A fire broke out at Block 493 Jurong West Street 41 coffee shop and wet market at about 2.45am on 11 Oct 2016. The SCDF, upon arrival at the scene of the fire, reported that the place was “completely engulfed in flames”. Explosions were reported between between 2.30 to 2.40am. When the fire was finally put out at 4.15am. This was what’s left of the stalls.
Yes, it’s a shocking piece of news. The stallholders must be devastated, seeing their livelihood go up in smoke (literally) in just a few hours. Just look at the aftermath. I wouldn’t be able to sleep if that stall belonged to a loved one. But if you think that’s bad, an even more shocking piece of news was to follow.
Yao mo gao chor ah? So it’s unrealistic to expect our trains to run smoothly at current fares, but how realistic is $500 for folks who just had their livelihood destroyed and need to rebuild from scratch? I sure hope these folks insured their stalls and bought income protection policies.
But wait. There’s more. Minister in charge of copulation …. oops, I mean population matters Josephine Teo made a rather candid remark to reporters who quoted it for the benefit of those of us in need of a good laugh. With a straight face, Ms Teo declared: “You need a very small space to have sex.”
Let me tell a story about Farmer Joseph who had a farm (e-i-e-i-o). And on his farm, he had some chickens (e-i-e-i-o). Farmer Joseph said to his chickens – “You need a very small space to lay eggs.”. So he kept his chickens all cooped up in tiny cages. He fed then until they stopped laying eggs, then it’s off to the slaughterhouse.
And on his farm, Farmer Joseph also has some cows. Then he said to his dairy cows – “you need a very small space to produce milk.” So he kept his lactating cattle in tiny little pens. He fed them well and milked them every day until they stopped producing milk. Then it’s off to the slaughterhouse. To Farmer Joseph, all he cares about are the milk and the eggs. Does he give hoot about the chickens and cows leading a meaningful life? I don’t think so. Sometimes, the things that leaders say tell a lot about how much they care.
While everyone knows that it’s a monumental task getting our population growth to even reach replacement levels, it’s quite another to belittle the anxiety and emotional needs of young couples. It’s not an issue of space, really. People can have sex in the closet or a bathtub and even without doing an intrusive survey, I can tell that our youngsters – including underage ones, have been “at it” in the most bizarre nooks and corners. Seriously, who cares about space? Even if they are particular about space, couples (including barely legal ones) can jet off for an amorous week in Bangkok, Bali or Jeju. Is Ms Josephine Teo even aware that people have been enjoying the forbidden fruit with or without the “space”? It’s just another kind of “fruit” that they are reluctant to bear.
In response to all the online sarcasm and mockery, Ms Teo said that the report “might not have captured everything in the way I intended”. So it’s the reporter’s fault. But seriously, we all know the problem that this country is facing in terms of its lack of population growth. Singapore has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. What is not so well recognised, are the causes for our low fertility rate and the flat is just one of the many factors.
This time, Ms Teo changed her tack and started off praising Millennials for breaking our glass ceilings.
“Every way I turn, I see more of our Millennials boldly stepping up to overturn long-held assumptions about what Singaporeans can and cannot achieve … With bold collective actions in the areas of housing, pre-school services, workplace and community support, we can give more Millennials the confidence that marriage and parenthood are Achievable, Enjoyable and Celebrated!”
For most young and healthy adults, parenthood is certainly quite easily achievable. But what next? Enjoyable? Good luck to Ms Teo in her attempt to convince our Millennials of that. In an honest conversation with me, I would tell you that parenthood has its moments, but it’s certainly not “enjoyable” in the normal sense of the word. Yes, you can provide housing, but at what price? Yes, you can provide pre-school services, but at what price? Workplace and community support? Please elaborate. Looking at the $500 aid that the victims of the fire in Jurong are getting, how are we to believe that any of this support will be adequate?
At the end of the day, nature will take its course as long as society does not break the rules of nature by demanding superhuman effort from our Millennials. The trouble is, the cost of living in Singapore are most “unnatural”. We are all forced to overwork and punch above our weight or risk being left behind. At the end of the day, our Millennials are not stupid. They fiercely guard their own interests and ignore all that sweet talk when they sense that some people are only after their milk and eggs.
© Chan Joon Yee