Sunday, January 23, 2011

Maslow is Dead

...and he has been for about forty years now. But at least his ideas live on. Right?

May I present to you the modern Hierarchy of Needs, v2.0:


It's Maslow's Hierarchy, updated for the new millenium! Made with my society in mind, but probably applies to any society in the First World.

Right at the bottom, humans of this day and age need an education. It's the very most basic thing you can have in this world. Without it, prepare for a life of busking and road-sweeping, begging for food at every street corner.

Most people can get an education, but not only that, they need to be good at it. This means passing all your exams. No need to worry about actual knowledge, critical thinking skills or lofty philosophy: all you need is a basic grasp of simple facts and the knowledge of how to play the modern educational system, and you sail through it with flying colours and an impressive cirriculum vitae.

What do you do with your resumé? Like any other piece of paper which is worth more than its value in weight, you cash it in, of course! Trading that shiny ten-page monster bursting with your spectacular teenage achievements for a lifetime of constant income seems to be a no-brainer.

This is the real objective here. This should be the base of the pyramid, if they hierarchy could fit into a pyramid. Getting the money is the stepping stone for everything higher up in the system. And you can never have enough. So you invest in various stock opportunities and real estate, hoping to breed your cash like rabbits.

Having the money is not enough. You need to make sure you will always have the money. So some security is needed: in your job, in your investments, in your interest rates.

Once you have all the money, and you are sure that you will always have the money, you can now fulfill some of your physical needs, because you won't be able to get them without money. You can start going back for lunch break, and getting some sleep, because heaven knows how much of that you sacrificed while climbing the corporate ladder.

Not that you have sated your most primal physical desires, you can move up a level and satisfy your materialistic lust. This means buying stuff, and lots of it. Fill your lavish abode with things, stuff, objects and random paraphernalia, because the more stuff you have, and the more expensive they are, the more people will respect you as the rich mogul you are.

Which brings us to the penultimate level of need: esteem. You need to be confident that you are the wealthiest and most successful among your peers, a convenient indicator that shows you have made it to the top of the heap. You need your superiority. You need people to mutter jealously behind your back as you strut around, king of the concrete jungle.

At the end of everything, what a person in this society needs is a family and a sense of belonging. After all, every king needs an heir to pass down his vast inheritance to once his time is up. And now is the time to start making friends out of your enemies, before they jealously stab you in the back, with the intention of taking your place.

Morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, and an understanding of humanity's place in the universe. Pffft, who needs those?


What a man can be, he'll give it up to make more money.
The Edna Man

Friday, January 21, 2011

Blind Date

Today for a cohesion activity, our entire office trooped down to Ngee Ann Poly for a Dialogue in the Dark.

Basically what happens is this: They give you a blind man's cane and stick you with a tour guide, who is also visually impaired, then throw you all into this pitch black room with no source of light at all. So you're basically blind for the hour as you maneuver your way across terrain that blind people usually have to go through in real life: a park, Clarke Quay, a food court and a city street.

Honestly, I've had this idea before. We almost come up with something similar with CMPS (Hey! Remember that?) a couple years ago. I've always thought that people don't design with handicap-friendly features more often because they don't have any idea how difficult it is being disabled. I had been toying with the idea of wearing a blindfold for a day to test myself, or maybe even doing it for a charitable cause. But I've never had a good friend (or understanding family) to manage the safety of this dangerous operation.

This experience was totally worth it. I have been completely in the dark once before, crawling through underground tunnels in Vietnam, but that was nothing compared to today's experience. I found it very interesting to attempt to move around like a blind person. I believe it's much easier, physically, to do so if you could see before but got blinded somewhere along the way, because you're familiar with shapes and stuff so you could probably visualise everything you're feeling or hearing. I can't begin to imagine what people who are blind from birth think when they feel or smell or hear. What visualisations come to their mind?

Being blind was one experience, but being in a group of other newly blind people was quite fascinating as well. One thing I noticed is that people tend to talk louder when they can't see. Perhaps it's because they feel the need to compensate for the loss of one sense, or the small narrow corridors which amplified the sounds, or maybe it was just my ears compensating for the lack of sight. The other thing I noticed is that we always need to know the person we bump into, whether from in front or behind. It might be a carry-over from normal society, where you need to apologise profusely for such rude behaviour. Or maybe it's just a security thing, that the fear of bumping into something or someone who isn't any of your friends gets exaggerated in the dark.

All in all, I think it was an awesome experience. I'd definitely go for it again, but by myself. It gets crowded in there.

Best case of "blind leading the blind". Ever.
The Edna Man

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cosmic Irony

So I woke up late this morning and would definitely not make it to camp on time. I raced across the overhead bridge, keeping my eyes peeled for a taxi, and obviously, due to the nature of cosmic fate, my bus comes EXACTLY as I reach the bus stop. When I'm on time, it takes fifteen mintues for it to appear. When I'm late, it poofs into existence just to spite me.

Damn you Murphy, and to hell with your laws.
The Edna Man

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Independent Inc. Perfection Output Up 115%

SINGAPORE -- Perfection hit a record high last year: its production increased by 115% from the previous year.

According to a report published by Independent Inc. today, its 2010 production batch of International Baccaulaurate (IB) perfect-scorers amounted to 28 units, compared to the 13 from 2009.

"We are, of course, very proud of our achievements," said an inside source, who wished to remain anonymous. "This kind of production history was something we hoped to achieve, but did not dare to expect."

The International Baccaulaurate is a Diploma Programme which utilises a strict grading system to determine the value of the finished product, and grades them with a "points" system. A perfect score requires 45 points, broken down into seven points each in six academic criteria and three bonus points which judge the products' non-academic qualities, among other things.

Independent Inc. also boasted an extremely high international-quality output, which refer to products which score 40 points or higher. Last year 71.4% made the cut, compared to 68.9% the previous year.

The organisation's only setback was the pass rate. According to the release, a product was disqualified from assessment due to malpractice, and as such, the pass rate dropped from 100% the previous year, to 99.8% last year.

"These kinds of figures are unprecedented," said Adelheid Schwartz, a spokesperson for the International Baccaulaurate Organisation, in a telephone interview from Geneva. "It completely changes what we know about mass-produced academic perfection."

"It has certainly redefined the concept of the 'bell curve'," she added.

Independent Inc. attributes its high quality output to a meticulous two-year assembly line and stringent quality control checks spread across that period. It has been known to discard products which don't make it through the first year of assessment checks, or reassemble them from scratch, to ensure the high yield of its output.

The organisation has also promised to deliver greater yields of production output this year. "When you supply the likes of Oxbridge and the Ivy League, you have to step it up a notch," said our anonymous source. "87.8% of our output already qualify to be shipped there for enhancements and specialisation."

Experts, however, warn about the inflationary effects of increasing numbers of such high-quality produce. Professor Ashwarnit Singh, a market analyst specialising in academic economics, says, "Perfection is like any other currency. If its supply keeps increasing, its value will eventually start decreasing."

"When everybody's super, no one will be," he added.

Critics have also criticised the assessment criteria as being too focused on the academic aspects of the product, and is not focusing on other like skills.

"We haven't invented a printing press which spits out Renaissance masterpieces at the push of a button," said one critic. "You can't mass-produce art like that. And life is an art."


Okay, first of all, this IS NOT a thinly-veiled jibe at a specific institution or organisation: all persons mentioned in this article are fictional, and I don't really have anything personal against the IB programme. It IS HOWEVER a thinly-veiled satire of our current educational system. We obsessed with mass-producing top-scorers sate our unhealthy desires for perfection and superiority.

Many people have been saying this over and over, from an awesome girl who spoke about it in her valedictorian speech, to this guy who is inspired by Apple's policy of thinking differently. But nobody says it better than Sir Ken Robinson. We are using an outdated education system which mass-produced "educated" people for the industrial revolution, and that is what we have been doing ever since. We have to stop chasing the numerical results, and look for the quality in people's lives, because at the final judgment, that is all that matters.

Because when everybody's super, no one will be.
The Edna Man

EDIT 080111: Even a Japanese romance manga from the 1990s knows it.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

What Would You Wager?

The scene seemed to play out in slow motion as the spent cartridges hit the table. The tinkling sound was followed by a hollow, metallic ring as the mess tin covered the shells. Somewhere in the distance, the sounds of a marching band drifted across the cookhouse.

"I wager... ten days," said one of the men, whose hand was clamped over a mess tin. He looked at the other two. "I'll match ten days," said a second man. The third man thought for a moment, then said, "Agreed." There was a pause as each man counted the handful of shells they had randomly thrown in their concealed hand.

"Wondering how it's played?"

Fresh recruit William Zhang turned around to see that his sergeant, Bill Tan, had come up from behind him. Relaxing, he replied, "I understand, sergeant," and turned his eyes back to the game. One of the men had shouted "Liar!" and all three men were now counting the revealed shells.

"It's a game of deception," William observed. "Your bet includes all shells, not just your own." His brow creased as the two men laughed at their third companion, who had obviously lost. "What are they wagering?" William asked.

"The only thing we have," said Sergeant Bill. "Years of service."

William scratched his chin as the men gathered up the spent shells. "So any serviceman can be challenged?"

"Yes," replied his sergeant. "Anyone."

William paused for only a second. He said out loud to nobody in particular: "I challenge Captain David."

The was a painful caterwauling as the trumpets of the marching band squealed off key, and a series of thumps and crashes akin to percussion section being thrown down a flight of stairs. All faces swiveled to William's, amazement written on each of them, then flicked towards the main doors of the cookhouse. In the silence, only the soft tread of boots could be heard, growing louder by the second. With each step, recruits shrank away into the darker shadows of the hall.

Captain David appeared in the doorway, framed by the shadow of the dark corridor behind him. His eyes quickly found those of Recruit William. "I accept," he said with his trademark lisp, spittle flying from his mouth as he spoke..

Captain David watched William warily as he sat down at the table. "The stakes?" he asked.

"My life," replied William. "An eternity of servitude."

"No!" Sergeant Bill cried out softly.

William didn't flinch as Captain David asked, "Against?" He slowly reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a photograph. It is a grainy picture of what appeared to be an official document, but clearly printed across its header were the words: "RELEASED FROM SERVICE".

Captain David let out a small gasp of surprise. He suddenly stood up to his full, considerable height. "How do you about the document?" he asked vehemently.

Recruit William was unfazed. "That's not part of the game, is it?" He slowly put the photograph back in his pocket and leveled his gaze. "You can still walk away," he told the Captain.

Captain David scowled as slowly sat back down. He reached into his beret and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. He carefully unfolded it until the words across the header could be read. Satisfied, William nodded. Captain David carefully refolded the sheet and slid it under his beret.

Without a word, the two men each grabbed a handful of shells and tossed them into the mess tin, then quickly slammed them face down onto the table. Out of nowhere, a third tin slammed onto the table as well.

Captain David looked from the hand to its owner. "What's this?" he asked Sergeant Bill.

"I'm in. Matching his wager." Sergeant Bill had a hard look in his eye.

"No," William said forcefully. "Don't do this."

Sergeant Bill looked at him dejectedly. He gave William a half shrug. "The die is cast," he said. "I bid three tracers," he said. He turned to look at his commanding officer. "It's your bid, Captain."

Captain david closed his eyes, like he was seeing what could not be seen. He gave a small chuckle before he said confidently, "Four blanks."

William looked down at his hand gripping the mess tin. "Four tracers," he said.

Captain David's eyes slid back to Sergeant Bill. "Six rounds," said the sergeant. William's eyes darted back to the captain.

Captain David peered under his mess tin, revealing four blank rounds and one tracer round. "Seven tracers."

William looked at his rounds: three tracers, one normal, and one practice. "Eight tracers," he said.

Captain David chuckled, a slow, horrific chuckle. "Welcome to the Force, liar." He continued chuckling, until Sergeant David suddenly interrupted, "Twelve tracers."

The captain's head snapped around. He stared at the sergeant. "Twelve tracers," said the sergeant. "Call me a liar, or up the bid."

"And be called a liar myself for the trouble?" asked Captain David. He grabbed Sergeant Bill's mess tin and looked at the collection of rounds he had hidden underneath. "Sergeant Bill, you're a liar and you will spend an eternity in this unit!" He stood up to leave and turned to William. "Recruit Zhang, feel free to leave camp," he snorted, "the next time we book out!" He roared with laughter as he stomped away.

William turned to his sergeant. "Fool. Why did you do that, sergeant?"

Sergeant Bill looked at him morosely. "I couldn't let you lose."

William shook his head. "It was never about winning, or losing," he said.

The sergeant looked perplexed for a moment. Then it hit him. "The form!" he exclaimed. "You just wanted to know where it was."


Inspired by a discussion about automatic MC machines and down-PES jackpots. But you can't guess where it's from.

The only thing we have: years of service.
The Edna Man