Saturday, September 27, 2008

Intercultural Communications.


With the F1 races beginning this weekend, all eyes are turning towards our city. With racers speeding up to 300 kph and herds of tourists streaming at an ever faster rate, a problem arise:

How do we attend to our visitors?

Problems arise when people from the different cultural norms come together and interact in their own comfortable ways. Sometimes, unintentional meaning may be conveyed through our actions that might result in unpleasantries for both parties.

My recent trip to the Night Safari highlighted the exact scenario. As it was a weekend, the Night Safari was packed with streams of people, trying to rush to all the attractions within the short opening hours of the park. This resulted in the typical mad rush to every attraction. The pushing and rushing are "almost" inevitable. Some aunties who refuse to be left at the end of the queue tried to push to the front of the queue with their continuous nudging and pushing have left many annoyed.

Since we have to queue for most of the more popular attractions, we were pretty annoyed by the sight of any queues. At the end of the night safari show (an hour queue before that), we were more or less relieved to find ourselves beating the crowd heading out of the auditorium. We headed to the tram station and was comforted by the sight of proper guides and stands that "guaranteed" a better formed queue compared to the ones outside the auditorium. Tragically, our relief was short lived.

Just when we were about to head into the guides, a group of Indian tourists crossed our path and cut straight into the queue.  Driven to near insanity, I firmed pat on one of the man's shoulder and told him firmly,

"Sir, you just cut my queue."

He turned back and looked at me. In that moment, I felt as if I had been swallowed up by his glare. He let my family passed, but not without throwing glares whenever our eyes met. I was highly perplexed by his actions and thought I had committed a racist act. I phoned my Indian friend and asked, but he couldn't give a definite answer.

Few days later, I realized my mistake over the net. I realized my pat on the shoulder was a taboo to them. According to one of the websites, Indians are very sensitive to touch, especially with strangers. It didn't help when I was touching him yet asserting a certain authority over him. It probably led to his discomfort and confrontational attitude later on.

The  complexity of our "multi-cultural-ness" will naturally increase, as Singapore continues to attract foreigners into the country. We have to be more aware of our little actions and words that might mean otherwise to someone with a different cultural background. Intercultural communication skills is more than just effective communication between cultures, it is also a manner of showing tact and respect. After all, on  the international arena, it isn't who we are, it's where we come from.
Friday, September 26, 2008

Prelude to the next entry.

I have decided to write a prelude to my next entry simply because I have in inkling of a feeling that my next entry might come across racist. No no, nothing overtly racist. Read on.

I did not what to change the content partly because it's based a true incident and partly because it highlighted this particular moment where we are caught in this ambiguity of racism. Intercultural miscommunication, if you would call it, is separated from racism by this fine line. What separates the two probably lies in the intent of the speaker.

Nevertheless, one must never undermine the importance of intercultural communication just because racism is never your intent. There will be many occasion when there is no second chance (as described in my next entry), and the guilt of your actions may probably live with you! Now that I have made everything clear, we can all proceed to the entry.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Cynic or not?

In the light of the our green project topics, I would like to share this with all my readers.

One day, my friend and I had a short discussion on environmental issues while traveling back from a night of revision. He had watched Al Gore's "The Inconvenient Truth" and became extremely passionate about everything to do with carbon dioxide. While I, on the other hand, who have not watched the film, did not believe the story as a whole. We had a heated discussion over what is the leading cause of enhanced global warming and what we can do to help our environment.

My stand was that, maybe, carbon isn't the main culprit. He fought against my idea and our discussion only ceased when we arrived at our respective stops. That evening, he wrote on his blog about his "cynical" friend who did not believe in Al Gore's "golden truth" that carbon dioxide is heating our Earth.

Cynic (I believe it is the exact word Al Gore used in his film) or not, I urge all readers in this blog to take a step back and consider. Is carbon our main culprit?

There are many other greenhouse gases whose role in enhanced greenhouse effect are greatly understated. Methane being one of them. If I have not read incorrectly, methane is 30 times more insulating than carbon dioxide! What about water vapour, the largest contributor of greenhouse effect?

Global warming is a complicated issue and greenhouse gas alone isn't the only player in the problem. There are so many other factors that led to this problem. I urge all readers to practise restrain and think about who you call a cynic.

Nobel laureate or not, Al Gore did indeed brought awareness to the world, the effects of greenhouse gas. But never allow our vision to zoom just into carbon dioxide or we suffer the consequence of over-simplifying the problem.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Green Energy? Go Nuclear.

Emissions from coal-combustion power contribute significantly to the enhanced global warming effect. Apart from carbon dioxide, other noxious gases from coal combustion are carcinogenic and threaten the public health. I am proposing the consideration of nuclear energy as an alternate source of energy. Cleaner and far more efficient as compared to coal combustion, nuclear power is becoming a viable candidate in our quest for green energy.

There are several reasons why nuclear power is greener than the coal-combustion power. Firstly, nuclear power is much more efficient in generating power: Less than a cubic inch of uranium generates enough power which is equivalent to nearly 2000 tonnes of coal. This means lesser by-product for waste management. Secondly, waste generated by nuclear power can be recycled and remade into fuel pellets. These fuel pellets can be used to generate more energy and thus yielding even more power. Thirdly, the power generating process to harness nuclear power does not produce any form of greenhouse gas, apart from water vapour. No emission of gaseous carbon compounds also means a reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and indirectly, reduces the effect of enhanced global warming. Finally, modern nuclear facilities contain multiple-fortification that prevents any radioactive material from escape the facilities. Compare this to 10 years ago when much of these technologies weren’t available, modern nuclear facilities are safer and have less impact on the environment.

The problem with nuclear power has always been the public’s over-consciousness on the potential threat of a nuclear meltdown. With the Three Mile Island incident and the Chernobyl Incident, the public has developed a deeply entrenched notoriety associated with nuclear energy. Unfortunately, many of these opinions made are based on half facts or their own believes. To give nuclear power a fair chance to be considered as a form of green power, we must test the willingness of people to accept new information and replace their existing opinion on nuclear energy.

Hence, I seek to identify public’s initial attitude towards nuclear power. After providing a fundamental level understanding of nuclear power, I wish to survey my sample group if they would reconsider the usage of nuclear power.

My proposed research question is,

“Will Singaporeans consider nuclear power as a greener form of energy?”