• 22 . 04 . 06
  • I’ve got a joke for you: Q) What do you call a guy who injures his back playing tennis during a short vacation, subsequently spending 2 of his 5 days in bed barely able to move? A) Lots of things. None of them polite. Yes, I am that idiot. I played a few sets with […]

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Singaporean Surprises

I’ve got a joke for you:

Q) What do you call a guy who injures his back playing tennis during a short vacation, subsequently spending 2 of his 5 days in bed barely able to move?
A) Lots of things. None of them polite.

Yes, I am that idiot. I played a few sets with Alan after going to Sentosa the other day. I won’t embarrass him by telling you the score though… Ok, he beat me 6-1, 6-1, 6-1. That ignominious defeat aside, worse was to come as injury added insult to injury. Sitting up, sitting down, laughing – it all hurts. Being laughed at hurts more though and Alan was busy telling all his mates how he’d destroyed someone half his age. Focusing on the second half of that sentence makes me happier though.

Anyway, it gave me some time to find out a bit more about Singapore and I was surprised at what I found. I can’t guarantee that all of this stuff is true, but then again, who can nowadays? And so, the top five things which may or may not be true, that I didn’t know about Singapore:

  • Despite having democracy, it is “reduced democracy” and behind the scenes Singapore is essentially a benign dictatorship, controlled by a small number of families who effectively own the city.
  • Every single phone call in Singapore is recorded and screened for the security of the people. Not that this doesn’t happen in England, but still.
  • Singapore was founded by a prince called Sang Nila Utama, who was a greatn grandson of Alexander the Great. Legend has it that he encountered a lion on his first visit to the island, calling it Singa-pura (Lion City), but it was probably a tiger.
  • The media is all censored here. All internet traffic goes through a proxy which bans certain sites. The blocklist is a pretty token gesture naming only 100 sites, but the government won’t countenance its removal because it would be politically distateful.
  • There are no satellite dishes in Singapore. It would make censorship impossible. Foreign TV channels are impossible to get.

I’d heard that Singapore was very strict with its laws, chewing gum being the famous example, but even so, this surprised me. Its reputation, well-deserved, as a world-leader in business and as the “Hub of Asia” after only 50 years, made me think that it was an open economy and society. To find out the extent of restrictions was a little unnerving. Most people here seem happy enough – it would be interesting to see how the residents really felt.