Saturday 01 November 2008

Déjà Vu Of A Canadian Election

On October 14, 2008, Canada held its 40th General Election to elect the new Canadian Parliament. The hastily called election by the incumbent Conservatives was heavily criticized by many in the media, and the low-key pre-election campaigns across the country were largely overshadowed by the political dramas of the concurrent election in the United States. As a Canadian citizen myself, I was disappointed by the general disinterest shown by many Canadians of this election. Best dubbed as a déjà vu of the election of 2006, the Conservatives were able to secure only a minority government (yet again) and not the majority that the party had wanted. Moreover, the small victory by the Conservatives, mostly at the expense of the Liberals, was of little comfort to Canadians (including me) who were seeking a stronger mandate and governance from the current leaders. At a time when a strong and unified leadership is most needed, the heavily divided political landscape resulted from this election will undoubtedly make it difficult for Canada to face its many challenges for years to come.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under World
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Monday 01 September 2008

2008 Olympic Games: Showcasing China To The World And The World To China

Last month, the People’s Republic of China served as the host country for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, better known as the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. As a Chinese myself, I am proud of the opportunity and recognition that China was given by the world to host this important international event. In turn, China responded to the attention by delivering a grand spectacle at the opening and closing ceremonies for the world to see. The opening ceremony, in particular, showcased not only the technological prowess of a progressive country but also the enormous manpower of a united nation. In addition, it introduced the world to the artistic philosophy and the scientific advancement of China’s ancient past. Most importantly, however, this event has opened a doorway for the world’s nations to better understand China beyond its challenging politics and religions. Likewise, China must strive to take advantage of this opportunity to enrich its relationship with the world’s nations, so to realize someday the true human spirit of the Olympiad beyond its athletic competition.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under World
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Friday 01 August 2008

Failing Etiquette Of Online Anonymity

A great strength of the internet is the online anonymity it offers to its users. This anonymity, when used in proper context, protects us from political or religious prosecution, ensures our freedom of speech, maintains transparency in the democratic process, and guarantees our rights to privacy. Yet, on the internet, anonymity is frequently misused, both intentionally and unintentionally, so to make it difficult for proponents to defend its use. At a minimum, the etiquette of online behaviors has fallen to a new low—bashing, trashing, trolling, and other antisocial misbehaviors that exist solely to confront without just cause—being mean for the sake of being mean. It underlines a fundamental flaw in human social behavior: when we no longer need to answer to our own actions, we naturally choose to be selfish, self-centered, immature, and vindictive. It is not simply a matter of a need to state an opinion honestly and anonymously, but a matter of a need to state one’s own opinion rudely with the sole intent to deflate the legitimacy of others. It may be true that proper online etiquette has never existed, but this must not stop us from pursuing it and holding ourselves to a more civil standard.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under Tech • Under World
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Sunday 01 June 2008

Leaving My Digital Footprint

Having recently celebrated my birthday, I reminisced about the memories of my own childhood in Hong Kong. After searching long for old personal memorabilia, I only found a handful of dated photographs taken of me as a baby and a young boy. The colors in the pictures had mostly faded, and many of the prints were badly cracked. There were no negatives kept for these photos because of the added film expense at the time. Looking back, I regret for not having kept a better pictorial record of myself—not for reasons of vanity, but for the prosperity of my family in the future.

Today, it is much easier for anyone to create and keep a record of one’s life (even after one’s death). This “digital footprint” can take the form of digital photographs, digital recordings of audio and video, digital scans of handwritten documents, personal blogs (such as this blog I am now writing), personal websites, and many other online presence. As technology and the internet continue to grow, so will our footprint left in this digital world. Unlike our ancestors, our legacy will not be pieced together by morsels of rotting artifacts buried in the earth but by streams of bits and bytes of digital information perpetually stored for eternity.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Family • Under Life • Under Tech
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Thursday 01 May 2008

Should Public Transit Be An Essential City Service?

Last month, the Amalgamated Transit Union of the Toronto Transit Commission staged a rapid strike after its union workers failed to ratify a tentative deal that was negotiated in good faith between representatives of the Union and the Commission. The strike effectively halted the entire public transit system for the city of Toronto (where I live in Canada) and left many in the public stranded suddenly without any transportation. The news brought on an immediate denouncement by the Mayor, who criticized the Union for failing to give due notification to the city which it had promised previously before striking. In response, the Union cited concern over the safety of its workers from possible public retaliation for its last-minute decision (I found it strange that the Union would had not anticipated this before) to proceed with the unannounced job action. While such concern was undoubtedly valid, it also ignored the equally important concern of the larger public who had no choice but to rely on public transportation to travel safely around the city, particularly at night. The controversial strike ended only when the Province of Ontario passed back-to-work legislation that effectively restored public transportation to the city.

Understandably, this fiasco had angered much of the public and reinvigorated the debate on whether or not Public Transit should be deemed as an essential service, similar to the Police and the Firefighters, for the city. As both a user and a believer of public transportation, I fully support such a consideration if a fair compensation can be ensured to all parties who participate in the change; to do so otherwise ignores the balanced responsibility that our government has to all the people who use the system and all the workers who work hard to maintain it.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under World
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Tuesday 01 April 2008

Urban Decay Of Our Language

Having English as a second language, mastering its massive vocabulary and awkward syntax in everyday speaking and writing has always been a personal challenge for me. It is a language full of neologisms, slangs, jargons, slurs, and colloquialisms: rules that make little sense to any outsider (including me) not familiar with the cultural context from which their uses are derived. Those who practice these rules argue that it is in the nature of our language to evolve and to adapt to the changing needs of its users. While I concur that a language needs to be “living” to remain useful, I too argue that modern English is currently suffering a rapid decay rather than enjoying an enlightening renaissance. This “urban decay” (a takeoff of “urban talk") of our language, as I call it, liberalizes words and idioms to carry a wide array of nonspecific (more often nonsensical) meanings that are uttered without any due consideration of their true intent. To have a single cuss word (yes, it is that word) that is a noun, a verb, an adjective, and an adverb all at the same time is neither hip nor trendy. Rather, it speaks only to the laziness of its users failing to be precise, leaving the audience to guess (often wrongly) its intended meaning. We must act to preserve the richness of our language—not to regress it to a collection of monosyllabic sounds.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under World
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Saturday 01 March 2008

When Is A Holiday Not A Holiday?

Last month, the province of Ontario (where I live in Canada) held the first ever Family Day, a statutory holiday created by the Liberals back in October 2007 as part of the government’s election promises from the last provincial election. The goal of Family Day (the third Monday in February each year) was to give Canadians more quality time to spend with their families. Sadly, like many other social agenda put forth by the government, the inaugural Family Day was a near failure in practice. Many employers were unaware of (or chose to ignore) this new holiday, leaving many in the workforce still on the job for this weekday. Worse yet, many civic agencies, including the police, had no opportunity to establish a holiday schedule for the day for its workers. In the end, the hastily planned holiday created more of a nuisance than a blessing for Canadians living in Ontario, many of whom were unable to enjoy the holiday with their families who ended up working on that day. Poor planning of the holiday’s arrival had largely ruined this opportune celebration.

I was among the fortunate few who got to enjoy Family Day. Many Ontarians, however, were not.

Then again, there is always next year…

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Family • Under Life • Under World
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Saturday 01 December 2007

Commercialization Of Our Holiday Spirit

As the Christmas holiday season fast approaches for those who choose to celebrate this festivity, so does another busy holiday shopping season for many business merchants. Sadly, the commercialization of the holiday season is not new. Even the custom of sending holiday greeting cards, which once began as a personalized exchange of messages of goodwill that dated back to ancient Chinese times, was commercialized by the modernization of the printing press and the development of lithography that eventually led to the introduction of the first commercial Christmas cards in England in 1843.

Last month, while many in the US celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, most US merchants were busy striking sales deals on the following Black Friday, a secular non-holiday invented solely in the age of commercialism. In Canada (where I live), many retailers have already started their Christmas sale last month and some have even advertised their Boxing Day deals a whole two months early! I cannot help but chuckle each time I walk by a large sale sign advertising Boxing Month sale—not Day, not Week, but Month! Unfortunately, this is irrefutable proof that our holiday season has been lost deep in the black hole of modern commerce, in an age when we choose to celebrate not the holiday spirit with our family but the best deal we can find with our shopping.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under World
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Thursday 01 November 2007

Ontario Election 2007: Illusion And Disillusion

Last month, the province of Ontario in Canada held its general election for a new government. In the end, the incumbent Liberals won another majority government, while other parties, including the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats, all lost after disappointing supports from voters. Regardless of one’s political affiliation, however, the biggest disappointment for Ontarians of this election was the poor rate of voter turnouts that barely hit over 50%—the lowest in history for a provincial election. This was despite that the fact that this year’s election also included a historic general referendum on electoral reform that would have replaced the existing First-Past-the-Post system with an alternative Mixed Member Proportional system (the latter was ultimately rejected in the referendum). As a proud Ontarian (and Canadian), I take pride in exercising my right to vote freely for my electoral representative and voice my opinion on the choice of an electoral system. Yet, with so many Canadians now disillusioned of our political system, I fear that someday our government and politicians will no longer truly represent the majority of the people’s interests. Protecting our political freedom and liberty must not only be a right, but also a responsibility, for all of us.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under World
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Wednesday 01 August 2007

A Global Individual

Years ago, I chose to register my own name as a .com domain. At the time, I did it more for novelty than for a need to secure an identity for myself. For most people, the need to establish oneself as a global individual seems both superfluous and egotistical. Yet, as we choose to increasingly congregate in this global village (both virtual and real) of ours, we are also unwittingly forfeiting our individual identity to exist in this shared space. This is because, in the history of civilization, societies have never seen a need to establish a global system to identity their citizens. Such identities are not meant to be exploited by a government to control its people. Rather, they are meant to liberate the people to exist with a global presence so that any oppression of an individual can be openly challenged. Much like a global corporation that struggles to keep its brand, a global individual must fight to maintain a distinct identity. We cannot afford to be lost in this world, and the world cannot afford to lose us as individuals.

By Philip Jong • At 12:01 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under Tech • Under World
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