Racism and nigger

A few weeks ago, I met up with H, the tutor for my culture module who is currently pursuing her PhD, and one of the topics we talked about was everyday racism. I raised the idea that the term “racism” is too loosely thrown about these days, if we were to stick by the academic definition of “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior”, so based on this arguably one can only conclusively say that examples like the Holocaust, Apartheid and racial segregation in America are “true” examples of racism, because there is both intent and discrimination (in the form of violence). She countered with a very interesting point that the definition itself must be examined in terms of the authors and context that it was written in, and it suddenly hit me that perhaps I need to reconsider sticking to this definition, and perhaps adapt it to make it more relevant to the plights of those who suffer from racial discrimination today.

But the main focus of this post is not about a conceptual debate of racism, but rather the painful (at least to me) situation in America, specifically regarding the word “nigger”. People avoid the word like the plague, and sponsors drop celebrities who were caught using the word at the drop of a hat. While it would be interesting to debate about usage of the word – proponents like George Carlin who see nothing with it “it’s the context that makes the word good or bad; there is nothing wrong with the word nigger in and of itself, it’s the racist asshole who’s using the word that you ought to be concerned about” versus opponents who claim that continued usage reinforces the power relations and trivializes the emotional burden of the word –  it seems far more important to point out the horrendous hypocrisy that is happening in America (nice alliteration) in the form of actual racist practices like voter ID laws, redlining, disproportionate violence against the black community amidst this sacred ban on a word. To make it clearer, what I mean to say is that it seems that the reality in America is that systemic oppression of the black community is fine, as long as you don’t say the word “nigger”. It is slightly amusing from a philosophical point of view, but then the suffering reminds you of how painful it is.

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Looking back 13/8 – 19/8

3 new facts I learned this week:

  1. Moray eels have a second jaw that is called the pharyngeal jaw. The eels bites its prey using its oral jaws, then the pharyngeal jaws extend, clamp down and retracts, allowing the eel to swallow the prey.
  2. Greek statues were originally painted! Unlike the pure white marble we have come to associate Greek statues with, they were originally painted in vibrant colors
  3. Singapore is the only country in the World to have a tripartism! This refers to the collaboration among unions, employers and the Government

 

NEW CONCEPT NEW CONCEPT NEW CONCEPT: Precarity (The lack of security, stability and predictability especially in jobs)

Anecdote time: Whilst conducting a pilot survey for the NUS project, one of the surveyees took some time to chat with me about his life. He was an Indian national, who held a PhD and worked in the IT industry. I learned from him how he had to toil on weekdays, only returning home in the wee hours of the night. His work was project based, each project lasting for about 1-2 years. His visa needed to be renewed every year, so the threat of retrenchment was always looming over his shoulder, which according to him was exacerbated by the fact that in the event of a crisis, foreigners would be the first to be retrenched. Hence, addition to putting in the long hours he needed to go for constant training and renewal, and always surpass his local colleagues. He wants to but is unable bring his family over due to lack of stability, which is pitiful because he says due to the long hours he has very few friends. In spite all of this, he says that he trusts his neighbors, likes his estate and feels a sense of belonging, both to his neighborhood and Singapore. (There should be some commentary about how his individual experience reflects the state of society as a whole and its implication but lets leave that for another time. I need to reorganize my blog)

 

Phrase of the week: face like a smacked arse

 

Quote of the week: “Our proper response to the inexorable march of progress that has brought us to this place and time in the history of civilization is to find a way to confront it responsibly. Not modestly. Not un self-consciously. Not with faith in a power greater than ours to descend from the sky and set things right despite our best efforts to screw up. We have an obligation to know who we are, where we are and what we can do. We have an obligation to understand the ramifications of the things we do, and to choose to do them – or not – with our eyes open.” (Kingdom Come, Mark Waid and Alex Ross)

 

Book of the week: (Batman Year One, Frank Miller)

Stream of Consciousness

  1. My youtube liked videos playlist was running, and I found it rather satisfying that a serious Sam Harris video about Milo Yiannopoulos and the formation of tribes was immediately followed by Grace Helbig’s night time routine. Which was the first Helbig video I showed CYX and he liked it
  2. NTSH and my cousin told me the exact same thing: men’s clothing are largely similar so the way to stand out is through your watch, wallet and shoes. Which I find pretty strange, since I think a person’s uniqueness is largely expressed by accomplishments and thoughts, neither of which are really captured through apparel and accessories
  3. When people attribute events in their lives to a supernatural being, aren’t they simply relieving themselves of responsibility for action and thought? This originally came from No Man’s Land, but it does seem that it is a good argument against those who choose faith over rationality.
  4.  张信哲 “每一首情歌最重要的一句是哪一句? 第一句”
  5. Lex Luthor “Do you know how much power I’d have to give up to be president?” I remember being rather enthralled when I first heard it on Justice League Animated, and today as I learn more about the society, there seems to be validity in this statement. Without the need to invoke conspiracy theories of the existence of the illuminati, politicians are still at the whims and mercy of those who control material resources

I don’t know

 

Carbonara

Ingredients:

N5 Barilla Spaghetti

Fairprice prepacked streaky bacon

Lemon juice

Emborg whipping cream

Sugar

Salt

Egg yolks

black pepper

Parmesan cheese

 

Preparation:

  1. Feel Fill a pan with water, salt generously and bring to the boil
  2. Fry up some bacon in an oven until it goes crispy, then slice it into mini bits
  3. Grate the cheese and mix it in a bowl with the egg yolks, cream and pepper, whisk until evenly mixed

 

Steps:

  1. Drain the pasta when it is al dente
  2. Transfer the pasta into a pan, then turn on a low heat
  3. Pour the sauce into the pan and mix well
  4. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice

 

Food for thought:

  1. By strict definitions, this is neither a proper carbonara nor an alfredo. But it is closer to a carbonara, and outside of Italy people put cream in their carbonara, and I think it tastes better.
  2. I have tried making it the traditional way, where the pasta is tossed in the oil/grease that the bacon released while cooking, and the sauce just a mixture of egg yolks, cheese, salt and pepper. But I like this more. It feels more pleasant to the palate. The sauce is light and sweet.

 

 

Onion Bacon Pasta

Ingredients (might not be the best from a culinary point of view but these are readly available at my local supermarket)

Yellow onion

Garlic

Fairprice prepacked streaky bacon

Chilli Padi

masterfood parsley

masterfood oregano

masterfood thyme

knorr chicken stock cube

barilla n5 spaghetti

garlic

naturel EVOO

 

Preparation:

  1. Dice onion, bacon and garlic finely
  2. Deseed chilli padi and slice finely
  3. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt generously
  4. Portion out the dry spaghetti

Steps:

  1. Add EVOO to a pan on low heat.
  2. Once oil is hot/warm, add onions, bacon, garlic and chilli
  3. Place spaghetti in boiling water, stirring occasionally in the first minute
  4. When the onions have released most of their water and are soft, add in parsley, oregano and thyme. Crumble in the stock cube and mix well
  5. Once pasta is al dente, drain and transfer to pan with bacon onion mixture
  6. Toss until flavors are combined

Room for exploration

  1. Would crispy bacon bits improve this dish?

 

 

Unhappiness

Today was miserable. I have never felt this miserable during an outing. With my friends. And God knows an open blog (which of course is quite hidden) isn’t the best channel to express my frustrations, but it is probably the most cathartic experience. If one of them is reading this, do it with an open mind. It’s not going to be pleasant reading

Rushing to finish the research stuff at 330am when we were meeting at 730am was probably a bad start. And it got worse.

Breakfast was dim sum at this Chinese restaurant. It looked respectable, but fuck me the food was terrible. Dim sum restaurants are supposed to be fantastic experiences, but maybe it’s because since I was young dim sum with the extended family was always at top quality restaurants (Jumbo, Crystal Jade, Wah Lok etc) so that molded and shaped my view. Regardless, no self-respecting restaurant serves har kow that falls apart or puts pieces of radish with the prawns, or a cheap mooncake paste in banana pastry, or…this would take forever if I listed out all the faults with the food so lets continue.

(Side note: Ever since I took an obsessive keen interest in food, one of my biggest disagreements with family, relatives and friends has always been about seasoning. From how I see it, food needs to be heavily seasoned in order to taste good, WHICH IS WHY YOU NEED MORE DARK SOYA SAUCE FOR A GOLDEN MUSHROOM STIR FRY. Ok I needed to get that out of my system ARGH. Anyhow, it just strikes me as something quite peculiar that my aunts were so insistent that they never used MSG in their cooking, which makes their dishes horrendously underseasoned and bland, or how my mum/friends are so worried about the “burnt” bits.)

I think the most frustrating thing about the trip is the conversations. Good Lord hearing young men talk about watches and shoes and t-shirts at length and with such self-importance is annoying. And this already dreadful thing is exacerbated by hearing how some of their other schoolmates are immature, childish and always “chasing money” to quote them. “You can dress a pig up in a suit, but you can’t stop it from grunting” As far as I recall, I don’t think I am snobbish or picky about conversations. I enjoyed the deeper discussions with YX and Jon over topics like racism and ethics as much as the conversations about movies and university life with K and KS. But I guess the obsession people have with the fashion industry is something that will always irk me, partially because during my most formative years the idols/media figures/academics/chefs that influenced me the most, along with what I actually absorbed from my parents, were never too concerned about fashion and most actually criticized it. (George Carlin and Marco Pierre White, amongst others) Then again, perhaps my willingness to spend freely on food is as puzzling to those who spend freely on clothes?

I might have more points to make, but I cant really recall/ too tired to continue. Anyhow, this has been REALLY cathartic…WOW.

I don’t know (Think I’m going to steal this perfect way to end from Grace Helbig)

Wenger on social media

Context: The wave of “Wenger out” sentiment resurfaced on social media after the Watford loss, but the 67-year-old insisted he cannot pay too much attention to the outcry.

 

“We live in a society that is like that, I cannot change the society. I focus on what I can influence. And I live with the response of the society,” he said, adding that social media has increased negativity among supporters. “Because everybody can express his frustration straight away in the fraction of a second. And there’s no time to take a distance with what happened.”

 

(ESPNFCASIA, Mattias Karen 2017)

TV Rudeness

There is a show on TV at the moment (Come Dine with Me) the premise of which is that five people each host a dinner party in turn after which the other four are encouraged to be as blisteringly rude about it as possible. I humbly submit that this is not a good thing.

It’s certainly compelling but only because for now it is still shocking to see people break the strong social convention that tells us that when we are invited into someone’s home we don’t immediately and publicly slag off the food and décor. This show gets all its power from licensing people to break that rule and bitch at length on how vulgar they thought the napkins were but the truth is that no napkins, not even when embroidered with monograms, presented in napkin rings, and referred to as serviettes can ever be as vulgar as saying so.

This program glorifies people who do say so as loudly and obnoxiously as possible and the problem is that this taboo is a finite resource. Every time you break it you weaken it. It’s like smashing a teapot and gluing it back together again and again and again. Sooner or later there’s going to be more glue than pot and then there will be no more tea for anyone. In this metaphor tea stands for grace and courtesy, as well it might. Shows like this one recklessly gobble up our capacity to be shocked by people being rude to each other for short-term gain and like the rainforest once it’s been destroyed to make grazing land for cattle it’s gone forever. In this metaphor cows stand for rudeness and selfishness. This is less fair on cows than the previous one was on tea.

(David Mitchell’s Soapbox – TV rudeness)

Wisdom from Sam Harris

“Becoming a part of a movement doesn’t help anybody think clearly so I distrust identity politics of all kinds. I think we should talk about specific issues whether it’s trade or guns or immigration or foreign interventions or abortion or anything else and we should reason honestly about them and I’m not the first person to notice that it’s pretty strange that knowing a person’s position on any one of these issues generally allows you to predict his position on the others. This shouldn’t happen some of these issues are totally unrelated why should a person’s attitude toward guns be predictive of his views on climate change or immigration or abortion and yet it almost certainly is in our society That’s the sign that people are joining tribes and movements right it’s not the sign of clear thinking.”

Waking Up With Sam Harris #45 – Ask Me Anything 5