What a self-centred response looks like

Strange.  The last time I was in singapore, the only bloke I encountered who actually asked how things were in the UK, what I did, etc, was the head of the local chapter of a Chinese secret society.

He generally doesn't say much, but one morning, when i had my early morning 'wan ton noodles' at a neighbouring coffeeshop, and then cycled back to my own coffeeshop in block 203 Toa Payoh North - i recall seeing that singaporean blogger Alvin, of 'Alvinology'.com (I wonder how one can make a 'subject' of nothing really significant;)) there one lunch time messing around on his 'smartphone'...anyway.... - for a cup of my usual teh siew tai (tea with less sugar...though that doesn't mean it's not going to be overly-sweet as they still add too much 'sweetened milk' to it even though they add less sugar.....i think they missed the point), he came by to the stone table i was seated at just outside of the coffeeshop with his chinese newspaper and overly-strong coffee, and gave me the 'nod'.  I nodded back.

Then he, to my surprise, actually spoke....and in English even!  He asked me about the weather in the UK, whether i went to football matches (which i don't....no...i don't see any reason to 'support' any football club since they aren't 'supporting' me), what I did, whether I like it there, etc.  Even though his spoken English was just about crap, I couldn't help but appreciate his basic concern.  Very nice of him.  No point being good in language if you've got nothing significant to say or express empathy.  Though he was a 'pai kia' (gangster), I was happy that he could at least engage in conversation where the central focus was not the almighty and ubiquitous 'I'.

Anyway, with my other 'friends', conversation carried on as if I had never left the country.  Nothing was asked, unlike the bloke above, and hence, nothing learnt.  I suppose that's how people maintain the illusion of their own intelligence and importance.  If they just stick to talking about what they know, they can avoid talking about what they don't know.  That way, they can continue thinking that they know it all, or all that is necessary to know.  And if you're like the ed, and inquire after their pastimes, ask questions, show interest, etc, what happens next is they will see that as evidence of their knowing more than you, being of more worth than you, and hence, your being the inverse in both.  And that's when they're going to call you a 'nice guy', because, at the end of the day, all such people seek is an audience.  And if they can't have that, they'd rather just hang out with people of similar interests. 

I recall a funny situation when i was seated at a table just immediately outside the coffeeshop with a mixed-bunch of cab drivers, security guards, retirees, gangsters, etc.  A 'friend' of mine, along with the rest of us, was sitting there listening to this bloke banging on about his exploits in Penang.  It was interesting, the first 15 minutes, but got a bit boring after an hour.  Anyway, this friend of mine, and whom i had introduced to the group, just sat there listening.  No questions, no thoughts, nothing.  After about half an hour, he went to take a piss.  Then Mr 'centre of attention' looked at me and said, 'your friend, nice guy ah.'  I smiled and said nothing.

at the end of the day, all such people seek is an audience. And if they can't have that, they'd rather just hang out with people of similar interests.I could understand both of them.  He deemed everyone a 'nice guy' who'd just sit there, shut up, and be the audience.  And he was willing to pay for it too.  That's why he always bought the bottles of beer for everyone most of the time - though I would generally stick to my cup of 'tea with less sugar.  And I knew my 'friend' too.  He basically couldn't be bothered about anyone; only did good for anyone with an ulterior motive; always did his best to give minimum for maximum gain; and never said anything when you spoke because he just wanted to be entertained and have company - unless it was at an early stage of a relationship and he wanted to make extra effort in order to be liked (what psychologists would term, 'the ingratiation phase').

After that, he would go back to his usual, 'you talk and entertain, whilst I sit here and be entertained.'  It's no wonder that even though he might associate with all kinds of people, he never seems to learn anything as he never asks any questions, makes observations, refer back to the issue, or add on more knowledge and perspectives to what you say.  And this is an example of a 'respectable member of society'?  The only thing he does is copy some of their phrases so that he can recite them to others to come across as more intelligent or witty.  But, in the couple of decades i've known him, he's never come up with a single original observation or joke.  I once asked him why he associated with me, and he said, 'you're witty, you talk about all kinds of stuff, your analysis is good, you show concern, you give solutions to my problems..." I then asked him, 'if you like associating with me because of that, and considering that you don't do the same, what reason would i have for associating with you?" No response. I can understand that because if he did acknowledge it to be true, then he'd have to change, and he wasn't willing to do so. So with silence, he can hope to maintain the 'friendship' without change on his part. So, I thought, that's what creates a 'harmonious' relationship I suppose.  You're either the same; or one takes the stage whilst the other takes the role of the 'fan'; or just be a leech at the feet of your betters who get a kick from feeling superior by being your advisor whilst you give what is convenient and not what is needed in return.

You can't grow that way, but if everyone is equally the same in interaction, nobody gets really different in the first place, and that's where a popular culture which nobody questions is terraformed.  An intellectually and creatively self-subsisting planet where the best that can be expected of them is to copy others but not be highly innovative or empathetic.  Not very good that.  

There was a conversation I had with a girl a couple of days ago on Facebook - a chinese girl from singapore - and she kept extolling the virtues of 'cultural homogeneity'.  Lots of people there take to fascism as does an Indian to curry;)  Yes.  It breeds harmony.  No doubt about that.  But it eradicates differences required to make us smarter and more creative at the same time.  And this person was most interested in educational matters as well.  Doesn't bode well for those under her care.

Similarity, it appears, is a prerequisite for interactive reciprocity.That, after all, is the final goal of the fascist philosophy of Confucianism.  Justice, equality, fairness, etc, isn't as important.  Getting along is.  But the problem with this sort of harmony is that it makes everyone equally stupid - even though they can be successful economically.  But all human potentials in such a climate is driven down the 'pragmatic' and economic path, and it is no wonder that people can get highly self-absorbed in such a climate.  Nobody gets really much smarter than anyone else.  That is why, I suppose, there is so much focus on 'Luck' in such a climate.

So it is no wonder that people are generally prone to the trends of the times in such a milieu and hence began to adopt similar perspectives, interests, appetites, and so on.  Hence, nobody might find anything amiss in conversations.  So when a bloke comes from abroad bearing perspectival, intellectual, and creative gifts, there are no recipients.  No questions, no thoughts, no observations.  Similarity, it appears, is a prerequisite for interactive reciprocity.  In other words, we have to be the same before i'm going to respond to you. 

So when you look at the above dialogue between myself and a 'friend' on Facebook, you'll be able to see how the start of the conversation shows her/him inquiring after my whereabouts so that s/he can tell me about her/his holiday in Melbourne.  I tell her/him where i am - but avoid asking her/him about her/his trip as I know her/him to be a pretty self-absorbed person who just needs the first hint of interest in order to just fixate on her/himself thereafter.  And then s/he goes on to talking about a movie he saw. 

V (a chinese girl from singapore working in the UK) also told me about a conversation with a friend in singapore - a long time friend whom she had matched up with another bloke and whom the friend eventually married - and she said, "she didn't bother to ask how I am, how things are here, all she said was that i should inform her when i was coming back because she wanted me to get some things for her." 

Such self-absorption.  To a surreal degree.  Should be advertised as a tourist attraction.  But i think that would only further reinforce the self-absorption given the attention it brings.   *shudder*



  1. your observations of this country is spot on! and it is very rare to find someone who vocalizes what so many in this country seem to be unaware of. it was a refreshing read.

  2. And it's very rare to find someone who vocalizes interest in the out-of-the-ordinary Anon. That was a refreshing read indeed;) Cheers.


    p.s. please write me if you think that there is anything fundamental that is worthy of discussing but which this site has unwittingly overlooked. Have a great week ahead:)


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