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 +

Monday, October 05, 2009

Shopping, national superiority and organic growth.

Singapore is a country filled with people busily feeling superior to their neighbours. I have long noticed this and long been puzzled by it. You see, I don't, personally, see that this sense of superiority is particularly well-founded.

It is true that Singapore is a polished country. It is a country that gleams. Every little corner seems to have been organized by someone. Nothing is out of place. Nothing is, more to the point, ALLOWED to be out of place. It is a country controlled down to the very last leaf on a tree. Yet, it could be said that this is a failing as much as a strength. The degree to which a country is controlled, is also the degree to which it is not allowed to breath, to live, to become. Singapore is such a country: perfect in every way, except that it died, long ago. By "died", I mean, stopped living, growing, breathing, organically, as most countries do. There is nothing organic about Singapore, it is, in a sense, the most synthetic country one could ever imagine. There is nothing authentic about any of it, in the least. Everything is imported, imitated or derived. Nothing is created organically, from within - indeed, it seems as if those who are born to create are not encouraged to do so. Perhaps they would upset the order of the way things are - and so they tend to be disparaged, marginalized and, at the very least, underemployed and under-utilized. At least, that is the experience of certain creative people I know, in Singapore: they find it difficult to find a good, remunerative position in life, here, and tend to be pushed to the corners.

Now, I have meandered a little wide of my initial intention, but it is good that I have done so, for it sets the sense of superiority that one observes in Singapore, in a broader context.

Today, I wish to address one little observation. Singaporeans are a nation that loves to shop. Indeed, shopping is about the only thing many Singaporeans do for enjoyment. It is, almost, their sole pursuit (the other being the pursuit of the money necessary to allow them to indulge their desire to shop). Given their love of shopping, one would expect Singaporean shops to be great, to match that desire. Indeed, they are quite good. However, Singaporeans seem to think that they have a monopoly on good shops. There is a feeling that their shops are somehow better than everyone else's. Their malls are a focus of national pride. There is a kind of one-upmanship in the world of shopping, going on. Singaporeans seem to think that, not only are they the best shoppers in the world, but that they have the best shops, too. I have one question for them: have they ever been to Kuala Lumpur to shop?

You see, recently, I had the chance to see what the shops were like in Kuala Lumpur. I was, I must say, rather surprised. The shopping malls in KL are BIGGER than the ones in Singapore. What's more - they are BETTER, too. The malls are more spacious, less crowded, often better planned. In Singapore, by contrast, the shops are small, overcrowded and cramped. There is a claustrophobic feel to many Singaporean malls - even on Orchard Road - by comparison to what I observed in Kuala Lumpur.

Yet, of course, merely saying this will attract venomous comment from the type of Singaporean that is nationalistic and likes to defend Singapore at all costs. However, what I say is true and logically consistent. You see Malaysia has something in abundance that Singapore has very little of: space. It is a no-brainer that Malaysia can afford to build bigger, more spacious malls. They simply have more space and the land is cheaper. It is not a difficult thing to do, for them, if they so wish. Yet, still, it was a surprise for me. It was a surprise precisely because Singaporeans are ALWAYS doing down Malaysia. I have heard so many knocking comments about Malaysia since I came here - and read so many not so subtly critical stories in the press, as well. So, I was led to expect the worst from KL. What I found there surprised me, in many ways. It seems to me that a middle-class Malaysian probably has a better life, materially, than a middle-class Singaporean. They have so much personal space that their lives can only be described as more open, than those I have observed in Singapore.

I am not about to go into my thoughts, in detail, in this post, but I just want to observe that much of what I saw there contradicts the views of Singaporeans that constantly disparage Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur. Yes, Singapore does shops, well...but in no way does KL do them less well. In fact, in many ways, they do them better - at least in KL. The same could be said for certain other aspects of the city, as well - though it has to be said that Singapore's public transport system is far superior to KL's. So, each city has certain strengths. Yet, it should be made known, that the winner in comparisons between the two cities is NOT always Singapore, as Singaporeans seem to think.

If you are a Singaporean reading this, and you have never shopped in KL, there are plenty good malls to check out: One Utama, The Pavilion, The Curve and so on...the city is full of great malls.

Happy shopping, wherever you happen to be doing it. What's more, keep an open mind while you are there and see KL for what it is, and not for what you have been told it is. In many ways, it is a city that, although less planned and less ordered, is also more organic and more varied, than Singapore. It is a city of more possibilities, therefore, in some ways than Singapore. If you doubt this - go see for yourself - and open your eyes and use your imagination.

(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 @ 8:27 PM 


Anonymous ks said...

I've seen two advertisements for "Asia's Wonder Kids" that is supposed to show in ChannelNewsAsia in the month of October.

So, do they inform you when they will run the show about Ainan, or do you have to keep on top of these things yourself?

You can see the TV Guide at

Evidently, they are starting with 2 violinists, on Wednesday evening. Some shows are at 10:30 AM. I'm not sure if they are repeating the same single show thoroughout one week, or if they've just not labelled the content of the 10:30 shows.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi KS,

I was told a date for the broadcast...but that turns out to be wrong since I find "Japan Hour" in that slot. So, I have no idea when it is being shown. I shall have to ask.

So the answer to your question is: they sometimes let us know...but they are sometimes wrong, since schedules change. As a result, we have actually missed things, in Singapore, in which he appeared...we just weren't informed.

I don't know if the show has been cut together well. We will see: it is impossible to guess this, before it is seen...since so many things can happen between shooting and showing.

I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for being interested.

Kind regards

5:34 PM  
Blogger beAr said...

Actually, i think many Singaporeans do agree that shopping in Singapore is not what it has been made out to be.

Many Singaporeans would rather head for the sales in Hong Kong and Bangkok. My friends also routinely travel up to KL for weekend shopping-and-eating frenzies.

As for me, I'm just amazed that the restaurants in Starhill can remain open until 1-2am in the morning, and one can actually see people having late dinners around 11pm or so!. That's something you don't see in Singapore!

11:27 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks BeAr for your broader perspective. It rather confirms what I observed.

Singaporeans place more emphasis on their working lives...hence no 2 am restaurants. Perhaps they could learn a bit of balance from their neighbours (or at least, "let their hair down" a little).


5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Malaysia is a good neighbour. They sell 1000 gallon of water for only RM 00.03!!

7:52 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

That may be so...but how much then, does Singapore sell it on for, to its citizens? (A lot more I would hazard...).

Thanks for your comment.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous blackmint said...

I agree that shopping in Singapore is not as great as some people think but I don't like how you say that Singaporeans think badly of our neighbour because not all Singaporeans think that way.

Quoting beAr, "many Singaporeans do agree that shopping in Singapore is not what it has been made out to be." Maybe the Singaporeans you know are different from those we know :P

2:44 AM  
Blogger Demel said...

Hahaha, mere business in the making I believe.

To be exact, I don't believe Malaysia was actually willing to sell water at that price? I believe the process underwent a lot of argument before the price was left at such dirt cheap prices. Opportunities I'd say, but whether they make use of it for profit or for making life cheaper for Singaporeans is another matter altogether.

12:16 PM  

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