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 +

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Singapore: A Paparazzi Free Zone

Singapore is a paparazzi free zone. Keep it that way.

It may seem strange to my readers in other developed nations to speak of a paparazzi free nation - but Singapore is one. Here, there are no hordes of aggressive photographers chasing celebrities everywhere they go. Here there are no eager snappers waiting outside expensive restaurants and nightclubs to catch a shot of a star. Here there are no long-lensed privacy breakers, taking pictures on the beaches of underdressed superstars. No. In Singapore there is such a thing as privacy for the famous. I suggest that Singapore keeps it that way.

As I write, there is outrage in the Chinese world at paparazzi photographs of actress Zhang Ziyi, sunbathing topless on a private beach in St. Bart's with her partner, Vivo Nevo, an Israeli investor. Now, firstly, I must object to these photographs for one good reason: the private beach is actually OWNED by Vivo Nevo - so what were the paparazzi doing taking shots of someone, at home, on their own property? It really strikes me as invasive.

It was clear from the way that the famous couple behaved in the photographs that neither was aware that they were being observed. In some sense, therefore, a private moment with a loved one has been stolen from them, commercialized and used to make money for some soul-less paparazzi with no respect for the lives of others.

In Singapore, such things don't happen. I have never heard of a paparazzi style "stolen photograph" appearing in the media here, or elsewhere. Since 1999 when I moved here, I have never heard of such a photographer being active or such photographs being taken. There is, in fact, an almost total media silence regarding celebrities in Singapore. The only times celebrities appear in the news here is when they want to be - ie. they are promoting an album, book, film etc. This is a good thing. Just because someone is famous that should not mean that they are forever denied the pleasures of a private life. A life is a life - and everyone of us should have the right to spend whatever portion of it we wish, in privacy.

Alarmingly, however, I have heard, that someone in the Singapore media toyed with the idea of starting a paparazzi culture here. There was talk of setting up an official database of "targets", who could rightfully be pursued and photographed. Fortunately, the project never took off. I really hope it stays that way, for the last thing Singapore needs is to succumb to the lowest of the low aspects of other cultures. The habitual and unwanted invasion of privacy that paparazzis represent is the worst aspect of Western media culture. No "star", of any kind, could ever want such a thing. It most certainly does not enhance their lives to be subject to such ongoing random scrutiny. Indeed, it takes a very valuable thing away from such famous people: the right to be alone, the right to be unobserved, the right to peace and quiet. I don't think that any mature culture should penalize famous people in this way, just because they have done something to distinguish themselves. Being distinctive, is not something that should be punished with being forever under observation.

One of the things I like about Singapore is that it does NOT have a paparazzi "culture". There is something refreshing about a place that doesn't place the famous under permanent scrutiny. There is also something about it, that the rest of the world should learn from. In this respect, the WHOLE WORLD should be like Singapore. There should be no paparazzi photographers anywhere in the world. Indeed, to behave like a paparazzi and steal private moments, should be an offence punishable by very large fines (millions of dollars are sometimes made from such photographs, so the fines should be in the millions) and long prison sentences. This should be the norm around the world. No-one should be subjected to unwelcome intrusion upon their lives, famous or not.

Well done, Singapore, on getting something right. Please keep it that way. Singapore should remain an island where the famous and the anonymous have the same right to privacy, in public.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:42 PM 


Blogger Colin said...

Well that was refreshing. One of the few posts where you actually have something positive to say about Singaporean society.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I say what I see, Colin. If I see something bad, I will say so. However, if I see something good, I will also say so.

I have written positive posts about Singapore, too. (Though probably more negative posts...however, they are not meant to be negative, they are meant to be constructive criticism: in the way of pointing out an area for improvement).

Thanks for reading.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Indiana said...

Interestingly while there is no paparazzi culture here Singaporeans happily devour the tabloid filled magazines that are fully supported by the actions of those "snappers" elsewhere.

It's a simple case of supply and demand, and creating an industry in the shadow of another.

I also think if Singapore started to pay its "celebs" similar to what they earn abroad then you would find them stalked just as much.

6:21 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Indiana,

Yes, locals devour images taken elsewhere of international celebrities...but the local media really carries very little of this kind of material - except for magazines specializing in this kind of image.

The absence of paparazzi here provides an island of peace for any celebrities here. That is a good thing. I really don't think that if local "celebs" were richer that they would be more pursued. It is not wealth that makes the media interested in celebrities but fame - the fact that these people are recognizable to millions, even billions, around the world. Their wealth (which not all of them have) is a side effect of this fame, it is not the cause of it or the key matter of interest.

I hope Singapore remains the way it is regarding such practices.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Miao said...

I do hope that Vivo Nevo and Zhang Ziyi will sue the photographers involved.

According to local Chinese newspapers, netizens in China are outraged because they think that Zhang is a loose woman who has failed to uphold Chinese virtues. If it is true that they feel that way, then I find it very unreasonable that they think Zhang is in the wrong, when she is really a victim of this incident. Apparently one psychologist even commented that Zhang and Nevo exhibited "animal-like behaviour" (I translate directly from a Chinese article) by being intimate on the beach. It seems to me that some people relish in sadistically rubbing salt on others' wounds.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Miao for more details on the Chinese outrage. I cannot read Chinese.

It seems that the Chinese are outraged for the wrong reasons. It is not Zhang who is at fault: it is the paparazzi for taking photographs of a couple ON THEIR OWN PROPERTY. This is the thing that makes that psychologist seem very stupid (which I have found psychologists often are, by the way): that it should be seen to be "animal-like" to be intimate ON ONE'S OWN PROPERTY/IN THE PRIVACY OF ONE'S OWN HOME! That is really astonishing.

Yes. I hope they sue the photographer. Not enough is done to protect the famous from these parasites. It should not be forgotten that Princess Diana DIED trying to get away from paparazzi. They killed her as assuredly as if they had murdered her directly. Had they not been pursuing her, she would not have been fleeing and would be alive today, most probably.

There should be a global ban on paparazzi, I think. It would take, however, a higher understanding of human rights, than most nations seem capable of. A right to privacy should be a basic human right for all - even the famous.

Thanks Miao.

10:11 PM  

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