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 07, 2010

The national archives of Malaysia and Singapore.

Today, I have come to understand that the national archives of Singapore and Malaysia, have rather different outlooks on the world. Each has a different view of what is worth preserving for posterity. The sadness of this, is that their priorities are not what might be expected.

Long-term readers may recall that the National Library Board of Singapore (NLB), started to archive blogs originating in Singapore, a couple of years back, to preserve them for posterity. I remarked at the time that their priorities seemed strange, choosing to archive airheaded, but popular commentators (who talked of little but shopping, sex and plastic surgery, for instance), whilst ignoring more substantial writers. I wasn't archived, for instance, even though my blog constitutes a record of a prominent young Singaporean (my son). My blog is one of the more serious ones that originated in Singapore - and certainly one of the most reflective and, though I observe it myself, substantial. However, it was shunned in favour of politically correct and insubstantial candy floss. As a result, Singapore's history will thereby be distorted, since, in the distant future, the only blogs to survive may be the ones that the PAP decided, in the present, should survive, thus altering the future view of what the blogosphere was like in these times. My voice will not be among the record, for instance, even though I raised many issues that others did not - and so those perspectives should be preserved, in a nation that values plurality. Clearly, Singapore doesn't.

Today, I found myself much surprised to see a new search listing, at the top of the search on Google for my name, under Malaysian search items. It is a listing in the Malaysian national news archive, News Image Bank found at

This national archive gathers together news items, be they cover pages, interior news pieces or photos, from three leading dailies: The New Straits Times, Harian Metro and Berita Harian. I found myself rather surprised to note stories listed from these newspapers that I had never heard of, living, as I had been at the time, in Singapore. Ainan, too, had his own set of listings, including quite a few front pages.

I found this revelation rather sobering. You see, Ainan was born a Singaporean Malay, in a Singaporean hospital. Yet, Singapore has not, to my knowledge, chosen to archive anything relating to him, or his family. Indeed, we were explicitly not included in a national blog archive. However, Malaysia has chosen to archive material relating to our family. Indeed, they have listings for Syahidah Osman Cawley, too. Now, it is true that Ainan has Malay blood running through his veins...half-Malay, anyway - but is it not telling that the nation in which he was BORN and has citizenship, does not accord him the same status?

What a nation chooses to archive of the present, shows what a nation would like the future to know of its world. Malaysia wants its future descendants to know of Ainan and his achievements. Singapore doesn't. Singapore wants Ainan to vanish into the pages of unrecorded history. Malaysia, on the other hand, would seem to want him to remain in cultural memory as, perhaps, an example to others, an inspiration even, to the achievement and aspirations of others.

Malaysia wishes to learn from its present and its past. Singapore wishes to rewrite it. By not archiving matters relating to Ainan, in publicly available archives (as Singapore appears not to be doing, since there is no such presence online), Singapore is editing its past, such that certain matters, will, in time, be forgotten and lost.

Thankfully, however, other nations, like Malaysia, will hold onto the memories, so, ultimately, Singapore will fail in its objectives, no matter how hard it tries. Ainan's memory may fade in Singapore, as the decades and centuries pass, with no publicly archived records to remind people...but other nations will not be so forgetful.

How sad it is, however, that the nation of his birth, should be so set on repressing his memory, when it should be upheld, along with all other exemplars, of all races. Perhaps, of course, that is the reason for this seeming neglect. Perhaps Ainan, not being a member of the dominant race in Singapore (the Chinese, for those unfamiliar with the city state) is not thought worthy of long-term record. Perhaps, to be thought worthy of archiving, one would have to be a Chinese Singaporean...being a Singaporean Malay is just not good enough, not important enough from the perspective of those-who-decide.

Singapore will always be part of Ainan's personal history and the story that his life tells...but the question is: will Ainan always be part of Singapore's national history...or will his memory be edited out and eventually silenced and forgotten, as already seems to have begun?

One thing is sure, however: this young boy, of Malay descent, will never be forgotten, by our present home: Malaysia.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

My Internet Movie Database listing is at:
Ainan's IMDB listing is at
Syahidah's IMDB listing is at

Our editing, proofreading and copywriting company, Genghis Can, is at

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. Use only with permission. Thank you.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:32 AM 


Blogger Slawek Rogulski said...

There seem to be a few snapshots of your blog from three years ago in The Internet Archive*/

Other than that I see the issue you highlighted as one of minority vs majority, especially a disenfranchised minority. History says that Malays are in fact indigenous to this region and everyone else is an immigrant or guest. How strange then that the reverse seems to be the case today.

Personally, I would love it if I was able to communicate with Singaporeans. Quote a number of them speak in Singlish. Equally large number speak in Mandarin and various dialects of Chinese. Then come all the acronyms which just make the whole conversation even more cryptic. What choices do I have?

10:36 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes. It is funny that the Singaporean Chinese complain of the colonial British times...when, in fact, in the modern world it is the Singaporean Chinese who are the colonists, indeed, CONQUERORS of Singapore. How come they can't see that? It seems to me they have a lack of insight into the situation.

Re. Singlish. Yes. The Singaporeans are well on the way to becoming uninterpretable by the rest of the world...a few more generations should do it.

To one unfamiliar with Singlish, in some parts of society, they have ALREADY achieved what amounts to their own language.

Thanks for pointing out the Way Back Machine. I am puzzled at why they chose those pages - and ignored the rest of the blog. It would be great if the whole blog could be archived. What makes them archive something?

11:03 AM  
Blogger Slawek Rogulski said...

According to this interview the information is captured by the Alexa crawler and donated to the Internet Archive. This seems to be confirmed here:

I suppose you could now find out about how Alexa crawls the Internet.

Speaking of History, it just occurred to me in the context of this conversation what it means to preserve the memory of something or someone. To not preserve that memory is effectively equivalent to erasing something from ever having existed. It is one thing to let a memory dissolve of its own into the mists of time and return to the source as it were. It is entirely different when the erasure is done deliberately, so much so that it is tantamount to an aggressive act of obliteration. I wish to give proper words to my sentiment but these would be very much not in line with the happy occasion that is Hari Raya.

10:19 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks Slawek for the info re. Alexa. I will have to do something about that.

Re. the preservation of history. It is VERY obvious what Singapore wishes to expunge from the blogs they chose to preserve and the ones they did not. Trivial writers were chosen in preference to anyone who had been critical, at all, in any way, as far as I can see. Yet, are not the writers who are identifying problems and issues that need dealing with, more useful to a society...and also to history, for understanding what was going on at the time?

The interest in Singapore is clearly not the preservation of history...but the making of a legend: Singapore is No. 1 and the PAP are entirely responsible.

8:20 AM  

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