Problems with the inner bitch

I’ve spent a good portion of my working life in the media, both as a creator and seller of stories on the PR end or writing them from the publication side. In those years, I’ve realized that as far as media is concerned, there’s one uncomfortable truth – personalities sell. This truth is regardless of the topic and thanks to social media, we’re becoming even more personality obsessed. There was a time when “celebrity” was restricted to the world of entertainment. These days everyone is a celebrity.

Let’s face the basic fact – it’s far easier and therefore fun to talk about personalities. The Trump era in American and by extension World politics was the prime example. Everything was focused on the personality in the White House. Say what you like about the man but he had a way of getting people to talk about him, whether it was good or bad. Everyone in the media by extension everywhere else talked about him. Political discourse inevitably went around his orange tan or whether you thought his bluster was actually based on anything. Nobody actually seemed to care to discuss the policies he was proposing.

We, as a species, are bitchy. As mentioned, I spent half my working life in and around media. So, yes, I’m guilty of gossiping and even writing about people (I’m not important enough for Ng Yat Chung to care about what I’ve written about him). Funnily enough, being a bitch isn’t limited to the media. In Singapore, professional circles are so small that personalities end up getting discussed at all sorts of “professional” gatherings. This bitchiness is so prevalent that I’d actually worry if people were not saying things about me behind my back – it would be a sign that I was totally irrelevant.

Whilst its second nature to “civilized people” to “bitch” about each other, there’s a slight problem with this. The easy topic is actually the most distracting. It’s so easy to talk about people that the people you are “bitching” about become the main thing that you think about. Then, when all you think about is the people you are bitching about, you lose interest in doing anything else in between the hum drum of ordinary life.

There has, as far as I know, never been a study on the correlation between bitchiness and the collapse of civilizations. However, there would be case for it. The Millenia of Chinese Imperial Courts filled with eunuchs, for example was probably so bitchy with everyone in court bitching about each other than nobody realized that society had stagnated or that the “White Devils” asking to trade actually had far more advanced technologies that could damage everyone else.

So, if we can’t talk about each other, what else can we talk about? Well, I did something vaguely intelligent last week and made an appointment to catch up with my former battalion Rece officer this week.

Ours was a very unusual friendship. We meet in the armskote room at 23SA. I was the Orderly Sargent (COS) on duty trying to get the arms cleared. He was the battalion Duty Officer (DO). He had gone through the US Military Academy at West Point and graduated seventh in his class. I, by contrast, should have failed my specialist course, had they been allowed to fail me. The caliber of personalities was very clear and I got a dressing down. Never raised his voice but the battery (Company equivalent in an Artillery Unit) duty officer, who had cleared the arms previously, was summoned and everyone in battery line was exceedingly sympathetic the next day.

We didn’t really keep in touch. He had his career in the army and I went onto ORD, go to university and start my freelancing journey. However, he left the army and got in touch with me. Our friendship started to develop in the post-phase of his career because, while we didn’t meet often, our meetings were and remain sessions for discussing issues that matter to us and bouncing ideas as what we can do. Our coffee session at the Tower Club was no exception:

With Mr. Christopher Lo at the Tower Club

In the years since the military, I’ve understood that it wasn’t just the rank that made him my superior. It was the level of conversation that he brought to me that made him my superior. People and personalities were never the main focus of our discussions. What makes the discussions I have with him different to the people I deal with in the course of my professional life is that personalities are never the main topic. Our main topic is ideas.

So, yes, talking about personalities can be a lot of fun. If anything, it becomes the focus on life when you work in an organization that becomes the centre of your life. Offices, be they bureaucratic or corporate are hives of discussions on personality. Hence, they are grossly unproductive.

However, once you get people away from their little holes, you get them to think of things beyond the personalities. You get them to think and talk about ideas that excite them. As my favourite data analytics entrepreneur states – Innovation doesn’t happen in big companies. The big companies have to buy small ones to get innovation. Silicon Valley works because people get together to talk about and get excited by ideas. In a bureaucracy, people get turned on by talking about other people whom they can either build up or trash according to their convenience – hence such organizations do not grow. Clearly it is best to look for the people who want to talk about ideas that excite them rather than the personalities.


Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able to 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.




9 Responses to “Problems with the inner bitch”

  • Dalai Says "Read My Lips":

    Oh, come on!
    This kind of pseudo-intellectual stuff could have been condensed into one sentence -trump is a phony; he’s just an old-fashioned charlatan; dude, you won’t be the first or the last to adore a leader that one way or another deceived and ridiculed his way into office. Why give this joker so much attention? The Greeks would call this “sophistry”. The rest of us need to move on.

    We don’t need epistemology to appreciate our own ‘personality’: A lie is a lie. Please call it out confidently and loudly, ‘Narcissism’. This is eerily true!
    Yes, of course, our individual experience depends on past events with people of different personalities, it sounds meaningful, but it has no logical substance at all. This kind of navel gazing is where the author goes wrong and shoots himself in the foot. Attention seeking doesn’t go far enough.
    Oh, did I forget to say, “thanks” … ?

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  • rice:

    There are bitches and there will always be bitches who bitch around.
    We must be very “AWARE”.
    TKL got bitched badly during PE.
    Some bitches- male or female- still bitch on him.

    What is important is not personalities.
    What does matter ULTIMATELY is CHARACTER.

    What is lasting is not “HARDWARE” but “HEART-WARE”.

    Do you vote for well-spoken suave kind or do you vote for the person with a HEART?
    It seems sgs are superficial types and that include the many boastful $cholars in the upper echelon$ of Govt who are supposed to be the PUBLIC’s servants?

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  • Harder Truths:

    Ah, Tang Li again on his blessed upper-class life, some National Service anecdotes and how he achieved greatness through humility. Where will we be without his Pearls Of Wisdom?

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  • opposition dude:

    Man what a bitch of an article this was to read, pardon the pun.

    From an overly long opening about bitching about so called personalities to catching up with an old army superior, where the linkage sia? We all know that in life connections are important and it’s who you know not what you know. Just witness nepotism at play when husband is PM and wife is boss of SWF. Not coincidence of course but newspaper won’t dare expose where their children/friends/relatives are working at anyway.

    Bitching about the PAP will always be a topic as long as they are in charge, that one is for sure.

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  • Sporeans Keep Govt Employed:

    Oh yes, traditional media is full of insecure , irrational bitches who are easily threatened.

    Because it’s a lazy job many want but not all get. Sit there and dream of ideas. Shiok hor?

    Now that everything’s gone online, the power of traditional media is diminished. You can be your own editor, own publisher, own star (porno or otherwise). You don’t need to report to others who veto your ideas or treat your written work shabbily, just because they don’t like or get it.

    Like mediacorpse. Last time very ba ba bai bai (overbearingly arrogant), now even 8Gays oops, 8days went online. Who reads them anymore? Most of their magazines close shop.

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  • Bitches are supposed to bitch, it’s in their job description or else they would not be called bitches.

    If they are not allowed to bitch, they would be jobless. lol

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  • Sporeans Keep Govt Employed:

    Why are Public Relations called Public Relations when they are basically events companies? Everyday also got people resign.

    Another yaya papaya industry is advertising. Those bosses will ask you come up with 19 or more ideas for a single ad. And then when they put it out, the ad is so basic and devoid of creativity. Makes me laugh.

    I hope online finish these industries off. It would serve them right.

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  • do, talk, teach:

    Those who can, do.
    Those who can’t, talk.

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  • Soccerbetting2:

    Watch this Tik Tok of China surrounding Taiwan with warships.-”” Is China for real this time.If not real,why spend resources deploying so many warships ?

    And TR Emeritus topics has the word “bitch”.So TR Emeritus toxic women wing,don’t be so “bitch” to block this post for Straits Times bitches won’t be posting anything about it for sure.If war really start,all also blur blur….TR Emeritus really mad women hiding there!

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