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, November 02, 2009

The flight of the Malays.

Malays are leaving Singapore. Now, this is no news, but what may be news, is their relative abundance in those who emigrate.

A few days ago, I posted on the remarkable inflow of Chinese PRCs into Singapore. I wondered, in that post, "The secret Singaporean Teleportation Device", whether this deepening of the Chinese nature of Singapore, was prompting more Malays to leave, as they found themselves further marginalized. I had no figures to back up my intuition - well, now, I have.

Today, on reading the New Paper, I came across a little snippet of information in an article on Malay emigration to Australia. There was a quote from a Singaporean Chinese "immigration consultant"...or should it be "emigration consultant? This Mr. Sim remarked that fully 30 % of his clients were Singaporean Malays. That is a surprisingly high number for two reasons. Firstly, the proportion of Malays in Singapore is only 13.6%, so this abundance in his clientele was 2.2 times greater than expected by chance. Secondly he is a CHINESE consultant, and therefore presumably less well-connected to the Malay community than a Malay agent would be. Thus, his clientele may UNDERESTIMATE the proportion of Malays who are leaving Singapore, for other countries.

Recently the Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, spoke of the "privileged position" of the Malays in Singapore and of the importance of maintaining that privilege. I thought this an eminently funny speech, because anyone who knows anything of the real situation, in Singapore, for Malays, knows that they are not privileged, in any real sense - they are, in fact, disadvantaged and discriminated against. So many jobs, for instance, in Singapore require that the applicant be of Chinese race. They call it "Chinese speaking"...but if a Malay fluent in Mandarin applies for the job (or an Indian for that matter), I have heard that they get turned down. I have even heard of minorities fluent in Chinese being told that they are not being hired because a Chinese person is wanted - despite their Mandarin fluency.

The real test, of course, as to whether a minority feels at home, in their nation, is whether or not they leave and the relative proportion of those who depart, who are from the minority in question. By this measure, and by the evidence of Mr. Sim's clientele (which we have no reason to believe is unusual or atypical of other agents' clientele in any way), the Malays certainly don't feel privileged. They clearly feel that they will have a better life elsewhere - which is why so many of them are leaving.

What do they find overseas? Well, one thing which is refreshing, for many Malays, is that they don't experience the active discrimination in the workplace that is present in Singapore. They don't see job adverts for "Must speak Mandarin"...they are only required to speak English (in the places they tend to go to, like Australia), which, of course, they do. I have heard, on the grapevine, many success stories of Malays who couldn't really "make it" in Singapore, who found it very much easier to do so, in other countries. Tellingly, the person, in question, is no different and no more able - all that has changed is the environment and the set of social forces they are up against.

Of course, Singapore won't be bothered about this loss of Malays. They will just be replaced by PRCs from China. However, we should be concerned, because one day, there may not be any Malays left in Singapore. That will be a loss of diversity and plurality that will change the character of Singapore - and not for the better. In no way, in my view, is uniformity (which shall prevail) superior to diversity. Yet, the future of Singapore shall be rather more uniform than it is today. We can see it with our own eyes, on a daily basis, on the streets of Singapore. The national demographic statistics, too, show a steady reduction in the proportion of Malays, every decade, since the foundation of Singapore. Now, this is strange, since Malays, as it is well known, like to have children rather more than Chinese Singaporeans do. That they have more children and yet there are fewer of them, relatively, owes itself to two forces: higher relative emigration of Malays, and higher relative immigration of Chinese PRCs (plus Chinese from Malaysia, Indonesia and anywhere else they can be found).

What I find curious is that Singaporean politicians mumble about the need to maintain the Chinese population (MM Lee himself, is famous for this view). Yet, one doesn't hear any of them drawing attention to the decline of the Malays. I suppose it is, actually, one and the same thing. The decline of the Malays, implies a relative increase in the Chinese - which is what is quite clearly sought, anyway.

Were a future Singapore to lack Malays entirely, I think the Government, here, might suddenly realize their value. You see, the Singaporean Malays allow better integration of Singapore into the rest of South-East Asia. After all, Singapore's Malays speak the language of Malaysia and Indonesia. They also share cultural, religious and ideological understandings. It is one of Singapore's strengths that some of its people share the language and culture of its nearest neighbours. This helps Singapore with trade and survival, both. Were Singapore to become a solely Chinese state, two things would happen: firstly, its ability to communicate with and integrate, effectively, with its neighbouring states would be impaired. Secondly, there would be much greater likelihood of conflict with those very same neighbouring states. Whilst Singapore remains a partially Malay nation, its Malay neighbours will continue to feel they have something in common with it. Once, however, it becomes entirely Chinese (or almost so), the possibility of conflict and resentment will be much heightened. A Singapore without a Malay minority, is a Singapore that invites its own extinction. There will, of course, be a certain irony in that. A state which makes the Malays feel so unwelcome that they decide to leave, until none remain, thereby extinguishing them, will, actually have extinguished itself.

It is best not to listen to what political figures say of a country, it is preferable to watch what the people do. It is not politicians that tell the truth, by their words, but people who tell the truth, by their actions. Singapore's leaders talk of equality for all races, yet, if Singapore's races felt truly equal in opportunity and life chances, the numbers who emigrated would be in direct proportion to their relative racial abundance in the nation. We can see from the New Paper article and Mr. Sim's experience of his clientele that this is not so. Vastly more Malays than expected, are emigrating. This can only be because Malays feel that their lives would be better elsewhere. If they thought that their lives, in Singapore, would be as equally good, as their fellow non-Malays, they would not emigrate in disproportionate numbers.

Countries which make minorities feel welcome are healthy countries, socially and psychologically. They also tend to be successful ones (just think of the demographics of America). Would not Singapore be better off matching the welcome of an America, than the monoculture of China or Japan?

(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 @ 8:18 PM 


Blogger Demel said...

Certainly a true point, but unfortunately not one I can feel much empathy for - don't you think that if Singapore ended up too Chinese and faced economic setbacks as a result of that, that most Singaporean Chinese capable of emigrating would emigrate too? I'm probably proving a point in regard to Singaporean mindsets towards their own country, but it feels like something that's 'just happening'. Brain drain has always been going on, as far as capable people have been concerned. I'm sure the Singaporean diaspora is large Chinese too, even if only because of their large numbers.

I also find it a bit queer that you say Singapore would extinguish itself by leaving all the Malays out of Singapore. In the first place, China is obviously far more of a rising economic power than Malaysia is (a situation that I believe will not change for a while), and if establishing stronger links with China comes at the cost of weakening links with Malaysia, pragmatically it's a sound decision. Furthermore, Singapore's GDP(PPP) per capita is supposedly more than triple Malaysia's, and economic prospects with Malaysia don't seem too bright.

You say Singaporean Malays help integrate Singapore into the South-East Asian region, but that's not entirely true, is it? From my knowledge of Malay, it's split into Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia - and they're different enough to be considered separate languages. Sure, it's the same technically, but communication is somewhat akin to speaking to someone only familiar with a different dialect to yours.

Hence, the benefit of integration should only extend to Malaysia, shouldn't it? Indonesia speaks a different dialect of it, Philippines speaks Filipino, and most other ASEAN countries have their own respective languages as well. Socially the loss from Malaysia isn't exactly massive either.

I certainly feel, however, that culturally the losses to Singapore are major. Ideologically, culturally, heck I might as well add culinary, Singapore loses out in many ways I cannot imagine. I'm sure my own (and your) description about cultural losses in Singapore fail to begin to account for the kind of place Singapore would be in the future.

(Now I'm probably going to get shot down on my arguments, but do refrain from seeing my view as a generalized Singaporean view. I'm sure you make enough stereotypes about Singaporeans already, and I'm sure adding to it this time would be somewhat unnecessary.)

11:15 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Demel,

South-East Asia is largely MALAY by blood, whatever their language...even the Philippines are a Malay people, actually. So, there will be a common feeling between South-East Asia nations and Singapore, as long as Singapore has a reasonable quota of Malays in it. The moment the Malays have gone, the common feeling will go too. There lies a danger. You see, I am not talking about ECONOMIC survival. Trade with China should be a source of income for Singapore, yes...I am talking about actual, physical, survival. What you have not considered is the possibility of resentment and enmity growing between a solely Chinese Singapore and the Malay nations around it. It is possible that this could lead to actual conflict, one day, were Singapore to become a monoculture. Thus, the possible extinction I speak of, is actual extinction.

Presently, resentment resulting in actual physical action by the neighbouring countries is very unlikely because of Singapore's Malay minority. So, although Singapore does not do its best to make the Malays feel welcome (look at employment practices alone for sufficient evidence of that), Singapore is much safer because of the presence of its Malay community.

My wife is a Malay Singaporean. She has no trouble speaking to Indonesians, at all...or in understanding them. So, I am not sure how different those languages actually are. They are sufficiently alike that she is immediately able to communicate with any Indonesian - and your point is overstated.

By blood, the Malays integrate Singapore to most of South-East Asia, by language to Malaysia and Indonesia and Brunei, as well as by blood. That is a significant contribution, in itself, to the health and security of Singapore.

Re. Chinese emigration. Sure, Chinese people emigrate, too...but proportionately speaking, less so than for Malays. They have less reason to emigrate.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Demel,

Your thinking, too, exhibits a very Singaporean tendency: to think, purely, in economic terms. The Singaporean government is guilty of very one dimensional thinking - all they ever seem to consider are DOLLARS...the rest that goes up to make a healthy, well-rounded society seems to be overlooked.

If all Singapore is, is a place to make money, it is not much of a place, is it?

11:32 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

By the way, Demel, were Singapore to face economic setbacks by becoming too Chinese and were Singaporean Chinese to emigrate as a result, it would make NO difference to the racial demographics of Singapore, since the people brought into replace them, would be PRCs from China's poorer, less developed provinces. They would just swap rich Chinese for poor ones. They would still, however, be Chinese.

That is the way things work around here...

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this post does not only apply to the Malays, but also to Singaporeans as a whole. Migration is a good thing for any country but it needs to be controlled otherwise problems will arise - social integration, language etc. Clearly the migration policy in Singapore (if there is one!) is in a big mess. I can understand why Singaporeans (and not just the Malays) would leave Singapore altogether.

You can't fault the migrants because they're just here for a better life. The people of Singapore need to get together and vote for a new government (if that's possible at all!)

6:33 PM  
Blogger Demel said...

1st reply: Uh. I must admit I didn't think about actual 'extinction' the way you put it. It feels a bit out there, and I don't have any information on this, so I'll leave it as a o_O point.

2nd reply: Which is why I said to refrain from interpreting it that way right ._. It's easy to shoot it down for being the mass's view and saying it's retarded, but that's missing the argument altogether.

In the first place, from what you said about what Malays experience overseas, it suggests that a primary pull factor of emigration for Malays is better economic prospects! When you say "If all Singapore is, is a place to make money, it is not much of a place, is it?" in context to this post, it gives the rather untrue impression that the emigration of Malays (caused by economic factors) actually worsens this problem, no?

The reason why I saw this from an economic viewpoint (Which by the way I righted when I talked about the possible cultural losses, though admittedly not in detail) is because you talk about success overseas that cannot be found in Singapore, and the like. When you point out that their success in Singapore is limited by workplace discrimination, the concept of success here obviously has to tend towards an economic viewpoint.

Perhaps you might want to be more specific about what you mean by "They also tend to be successful ones (just think of the demographics of America)"? Your idea of success here seems pretty damn economic to me but you're shooting me down for looking at this economically. I feel something's amiss >_>

3rd reply: I would like to distinguish between Singaporean Chinese and Mainland Chinese, as I'm sure even you can tell rather striking differences between the two. However, before I make any remarks about your 3rd reply, I'd have to actually understand what you're driving at. So >_>

Yeah, sorry. I didn't get the point of your last one. >_> Even if the racial ratios stay similar, there's quite a noticable difference between a majority of Singaporean Chinese and a majority of mainland Chinese, I'm sure?

6:54 PM  
Blogger Fievel said...

Im a fellow blogger in Singapore, and I was wondering if you are for any moment worried about possibly getting into legal problems with PAP for writing pointed articles such as this...which I enjoy reading about of course.

On a different note, I don't think it is really a matter of race. Most Singaporeans, be they Chinese, Malays or Indians, are thinking of leaving Singapore these days. Perhaps the Chinese dominant work place situation is a problem that exacerbated the portion of Malays leaving.

It's sad but true.

6:56 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, re. migration policy. The influx of PRCs may chase out Singaporean Chinese too...but I would think it would weigh disproportionately on the Malays and perhaps Indians, as the country becomes more of a Chinese speaking one.

Again, yes, I rather get the impression that the fullest implications of the present PRC immigration haven't fully been thought through. I think a lot of people are unsettled by it - and not just Singapore's non-Chinese.

Thanks for your comment.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Fievel, you raise a good point: the freedom of bloggers to write as they wish, in a state that might wish that they would not write at all.

I have considered this. I write truthfully and stick to what is observably so, supported by external evidence (for instance the agent's own figures for who comes to him, above and the published stats over the past half a century, for Singapore's demographics). Thus, what I have written is unarguably true. If someone has a problem with the TRUTH...then there is a very big problem with them. It seems to me, that, in this case, given that I only write what is justifiably and provably true and that I do not libel people (name them and shame them etc.), I should be OK. Unless, of course, someone chooses to bend the law, to pursue me. Then, of course, if they do that, I think the state in question always loses more, in terms of international reputation, than they gain in any terms at all. In my particular case, I am actually quite well known, overseas, so any persecution of me, would result in huge ongoing negative press for Singapore...It would be better for them, if they were sensible about what, after all, are nothing more than truthful observations.

I write of matters that should be spoken of, but often aren't. I also raise issues that often seem to have been overlooked, or may not have the profile they deserve. I, therefore, present a certain social service to the society I presently live within. Some may appreciate that service, others may resent it - but I think it is, in objective terms, a valuable thing to do and should be done.

Re. the wish to emigrate.

I can't dispute that Singaporeans of all races, creeds and economic circumstances think of emigrating these days. This is unsurprising. People in Singapore are better educated, now, about what a complete, wholesome society is like - and so they are equipped to notice whatever they might lack, or whatever might be improved. They see, too, that the system tends to do its own thing, irrespective of the people of the nation - and so, they feel, that if they want the changes in their lives that they would like to have, that the only way to create those changes, is to leave.

Re. Malays. Their proportion of the population has been in decline since Singapore was founded. This indicates a long term problem for the Malays, re. living in Singapore. Since Malays are more fecund than the Chinese, one would have expected an increase in the abundance of Malays were they equally happy with their lot, here. That is not so and has not been so...this points to a differential in contentment with living here (and a differential in relative emigration). Again, the stats support my views and no-one should really have a problem with my pointing this out.

Thank you, Fievel, for your concern. I try to be on the right side of careful.

7:21 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Firstly, Demel, the Singaporean government seems to think that PRCs are the same as Singaporean Chinese - that seems to be why they import so many of them. Their thinking appears to be that any Chinese person will do, as long as they are racially Chinese. That the PRCs are culturally different (in obvious ways) from Singaporean Chinese does not appear to have much weight, at present. I cannot understand Chinese, but even I notice the differences (or some of the differences). I think, perhaps, the hope is that the PRCs will assimilate and become more like Singaporeans if they stay long enough. One obvious problem with that idea is that there are so MANY of them. It may be that Singaporean Chinese will end up assimilating to them, and becoming more like PRCs!

Re. Success. I am not just referring to success in economic terms. I am referring to it in the broadest of terms. Malays have a better life overseas not just because they enjoy better economic prospects - which they do - but they don't have to put up with the burden of discrimination (which makes life miserable for those who bear it), or being looked down upon. Quite a few locals I have encountered seem to look down on Malays - they think they are "better"...well, again, being looked down is no fun and finding a life that does not include that is a more "successful" one.

(They establish their "superiority" over the Malays by either talking the Malays down, or talking themselves such terms as "hardworking" (themselves); "academic" (themselves); "smart" (themselves) and so on. I am not going to write down what I hear them say about Malays, in contrast. You no doubt are aware of the kinds of views in question.)

America is more successful than Singapore, in more than economic terms. It is a freer society in every way. That is a social success that Singapore may never know. There are also more opportunities of every kind, for every one, of every race, age, and background. That, again, is a kind of success that Singapore may never know. I could go on, but I won't lest I offend any Singaporeans. Let it be said, however, that America succeeds in many ways that Singapore fails. The same could be said of Australia, or any of the other places that Malays tend to emigrate to. Once they establish themselves in such a place, they enjoy a kind of multifaceted success AT LIFE, that they are very unlikely to enjoy in Singapore, as it is presently organized, run and designed.

Life is more than money...and the countries they leave for, offer more than better economic prospects, they offer a better life in many different dimensions at the same time: that is why they leave. They want space, freedom, acceptance, equality, a welcome - as well as greater wealth. All of these things are available elsewhere, in a way that they are not presently equally available in Singapore. Were there not these differentials between Singapore and the nations in question, NO-ONE would leave. They the differentials are there.

Thanks for your thoughts.

7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

at least, you are there to fight for malays. :)

12:22 AM  

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