The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Thursday, December 27, 2007

On being considerate: thinking about others.

Christmas is a festive time. It is also a time of reflection, a time to be with family, a time to catch up with all that has happened throughout the year. It is also a time of peace and quiet amidst busy lives - in the sense that it is usually a holiday period. Yet, not everyone respects this time.

Yesterday, was Boxing Day, the day after Christmas. It is a day which, being so close to Xmas itself, is usually spent on holiday, by most people. Few people work and most people are at home with their families. It should, therefore, be a day of relative quiet. However, that is not the kind of day I had.

From early in the day, until late afternoon, a party of tree surgeons, appointed by the ever wise and considerate Management Committee of our estate, were busily at work with chainsaws cutting away at our lovely trees. The fact that they were cutting such old and beautiful trees was shock enough (for they looked just fine without any "surgery") - but that they should do so on this day, of all days, was even more so. I couldn't quite believe what I saw, when I looked out of the window and witnessed the chainsaw laden men, atop their heavy machinery, high in the trees. The buzz of their saws had no trouble reaching through my closed windows into my home. It's penetrating cry accompanied my every activity, all day long. My day of quiet was not to be.

Why, I wonder did they appoint this posse of tree-cutters to do their work on such a day? Why not wait for January when all are at work and few would be bothered by their noisy work, during the day? No-one at the "Management Committee" had given a moment's thought to what effect the workers' tree-chopping would have on families trying to enjoy Christmas. They had never, for a second, considered how loud such work would be - nor whether it was appropriate for it to take place on such a day at all.

Was this unusual, you might ask? Is it abnormal for the needs of the people of Singapore to be ignored by those who make decisions? Not at all. It is, sadly, the norm around here. Decisions are made and things are done, without any consideration for the effect of the actions in question, on the public. No-one ever thinks of the effects of what they do. They just go ahead and do it.

There is a kind of mindlessness to all of this, of course. It is a type of roboticism in which people plow ahead with their plans, without looking around or ahead to see what effect it might be having on the environment, the citizens, the residents, the general way of life. The plan is made with only some very narrow consideration in mind, without the broader picture being consulted. So it is that trees are cut on Boxing Day - and many another inconsiderate action takes place. They are done because someone made a plan, without thinking of the effect of that plan.

It seems to me, that this is a very poor way to do things. A country, whose daily activities are planned in this way, quickly loses any right to be called comfortable, livable or welcoming. It becomes a place which daily shows its disregard for its residents and makes them feel unwelcome. Yesterday, I endured a day of earsplitting noise on one of the year's key celebrations. Is it saying something that, in all the countries I have visited (about 20), only in Singapore could such a thing ever happen? Only in Singapore do I see examples of such a disregard for the opinion of the people who would be affected by the decision made.

I don't know what the guiding purpose of our Management Committee is - but one thing that does not appear to be in their thinking, is whether or not a particular action is likely to have a positive effect on the residents. They seem to have forgotten that, in theory, the only reason they exist is to serve the residents. It seems, however, that they have conceived a new purpose: to serve themselves. Perhaps that is the problem, here: too many people are serving themselves, and not enough are serving the people who appointed them to their positions of influence, power and decision-making. That, it seems, to me, is a fundamental social error that can only ever have negative consequences for a country. I have never seen a good outcome in any situation in which such a dynamic exists. It is always to the detriment of the greater good.

Another characteristic of this and analogous situations is that no-one listens to feedback. I could make a complaint. I probably will. Yet, I am sure that my words will have no effect at all. The consultative process is something that is never taken seriously.

It is a pity that this is so. The opinion of the people - in this case, the residents of the estate - should be primary in any decision making. The decisions made should address their stated concerns and needs. Decisions should not be made that are against the will of the majority or would likely to be against that will. To do so, is to lower the quality of life, for all.

If asked, I very much doubt whether ANYONE on my estate would have said: "Yes, let us have the buzz of chainsaws all day on Boxing Day, please." Clearly, no-one was consulted on the matter. The Management Committee went ahead and commissioned the work, anyway, on this most inappropriate of all days.

I shall make a formal complaint to them. We will see how they respond. If they follow the Singaporean custom, my only response will be an unbroken silence.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and no months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and five months, and Tiarnan, twenty-two months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:01 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One wonders why you continue to live in Singapore; it sounds hot, crowded, expensive and generally unpleasant. Also, they don't allow you to homeschool...

11:42 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Indeed. We think of the matter with some regularity. IF we are not allowed to homeschool soon (the next couple of months at the outside), we will be forced to look elsewhere. In a world of over 210 countries and territories that WOULD allow us to homeschool, there is quite some choice. Only here is choice denied us, presently.

So, you are right. It is possible that we will be forced to move. We will see how they respond to our latest attempts to homeschool.

Thank you.

12:12 PM  

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