Monday, August 25, 2008

Irony and Sarcasm

The Beijing Olympics have closed and as an ethnic Chinese, I'm glad to see China coming top of the gold medal tally. For the first time since the 1936 Berlin games, has a country other than the USA and USSR headed the list. What's even more satisfying is the fact that the Chinese came ahead by quite a decent margin - 51 to 36, of the USA.

In true sportsman like fashion, the American media decided to pay as little attention to the games as they could and more importantly, the US of A has been pointing out that it won more medals overall - 110 to 100. Funny, nobody seemed to notice the total medals won when the USA was on top of the gold medal table.

Americans, as was often said at school, have no ability to get irony or sarcasm. At the same time as the Olympics were taking place, America was leading the Western World in condemning the Russians for bullying Georgia. According to President Bush and his Gang of neoCONS, it is BAD to invade other countries. Nobody seemed to get the irony of the situation as they all made bold pronouncements about how bad the Russians were for invading an enclave that had Russian citizens being badly treated by the Georgian government. Those with the most to say didn't seem to think there was anything wrong when they were the ones fabricating evidence to invade another country.

Let's face it, the recent Olympic Games and the demonstration of irony over Georgia should be a sign to Asians, Arabs and Africans that not all things Caucasian are better. I'm not anti-Caucasian per se. There are things that Caucasians actually are better at than the rest of us. Take getting off a subway for example. Caucasians understand the value of letting people off before they hop onto the subway. This shows common sense - something which does not require a government schoolarship but makes life so much easier. After 8-years back home, I remain unused to the fact that even in one of the most evolved cities in Asia, we've yet to learn the basic art of getting of a train.

Where I object to Caucasians is the assumption that most Asians, Arabs and Africans have that they're automatically supperior. Singapore is an example of how the love affair with White Skin has made a mockery out of recent developments in Asia, Arabia and even Africa. I know a Malay girl, who proudly tells me that, "White Men, they're SO MUCH better." Unless you're working in Geylang or Orchard Towers, where the girls charge double the rates for locals, I can't see how anyone who is educated can consider most of the Caucasians living in Singapore as better - most of them haven't even been to school.

But there you have it. You have to give credit, where credit is due. You can't fault the Caucasian for being who he or she is, as long as the Asian, Arab or African continues to bow and scrape before him or her. Perhaps I'm being cynical here but I've noticed that there's a growing trend for Caucasian entrepreneurs to come knocking on doors for money. As someone who has been perpetually broke, I'm totally sympathetic.....that is, until I realise these buggers are getting away with selling fantasies. Non of these guys has shown the ability to produce figures based on anything more than their belief of where the industry would be heading. One of them even used the phrase, "I'm not in trouble....I just have cash flow issues."

Still, despite such obvious warning signs, Asians with money cannot resist throwing cash at these guys fast enough. I guess, there's nothing quite as satisfying as telling the world you've backed a Caucasian entrepreneur. Let's see, should my next venture be..."Adopt a Caucasian," and my slogan will be - "Feed him twice a day and he'll piss over you."

Hey, I'm not being sarcastic here. It's happening on the national stage, where Soverign Wealth Funds like GIC and Temasek are stumbling over each other to piss their stakeholders money into Merril, UBS and Citigroup. What do they get in return? They get capped over and they can't stop getting enough of the stuff. When Merril's shares went down from $48 to $24 a share, the local press couldn't stop singing, "We're so clever, we've got the White Man to shit on us even more."

There are of course, clever Asians, or at least Asians who understand that their success is due to their own ingenuity and hard work and not handed down by letting the White Man shit on them. Li Ka Shing didn't buy into any of the banks swimming in sub-prime woes. Instead he sold Hutchison Essar to Vodaphone of the UK for some US$11 billion about a year or so ago. Incidentally, Vodaphone had already made him some US$15 billion in the late 1990s, when he sold Orange (UK network) to Mannesman, which was subsequently aquired by Vodaphone.

There remains allot that Asia can learn from the West. America in particular has produced and continues to produce some of the most brilliant minds. In business, the USA has shown us the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, the late Sam Walton and Jack Welsh. Across the Atlantic, you can look to the likes of JK Rawling. Look to the men who founded and created the EU, a superstate of peaceful, prosperous nations. This is sheer genious at work here and Asians, Arabs and Africans need to look at why the West succeeds and continues to do so in so many ways.

Yes, America did win more medals than China and three out of the top five medal winners are Western societies. Likewise in the world today - the West remains better maintaining prosperity and spreading it around its citizens. This is something that we need how to learn to do.

The killer instinct, the hunger to succeed is probably greatest in Asia, particularly in places like China. The Chinese, as one Indian businessman notes, realised that it was most important to go for gold medals rather than overall medals and devoted their energies there. How did the Chinese get successful in sport - they invested in developing their vast talent pool, even learning from the West. How will China rise? It will do so by learning from the West and other societies. Everyone I know who has been to China marvels at their hunger to learn.

But let's look for the right teachers. Instead, we in Asia, Arabia and Africa seemed obsessed with learning from the dregs of Western society. Look into any book shop in Singapore and you'll find books by and about Donald Trump, Richard Branson and Robert Kiyosaki out numbering Jack Welsh and even Warren Buffet. You'll have people paying the likes of Roger Hamilton and the XL Group thousands of dollars (Allot of them claimed they were impressed with the promise to give 10 percent to charity - namely - the society of prevention of cruelty to impotent slime,) when Mr Hamilton is basically offering what you can get from Facebook for free.

I suspect allot of it has to do with an infactuation with glamour and a disdain for reality. Jack Welsh, Warren Buffet et al became rich by adding value to real businesses. Messers Trump, Branson and Hamilton made it by clever salesmanship. But lets look at it this way. Mr Buffet lives in a simple house in Omaha, Nebraska while Mr Trump has a choice of mansions in a choice of glamorous cities, but who has more money and who has never had to bounce back...?


Brownie said...

Regarding your paragraph 2, as far as I am aware, the total medal winner has always been accounted for. This matter doesn't happen just this time.

I spent my childhood in another country, so maybe that's why I was exposed to some news that Singaporeans was not (this is not meant to belittle Singaporeans, though.)

Temp said...

For more detailed discussions on these important topics, see:
Singapore Kopitiam