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I have been ‘OBA’ of this table for so long…

“I HAVE BEEN “OBA” OF THIS TABLE FOR SO LONG BECAUSE I’VE ALWAYS KNOWN WHAT MY ENEMIES WOULD DO – EVEN BEFORE THEY THOUGHT OF IT.” – ENIOLA SALAMI IN KING OF BOYS: THE RETURN OF THE KING

I’ve always had a fascination for different places and cultures. So, whilst I never really “made it” to a level where I got sent to all sorts of obscure places, I’ve been able to live my fantasies of being outside of the confines of small-town England or Singapore through watching movies shot in different parts of the world. I loved watching Kung-Fu movies because I got an idealized image of China and Hong Kong. You could say that I was most comfortable in “Chinatowns” because I always saw myself as the rickshaw puller in Chinatown who would somehow become a hero (my folks would shoot me for saying it, but I preferred to be seen as a “Collie” than an English gentleman inhabiting a Chinese body).

As I grew older and the community that I interacted with more was increasingly Indian national, my interest in Bollywood grew. I found certain meanings from Bollywood movies, tried to pick up Hindi (which is easier for me than picking up Hokkien) and every Indian girl on screen was a goddess. I also had a fantasy of ending up with an Indian girl, after lengthy battles with my parents (which would never have happened. Firstly, I was never in a place where I could meet a Bollywood lookalike and secondly my parents are exceedingly open-minded, thus ruining any teenage needs I might have had of trying to rebel).

I haven’t lost my fascination of with how people from all over the world might live. My greatest discovery during the various Covid imposed lock downs in the last year was “Nollywood” or Nigerian cinema. Whist Bollywood has become exceedingly “slick,” Nollywood is refreshingly crude. Many of the scenes look like they’ve been shot with a handheld video camera. The actors and actresses are not wonderfully attractive (they look like the rest of us) and that provides a wonderful sense of realism that you don’t get in either Hollywood or Bollywood.

One of the things that Nollywood does well is to cover the corruption that Nigeria has become so famous for. If you watch Nollywood, you get to see how people expect palms to be greased for the smallest of things and you get a glimpse of how the chase for power becomes particularly addictive.

I just finished a series called “King of Boys: The Return of the King,” which tells a story of a businesswoman who is also a gangster. She comes back from exile and proceeds to go into politics. The main character is violent (there’s a line which says that “peace of mind” is not for people like her), bribes and blackmails her way to power. In the end, she ends up as “Governor” of Lagos State (one of Nigeria’s wealthier ones), and rules from the top and she instills a successor for her underworld activities – hence he rules from below.

There is a crucial point in the series when her enemies think they finally have her and she then explains that she remained “Oba” (Yoruba for ruler) of the table for so long because she always knew what her enemies were going to do before they even planned it.”

This fictional character is providing the rest of us with much valuable advice – which is to know how the people we’re going to deal with, are going to react even before they know what they’re going to do. I believe the correct term is “empathy.”

Modern management theory works on the maxim that “Information of power.” As such, everyone is focused on how to “acquire” information. People in leadership positions have become particularly obsessed with “gathering intelligence.” The idea is simple – the more I know about a given situation, the more I can act correctly. The follow up idea is that if I can limit your sources of information, the more I can limit your ability to act.

Take CECA debates. Whatever one thinks of CECA, the government inevitably has the upper hand when it comes to quoting statistics. The reason is simple, they control the information flow.

However, what people forget is that while controlling the flow of information is important in dealing with situations, there’s got to be an element of knowing what people will do with the information. It’s like this – if you know exactly what the other guy is going to do, you’ve won most of the battle.

This, however, requires a certain characteristic. One needs empathy or at least some imagination. This is the ability to step into someone else’s shoes. Let’s go back to the recent events in Afghanistan as an example. We had a group of bearded men who managed to send the world’s most powerful military and information gathering machine packing. How did they do that?

Part of the explanation was provided by former General HR McMaster, who served as National Security Advisor to the Trump administration. He argued that “we also assume that people are like us.” General McMaster then went onto argue that US policy makers made mistakes because they assumed the Taliban would act in the way that Americans would act.

I will leave US military policy to better informed people. However, I do believe that the General has hit the nail on the head in as much as part of our failures in life come from the assumption that people are “exactly like us,” which in turn makes us unable to understand why people don’t do or react in the same way as us.

Look at the current PAP government and how it handles issues like CECA. They came out with great statistics to get their points across. Take a look at the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s website on CECA, which says that 97,000 locals were employed by Singapore-based companies that invested in India in 2019: [LINK]

I can’t dispute that statistic. However, what does that mean to a 40-year-old mid-career professional who has just been retrenched, can’t find a job and every time he steps in for an interview, the interviewer is inevitably from India? Has anyone in a policy making position ever thought of how you’d explain the benefits of CECA to someone in that position.

If the Prime Minister seriously wants to secure his legacy, he should watch this Nollywood flick. He and his team need to understand that having statistics to support their policies is only part of the battle. The other part is, as former President Bill Clinton said is getting people to “feel it.” The ruling party needs to know and understand the people that it is ruling – otherwise it could end up being the most successful ruling party in history to lose an election.

 

Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.

 

 

yyy
READER COMMENTS BELOW

10 Responses to “I have been ‘OBA’ of this table for so long…”

  • Very brainwashed:

    “Look at the current PAP government and how it handles issues like CECA. They came out with great statistics to get their points across. Take a look at the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s website on CECA, which says that 97,000 locals were employed by Singapore-based companies that invested in India in 2019:”

    Only brainwashed people can praise this number as great statistics.

    Look carefully.
    1) How many of those 97,000 “locals” are real Singaporeans? PAP count PRs as locals. And newly converted citizens, such as that condo incident? Hiding behind the “locals” label is very telling. The truth cannot be revealed.

    2) How many of those 97,000 locals are created because of the companies’ investment in India? Did they count the entire DBS employees in Singapore?

    The gov is doing good propaganda. They even get brainwashed sheep to brainwash others.

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  • Tremendous:

    Looks like one of the criteria for the village chief to bring in new blood
    is also to have those who are yes-men.
    Let the public or oppo chiefs randomly pick someone from the village chief’s team to answer questions for Indieland agreement and they will be stucked. Too many idiot chiefs on the village chief’s team.

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  • gong gong and daft daft:

    //How many of those 97,000 “locals” are real Singaporeans?//

    if one listens too much on the way the white idiots present you with statistics, one will become gong gong and daft daft ????

    frankly one (except if one is white kaki lang idiot and has every interest agree with the white idiots ???) will not learn much from the white monkey idiots and gang except many clever wayang twisted words ??

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  • opposition dude:

    The problem with the PAP is that they love to put out statistics with nothing to explain in more detail. For example, last month’s debate about CECA had PAP saying that 398k jobs were created for locals and that was it.

    How many of the jobs were full time and not contract/temporary/part time? When were all these jobs created? A year back? 2 years? 3? How many of these jobs are still around as of, say, July 2021?

    Same for CECA, PAP thinks that nt answering a question about the numbers of indian nationals will magically make people stop asking about them. They only dared to reveal “a few hundred” intra corporate transfers and that was it.

    So going by how evasive PAP is it comes as no surprise that voters didn’t trust them too much and this was reflected by their vote share drop across the island in addition to another GRC lost. You simply can’t convince people to vote for you because people don’t TRUST you, it’s as simple as that!

    So while PAP can conjure up some nice looking numbers it’s up to whether people believe in them and also how much more can be revealed if people probe further.

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  • reality!:

    Tang Li, good story telling!! your last sentence will become a reality in the not so distance future!! Watch out for the show!!

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  • xoxo:

    Whatever excuses they manufacture and keep manufacturing to EXPLAIN AWAY their WRINGDOINGS( against ordinary sgs) ,these are still WRONGS done against THE SG PEOPLE.
    THE G KEEPS SAYING THEY ARE DOING WHAT THEY ARE DOING *FOR THE GOOD OF SG*!

    WHOA! THAT SOUNDS PATRIOTIC,at least on the surface?
    Is DOING THINGS( PUBLIC POLICIES,ALLOCATION OF OUR RESERVES LIKE THE $100 BILLION,ETC) that may help SG BUSINESSES OR *GDP* BUT ROB AWAY JOBS N LIVELIHOODS OF A GREAT NUMBER OF OUR OWN PMEs(example),TRULY A GOOD THING?
    A COUNTRY WITHOUT ITS OWN CITIZENS IS NOT A NATION,to my simple thinking or is it in OUR SCHOLARS’ DEFINITION?

    I am appalled at how the G recently RAID SGS’ RESERVES TO FUND WAGE COSTS OF BIG COMPANIES( MNCs) especially when NEEDY N JOBLESS sgs,including SENIORS who helped build Sg into what it is,a SPITEFUL $600?

    EVEN *RECENT* INTRA-COMPANY FT-TRANFEREES who have not as yet pay any taxes got much MORE becos of their HIGH SALARY BASE?!

    MOM TAN SEE LENG SAID IN PARLIAMENT THAT RECENT IMPORT OF FTs (during COVID) were mainly INTRA-COMPANY TRANFEREES,didnt he?

    So?

    The G said G cannot take from RESERVES TO HELP JOBLESS N NEEDY SENIORS SO AS NOT TO BURDEN OUR YOUNG sgs’ future tax incidence but the same G CAN SIMPLY RAID $100 BILLION to HELP FUND COMPANY WAGES,even for NEW INTRA-COMPANY FTs(tranferees)?

    And,G GOT THE CHEEKS TO EVEN THINK OF CLAWING BACK BY GST INSTEAD OF INCOME TAXES?
    BTW,COMPANIES LIKE DBS which receive HUGE SUMS OF GRANTS make HIGHER PROFITS!

    Business SUCCESS AT SGS’ EXPENSE IS NOT A NATION’S SUCCESS OR PROGRESS EVEN AS GDP IS HIGH,i am sure the scholarly ministers understand this much better than this half-educated sg uncle.

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  • Underemployed PMETs:

    Tell that to the many underemployed local Senior PMETs…
    Something is very wrong,need to fix it asap.
    Or still need to wait for the next election to fix it once and for all ?

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  • Harder Truths:

    There are many communist countries that have successful leaderships like $G. It is easy when thy can put their opponents in prison using fabricated stories and evidence, and without the need for rule of law.

    Do not think they do not know what they are doing. They know exactly what they are doing. The problem people fail to realise is – they just do not care what happens to us.

    If people keep believing these fairy tales about the wonderful regime just know that one virus in a year has upended their entire rule of 55 years. Useless plans based on selfish $$$$$ logic. But why should they care? They are not affected by any of it.

    “The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.”

    ― Thomas Sowell

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  • Very brainwashed:

    The last sentence is a big plp.

    reality!:
    Tang Li, good story telling!! your last sentence will become a reality in the not so distance future!! Watch out for the show!!

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  • PAP Statistics ?:

    The PAP can come out with very good statistics to prove that CECA is beneficial to Singaporeans. Eg the Indian Intra Transfer numbers which is a few hundreds. VERY GOOD. The PAP must be very stupid to think that we will accept the numbers when we can see so many Indian at Changi Business Park. We believe its all LIES.

    During the debate in Parliament, we can see that so many PAP MPs and Ministers attacking Leong and his lady colleague. This is more like a Big Bully. Can PAP impress us with this drama ? Of course not. We will vote for Opposition come 2025.

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