up in a kampung. My dad was a small businessman who didn’t make it. Unfortunately he didn’t have much resilience, so he gave up, and he basically just went wandering around with the Teochew opera, and he never really took care of the family. So my mom took care of us, and we didn’t grow up in great wealth. I mean we were not really poor, but we were not anywhere middle-class. We were really just struggling along.

Bharati: Your mother was a hawker and a cleaner.

Wan: Yes, and so we didn’t have much. But we managed, and that’s the life that I lived. My mother has a very strong character. The only reason my family survived was because my mother was a very determined person. We are a blended family. Both my father and mother were widowed previously, and they came out from China and married in Singapore. My mother had two kids, and my father had one. And then they gave birth to two of us, so there are five of us who are from three different parentages.

So, my mother ended up having to take care of five kids on her own. But she was tough. She took on two jobs. I learnt from my mother.

Bharati: Your mum put you through school?

Wan: No. I made my own way through school. I worked. I graduated from theology, so I became a pastor while I was going to university. While I was in college, I taught at St Thomas school and I was supporting myself all the way. My mother was already in her 40s when I was born, so as she got older, I took care of myself. In spite of the fact that I didn’t have a lot of money, money never appealed to me. I never felt the need to have lots of money. That’s a blessing too.

OF LITERATURE AND RELIGIOUS HARMONY

Bharati: In the past, you’ve mentioned literature as one of the most important influences in your life.

Wan: Yeah, I wrote a letter to the media responding to an article about literature. I’ve learnt a lot about values by enjoying literature. And I believe that literature could be used, not only for the pleasure of enjoying a verse or a prose, but to begin to discuss the values that the author is trying to portray in the characters of the people in literature. I think that’s a very interesting discussion.

Bharati: Can you name me one thing that you learnt through literature that still resonates with you?

Wan: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. When I read that and discussed it with my friends, we at first didn’t think that it was really relevant to Singapore. But when we read further, we realised the theme of racism, the rejection of people of colour. You then realise that Singapore is so blessed. And it’s something that we take for granted. In many places, race and religion is a big divide for people. People don’t even talk to each other because they don’t share the same religion.

So what do I say about literature? Literature like that reminds me to be grateful and thankful for what we have, and to preserve it. And to realise that even in the best of worlds, this can fracture, and we can lose it.

In fact right now, we need to really not take our religious harmony for granted. We have a few people who sometimes go to the extreme of trying to create religious tension, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Maybe it’s because of their passion for what they believe to be the truth. And actually, if a religion is worth anything, we all have to believe with passion that it is the truth. But it’s the question of then saying that: “I believe that mine is the truth, but do I then respect the other person who believes that his is the truth?” I think that is the question.

And it takes a lot of maturity to say that we all can individually believe that we have the truth, without having to attack somebody else for believing that he or she has the truth as well, even if it is different from yours. And no, I don’t think that we are in imminent danger, but I think that we need to curtail any sign of anyone using so-called freedom of speech to attack another person’s religion or race.

Bharati: Some academics have questioned the types of organised dialogues we have about race and religion – whether they are frank enough to create a truly meaningful understanding between the various racial and religious groups and result in authentic, enduring harmony. Are we being too diplomatic in our discussions, sweeping things under the rug, avoiding the difficult issues altogether? What do you think?

Wan: I think ignorance is the mother of prejudice and fear. So having more dialogues would appear to be a good thing. But that assumes that the participants are open-minded and mature enough to listen without being censorious or proselytising etc. It assumes a level of mutual respect. That’s the rub. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing.

We want to reach a point of mutual respect through dialogue and yet a good and productive dialogue needs to be based on mutual respect to begin with. I agree that our dialogue has not been very open and frank in the public sphere. But there are some open and frank ones in smaller closed-door contexts. For example, the Singapore Kindness Movement has facilitated a couple of formats to get some conversation going. Last year, we collaborated with The Thought Collective with a sub-series titled Regardless of Race, Language or Religion.

There are clearly concerns that if dialogues are not conducted effectively, they can spiral downwards into unhelpful and insensitive comments and conclusions, and even personal attacks and hate speech. So I can understand why there is very little true dialogue to speak of.

The Inter-Religious Confidence Circles have an important role to play and they have their dialogues. Some may find that too tame, but they contribute to religious harmony, to be sure. Like I said, we are cautiously trying to get small meaningful dialogues started.

Yes, I am convinced that good, open and frank dialogues on race and religion can help to prevent fissures from developing, but as a pluralistic society, we have some ways to go to be able to have a substantive public discourse on race and religion to pre-empt prejudice and fear arising out of ignorance.

I think that it shouldn’t be a top-down thing. It should be a ground-up thing. In my own context, I have been having dinners, on a regular basis, with four other sets of families. As it happens, they all represent the four different races in Singapore and various religions. Five families have been gathering for the last 20 years. We’ve seen our children grow up. We’ve not converted anybody. We continue to respect each other’s religion and we celebrate each other’s special holidays. We still do. The kids have grown up to be good friends. And I think that’s a good model. We just need to keep thinking that we are truly a multi-racial, multi-religious society. And to make it work, we have to embrace everyone in our neighbourhood.

Bharati: I’d like to go back to a point you made earlier about exposing kids to literature as a way of developing values too. But the number of people taking Literature at O-Levels has declined over the years. People say they drop the subject because they see no utility for it; it’s hard to score in the subject. How do you feel about this?

Wan: Makes me feel sad. It’s like philosophy. There was a time when philosophy was almost removed from the universities. It makes me sad because I think we lose something of our soul, our spirit. We can end up being a very mechanistic, machine-like society. There is something spiritual about literature that touches the human spirit. 

Bharati: Do we have too much of a focus on achievement in this country still, rather than character?

Wan: I empathise with the Government in this regard. One important role of government is to ensure we have enough jobs for everybody, we have enough economic growth to lift everybody out of poverty, that we have homes for everybody and so on. So that’s what they are concerned about. And from the being of our nation, there’s always been a threat that we may not survive. So I can understand them wanting to put the emphasis on survival.

I am just hoping, and I think there are signs of this happening, that as we stabilise, as we become affluent, there will be more emphasis on literature, music, art. And that’s all coming back. So I hope we’ll do better. Now, the problem is there can be a disconnect between government policy – putting money in arts and literature and all that – and the parents.

In other words, there can still be a gap, between now, what the Government wants to do to create a more holistic society and parents who still live in that other mentality, where they still want their kids to be a doctor, a lawyer, whatever it is, because they are going to make money doing those things.

Hopefully, parents will also discover for themselves that there’s more to life than just having a banking job.

Bharati: But should literature, the arts and character-building merely be icing on the cake? Shouldn’t all these things be an integral and intrinsic part of the growth of a nation, a person, right from the start? These things shouldn’t only come into play after a person or society has achieved economic success, even though that’s the way the Government seems to have approached it.

Wan: What the Government did in the past is water under the bridge. Today, there’s a lot of money being put into arts. Now, it’s about encouraging people to see this as not just icing on the cake, but a way to reflect on life, a way to appreciate beauty, a way to enjoy music. So that is the hard part. Infrastructure is the easy part. Getting people to want to embrace these things is the hard part.

Parents who are the product of this “need-to-succeed” culture have to decide whether they want to pass this “need-to-succeed” culture to their kids and then make the kids just like them? Or are you now going to say: “I know better. There is more to life than just succeeding and achieving. I want my kids to have a holistic, well-rounded life.” The schools can do their best to message that. But the parents still need to make that decision. Can you force the parents to make a decision? You can’t. 

HAS THE SINGAPORE KINDNESS MOVEMENT FAILED?

Bharati: With bad behaviour constantly being highlighted on social media, some might say the Singapore Kindness Movement has failed.

Wan: We all know psychologically, negative things make the news. And people like to read about murders, bad things and so on. There is a study that says our brains work in such a way that negative things are remembered longer. So what I try to tell people is that we need to counter that by also reporting and talking about positive things. I think shaming people is a very temporary thing, and it, in fact, can become damaging to people because “STOMP-ing” and shaming people is basically saying to people: “You’re no good.”

I say that people are free to report what they want and if they choose to report negative things, let’s remember that for every negative incident – let’s say somebody spitting on someone else on the MRT on a particular day – there are positive incidents. There are millions of trips that day, and you have one incident like that and it gives people the impression that we’re all unkind on the MRT. We need to resist thinking that way and say that is simply not true. It’s only one out of a million trips. It cannot be representative of every one of us.

Bharati: But let’s face it, beyond the incidents highlighted on social media, there’s a lot of evidence pointing to how inconsiderate Singapore residents are. The Kindness Movement is also involved in addressing other social behaviour – littering, returning trays at eating places – and we know that there’s plenty of evidence to show that we’re not very well-behaved in that regard either.

Wan: The road to graciousness and kindness is a very long road – many touch points, many different areas. So if you ask me for one big idea that can improve things, you’re asking for a silver bullet. I don’t have it. I haven’t found it. I find that it is winning one person at a time, getting one thing done at a time. You know it is about reaching a tipping point. And to reach a tipping point, there is no silver bullet.

Hopefully as these things get into the national consciousness more and more, people will start saying “yeah, it makes sense”. You will be surprised to know that Japan has a kindness movement like ours that’s been around for 53 years.

Bharati: Longer than ours.

Wan: It’s supported by the royal family. The kindness movement there has contributed greatly to post-war Japan’s evolution into a gracious society. So don’t imagine that they became gracious overnight.

If you go onto their trains, you will still see signs telling people to give up their seats, to turn off their phones, etc.

Bharati: Are we close?

Wan: Not close at all.

Bharati: Why not? Again, has the movement failed?

Wan: Actually, we went to Taiwan and we discovered that the Taiwanese have actually come a long way. Specifically we were looking at the littering problem and the anti-littering campaign. Taiwan has, in the last 10 years, become more successful in recycling, more successful in getting the school students involved in cleaning, more successful in the anti-littering campaign.

Now, many people are complaining that we have actually gone backward – we’ve become less clean than under Lee Kuan Yew’s “Keep Singapore Clean” campaign era.

Bharati: Yeah, so why? Is there a problem with the approach you’re using to reach people?

Wan: I really don’t know the answer why. I have suggested some possible answers. One of them is we are victims of our own affluence. How many countries are there where a middle-class or even a lower middle-class household can afford a domestic helper? I have no live-in domestic helper. I have a domestic helper who comes in on Saturday, works half a day, helps to clean up our house, no cooking, nothing. And we pay her local wages. She herself has a domestic helper. While she goes around and cleans other people’s homes, she has a full-time live-in domestic helper. How many countries can say that?

So we have become a victim of our own material success. Kids don’t need to clean up after themselves. It’s not a habit. It’s not internalised. Then, there is that elitist feeling that we have servants to help us, so why should we do anything.

Bharati: In terms of measures to make us less so, do you think certain things such as hiring foreign domestic workers should be made even more expensive in Singapore?

Wan: I guess there is a need for balance – the need to enable mothers and fathers to be active in the workforce, and making it more expensive may make it less viable for these folks to work full-time outside the home. Many of these parents are in the so-called sandwiched generation are looking after their own aging parents and children as well.

The answer is not so much to make it more expensive to hire domestic helpers, but to change our mindset about the role of these helpers and how we treat them within the eco-system of our family relationships. There is also perhaps a need for continuous review and evolution of the labour guidelines governing the hiring of foreign domestic workers, so that we can equip employers to treat them better and not rely on them for every little thing, so much so that our children don’t need to do anything. And in so doing, perhaps we can also see our children being raised in a better environment.

Bharati: You said that some have commented we’ve become less clean than under Lee Kuan Yew’s “Keep Singapore Clean” campaign era. Some people have blamed this on the foreigners who live in Singapore.

Wan: To say that one group of people has more bad habits than another is basically stereotyping – a form of unfair profiling. In my work with the Public Hygiene Council, we go to the ground to pick litter and in some cases, enforce anti-littering laws. And guess what – we have found many litterbugs and they are a mixture of people.

At the same time, we have foreigners joining us in keeping Singapore clean – like the Green Birds, who are Japanese. We also came across Myanmar nationals who picked up the litter after a game as a group. We have Indian nationals who volunteer to pick litter with us. On one occasion, we found a whole family from China picking litter with us.

In other words, we all have a share of the good, the bad and the ugly in this regard. We are all not really better or worse. We are just humans who need a little reminder, a little encouragement, and a dose of deterrent, to restrain us from becoming litterbugs. We are also all capable of doing the right thing if we choose to. We have to stop the blame game. I need to start with me. What am I doing to keep clean, should be my first question. We should not start with others, asking why they are not keeping clean.

Bharati: I am sure that you’re not always so positive and gracious all the time. I’m sure you lose it as well.

Wan: You’ve been after me for this.

Bharati: You’re a human being.

Wan: I am a human being. I have my impatience and I have my frustrations. But I have learnt to be disciplined about my feelings. I need to deal with my own feelings when I’m upset and angry. There is no point for me to take it out on any other person. When there is something that’s wrong in my organisation, when my team members make a mistake, I take them aside and I tell them in a very firm way that that’s not the right thing to do and so on.

I have also in my professional life actually fired people for doing things that are not ethical and so on. So I am not incapable of doing that. Kindness is not weakness. However, I do not believe that as adults, we should be showing uncontrollable rage in public. I do not believe in using four-letter words, in screaming at people, just because we’re unhappy.

IS ELITISM THWARTING KINDNESS?

Bharati: In the past, you’ve also lamented that elitism is scuppering the spirit of kindness.

Wan: Elitism is the function of our success, of a programme that has enabled us to succeed so far. What we have done as a nation is to identify the best, and then give them all the support in order for them to have an even better chance of succeeding. And as a result, we have a tier of people who are, as far as we can see, endowed with higher achievement and abilities and so on. And then we put them on a track, where everything is mapped out for them. It is really natural then if these people are not mature enough and begin to think of themselves as better than the other person. And that is the beginning of elitism. Setting them up to succeed in such a way that they themselves begin to think of themselves as elites – that’s where the problem is. 

Bharati: What do you think needs to be done in order to counter this problem? 

Wan: Humility. I think it’s humility. I would like to encourage all these elites who are very good at what they do, scholars and all, to take time every year, maybe twice a year, to walk through the cemeteries. 

Bharati: Why the cemeteries?

Wan: To look at the epitaphs. To see that all these intelligent people, all these bright people, all these elites, also end up the same place. We must begin to recognise and acknowledge our own mortality, and to realise that no matter how good we are, we share a common humanity, we need to learn to be humble.

I wrote a forum letter once and I had a lot of flak, because the Methodist Welfare Services organised an empathy program at the Singapore Island Country Club to get the wealthy members of the club to have a simulated experience of poverty. And a lot of people felt very unhappy saying that they were making fun of the poor and so on.

Actually, I lived in the West for many years, and this is not uncommon. It’s not uncommon for neighbourhoods to get out there and get in touch with the more marginalised people and to really talk about how they can collectively do something to make life better for other people. Some people are not able to go straight away to these communities. And they say, can we at least come together and have a simulated experience, before we take that next step to go and work with them?

Why do they need that? Because all their lives, they’ve never been in touch with the poor. They’re afraid that they may say the wrong word. Or they may do the wrong thing. And they just want to learn how to be sensitive to people who are marginalised. And I think it’s a good thing. People with wealth are not bad people. Many of them are also asking themselves, how they can give back to the community. And if they want to learn from others who have had experience with the marginalised people or vulnerable people, we should give them a chance to learn.

Bharati: To what extent do you think this can be done more organically from a younger age? Some say the school system itself reinforces the divides.

Wan: The school has got Values in Action, Character and Citizenship Education. And there are many opportunities for them to actually bring the students to nursing homes and to help with organisations like Willing Hearts, preparing food for the vulnerable. I think if we are creative enough, we can find opportunities to bring our children and for the school to organise trips for children to go to these places and interact with people who are in need of friendship, who are lonely, who are vulnerable.

Bharati: Some would say the Government has a hand in to what extent the system is set up for the creation of an elite. What do you think it should do?

Wan: You see, sometimes we are so ambitious; we keep thinking, “Can we make structural changes? Universal changes? Nationwide changes?” To be honest Bharati, I’m not so ambitious. 

Bharati: Why not?

Wan: I think those are the tasks of perhaps our politicians, our Government. They have the ways and means to make policy and hopefully they will do the right thing and set up nationwide changes. What I do as an individual is to be the voice crying in the wilderness.

Bharati: I know you said that policy is the realm of government and politicians, but if you could have some input, what sorts of policy do you think might help in terms of narrowing this divide between the elite and everyone else?

Wan: In the article I wrote recently about the lessons we can learn from Brexit, I talked about disenfranchisement and I felt that’s really what happened to Great Britain. People in the little towns and so on, ended up having to compete with immigrants who are more qualified than they are, and prepared to take the job for less, and there was a danger that this was happening in Singapore. And I said that the Government was manly enough to start to tweak the policy and make changes.

So what I’m saying is that the voices that are out there, the challenges to the Government and so on, have the right to challenge Government in a democratic way and hopefully in a gracious way.

I think the Government, thankfully, at least from that experience, showed that they’re listening. Some of us may not be happy with them, saying “they’re not listening hard enough”. But whatever the extent, they’re trying to adapt, make changes, tweak it, so hopefully more people should be talking, should be writing. Hopefully we should not be afraid to say to the Government that they can do better and hopefully they will listen. And of course otherwise, there’s always the ballot box, right?

ARE WE CAPABLE OF MATURE DISCOURSE?

Bharati: When it comes to kindness and civility, much has been said about the tone of online discourse about current issues and politics – that it seems people can’t converse maturely without put-downs and insults.

Wan: Of course. As long as you remember that it’s a minority and it’s amplified on social media, we’re fine. But don’t allow the amplification to make us think that it’s everybody doing it. In fact on many of these sites, where you have this kind of conversation, I believe that it’s the same old people, using different names and just supporting each other. So let it be. Sometimes it’s good to walk away from that, because we’re getting nowhere. Some of us tried to go into those kinds of sites and we’re just overwhelmed by nonsense, and we say: “We’re wasting our time.”

Bharati: Lately, there have been several debates about social issues in Singapore involving members of religious communities – for instance, the LGBT issue. How do you process the texture of the debate which has been explosive and intolerant at times, on both sides of the divide, considering your own religious background?

Wan: There’s fundamentalism on both sides. There’s fundamentalism in liberalism as well. In other words, I am right, you’re wrong. I am liberally right, you are wrong. I am conservatively right, you’re wrong. I’ve been observing the conversation. I have not participated in the conversation directly. People have asked me about it.

My take is simply this: I have friends who are gay who talk to me. I treat them as friends. I do not judge them. Why can’t we do that? Of course the religious people want to talk about sin. Gayness is not the only sin we should be worried about. What about greed? Is greed a sin? Of course it is. Pride, is it a sin? Of course it is a sin. So there are many kinds of sins, but we need to talk about it as compassionate adults, with sensitivity.

I don’t think pointing fingers, judging, is the way to go. If you believe that a heterosexual lifestyle is the right way, you live it out, committedly, faithfully and hopefully, people can see that it’s a good way. Whatever else that’s happening, if your friends want to talk to you about it, listen. Listen with empathy and compassion. 

Bharati: Why haven’t you spoken up and said all of these things in order to present the moderate view?

Wan: I haven’t said anything deliberately because already, in some of the other things that I have said, that have nothing to do with this kind of issue – a simple issue like Anton Casey’s case – I got a lot of flak because there are people who simply dislike deeply the idea that one can be empathetic even to the worst people. When it comes to this, the divide is so deep and I’ve got so many other things I need to do.

I am really worried about it pulling me down into a very deep and long conversation that I may not even have enough energy left to do the other things I want to do. This is a very deep, very sapping arena of conversation.

Bharati: But that’s the problem – the silent majority needs to speak up and isn’t doing so.

Wan: Yeah, that is true.

Bharati: And isn’t it key to get the silent majority to just at least speak up and present views publicly even if you don’t get into it with the bigots?

Wan: It’s a discernment thing – there’s a point where you say to yourself: Live and let live. If people are not going to listen, and you just keep hitting your head against the wall, and there is no rational, logical response, it’s all ineffective and so on, then you shouldn’t be getting into that. Somehow I find that in certain quarters, people are very thin-skinned. They get easily offended.

Another thing I’ve noticed too is that somehow – maybe it’s the culture of always needing to win – some people have to win every argument. Why do you have to win every argument? There are grey areas where nobody wins. It’s just differences in opinion, right? And why is it that we must attack the person when we disagree with their idea. Why?

So quite frankly, I think that we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We’re getting people to wrap our heads round the idea that we can have differences in opinion and it’s not always right or wrong. We can have differences in opinion and we can still be the best of friends. We need that kind of maturity.

Bharati: How do you think we can get there? 

Wan: I think we are getting there, little by little, slowly. I think debates, for example, have existed for the longest time in schools. It’s perhaps a matter of raising the standards of debates and the issues discussed, and giving the students better guidance as to how one can disagree without getting angry with each other. I think that can happen in the school context. Hopefully it will spill over to outside the school. But the online platform is a bit difficult, because again, there are some people who have decided to be online warriors and they just hide behind their keyboards. For that, we have to have discernment and move away. The administrator must also be wise enough to actually be strong and throw them out. And I think it can happen – more maturity in discourse on and offline. 



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