Thursday, March 28, 2013

When bribery is considered a good thing.

This video broke my heart.  I remember watching a documentary years ago on how North Koreans make harrowing escapes from their country - some survived, some not so lucky.  Watch for full story:

Couple of things that I learned:

1) To be thankful for where I am today, with what I have and who I have with.  It is by sheer stroke of luck that we're born into families and countries of ours today.

2) There is a good side to 'bribery' after all.  Because the world is grey - where we're not governed by the same morals, sometimes we could use that to our advantage for good.  I can't tell whether this should be propagated.  It's a tough one.  But this isn't about getting jobs or things done, these are lives we're talking about.

3) When we thought the concentration camps nightmare for Jews is over, we have to think again.  It's not over until every individual's rights and equality is respected and honoured.  North Korea is an example of what could possibly be happening to many in Africa, South America, Europe, South East Asia, etc.

Sigh.  When I was young, I was afraid of ghosts.  As I grew older, I'm more afraid of humans.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Searching dreams: From peer pressure to social pressure.

Remember those times when you did something really stupid because your friends challenged you to or because they were doing the exact same stupid things?  Well, now that's what we call... peer pressure.

In today's post, we will examine exactly how bad and not bad is peer pressure and in today's world of growing self-awareness and autonomy in making decisions (especially when you have aged), do people still succumb to peer pressure?

I mean... if you really think about it, isn't the underlying current that's driving this 'I can do the same if not better' mentality, what we call; competition?  I want you to pause for a moment and think about everything that's been happening in your life.  Maybe for the past couple of hours, days, months, even years.  What did you do that was purely self-motivated with no external pressure from anywhere else?  A higher paying job, the wedding of the year, a sexier car, a bigger house, a more exciting trip, anything.

Now picture someone who's vowed to focus his entire being on just one thing, which is to perform a speech in the much watched social TV called TED.  Versus his peers who are probably slugging away behind daily routines, trying to climb the next rung of the conventional corporate ladder.  All sounds fine and dandy to you and perhaps to a certain extent you would even feel a slight disdain towards the fellow's peers because they weren't like him.  They weren't doing something that was remotely ground shaking and as important that could benefit the whole world by sharing it on TED.  Or perhaps your perspective has been stained solely by the less attractive aphorism of which I've used to describe them.  But whatever it is, bear in mind... it is the person's immediate society that has planted in him the idea that TED, was the place to speak if you have anything that's worthy to be heard.  Because everyone important (or not) is tuned in to TED.  What's the difference between this person and his friends, you say?  Frame of competition.  Nevertheless, still competition.  We're still referring to external pressures - whether from peers or society, whether in the form of highly lauded brands or life events, we might be really setting goals that are not really our own.  But what society thinks we should do or is good to do.

So whether it is speaking in TED or toasting in your dream wedding or bragging about your new ride, we are at the end of the day, still at the mercy of the approval others.  Since there's no choice, we might as well make it count :) Do something that makes you happy.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Is media and advertising really THAT evil?

Read an article from a 100% independent and 100% KL magazine.

Madam writer of a certain piece felt that it was media (women's magazines to be specific) and advertising (us to be specific) that have been encouraging extreme dieting and waif-like figures to even those women who don't need it, "Fashionable advertising plays the same role, only a lot meaner.  Androgynous models gaze smugly at you from beneath their fringes as you anxiously finger your own haircut, look down at your fat skinny-jean clad claves and question whether there is such a thing as the 'hipster gene' which you don't possess and never will".

When I was still in ad school, I remember this subject which remains an ever debatable topic till today: Do media shape society or the other way round?  It's much like the chicken and egg story.  There's really no one side to it.  My best shot at the answer was: Media and society affect one another indefinitely; sitting on opposite ends of the same continuum tied together by an invisible rod, there is little question that when one is spun upwards, the other follows.  Likewise, when one spiral downwards, the other can not not follow.  Can't explain it like Einstein, but that's the basic law.

So you see.  The point that I'm getting from Madam writer, is that her female peers have this 'desire' which she felt was instilled by 'media', 'to shrink their bodies - to lose a few points, to drop a dress size, to fit into that long-forgotten pair of jeans hanging in the back of (their) wardrobe.  Even the women (she knows) who are into exercising will talk about it as a hobby... and express their fervent hope that they will lose weight doing it.  This obsession with weight loss is downright gloomy, especially since (she is) under the impression that these women are all of normal weight to begin with'.  When society loses positivity, confidence and acceptance of itself, it sees all things bleak.  Blame creeps in.  It's media's fault, advertiser's fault, capitalism's fault, well, everyone's fault.  It's a fault party, hooray!  To be honest, a lot of companies haven't been the most scrupulous ones, but to put the entire blame on something else because she isn't satisfied of herself - whether psychologically or physically, is really taking the 'wayyyy too easy' exit out.  If society, or to be specific - our children - have been brought up with the courage to accept themselves and others (peers who looked and behaved different), then no ads in this world could tell them that they are not enough.  Seriously, they are untouchable.  No ads.  None.  Zilch.

There's an underlying message here with all these blaming.  The root of the problem only occurs only when we wash our hands from a cause of event.  Upward or downward spiral, you have a choice to decide.  You have a choice to decide if you really absolutely need that cookie.  You have a choice to decide if you really absolutely need that bag.  You have a choice to decide f*ck this shit, you wanna be healthy and you're gonna run 10 miles each day (and build them muscles!!!).  You have a choice to decide, you wanna look like Adele and so who cares what the world thinks?  The choice has always been with you.  Not media.

There's a saying in Chinese; You'll never be able to force a cow to lower its head, if it isn't thirsty in the first place.  Which loosely translates to; Takes two hands to clap.  C'mon on.  Stop blaming and own some.  If that pair of jeans don't fit you anymore, get new ones and over it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Would you put your life out on the line for money?

Something that intrigued me recently - what motivates people in a social norm setting (doing something that has nothing to do with monetary value) and in a market norm setting (doing something that has everything to do with monetary value).  Our job almost always falls into the latter category, although sometimes it's muddled by management - social norm requirements from employees in a market norm situation.

But the question which popped into my head was, what about law enforcers?  This is a highly grey area. Surely a job which requires you to risk your life be entirely about the money?  How much are you paid for your life?

Look at the police ranking in Malaysia, below from Wikipedia:

According to Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, there was a scheme, effective Jan 1 2009, that would adjust the police salaries at the quantum of three annual salary increments.  Which means, an Inspector now earns a salary of RM2,060.28 compared to RM1,423.50 previously while their maximum salary of RM3,710.66 is increased to RM4,962.39.  An Assistant Superintendent of Police received a new salary of RM2,130, which is an increase of RM69.72 compared to RM2,060.28 previously while the maximum salary is now at RM5,170.53 compared to RM4,962.39 previously.  Now let me make a comparison to an industry renown for lack of staff benefits, low pay and long working hours - ADVERTISING.  According to Firebrand, an entry-level Account Executive (fresh grad) now should earn a neat RM2,000 of which upon promotion to a Senior AE level (which roughly requires an average of 2 year working experience with consistent performance), they will be earning at least RM2,500 up to RM3,500.

Am I the only one who sees how our human resource system for law enforcers is flawed?

Assuming an SPM graduate / undergrad / cadet school grad who for some unknown reason is extremely passionate about protecting civilian security of his nation joins the police force at a Constable (PC) level, what do you think his salary starts from?  IF an Inspector (7 ranks above) was earning RM2,000?  And you ask what are the police doing in alleviating crime rates?  What do you think?  What would you do?  Would you put your life in the line of fire for RM2,000?  Even if you are okay, what about your family?  Who's gonna take care of your children?  Your parents?  Your spouse?

The above paints me a picture of an ideal police in Malaysia: You are single, on fire for the country and her people and injustice that you're willing to risk everything including the livelihood of your family (if you have one) for whatever amount the government has allocated as your measly monthly salary for decades unchanged.  A true national hero that will never question the authority or his career rights.

To those who indeed lost their lives in protecting the sovereignty of the country, you are indeed a hero.  No question.  But to those who are less than willing to go the extra mile, I understand your plight.  And to those who misuse their power, I also understand.  Because this system is greatly flawed.  Please do not misconstrue my understanding of the situation as a personal agreement.  Only by awareness we can then identify effective solutions to the problem.

So.  If I were to build my own police force as in like SIMCity, I would overhaul the entire HR strategy.  While the police serves under market norm, but their motivation must stem from a social conscience.  Money in this case is both important and unimportant.  A sound salary plan accompanied by social motivation is perhaps the best balance to ensure minimally an 'effective' police force.  The problem with the current situation is, they are entirely taken for granted, expected to serve at minimal wage.  If we were to plug the holes that are depleting the government funds, surely there's enough to ensure sustainable and progressive wage to our officers?


Monday, March 11, 2013

The evolution of Man: What CAN we become?

Once upon a time, shortly after the completion of our social research on eco awareness, The Green Chronicles, we propagated that producers/manufacturers should not stop their consumer purchase cycle at 'consumption' but at 'disposal'.  When it is put into their mandatory action list, I am very sure it will drastically change the way products are planned and launched (think cameras, think smartphones).  If manufacturers are responsible for products at the disposal stage, then we will have better quality products with longer 'usage' life and a more sustainable eco-system of consumption.

While I shopped at H&M last weekend, that's one brand which recently launched a global awareness campaign on their sustainable recycling strategy.  Simple: Bring in your old clothes and trade for discounts for new ones.  Old clothes will then be recycled into materials which will be used in manufacturing new ones.  This practice now has a label and it's called EPR - Extended Producer Responsibility.  The whole point is not to mindlessly put new stuff into this world - we need to seriously consider how to 'delete' them from our system.  There.  Are.  Just.  Too.  Much.  Stuff.  In.  This.  World.  Seriously.

Now, you may not think much about this tiny little extended marketing program, but assuming the best that ALL manufacturers in this world were put in place to ensure sustainability in their product life cycle; then the first most immediate visible impact would be: NO LANDFILL.  This world will have no more landfill.  If you can't think of a way to dispose and/or recycle your products sustainably then you can't produce.  Period.  Simple as that.  Imagine, a world with no landfill.  NO LANDFILL.  No more rubbish dumps in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that spans for kilometers in diameter.

Watch the video below to get the picture.

p/s: If you're reading this and are in the business of production, please, I beg of you, consider this epic insight.  As starters, I'll even volunteer my time to discuss possibilities if you need an additional thinking buddy (consultation thereafter is chargeable though, ha ha ha).  Well I'm serious, really, think about it.

Obviously, I'm not the only one propagating.  More reading: You see Garbage, I see Value: Let's make the recycling business a no-brainer.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The dating evolution.

Read today: Singles are giving up on lone dates, instead opt for group dates.


HE - Jackson, 35, feels that men have it especially hard.  So far this year he's already been on seven dates and right after this interview he's off to Date Number Eight.  Last year alone he met over 45 women, none of which met his exacting standards.  He says, "Hopefully it's lucky number eight.  I'm looking for a specific type of woman and so far she doesn't seem to exist.  All the ones I met were too loud, too arrogant and put too much stock in what I earn".  Jackson is a successful businessman, has a list of requirements that the woman he eventually plans to marry needs to fulfil, which includes a love for reptiles (he has two snake pets), an ability to cook and an appreciation of vintage cars.  He continues, "When I was younger, dating was all about fun and getting together at the end of the night but now as I'm getting older, I find myself mentally ticking boxes every time I meet someone new.  The things I've wanted have changed so much; I'm actively looking for a woman to marry and I don't necessarily want someone who will jump in bed with me after the first date. I'm tired of wining and dining lah, that's why (tonight's) date is more of a group thing.  In fact, I'm really hoping that she gets on with my friends because that way they can find out all these things for me.  I am bored of auditioning". 

My humble opinion for um, Jackson: If you think she doesn't seem to exist.  Well,  Hmm.  Maybe she doesn't?  Because if she does, you'd be dating her right now?  Well of course, unless you didn't meet her exacting standards, then...  But hey, don't lose hope.  You seemed to be very clear with who you want, how about running national ads (in 3 languages)?  This could save you (and your friends') time from 'auditioning' :)

SHE - Davina and best friend, Cheryl, both 29, are romantics at heart and still expect to be wooed with dinner and drinks, preferably at an expensive restaurant.  Davina says, "I don't want to meet your friends the first time we go out.  What's the point of meeting your clique right in the beginning?  I'm not spending enough time with the person I'm meant to be getting to know".  Cheryl concurs, "How can you take care of me when you're with your friends?  I want someone to pay attention to me on a date, not be worrying about what his friends think of me.  After all, it's him that I'm going out with and not his pals.  What they think about me shouldn't really count."

Jackson, meet Davina and Cheryl, meet Jackson!  My humblest opinion for Davina and Cheryl (which I'm sure are fictional names replaced by the very kind writer): How about trying something new like... thinking for your date for once?  Or like... footing the bill?  In a preferably expensive restaurant?  I'm pretty sure that'll get him to start paying attention ;)

I'm really not sure if these articles are true.  Or these people 'featured' in this kind of entertainment piece are real.  I mean, seriously?  Listen to yourself, you three selfish purts! You make it sound as though you're some almighty majesty and because you did your rounds, you self-escalated in game levels and now everyone's a minion for you!  Well, go any higher and you'll never find anyone down-to-earth there for sure.

What happened to this generation of daters?  What happened to chivalry and being plain old kind and caring?  Whatever happened to mutual respect?   Have we merely descended into a murky pool of 'position' applicants with 'boxes to tick' and then judged by our 'eagerness' in an expensive environment?  You've. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

Listen.  If you really wanna get a date, get hitched, get knocked up, geez, get a new job, get whatever! Just be a good person and treat your date with a lot of respect and care.  Even if it's not reciprocated.  Simple and timeless.  Why?  Because we're really way bigger than that and I have to agree with Jackson (credit there, Jacko!), we're wayyyyyy above wine and dine.  How you treat your date doesn't show who they are.  It shows who you are.

*Italics - copied word for word from TimeoutKL, page 90.

**This is my puny attempt to post a commercial entertainment piece by shamelessly riding on the back of established writers from TimeoutKL, which I thought was a nice break from my political rants and many failed attempts to overthrow establishments.  If you have found this article to be offensive, then my deepest apologies - it's a joke, masqueraded in honesty.  But if you have found this article to be offensive, and you happened to be Jackson, Davina and/or Cheryl, comment here and I'll remove the article immediately.  Promise :) Or if you're from TimeoutKL, um.  This blogpost will self destruct in the next 60 seconds...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

World citizen.

Wow, it's been awhile!  Happy new year y'all!

To the title of this post, what sparked my thoughts was a dire (future inevitable) problem of Singapore.  A country where its population, the key resource to a healthy social economic climate, could be dwindling in the near future. Already the locals aren't very happy with the government's decision to import foreign workers to fill up vacancies - you watched Singaporean football team in action?  Or Singaporeans in the Olympics?  Well, um.  Sorry to break your heart, but they aren't exactly Singaporean.

Anyway, back to my contention point.  So citizens are against importing 'foreign workers' and government in dilemma because citizens are not producing little citizens enough and/or quick enough.  I guess the real implication here, is the very real possibility for a country to lose its identity once overcrowded by foreigners over nationals.  In the case of Dubai where locals make up only 2% of the population, it is hardly a destination that's culturally rich.  This sense of identity is the very same cause for many wars - whose land does this belong to?  And for those who reside in this land - whose moral codes and conducts should they follow?  Ask any Malaysians and you get mixed response.

But think about this for one second.  What if we treat a 'country' like any other 'product' or 'brand' where we understand the importance of keeping fundamental values but at the same time keeping up with the evolution of people's needs?  Does Singapore need to be all Chinese Singaporeans?  Will the fundamental values of governing parties and constitution change if let say Australians are now the new Singaporeans?  How much does one attach their identity to a country?  If we all believe in the same thing, wouldn't that makes us in some ways, many forbid, the same nationality?  Because we invest the same interest in a certain political party and agree on the same constitution of a certain governed area?

Being born in one part of the world and not another, and then given a certain identity is to me no more than a practical logistic reason for crowd-control and to some extent, exert 'fairness'.  Otherwise, it's pure luck.  An Indian boy born in India or in the UK still has Indian blood running in him.  But his opportunity and what he believes thereafter, differs widely.  And clearly, he has no say in that.  Well, not until he decides to risk a boatride to a better life elsewhere.

Now what if... what if we loosen our grip on formality and for once, view the situation from the perspective of humanity?  Is a country not just a geographical divide of what's mine and what's yours?  True human rights include the right to create equal opportunity for yourself like everyone else.  But what if the grass is really greener on the other side?  Face it, getting to the other side is at the end of the day, a luxury reserved for those who can afford it.  There's no getting to the other side for billions and billions of other people.  And that's the truth.  Why let geographical circumstances decide the fate of humanity?