Monthly Archives: June 2012

How far do you agree that men are more discriminated against than women in modern society?

Modern society is one that emphasizes meritocracy and equal rights for all. Today, women in many parts of the world enjoy much parity in treatment and opportunities. Women, now, have the right to vote, and the right to be educated. It is also common to have highly-educated women taking up senior executive positions in corporations. And women, too, are increasingly becoming a force to be reckoned with in politics. All these, some people would have us believe, have been achieved at the expense of men’s rights. The sad reality is that all women, even those in developed societies, still suffer from discrimination, though obviously in varying degrees, which most men conveniently ignore.

It is undeniable that men do indeed suffer some forms of discrimination. For example, in a divorce case, the judge would most likely grant the mother the custody of the child unless the mother is a criminal or is mentally unstable. The justification for this is that “it is in the best interest of the child” as mothers are considered better at bringing up children, especially the younger ones. This is a gross generalization, and is one obvious example of discrimination against males. After all, a mother-headed family is often far from ideal. One of the main causes of child abuse is the presence in the home of a boyfriend or stepfather. Fathers can be good parents too.

Worldwide, as more women are choosing to postpone childbearing, many governments in Asia, Europe and America are giving out longer maternity leave to encourage more mothers to give birth. In Singapore, for example, mothers are entitled to longer maternity leave, but what about the fathers? Many fathers want to be involved in family affairs too. Should they not be given paternity leave so that they can take care of their children too? In Norway, fathers are entitled to 9-months paternity leave, but in most countries, fathers are not entitled to such benefit. And yet, they have to take care of their families.

In addition, well-groomed males are described somewhat derisively as metro-sexuals, and fathers who choose to stay at home to take care of their children are often badmouthed. Where are their rights to groom themselves, to make choices? After all, no one laughs at mothers who choose not to work. No one laughs at women who go to spas or seek beauty treatment.

Indeed, men do suffer some forms of discrimination in today’s society.  However, in my opinion, these are only minor forms of discrimination found only in developed countries. In many developing countries, women continue to be suppressed. Even in developed countries, the lot of a woman is less enviable compared to that of the male archaic social expectations of women and the existence of a glass ceiling are common forms of discrimination that continue to plague women.

Although much parity has been achieved in our modern society, women are still expected by society to adhere to the traditional roles of women. In Singapore, for example, society still expects women to aspire to get married, give birth and be mothers. Even as more women enter the workforce, married women who choose not to give birth are often criticized and pressured to reverse their decisions by society.

Even in democratic America, First Ladies are expected to fit into the traditional molds and abstain from any involvement in politics. Hillary Clinton, the former US First Lady, was lambasted for heading the National Health Care Task Force. She and Eleanor Roosevelt, before her, were criticized for expressing their views and taking part in politics. Where are their rights to freedom of speech? Even Tipper Gore, the wife of former vice-president Al Gore, was lambasted for speaking out against violence and pornographic music lyrics in 1985.

Politically, although women make up more than half of the population, women are still under-represented. Presently, women only make up 21.7% of all legislative seats globally. Indeed, influential women politicians like Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and Gloria Arroyo do exist, but they only make up a minority. And many, like Gloria Arroyo and Sonia Gandhi are able to hold so much power merely because of their families who were previously active in politics. It is heartening to see developing countries like Afghanistan making headways in granting women equal rights. Afghanistan, for example, voted for their first female provincial governor in the recent polls. The new Cabinet even has three female ministers. Sadly, such cases are merely isolated ones. Domestically, while we have ten female Members of Parliament, only two are Ministers of State, and none are full ministers. Clearly, women are still seen as less competent politicians by society even when women have the same or high educational qualifications.

Economically, while equal rights to pay and work have been largely achieved in the developed world, women still earn much less than men even if they have the same qualifications. In Singapore, for example, 2003 statistics show that women earned an annual income of US$15,322, while men earned an annual income of US$31,927. In addition, although women are becoming increasingly highly-educated, the presence of glass-ceilings denies women the right to attain higher positions. In Singapore, for example, only 6% of the top local companies have at least one female director. In comparison, 60% of the top 1000 companies in USA have at least 1 female director. In many countries too, granting of flexible working arrangements and maternity leave is given lip service and many women continue to be sacked when they are pregnant. Needless to say, in developing countries, the situation is worse. Women are often confined to the house and denied the right to work. Hence, women often make up more than half of those living in extreme poverty.

In today’s modern society where the emphasis is on equality for all, society has made much improvement in terms of granting equal rights to women. In this rush to achieve sexual parity, it is undeniable that this improvement has been achieved sometimes at the expense of men. However, discrimination against men is relatively insignificant. Women, worldwide, continue to suffer far greater forms of discrimination socially, politically and economically. To claim therefore that men are “more discriminated against” than women in modern society is therefore nothing short of ludicrous.

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Categories: Gender | Leave a comment

“The fight for gender equality is no longer important in today’s society.” Discuss.

Gender equality has evolved from an ideology during the time of the famed Rosa Parks to a massive human rights movement today. The movement that took the world by storm has borne many fruits, and society has made clear progress in this aspect. The significant achievements in this field and the widespread acknowledgement of gender equality have led to a slowing down of the once fervent race. The reducing number of protests, placard marches and campaigns has raised doubts in the minds of many. Perhaps, today, in a world as developed as the one we live in, gender equality and the fight for it is no longer important. They are wrong. Gender equality, and the fight for it, is still, if not more, important today, than it was in the past.

Indeed, the fight for gender equality has won many battles. The suffrage movement won rights for women all across the globe. It had not only increased the value of women in society, it did the same to a woman‟s sense of self-worth. The suffrage movement revealed many injustices and sought rectification and compensation. It demanded equal playing fields for both sexes, sending ripples through the many patriarchal societies, brought education to women, a right now largely recognized, and allowed women to contribute to society. It raised a woman‟s status, esteem and notion of self-worth.

The fight also showed considerable results in the working world, which was largely dominated by males. The fight for gender equality has decimated glass ceilings in jobs across the spectrum, allowing women to take on higher societal or organizational positions. It awarded women equal opportunities, with many companies now functioning on the system of meritocracy. Today, more than 30% of high position jobs are occupied by women, compared to less than 2% in the 80s.

In the political arena, a once largely male-dominated as well, Condoleezza Rice and Hilary Clinton are among the few women charging head-on into a once foreign field. Hilary Clinton ran against Barack Obama in the Democratic elections in 2008, matching him state-to-state until the end. Clinton is a stellar example of how women can contribute more than their two cents worth. Despite losing to Obama, Clinton continues to stay in the political game, aiding the Democratic representative in the Presidential Elections against John McCain. The fight for gender equality has opened up many doors, managing to even allow women to take a slice of the political pie.

The success of the fight is apparent. However, today, many are questioning if maybe enough doors have been opened for women, and whether the importance of the fight has disappeared. This may ring true for developed countries, but for developing countries which are still far lacking in resources, and the courage to take on an idea seen as absurd to some, or dangerous to others, women are still at the losing end. It is only because the developed countries refuse to acknowledge this fact that it appears as if the fight for gender equality has outlived its welcome.

In strict Muslim societies such as Afghanistan and Iran, backward traditions and mentalities hinder the countries’ growth. In the former, statistics have shown that less than 10% of the reported cases of rape have received justice. Ridiculous clauses, such as requiring at least two adult male witnesses willing to support the rape claim, prevent many cases from even gaining access to a court hearing. This injustice has long plagued the country, with little being done to rectify it. However, this problem is also the reason for Afghanistan’s uncivilized laws, which prevent it from gaining a good standing on the international level. This could lead to a stagnant economy, or even worse, a stagnant economy trapped in the dogmatic principles of the past.

In the economic domain, developed countries are no exceptions. The perception that a male has more value than a female runs deep in countries like India and China. Both countries are, today, facing an imbalanced sex ratio, that of China being one female to every 1.6 males. In China‟s case, the one-child policy is the main culprit. Set during revolutionary days, the one-child policy allows each family to have onlyone child, or two, in special cases. While this was done to combat the problem of a population growing faster than its country could support, it has brought along with it many problems. In both countries, infanticide ranks high on the causes of infant deaths. The desire for a more valuable male offspring has led to increased abortion rates and cases of baby girls being abandoned. The imbalance in the sex ratio also has many serious repercussions. It has been linked to increased crime rates, with men unable to find a bride, resorting to kidnapping, buying or trafficking women to fulfill their needs for companionships or carnal desires. A largely unmarried society could ironically lead to the downfall of the family unit, a component of society valued by Asians. High migration rates could lead to a drastic fall in the working population, in turn resulting in a weakened economy.

It is age-old out-dated views, captured in equally old saying such as “Eighteen goddess-like daughters are not equal to one son with a hump‟, that still call for the fight for gender equality to continue. Statistics like that fact that women make up 60%of South Korean graduates but constitute less than 25% of the working force only compound the problem. Crusaders of this mission have yet to fully spread their message, with only larger communities benefiting. Besides the fact that the ‘cease-fire’ could bring repercussions such as the ones faced by China and India, the fight for gender equality is also, above all, a stunning example of human spirit. Just like the heart-warming stories of Chinese natives who went out of their way to help their fellow men after the Sichuan earthquake, the fight for gender equality tore social theories, such as social Darwinism, to bits. It displays human compassion in a dog-eat-dog world, where the more fortunate gives to their less fortunate counterparts. Philosophers like Charles Darwin believed that Man is born selfish. The continued fight for gender equality proves otherwise.

In conclusion, gender equality, and the fight for it, is still very important today. It will help to level unequal playing fields, giving women a voice and a place in society. It will display the full capacity of the human spirit, with both men and women, spanning the various races, jobs and social standing, joining in the biggest human rights movement of all time.

Categories: Essay, Gender | Leave a comment

“Whoever controls the media controls the world.” Do you agree?

Here are the links to the reference articles: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/world/asia/china-revs-up-propaganda-machine-to-disgrace-bo-xilai.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2012/04/north-korean-propaganda

As eminent American philosopher Avram Noam Chomsky once declared, “He who controls the media controls the minds of the public.” The above articles describe the pervasive nature and far-reaching impact of the state-controlled media’s propaganda machine in China and North Korea, as well as how it possesses the unmitigated ability to turn the tide of public opinion. In this post, I will be examining the extent to which governments which control the media can indeed be said to control the minds of the public.

The pertinence of the media to our current society is undeniable. With the advent of globalisation and the rise of new media, the pervasiveness and permeability of the media in our lives has rapidly increased. Indeed, it has become very much the norm for the vast majority of individuals around the world, to the point that we are oblivious to the vast influence the media has over us. Thus, there is no doubt that by wielding the immense power of the media, organisations and individuals are able to influence society at large.

The media is a colossal entity and is certainly not monolithic. Made up of a plethora of aspects (such as political, economic and social), the media encompasses almost every facet of our human existence. In the political arena, the media’s main purpose is to keep the public up to speed with the latest political happenings, in both the domestic and international spheres. Although the main function of the press is to inform, the press and media can inevitably influence public opinion on certain issues, depending on how they portray the issues in question and which perspective they give more credence to. Coupled with the ability of the media to propagate information rapidly, as well as its easy accessibility, it is no wonder that history is littered with examples of authoritarian and repressive regimes seeking to control it and wield its formidable power. Consider North Korea. Its totalitarian government has made extensive use of the state media apparatus to spread propaganda to the masses, by distorting facts and at times even promulgating outright lies. We, from the outside looking in, know that these fallacious ideas, such as every American being a moribund capitalist and the likening of Lee Myung-bak to a “tailless rat”, are not only farcical, but also a travesty of justice. However, members of the general public in states like North Korea regard these outrageous notions as the gospel truth, primarily because they have no credible alternative source of information they can use as a yardstick to judge the state media’s objectivity, or lack thereof. As such, Orwellian governments, who extensively control their countries’ media and go to great lengths to stymy the public’s access to alternative sources of information, effectively control the minds of the public, by institutionalising misinformation and forcing their own perceptions of the world upon their people.

However, no government can be said to control the public in its entirety. While governments may try their best to suppress and obfuscate the truth, at the end of the day, they are indubitably neither omnipresent nor omnipotent. Cracks always exist in their prima facieunassailable control of information, cracks through which outside information and popular public opinion can enter and insidiously undermine their monopoly of the “truth”. A case in point would be the uprising of the Buddhist monks and students in Burma. Led by Aung San Suu Kyi, they protested against the military junta’s totalitarian regime and drew international attention to Burma’s fragile domestic situation. Despite the junta’s total control of the state media, general dissent amongst the Burmese public grew rapidly, eventually leaving the junta with no choice but to cave in to popular demand and hold democratic parliamentary elections. Thus, it can be seen that total control of a country’s domestic media does not equate to controlling the minds of its entire population.

Categories: Technology | Leave a comment

Is a nuclear-free world even possible?

Written by Ho Yung Cher

Here is the link to the reference article: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AS_JAPAN_NUCLEAR_CLIMATE_CHANGE?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

Japan’s recent nuclear crisis has shattered confidence in nuclear energy all around the world. The sheer scale of the disaster has generated massive repercussions that saw governments such as Germany and Switzerland abandon nuclear energy, and people marching the streets of Australia, Japan and even India. However, proponents of nuclear energy argue that shutting down nuclear reactors will be damaging to the economy, and even increase carbon emissions. While their objections are understandable, I believe that doing away with nuclear energy will present a greater benefit to the environment.

Nuclear energy has always presented itself as an attractive and efficient power source for developing countries keen on reducing their carbon footprints. Developing countries such as Indonesia, Chile and Kazakhstan have plans to build nuclear reactors to fuel their proliferating energy consumption. With nuclear energy, they are able to reduce carbon emissions without compromising on economic growth, as it is only way in which such large amounts of energy can be generated cleanly. Thus, it would be difficult to replace nuclear energy with another equally efficient method of energy production.

Despite the many benefits presented by nuclear energy, critics are still wary of the potential hazards and other environmental problems posed. The recent Fukushima disaster is a materialisation of such fears. As a result, the Japanese government has decided to shut down all nuclear reactors, with Germany and Switzerland expected to follow suit. Although nuclear programmes pose a minimal hazard to the environment if run effectively, the truth is that most programmes are lax in their management, leading to a slew of radiation leaks in recent years. Nuclear energy is a double-edged sword. With high energy production and minimal carbon emissions, come tonnes of harmful radioactive nuclear waste, which will stay radioactive for millions of years.

Some say, decommissioning nuclear reactors are a step backward in reducing carbon emissions, but I personally feel that doing so will take countries further in their commitment to the environment. The switch to fossil fuels in lieu of nuclear energy to meet energy demands would inadvertently lead to increased carbon emissions, something that Japan has been working assiduously to avoid. Japan pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 25% before 2020, in accordance to the Kyoto Protocol. This would undoubtedly pressurise it to reduce its emissions, which can lead to the allocation of more funds for investments in renewable energy, a sector in desperate need of expansion in Japan. Furthermore, decommissioning nuclear reactors would also eradicate future recurrences of nuclear accidents and the generation of toxic nuclear waste, consequently propelling Japan towards a sustainable and greener future.

While developed countries previously built nuclear reactors as a show of technological prowess, many are beginning to contend with the problem of ageing plants built during the Cold War era. Since then, the political focus has shifted greatly from that of competitiveness to sustainability. As such, developed nations with the capability to invest more in renewable energy should seriously reconsider phasing out nuclear power, and diversify their energy sources.

Categories: Environment | Leave a comment

Deforestation: An omen to the end of humans?

Written by Chua Zen Zhong

Here is the link to the reference article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-13449792

Deforestation is a relevant topic when it comes to the survival of human kind. Conservation efforts in the past few decades have not managed to stop the wave of deforestation in many countries over the world, and as the number of trees lessens, humans too will be affected. Sooner or later, there will be repercussions as a result of excessive logging, such that humans will lose their oxygen supply with declining numbers of trees, and several problems will arise when paper from trees runs out as well. Even though several countries have the autonomy to carry on deforestation for economic benefits, such as the processing then sale of the cut-down trees and the acquiring of valuable land to sell, the world needs to look at efforts to persuade these countries to stop before it’s too late. I believe strongly that deforestation is also the key to postponing global warming, so that we can gain time to find a solution to it. In the article, it seems that deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has increased almost six fold, and this is extremely distressing to hear.

If the question is whether the loggers are at fault, then I think they are not. It is more of the conglomerates who are fighting among themselves to get a slice of the deforestation pie, as deforestation is actually creating lots of business opportunities. Estate development is just one. Imagine, take a deep breath, and within the time you took to breathe, the size of 2 soccer fields worth of trees would have been cut down. This is the extreme rate of deforestation that is taking place today, and what would happen once all the trees have been cut down? Not only would we lose our source of oxygen, the animals and other inhabitants of the forests will die out without a suitable habitat to live in.

Deforestation will lead to many different consequences if it is continued, too many of which will affect mankind. We must certainly prevent the corporations out there who wish to expand the industry of deforestation from continuing the destruction of nature, and I feel that we should urge all the people out there to start replanting, to once again bring back Mother Nature and to ultimately preserve our own existence.

There has been talk of a paperless society as well, where paper is no longer needed, when everything is done on laptops and other advanced technology. Think about it though, when you go to the toilet and after excreting waste, you find that there is no toilet paper to clean up. That is just one of the possible things that will happen once we run of trees, then paper in general. Recycling cannot keep up with the pace of paper wastage, so we will indeed run out. Will scientists be able to find a solution to all these practical situations which require paper by then? I for one highly doubt so. We must act now to stop deforestation.

Categories: Environment | Leave a comment

Righting animal rights

Written by Tay Ang Chun, Thomas

Here are the links to the reference articles:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/some-animals-are-more-equal-than-others/

http://www.economist.com/node/21533451

One speaks of the difference between pets and animals; the other on animal testing. But underlying both of these articles is the question: Should we be arguing about animal rights?

I believe that it is futile to argue about animal rights since cruelty to fellow human beings will continue to exist. I define cruelty in this essay as exploitation, torture and unnecessary murder.

A lemma I have to prove before proving my argument is that arguing for human rights and arguing for animal rights are not mutually exclusive. Although some people would argue that the two stand independent of each other, I do not think so. There exist a lot of people in the world who donate money to charity to feel good. For example, assuming that only animal rights charities and human rights charities exist in the world, then those people would only donate funds to the charity which convinces them. If people did not argue for animal rights, then all those people would give money to the human rights groups. Therefore the two are not mutually exclusive as arguing for one limits the resources available to the other.

Humans are innately superior to animals. There is a reason why humans are the dominant species on the planet, simply because we are better than animals. Human beings have more potential than all animals combined. For example, in our entire history, human beings have invented cooking, mathematics, logic, art, language, writing, systems of governance, codes of laws, economics, electricity, nuclear physics, and computers. We even managed to invent flight and space travel; two accomplishments which really proved our extraordinary abilities, as humans were never even meant, physically, to leave the ground! Animal have not been able to devise a working language. The most scientists have been able to discover are that some species of monkeys have certain warning calls, which does not amount to a language. Nor have animals invented a number system, nor have they established a functioning government, nor have they done even a fraction of what the human race has accomplished. It seems logical to conclude that humans are superior to animals.

Therefore, as humans are superior to animals, it stands to reason that we deserve to receive more care and attention than animals. Furthermore, since it stands that arguing for animal rights and arguing for human rights are not mutually exclusive, human rights should be given a larger priority than animal rights; this leads to the conclusion that we should argue for human rights over animal rights.

Thus, as cruelty towards humans will continue to exist, it is futile to argue for animal rights.

However, some argue that cruelty towards human beings will continue to exist regardless of human intervention. They argue that human nature is innately selfish, and donating money to charities simply would not help the situation of cruelty towards human beings.

That is not true, as can be told quite evidently from the existence of constitutions. Constitutions grant citizens rights to liberty and property, and protect their lives from anyone who would want to claim it. This example shows us that a human invention can help to solve the problem of cruelty to human beings.

Even if human nature is unchangeable, we still should try to control it through whatever means we can. For example, since human nature is inherently short and brutish, why don’t we just let wars happen uncontrollably? Why have the Geneva Convention and the UN? The answer is that although changing human nature is beyond our control, we can put restraints on it, and eventually through civilising the later generations, we can eliminate it.

In conclusion, as human beings are superior to animals, we should focus our attention on arguing for human rights, and not waste time on arguing for animal rights.

Categories: Science and Ethics | Leave a comment

“Technologically-developed nations have a duty to ensure equal distribution of wealth and resources around the globe.” Do you agree?

Here is the link for the reference article: http://www.globalissues.org/article/35/foreign-aid-development-assistance

“In the United States, when world wheat prices rise by 75%, as they have over the years, it means the difference between a $2 loaf of bread and a loaf costing perhaps $2.10. If, however, you live in New Delhi, those skyrocketing costs really matter.” As quoted from ‘The New Geopolitics of Food’, it depicts the current real-life situation that the poor are faced with. Many studies have shown that there is an upward trend in the number of people living in the poverty cycle as the world’s population increases by 200,000 a day. Many philanthropists, such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, have done much to help these poor. However, many have argued it is the duty for those living in developed nations to help alleviate poverty by donating wealth and resources to the poor. This issue is subject to much debate as it becomes a hot topic in worldwide conventions nowadays.

As stated in the article, “Foreign aid or (development assistance) is often regarded as being too much, or wasted on corrupt recipient governments despite any good intentions from donor countries”, it shows that it is futile for any country to help out other nations. All money will be channeled into the pockets of the corrupt government or any other government-related organizations. By forcing developed countries to donate capital and materials, it is not guaranteed that all would be used to help the needy, hence a total waste of time and effort. I say the industrialized countries do not have any obligations towards ensuring equal distribution of wealth and resources around the globe but can do so out of their own goodwill. Thus this is offered to them as a choice and not their job to do so.

Sharing of wealth amongst the poor countries will not promote responsible governance and prudent economic management. This will inevitably give rise to corruption and over-reliance on wealthy countries for financial aid, which gives the government no incentives for economic development, lest helping to alleviate poverty in their own states. To ensure equal wealth distribution and resources, all countries need to have a unified mode of currency, for example the Singapore dollar (S$). But this would take forever as countries cannot find the solution to adjust to the economic imbalance all over the world. Thus it is not feasible for all civilizations to share equal resources as different countries have different needs in different industrial sectors. For example, science research machines are not essential in countries like Malawi, but instead they need food and water, and only developed countries like Japan would need the former. Because of the severe imbalance in economies between the 2 types of nations, there cannot be equal distribution of wealth and resources all over the world.

The term ‘equal distribution’ is also hard to define. Are we going to distribute money and resources according to population size, by land area or to different economical needs? Does it mean to say different industrial sectors would get what they want but at the same time, giving such resources to countries which do not need at all? Does it mean to say that larger countries get more money and populous countries get more resources to attend to more needs? Even so, if each country gets $100 trillion, people in more populous countries would get a smaller share than those living in less populated countries, and thus contradicts the idea of equal distribution of wealth and resources.

But some may argue that according to Karl Marx’s famous quote, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”, everyone works to his utmost ability and gets compensation just enough to lead a comfortable life. Such an idea helps to promote equality, which is the equal distribution of wealth and resources around the globe. However, we know that this is totally impossible as it contradicts human nature. Human nature defines us as being inherently selfish and evil, and that we fight for what we want and not for what we need. We want more money than the rest, we want to live a better life and thus creating an imbalance in wealth distribution. Hence, technologically advanced nations are not obliged to ensure equal distribution of wealth and resources around the globe but can do so out of goodwill like many notable philanthropists.

Categories: Social Changes | Leave a comment

‘There is no point in preserving the past. We should be looking to the future.’ What is your stand on this?

Here are the links for the reference articles:

http://cec.vcn.bc.ca/cmp/modules/emp-pre.htm

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/6785778/Preserve-our-past-and-create-a-better-future.html

http://www.archives.gov/about/plans-reports/strategic-plan/2009/nara-strategic-plan-2009-2016-update.pdf

Past events cannot be undone, so is there any real purpose to hold onto the memories of them? Will the vestiges of past traditions, methods and culture impede the progress of mankind? In my opinion, I say that preserving the past has its purpose and merits, and plays a major role in our progress towards a better society.

For many who have suffered atrocities of wars, the records of such events are of great importance to them. They serve to warn future generations from choosing the same paths that led to the horrifying events that have left many scarred, such as the Holocaust conducted by the Nazis against the Jews. The extent of harm and damage sustained in the past acts as a deterrent against similar events from repeating.

Many also are only able to move on after their ordeal have been given much recognition. An example is the unforgettable event of the Rape of Nanking. Furor erupted when the Japanese tried to re-write history by covering up the fact that such a gruesome and shameless event had happened in the Second World War. The denial of past wrongful acts was an insult to those who suffered and only after the records were corrected did the indignation subside. Accurate historical records acts as a closure to the past and the entrance to the future, so as to allow the society as a whole to move on. This applies to the Chinese Communist Revolution when Chairman Mao rose to power as well as the massacre in Rwanda.

However, some may argue that by living in the past, we cannot contribute to progress. Many inventions and discoveries were derived by moving beyond past knowledge, hence able to contribute to the advancement of society. This was the case of Christopher Columbus, who disregarded the belief that the Earth was flat, and led to the eventual discovery of the American continent. Believing in old myths, sayings and legends seem to hinder people from breakthroughs.

We need to have a balanced view of the past and that only by doing so will the preservation of past be beneficial to us. Failures of the past can help to drive us towards a better future. Remembrance of the past can also serve as a source of pleasure. For example, the old literary works of Shakespeare and Dickens allow for deeper understanding and appreciation of the language used. People also feel a sense of nostalgia, which can sometimes be derived from the taste of traditional dishes like the Nyonya, or particular costumes and types of architecture like the British ones in Singapore. I assume that rich culture is beneficial to us, hence a precious gem that we all share. If such culture is lost, it would totally be a waste since it is one of the only kind.

Thus remembering the past is not pointless. As quoted from George Santayana, ‘Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes.’ As such, history serves to remind and prevent the future generations from repeating past mistakes, while providing a proper end to some. The conservation of wonderful products of the past is like a present which bestows joy to both the present and the future to come.

Categories: Social Changes | 1 Comment

“Men and women were never meant to be equal.” Do you agree?

Almost a century ago, the first feminist movement took off, where women fought for equal opportunities, respect, recognition and rights as men. Today, there are numerous prominent female figures who have taken up the roles that were traditionally dominated by men – the present Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, former President of Indonesia, Megawati Sukarnoputri, and present Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, are just a few examples suggesting that the pursuit of equality of the sexes is very much feasible and realistic. However, it remains that there are certain intrinsic qualities of men and women that perhaps point to the disconcerting fact that men and women were never meant to be equal, and hence, the pursuit for equality of men and women is futile.

The intrinsic and biological sexual dimorphism between the male and the female genders are numerous. Research has shown that men tend to have greater aggressive tendencies, greater muscle mass, better spatial skills and quick arousal in response to sexual images. Furthermore, it is also interesting to note that an overwhelming majority of serial killers, psychopaths and criminals in maximum-security prisons are males. On the other hand, women tend to have weaker visualization skills, better skills of communication, verbalization and emotional empathy – it is no wonder that over 50% of the teaching workforce is composed of women.

These intrinsic and biological differences between men and women ultimately lead to seemingly logical differences in the social roles of each gender. Women, who sacrifice a lot more nutrients in their bodies to bear a baby as compared to men, might naturally be inclined to play a greater role in the nurturing of the child in the family and in being homemakers. On the other hand, men, who are blessed with better spatial skills, greater muscle mass and strength, naturally take on the role of hunting food for the family. This structure of the human family, men as hunters and women as gatherers, has been passed on for numerous generations and over thousands of years. Overtime, this has resulted in men taking on far more dominant position in the societies of the world than women do. Additionally, women have a biological clock that prevents them from bearing a child after a little after the age of 40, when they hit menopause. This acts as the single strongest deterrent against any women who aspires to climb the corporate ladder – even half a year of maternity leave can be sufficient to disqualify a woman from a promotion. Indeed, these realities of the intrinsic differences between men and women are clear evidence that men and women were never meant to be equal in the first place, and it is perhaps foolish to consider the idea of gender equality.

With all the above arguments supporting that gender equality is an impossible task, it would be hard to image any country, which enjoys full equality of the sexes in the workplace and not suffer the detrimental consequences of falling birth rates. Yet, such countries do exist – Scandinavian countries such as Sweden, not only have among the largest labour participation of women, they also have among the highest fertility rates in the developed world. How is this even possible?

In today’s world, technological advances have allowed many women to take up jobs that would previously require a man’s intrinsic powers of raw strength. Labour-intensive industries, such as the manufacturing or mining industries, may now be done completely automatically by robots and machinery. Hence this has rendered man‟s intrinsic powers of strength useless in an increasingly technologically-advanced society. Furthermore, women‟s innate skills of communication, verbalization and empathy, may become increasingly attractive in the modern workplace. As economies of the world move from manufacturing-based to more knowledge-and-service-based, the skills and abilities needed in the workplace also gradually move in the direction of abilities that are not exclusive to men or women. Additionally, the modern female, equipped with an equal amount of education as the modern male, is no longer the disadvantaged sex. Education has allowed men and women to attain equal opportunities and qualifications, creating a fairer playing field between men and women. Lastly, the government may also play a key role in ensuring gender equality. Government-funded childcare centres, policies on maternity leave, economic incentives to bear children, all play a part to ensuring women do not lose out in the workplace.
Sweden‟s example of the possibility of gender equality is a promising sign for the rest of the world. It reflects the highly possible scenario for men and women to have equal opportunities in the workplace or public sphere, without having disastrous effects infertility rates or changing any societal expectations. Indeed, men and women can aspire to be equal after all, and the pursuit for gender equality is not only possible, but also feasible and practical.
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“Women should never rule a country.” Is this a fair statement?

This is the link to the reference article: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/11/should-women-rule/7061/

While no woman has been president of Singapore nor has any woman run for presidency, it does not mean that a woman is incapable of ruling a country. There are many notable female leaders in big organizations, whom have stood up to run for presidency in countries like US and Indonesia. In fact, human history reveals that the world does have many years’ worth of experience with female rulers.  All of us must acknowledge the fact that women are indeed worthy of leading and developing any territory.

Notable female leaders such as Cleopatra of Egypt, Empress Wu Zetian of Tang Dynasty, China and Queen Elizabeth I of England had indeed contributed much to their ruling societies. Cleopatra succeeded in overthrowing her brother’s reign and concentrated the power in her own hands. She was scheming, capable, ambitious and absolutely remarkable, and made great contributions to protect her kingdom. Empress Wu, though the last ruler of the Tang Dynasty, brought the empire to greater heights. Many inventions were made during her reign and material wealth of the country was at one of its highest peaks. Elizabeth I was endowed with immense courage and handled problems like religious strife and foreign debt very well. She garnered support from the masses and many respected her even after her death. Renowned cases of female leaders are highly commendable and we must not forget their efforts in protecting and contributing to their empires.

Many have argued that women’s rule over men would be an utter disgrace to not only men, but the society as well. Men define women as weak, meek and incompetent human beings, only capable of reproducing and taking care of minor chores. Whatever happens outside the home must only be controlled and maintained by men, otherwise all have to face the dire consequences brought about by female interference. Men have always argued that female leadership is synonymous to inept leadership, but they have neglected the fact that women are also equally smart and capable of handling major tasks. As quoted from the article, “In a highly competitive and increasingly fractious world, women possess the kind of critical problem-solving skills that are urgently needed to break down barriers, build understanding, and create the best conditions for peace”, which certainly proves to us that men could not solve all problems and women interference is a must. Men are aggressive in their approach in handling matters, such as staging war against other territories in the case of US-Iraq War , and often resulted in unconcluded agreements. On the other hand, women are calm-minded and gentle when tackling huge matters. According to research, majority of the females believe that all matters must be treated with care, like how they take care of kids, and that they tend to excel more in consensus-building and other skills in leadership. With all these in mind, women have the potential to resolve conflicts between territories through peaceful means.

All in all, it is unfair to say that women are incompetent when taking over leadership roles. They definitely would not disgrace the society and in fact, they may potentially bring about progress to the community. Female political leaders are portrayed so much less impressive in this democratic era due to mediocre positions given to them or even not well-addressed in developing countries, where highest number of records of female presidents are found. Women can be great leaders and should be given the chance to outshine the men. It is timely that we need to address this issue of gender inequality in leadership positions in any group, community or country.

Categories: Gender | Leave a comment

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