June 07, 2004


Today we met up with Jeanne, a friend from San Francisco we met through Mina who opened up the first Bikram Yoga studio in Singapore. After the ever-difficult 90 minutes of “active meditation” at the studio (that one never fails to amuse me) we headed out for dinner & drinks.

Over dinner Jeanne shared some interesting perspectives on the city she’s called home for the past 8 months. Interestingly, we picked up on some of her observations in the short time we spent in SP. The Singaporean government – while purportedly a democracy – does not tolerate any criticism or dissention. While dissidents are no longer jailed for expressing negative opinions they are invariably convicted of tax evasion, with heavy fines being the minimum penalty.

Not unlike Communism, the government does what it can to help insure that there are jobs aplenty, but the surplus is often created by compartmentalizing job responsibilities within a narrowly defined set of responsibilities. An anecdote to illustrate: Jeanne’s boyfriend was at a bar, had ordered two beers, and decided to leave the group early. He asked the waitress how much two beers were and the response he got was a dumfounded pause, as if she had never been asked or never thought to learn the cost of that which she most frequently sold. She told him she was unsure and went to ask the bartender. Jeanne’s theory is that the waitress is paid to deliver both beers and bills to customers, but her responsibilities begin and end there.

Another mildly disturbing manifestation of governmental influence is the myriad of propaganda posters in places like the subway. One gem had a caricature of an enormously obese woman with the caption “she did not get out enough” juxtaposed against a drawing of a svelte athletic type with surfboard in tow who apparently did. Another illuminated readers as to the benefits of the workplace: “Work is a great place to 1. Learn to deal with stress; 2. Meet new friends; 3. Make time for exercise” etc. Weird…
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