Monthly Archives: July 2013

Youth Volunteerism

There’s an answer for everything. How does one, in spite living in a self-serving environment, empathise for others?

You are reminded over and over again that charity is important. You are briefly schooled on your nation’s tumultuous social history. You clock in hours for community involvement. That effort might have been you collecting newspapers for recycling or tong-ing your own pocket money into flag day cans or teaching in an after-school programme for at risk children or packing bags for NDP. Whatever it was, your teachers were there, what you did was recorded and reflected in your school report. That is how important volunteerism is. Your community involvement records are of interest to your academic facility. and perhaps to a future employer.  If you can take the time to do things that benefit others and not yourself, that shows character. that shows you understand a cause larger than yourself. that your time and effort does not have to translate into any kind of monetary appreciation to be worthwhile to sacriface. You accumulate certs and souvenirs and acquaintances and vouchers and free shirts instead.

Isn’t that just one ginormous ironic cookie.

Sometime last year I volunteered (cca compulsory duty) at a youth-initiated event. I was supposed to take part in forming the longest dragon structure in the world. sounded pretty strange, but yea ok wth.

Volunteering for this particular event made me realise a significant portion of volunteer events are no longer about teaching empathy or learning about the community’s needs. It was just about youths. Annoyingly excitable and pseudo-passionate youths with the backing of sponsors executing their annoying excitable and pseudo-passionate events. You know what I’m talking about.

I spend that Saturday afternoon among hundreds of sweaty youth volunteers taking part in an array of useless activities that remotely underscored the spirit of youth volunteerism. the activities were: bean bag fights, cosplay, the long dragon thing, some singing performances. If I were to squint both my eyes and look upon this mass of meaningless, I can imagine that the general theme at play is the celebration of  youthful exuberance. but that’s cos I was squinting really hard.


I’ve got no problem with youths volunteering for stuffs. free energetic labour in exchange for some useful life experience. win-win. But its gotten to a point where we’re losing sight of what we should be volunteering for. That event turned me off so badly because the acitivities were way too youth-centric and self serving you just know some enthu bunch of youngsters had gone crazy because they were given a carte blanche to just do what they felt like doing.

The whole thing just felt grossly contrived, like it was some kinda free for all CCA points- giveaway session. the activities were hardly the sort that could give the volunteers valuable life experience. As it turned out, there were so many volunteers we had to take turns holding up the sticks of the dragon structure. that’s right, there were at least 2 volunteers for every stick of the orchard-road long dragon structure. That day struck me in a weird way. I was emptied and bored yet filled with resentment.

My point is that we’ve really gotta keep a handle on the sort of volunteer activities youths are allowed to do. Charity and non-profit organisations are vital in rooting a community and making sure people aren’t left behind. Youths need to be directed towards giving themselves to the causes that combat deficiency present in the lower rungs of society. They should not be allowed to do whatever the hell they want to do.

If youths want to form an interest group or develop their anklong playing talents or carry out an event that promotes Japanese culture then tell them to raise the money themselves. If they really do have the excitement and passion they claim to have, they should have no problem working hard to raise funds on their own.  the deficit should be borne by them because that’s the real price of ‘your dreams’.

The adults have got to cut it out too. letting youngsters take charge and obtain funds as they please. If you truly stand for keeping young passions and dreams alive, save the platforms and rewards for real talents like perhpas Little Lauren Yeo, this 9 year old who won the American Protege International Vocal Competition in Classical singing last year.

and  god help me, if I hear another adult say “inculcate in our youth a sense of..” another time, I’ll seriously shoot myself.


The Islamist by Ed Hussein

I’ve been reading the autobiography of this guy who used to be part of radical Islamist organizations in Britain. He grew up in a traditional Muslim household but rejected his family to become part of a fundamentalist Islamist Youth organization. He gets continually enchanted by increasingly pugnacious, haughty, violent, power-hungry Islamist groups. The more compelling their seemingly flawless ideology, the greater his commitment to the cause.

But one fine day when a christian boy was killed by Islamist youths over a pool game on his university campus and his superior failed to ease his shaky bloodied conscience, he realises he’s on the wrong side. Worse yet, he was pretty much responsible for the growth of radical Islam in his campus that eventually led to the impertinence of the Islamist youths, emboldening them  to retaliate in violence over a stupid pool game.

Probably the only reason he wasn’t involved in the fight itself was because he was in the library. Cos this girl he admired liked being in the library too. HAH a love story disguised as some sombre rivetting account of his life as an extremist.

Anyway, he’s slowly drawn away from extremism and into traditional spiritual Islam. He travels to Saudi Arabia, Damascus, learns Arabic so as to fully comprehend the Koran, starts to appreciate the humility of having his huge head bowed onto the ground. And the rest is history. Over-correction much?

He has since co-founded a counter-extremism organisation called the Quilliam Foundation and is also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

“The first book I read about Islam in English was Islam: Beliefs and Teachings by Gulam Sarwar.

The first lines of Sarwar’s chapter read:

Religion and politics are one and the same in Islam. They are intertwined. We already know that Islam is a complete system of life… Just as Islam teaches us how to pray, fast, pay charity and perform the Haj, it also teaches us how to run a state, make treaties and conduct business and commerce.”

“After the talks I would spend hours in discussion with members of the Hizb, questioning them on matters ranging from the dialectical materialism of Marxists to abstruse points in Muslim jurisprudence. Whatever questions I asked, Hizb members always had answers. Nothing was unknown to them.”

‘How dare you call the kafir police’ shouted one. ‘Don’t you know its haram to get the kuffar involved in Muslim affairs? The Saudis invite the US to our countries, just like you. Go running to the kuffar.’ We had been trained always to link local issues to the global concerns of Muslims. Our shabab were doing well, very well. To link our expulsion from a mosque to US troop presence in Saudi Arabia was indeed an intellectual achievement of sorts. In years to come the Hizb would argue that every British Muslim difficulty, from terrorism to poor community relations, was a result of British foreign policy. And to this drumbeat, other Islamists would march.’

“That murder, the direct result of Hizb ut-Tahrir‘s idea, served as a wake-up call for me. Now every time I saw a leaflet with Hizb‘s flag and masthead posted above photos of the globe I felt nauseous. It was not mere PR – they wanted to control the world, to conquer countries.

“As a Hizb foot soldier I had been most impressed with Nabhani’s diagnosis and prognosis. How great, I marvelled, were the ‘systems’ of Islam. Now I discovered that Nabhani was not as ‘pure’ as he and his followers claimed. His ideas were derivative, fully formed Western political discourse but presented in the language of Muslim religious idioms, offering European political ideals wrapped in the language of the Koran in order to gain mass appeal in the Arab world.”

“My years of Islamist ranting now seemed so hollow, meaningless and destructive. It was God, I read in the Koran, who bestowed political leadership, mulk, and it was God who withdrew it.

God was no longer beyond human reach, in need of governmental endorsement. God was around us, in us, for us.

There was an elasticity, nuance, and plurality in the message of the Koran that Islamists had somehow overlooked, in the process reducing our noble faith to terrorism, anger and conflict.”

Read All About Emeli Sandé

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