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 +

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A sense of personal safety.

I saw something really odd today. The oddest thing about it is that no-one else thought it was odd.

I was standing in a queue at the bank and, directly in front of me was a young woman of about 22, carrying a shopping bag from Watson's. After a while, she reached the front of the queue and was called over to a teller. She had to be called, because she was daydreaming. Given what she was carrying you would rather think she wouldn't be daydreaming.

Anyway, when she got to the teller, she handed over her shopping bag. The bank clerk looked within and began to pull out bundles of cash. The whole shopping bag was filled with money. Admittedly, it wasn't a large bag...but still, that was a large amount of money for a young woman to be carrying around in a plastic shopping bag.

I was rather startled. I was startled that the young woman was not, in fact, two large, burly men, wearing helmets, padded jackets and carrying guns. You see, in most countries that would be who would be delivering such a large sum of money to the bank. In Singapore, however, it was quite clear that a shop (as I assumed the money was from) felt safe sending a young shop assistant to deliver the funds.

I looked around...but no-one else was paying the girl any particular attention. No-one thought it was odd, in the least.

I realized then, that I was watching a scene that was quintessentially Singaporean. Only in a country in which people were ABSOLUTELY convinced of their personal safety would a shop send a young woman, alone, to deliver the day's takings to the bank. In any other country, burly, armed security guards would be doing the job. Or, at the very least a couple of beefy guys, alert and ready for trouble. In Singapore, however, they sent a daydreaming girl who was quite unaware of her surroundings, to carry thousands and thousands of dollars to the bank. I was flabbergasted.

In Singapore, there is a definite sense of personal safety. This is not entirely an illusion, for violent and personal crime is quite low. However, you should note that we have been stolen from THREE times in our eight years in this girl was not really as safe as she thought she was. I think theft is quite high in Singapore, since I have never been stolen from in Europe or the other 33years of my life not spent in Singapore. So, if anything, theft is higher here, than where I spent most of my life. At least, that is the experience of my life.

Yet, it is true that people are quite safe in Singapore. Indeed, Singaporeans believe that they live in the safest country in the world. Now, this is not true. Even the Republic of Ireland has lower crime (particularly violent crimes, like murder) than Singapore (it is ranked the least violent country in Europe) there are other places with lower crime than Singapore. However, Singapore does have relatively low crime and that can only be a good thing.

More impressive though than the actual relatively low crime rate is the BELIEF people have about their personal safety...there is a definite sense in which people really feel safe on a daily basis. There is an absence of fear for personal safety that cannot, for instance, be felt, at all in the USA (a place which always puts me on edge, for obvious reasons).

For me, today's experience in the bank was a marvel. It brought home to me just what kind of place this was. It is a country in which people so strongly believe in their own personal safety that they give it no thought whatsoever. It is a place in which young women feel safe carrying thousands of dollars in cash, in a plastic shopping bag. I can't think of anywhere else on Earth, in which someone would actually do that. Even in the safer places than Singapore,such as Ireland, people are not so sure of their safety to do so (or perhaps not so naive...).

Of course, this leads me to wonder just what would happen to a girl like that, if she were to move to London, or New York. I don't think she would live a week. Her behaviour would be so naive it would only be hours before she would run into trouble. So, there is a downside to this. Singaporeans should not forget that the rest of the world is not such a controlled place as Singapore. To live and think like a Singaporean outside of Singapore (except for a few places) would be a really stupid thing to do. In some respects, it is pretty stupid to think like this girl, too, even inside Singapore...but that is another issue.

Nevertheless, today left me with an indelible image of a young woman, quite inattentively carrying a very large amount of cash, without any concern at all.

How odd.

(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 @ 6:41 PM 


Blogger Fadhli Rahim said...

On hindsight, it is pretty clever for the girl to appear to be unassuming and aloof the whole time she was in the bank. With a Watson plastic bag, who would've thought there was money in it?

"I think she was merely playing to the gallery, Watson."


7:32 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Fadhli,

I like your interpretation...however, I really think she was just daydreaming, since the clerk had to call her several times to attract her attention. She was "in another world"...this makes her a perfect victim of crime, of course.

Thanks for your comment.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Nothing seems to please you about Singapore, does it? Your praise for its safety was given in so conditional a manner one wonders whether Singapore should be more unsafe so that Singaporeans can drop their naivete.


9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

... And your stats are incorrect, too.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...


On the contrary, nothing seems to please you about what I write. Even when I write something nice about Singapore, you manage to take it as a personal insult to your great nation and self.

I find that it is impossible to please Singaporeans, because they so love to be displeased about foreigners. I could spend the rest of my life praising Singapore and I would still find every one of them complaining about what I say.

Perhaps, deep down, Singaporeans just don't like foreigners very much. In fact, it is not so deep just has to go to any forum originating in Singapore to find it filled with racist complaints, angry rants, false accusations and general unpleasantness concerning every nationality and race on Earth, but Singaporean.

Thank you for adding to the general feeling of the place that it is impossible to make a Singaporean happy.

Singaporeans are naive where personal safety is concerned. It actually does them a service to point this out...not a disservice as you seem to think.

Singapore is relatively safe...yes...but not absolutely safe. The place is marketed as if it is absolutely safe, but this is just not so. It is one of the world's safer places, but not the safest.

If you are ever happy with one of my posts, perhaps you would like to say so. It would be a great surprise to hear it.

Kind regards

9:57 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

On the contrary, Anonymous, my figures are TOTALLY is your figures which are bogus.

I would suggest that your research go beyond "edited by anyone" material on Wikipedia and looked at more reliable sources. The figures for Ireland are wrong in fact that I think they are either bogus - or they have conflated the figures for NORTHERN IRELAND, into those of the Republic which is, actually, a DIFFERENT COUNTRY.

Here is a link to the real situation in Ireland:

The REPUBLIC OF IRELAND is the safest place in Europe. It's murder rate of 0.32 per 100,000 people is considerably below the Singaporean figure of 0.39 listed in the figures you gave on Wikipedia. I actually read an article a while back that mentioned that Ireland was safer than a national newspaper, not on Wikipedia. It has the lowest crimes of violence in Europe...and actually lower than in Singapore.

If I write something, it is because it is justified by what I have already learnt, understood or been informed by reliable sources. You have resorted to unreliable sources to strike back.

Thanks for your comment.

10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really? So now it's about me, a Singaporean, despising you, a foreigner?

That's a REAL good argument, Mr. Cawley. Actually, if you should like to know, they call it an ad hominem argument in philosophy-speak.

11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The REPUBLIC OF IRELAND is the safest place in Europe. It's murder rate of 0.32 per 100,000 people is considerably below the Singaporean figure of 0.39 listed in the figures you gave on Wikipedia."

"I would suggest that your research go beyond "edited by anyone" material on Wikipedia and looked at more reliable sources."

Now, hold on. You said that Wikipedia figures are unreliable. So that's shoddy thinking on your part to compare the figures you obtained for Ireland from the non-Wikipedia source against the one for Singapore sourced from Wikipedia (which I have provided) in order to claim that Ireland is safer than Singapore.

I am no genius, so my mistakes are more liable to be overlooked, but you, surely, you, Mr. Genius, should do better?

11:42 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Wow. You seem determined to find fault in everything I write. This, in itself, speaks much of who you are. I, however, contrary to what you allege have actually said nothing of what you are at all. I have said but ONE thing about you: that you are displeased. I have said nothing else about you at all.

If you actually took the time to READ what I wrote, you would see that I merely observed that you were displeased. My next paragraph moved away from you onto Singaporeans in general, as being a people who don't like foreigners. That was not addressed to you, as an individual at all - which you could have seen had you paused to reflect on it...which, it seems, you did not.

Now, what is most interesting about your reply, is that you allege that I have said that you "despise me because I am a foreigner"...well, very interestingly, I never actually said that. You did. That indicates, in very clear psychological terms, that it you DO in fact despise me...for being a foreigner. You see, the only person who actually said that was you.

Reflect on this. How do you think I feel when I get attacked whether or not I write positive or negative things about Singapore? Just THINK about that. If I write something critical, I get jumped on by nation proud Singaporeans...but wait, if I write something NICE, I get jumped on by nation proud Singaporeans too, accusing me of being nasty beneath my niceness. It is utterly BONKERS. It seems that NO-ONE from overseas is allowed to comment on Singapore at all.

Then again, no matter what one writes, Singaporeans manage to find a way to be insulted by it. It is mindboggling.

Now, get this clear: I have launched no ad hominem attack on you at all. I have merely noted your displeasure. That is all. Your displeasure is, in fact, most please don't go to all the trouble of attempting to do so.

Labelling someone's comment as "ad hominem" does not make it so, unless it is so - and it isn't.

Thank you.

5:37 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. comparison of Wikipedia to the Irish newspaper.

No. I have not made a mistake. I have done something called: "I can't be bothered to waste my time any further seeking alternative sources, when it was you who brought the unreliable source to me in the first place."

I am well aware that, ideally, I should find another source other than Wikipedia for the Singaporean figures. I did not do so for a couple of reasons which should be obvious to you - but which clearly aren't. Firstly, what would constitute a reliable source about Singapore's true crime rate? I would suggest that there isn't one. Whenever we have reported a crime to the police - three times now - the police in Singapore have always sought to reclassify the crime as something more minor than how we perceive it. This is called massaging the crime figures. They are trying to make the state look good. Furthermore, they never investigate the crime and never get back to us, as they always say the will. Nothing happens, nothing gets done and the crime is never solved. This even happened on an occasion when we had the criminal on VIDEOTAPE with the stolen goods visible in their hands. They did not investigate it and classified it as something other than theft. No reliable crime figures will ever be released, by Singapore, in my opinion. It is notable, for instance, that Nationmaster, that collects data from countries around the world, is missing the data for all categories I looked at, for Singapore. Data for Singapore is hard to come by, in comparison to other countries. Secondly, I have never seen any figures claiming lower rates of crime, for Singapore than the ones in all my reading. So, there was no proof that a search for such figures would be necessary. With Ireland, however, all the figures I had seen elsewhere were lower...every single one of them. Thus I had cause to question the Wikipedia figures for Ireland, but no cause to question the figures for Singapore (except in so far as they may not be true in the first place, owing to a state need to project perfection to the world).

Lastly, I was very conscious as I made the comparison, that it was not an ideal one...but, for the reasons above, proceeded on the basis that it was good enough, in the circumstances, to make the point.

Your use of the term "Mr. Genius", seems to speak of a deep personal issue with me, as an individual. It comes across as mocking, and hostile. I would suggest, therefore, that the only person prone, here, to ad hominem attacks, appears to be you, not me. I have not, note, given you a mocking nickname.

On another note. I have found that Singaporeans can be quite hostile, online, to outsiders. This is, I think, a serious problem...for clearly they are using the online space to vent their true feelings. Even overseas you appear to be...go to all the trouble of venting their dislike, on the internet.

In this context, I worry about the future of Singapore, given the unwillingness of its citizens to accept outsiders.

Why are you arguing? I said something nice about your nation...and you attack me for it. That, in itself, is a really surprising situation. I doubt whether a person of any other nation would do the same in similar circumstances.

Why not relax and have a good day?

5:58 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

This link shows a more than 300 % rise in murder rates in Singapore in 2008. So, the figures on Wikipedia are likely to be a considerable underestimate of the true situation.

Given a population of roughly 4.6 million people in 2008, this corresponds to one murder per 177,000 people (3 sig figs). This is much higher than the Wikipedia rate...and around double the Irish rate.


6:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why not relax and have a good day?"

Dear Valentine,

On second thoughts, yes, I could have, and should have, phrased my disagreements cordially.

My apologies.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your apology. It is accepted.

I am impressed that you have the strength of character required to issue an apology...few people manage to do that.

Like I said, have a good day.

Kind regards.

10:27 AM  

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