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, October 29, 2009

The secret Singaporean teleportation device.

Singapore has invented teleportation. Yes, that is right. The fabled means by which a person is transported, whole and intact from one place to another, unharmed, in many a science fiction film, appears to be operating well and truly, in Singapore. I say this for one very clear reason: where has Singapore gone?

If you are in Singapore, today, I invite you to look around you. What language are people speaking? Where are they from? How do they think? What do their passports say? Yes, that is right: they are speaking Chinese and they are from China.

Though I entered Singapore, some years ago, I have been transported, without my will or permission to China. I have been teleported...and so, too, has everyone else who chose to live, or was born, in what they thought was Singapore.

Let us look at the evidence. On public transport, recently, I have begun to notice advertisements written ENTIRELY in CHINESE. Now, that struck me as especially telling. You see advertisers only ever tell the truth in one way: by what they do. If they try to write to you in Chinese, it means, without question, that most of the people they are trying to reach are, in fact, Chinese speakers. That advertisers would do this, at all, in a country that, until recently, had English as its first language, means that these people they are trying to reach, are NOT comfortable in English, at all. Therefore, they cannot be native born Singaporeans, who learn English at school. No, the advertisers are telling us that a large chunk of their audience are now exclusive Chinese speakers. That can only mean one thing: the vast hordes of Chinese immigrants to Singapore, are now so numerous, that they constitute a major audience for advertisers.

Listen, too, as I have, to the complaints of Chinese PRC students who come to Singapore to learn English. What they say is very funny, really. Many a time, they have complained to me that they thought Singapore was an English speaking country - so they chose to come here to learn English - but what they find, instead, is that EVERYONE seems to be speaking in Chinese. They hear Chinese everywhere. On the minority of occasions when they hear English, it is, they complain, usually Singlish - which, even they recognize, is a poor form of English that is not what they should be learning, if they plan an international career (which they tend to). Thus, they feel cheated. They were led to believe that Singapore would be a good place to learn English - but it turns out to be pretty much just like another province of China.

The speed of this change is astonishing. The whole character of Singapore has changed, since I first came here, in 1999. It has become much more Chinese - in every way that it could become more Chinese. Such is the speed of the change that it is little exaggeration to refer to it as "teleportation". It is as if one fell asleep in Singapore and awoke in Shanghai.

Although I am an outsider, to Singapore, I am concerned to witness this change for it means that Singapore's minorities are becoming ever more marginalized within their own nation. Think what this means for Malays and Indians, Eurasians and "Others", who grew up in Singapore, being told it was a racially integrated, multiracial state in which all could live happily together and each race, culture and religion were equally respected. This is what they were told and led to believe. Yet, what do we see happening now? There is a flood of immigrants of such huge proportions that it is distorting that balance in one racial direction. Singapore is drifting away from its multiracial roots - and becoming a monoracial Chinese state. Even if this is not publicly admitted, the ADVERTISERS know this. They would not be crafting adverts especially for a Chinese audience ONLY, were it not for two circumstances: there must be present large numbers of people who do not speak English, but who do speak Chinese and THE OTHER RACES ARE BECOMING NUMERICALLY UNIMPORTANT.

Quite simply, advertisers would not advertise in Chinese, unless and only if there were more Chinese speakers, than English speakers. It must be so, that more people in Singapore understand Chinese, now, than understand English - otherwise it would not make good sense to create Chinese only adverts. It is easy to see how this could be so. Singaporean Chinese people generally understand both English and Chinese. PRC immigrants, however, almost always have atrocious English, but speak Mandarin. Thus, some advertisers have chosen to pitch their ads in Chinese - to cater for the influx of Chinese immigrants, whilst still being accessible to Singapore's native Chinese community. However, I personally find it rather galling that they are ignoring those who speak English, Tamil and Malay but not Chinese.

One set of ads I saw, by SMRT, addressed the issue by having an English version and a Chinese version - and that is fair enough. However, I have yet to encounter an English version of the other Chinese ad, I saw, recently.

This emphasis on Chinese is worrying. You see Chinese is the language of a particular race. The way the school system is set up in Singapore, children get to learn their mother tongue - or racially specific tongue. Thus, generally speaking, non-Chinese Singaporeans will have little or no Chinese language proficiency. However, English acts as a unifying tongue, in that all learn it. So, they would speak, Chinese and English; Malay and English; Tamil and English. This was fine, because all could relate to each other, in English. Yet, let us look at the future of Singapore. The emphasis is turning towards China, the Chinese and the Chinese language. This is a language not taught to Singapore's minorities. It is, therefore, an exclusive language and a DISUNIFIER, if I can use such a word. The Chinese language is a barrier to understanding between Singapore's races. If Chinese becomes the dominant language of Singapore (which it may very well, looking at recent trends), then Singapore's minorities will be shut out, from this new Singapore. They will be even more marginalized than they already are.

There is strength in diversity - be it racial, linguistic, cultural, or in terms of religion. Yet, that inherent strength does not appear to be appreciated by the powers-that-be, in Singapore. The aim, now, appears to be towards a lack of diversity and a predominance of one race, one language and one culture. To my mind, this is a pity, since much of what made Singapore an interesting place was its historical diversity. Should Singapore's future lack that diversity, I think it will have lost something that it will only miss once it has gone.

What puzzles me about all of this is why Singapore thinks it needs to become more Chinese, just because China is on the rise. Singapore was already three quarters Chinese. Most Singaporeans already speak Chinese. So, what benefit can there be in making it more Chinese than it already is? There are no real advantages to doing so. Already, Singaporeans had enough people conversant in Mandarin, to communicate with and trade with China. Importing legions of immigrants from the poorer provinces of China (because people from the richer provinces won't come), does not, to my mind, improve Singapore's ability to trade, do business, or co-exist with China in any way. Singapore already had the ability to do such trade, commerce, communication and so on, very well.

Making Singapore into a little China is going to weaken it. You see, Singapore's diversity has allowed it to relate well to many parts of the world. Reducing that diversity, will only reduce its ability to deal with the wider world. The more Chinese it becomes, the less Western it will become. This may make Singapore less appealing to Western countries, doing business in Asia. What has been of great benefit to Singapore has been its open-ness to the West. Western businesses have found Singapore very easy to relate to - because of its English and Westernized set-up - and this has brought great wealth to Singapore. Making Singapore more Chinese, might also make it less appealing to the West - since it will become less easy to communicate with. So, just as Singapore might think it is increasing its ability to relate to China, it is also decreasing its ability to relate to the West.

Perhaps Singapore doesn't care. Perhaps Singapore thinks that China is going to be so huge that it doesn't matter about the rest of the world. Well, pause. China is but one source of income. If China runs into real trouble and Singapore has become too dependent on its relationship with it - then Singapore will have a real problem too.

Singapore should not become too Chinese, if it is to remain a country open to the wider world. Its diversity has given it many options, in the past - throwing that diversity away, will only narrow its options as a state.

Another factor that has been forgotten in this headlong rush to become Chinese: the effect on Singapore's existing minorities. No thought has been given to how it must feel for the minorities to become increasingly marginalized. Suddenly, they are surrounded by people who cannot speak either their mother tongue, or English. Suddenly, adverts are popping up, written solely in Chinese. Suddenly, their work places are filled with people who only speak Chinese and who expect them to speak Chinese. Suddenly, Singapore seems less open to them, less welcoming. So, I am left to wonder: how has this upsurge of Chinese PRC immigrants affected the EMIGRATION of Singapore's minorities? Has it increased? Are more Malays and Indians, Eurasians and "Others" leaving because Singapore is rapidly becoming unfamiliar to them, perhaps even closed to them?

I doubt that I will be able to find figures for this emigration - but, if there has been an increase in the departure of minorities, this will only quicken the transformation of Singapore into a monocultural state. Yet, I suppose, that must be the plan, anyway. Were it not the plan, there would be an equal balance in the kind of immigrants brought into Singapore. There would be a healthy influx of Malays, Indians, Eurasians and "Others", so that the racial mix would not change. However, that isn't what is happening. Almost all the new immigrants are PRCs from China. So, though it is not stated, Singapore is clearly planning to become effectively a Chinese nation. Who knows, perhaps one day it will even be a part of China. By that time, of course, no-one would notice any difference, because it would already be a part of China, in essence.

Looking back on all the countries I have visited and lived in, in my life, I realize that the interesting ones had great diversity of people, cultures, races, religions, lifestyles, ideas, hopes, ambitions, loves and dreams. Singapore's history has given it diversity, has given it the potential to be an interesting nation. It would be a shame to see it throw that away, in exchange for a sterile uniformity. Whatever the Chinese and China have to offer Singapore, it would be unwise to forget that other races and other nations have things to offer too. So, I hope for a diverse future for Singapore and hope that the present trend to monoculture, is never fully realized.

(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 @ 6:19 PM 


Blogger Indiana said...

If you want to understand why there are so many Chinese immigrants all you need to do is understand which racial group is the majority in Singapore and then look at the differing birth rates within the racial groups...and all is made clear.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes...but why? European countries have a history, when in need of fresh blood, of importing a great diversity of other races and nationalities (blacks and Asians in particular). They haven't, until now, put up a special racial requirement for why does Singapore?

9:16 PM  
Blogger Indiana said...

Because the "ruling elites" are Chinese, it is in their own best interest to court China. They see a world shift in power and want to be poised to further exploit markets in China and they are trying to make Singapore attractive to Chinese tourists ahead of the IR opening so they can garner some of the gaming dollars currently spent in Macau.

It's all about money and preserving the control over such while holding onto a racial majority.

The irony is that to do such requires a "service culture" and that simply does not exist here or in China. The self-importance taught to individuals is such that they believe certain roles are benneath them and as such refuse to do certain work. Thus the cycle continues and places like Hotels and the IR will be staffed almost entirely by Filipinas and Thais who are happy for the job and opportunity.

You have to see Singapore and a a post colonial-vacumm. After the British exodus there was a hole that needed to be filled, into this rushed the Chinese majority, who did not really evolve the system of Government rather they simply replaced their Colonial "masters" with a new ruling elite that needed someone to "lord" it over.

The indigenous populations have a work ethic and religion that is "alien" to the new rulers so they need to ensure a pliable (and PRC workers after years of communist training are that), grateful and racially unified people to ensure the success of future votes.

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Desmond Lim said...

Because we are "uniquely Singapore" where our gahmen believes they know everything under the sun and that what they do is always the best way to do things, forget about the fact that other countries might have tired and failed in that method. All our ministers believe this, even if other countries fail at something (e.g. giving money to increase birth rates), when WE do it, we will always pass and would pass with flying colours.

Haven't you noticed, only other gahmens can fail. Ours always succeed and if they fail, it is our fault and the fault of the world (never theirs). They are infallible, just remember that and everything will make sense.

12:39 PM  
Anonymous whatdoiknow said...

I believe that the powers-that-be are keen to maintain the existing racial mix of C:M:I/O at roughly 7:2:1. The PRCs are definitely not the only immigrants here. There are also those from India, Bangladesh, etc. So when the govt allows 1 Indian to come here, they have to balance it out by letting in 7 PRCs.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

The funny thing about this, Desmond, is that the overconfidence you describe, almost always guarantees eventual failure, because it leads to rash decisions...

Thanks for your observations.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said... 7 times as many of one race, than another is "balanced" strange is local mathemetics. It seems to me that most people would think the 7 to 1 ratio, in the first place something that would need correcting...would it not, therefore, make more sense to bring in 3 and a half Malays for ever PRC...and 7 Indians? Then we could end up, one day, with a truly balanced racial composition!

12:57 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

"every PRC"...above

12:58 PM  
Anonymous whatdoiknow said...

Oh, this existing racial mix of 7C:2M:1I/O is rather sacrosanct to the ruling party. The 'legendary' LKY himself has said that this ratio must stay in order to maintain harmony.

This is manifested in national policy as well, the most obvious being the racial quota for HDB flats.

But of course, a Singapore Indian is not the same as a India Indian, just as a Singapore Chinese is not the same as a PRC Chinese. So personally, I find this attempt to artificially maintain this racial mix rather silly.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I find this view of LKY puzzling. I can see why maintaining this existing ratio would preserve dominance of one race over the others, but I cannot see how it would maintain "harmony". As far as I can observe, nowhere else on Earth is a particular ratio of races necessary to maintain harmony. All kinds of ratio can be observed quite readily to result in harmony...and even, God forbid, to maintain harmony through changes in such ratios. Other examples of nations, don't support the expressed view of LKY, as far as it can be determined. There are many harmonious nations of varying racial ratios. There is no "magic number" for such a situation - and why would there be? As long as one is not racist, there should be no reason to prefer one race of HUMANS over another. All are all should be equally welcome, I would have thought. But, heh, it is not my country: I can only observe and be puzzled.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

According to Wikipedia, the ethnic composition of Singapore's resident population in 2009, is 74.2% Chinese (more than the 7 in your ratio...); 13.6% Malay (much less than the 2 in your ratio; 9.2 % Indians (similar to your 1 in the ratio) and 3.2 % Others.

Interestingly, the proportion of Malays has FALLEN every decade for the last forty years. So, clearly when LKY speaks of the 7.2.1 ratio...firstly, the Malays are only about two thirds as prevalent as that...and secondly, the proportion of Malays has been falling consistently for the whole history of modern Singapore. The ratio is NOT being maintained...and is a wrong description anyway, since it overstates the Malay presence, hugely, and understates the Chinese dominance.

A glance around the streets of Singapore is enough to suggest that Singapore is going to become very much more Chinese dominated in the coming years, than even it has been so far in its history. I don't see maintenance of this ratio happening...I see it evolving into a much more homogeneous nation.

Thanks for your insights.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Fievel said...

I personally think it is cheap,slutty even, of a nation, in this case just PAP, to be whoring itself this way for perceived economic gains at the expense of whatever else that might be lost in the process.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Fievel said...

It's really not a matter of which race...
its about the integrity of a nation.

If Singapore were a person, I'd think of him as a suckerupper and I'll never want to be associated with him as friends.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm afraid that many people have forgotten that we are Singaporean first, ethncity second.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. Singaporean/ethnicity...that would be an ideal viewpoint, because there would be no concern for ethnicity or quotas over such, at all...there would just be Singaporean PEOPLE. However, I don't think Singapore has ever been like that since its modern founding. There has always been the control of racial numbers, in the background.

A Singapore that wasn't concerned about racial composition would not be importing large numbers of non-English speaking Chinese people from the poorer, less educated provinces of China. That doesn't make any sense from a quality standpoint, at all. (By quality I mean ability etc.)

There are plenty of nearby nations, with more than enough well-educated good people in them to offer Singapore what it needs. The only "problem", of course, is that most of them are not Chinese. Apparently, that little fact matters around here...though it shouldn't.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seriously speaking, I believe the main reason behind this, is the craving for GDP growth. It generates wealth for the rich.

Since Singapore is in need of Chinese, why not throw one stone to kill two birds?

I am a chinese myself, however I do not agree with these mass inflow of immigrant. It not only upset the ratio, it upset the locals too.

They come in mass and the locals have to adapt to all their silly habits which should not be the case.

One very good example is these foreigners have actually turned the pedestrian walk way into their cycling path.

2:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

for the 7:2:1 ratio: 7 PRCs. 2 filipino, 1 indian.

Filipinos outnumber Malays in Singapore, as it is. Evidence is around you.

4:42 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. cycling and foreign habits.

In most countries it is the immigrants who have to adapt to the locals...not the other way around. I suppose, here, however, there are just too many of them so they become numerically influential and demanding.

10:37 AM  
Anonymous dieaready said...

Well, I would guess it is not about making Singapore like a province of China, but rather the government's plan of importing foreign talents.

While I have not yet started working yet, and will not for a long while more, I hear from many people about how many companies nowadays are looking to hire foreigners only, with quite a few hiring only PRCs, and not even accepting applications from citizens.

Besides that, the influx of chinese students is getting to be so high that it is even hard to get into universities in Singapore, as they are getting in PRC 'scholars', and from what I heard (I can't confirm this), some guy had asked one of the PRC 'scholars' why did he choose to come to Singapore, and his reply was that because his results were not good enough to get into a local uni in China.

Don't worry and think that it is about us chinese taking over the whole of Singapore. Most true singaporeans identify themselves as singaporeans first, rather than chinese first, and quite a number resent the influx of immigrants. This is because (if I may say,) most of the immigrants do not really integrate fully, and feel that Singapore is their home, but rather as a place where they can find a job to send money home, get an education (subsidized by govt 'scholarships') and maybe a job for awhile before going back to their home countries. The government wants to try and retain as many of these 'foreign talents', and the question is why is this so. If the 'talents' come here to stay, then why is there a need to try to keep them here?

A common saying I've come across from singaporeans is this: "NS for singaporeans, jobs for foreigners". Many singaporeans are not too keen on the import of chinese immigrants either, due to them taking over much of our culture and our jobs. It is just our government. That is why sadly, many younger singaporeans are starting to look towards migrating overseas to other countries, where they would have a better chance at life, rather than competing with the chinese immigrants that are coming in by the droves. If this keeps up, it would be as you say, Singapore becoming just another province of China.

12:14 PM  

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