Wednesday, January 18, 2006

the man who is supposedly barred from entering Malaysia, thanks to his mischief with the ringgit back in 1997.

last week, i attended a talk at Raffles City Convention Centre by George Soros. it was nothing really finance related, as most people were hoping for, but rather, he spoke at length about a global open society.

its nice and noble of him to use a portion of his wealth to try his hand at opening up societies in what he supposedly considers closed societies. but on the other hand, i can't help but question his motives for his supposedly philantropic activities.

i do, however, tend to agree with his view that democracy is not suitable in certain countries. he was really straightforward and candid when he replied to a question from the floor and said that singapore was definitely not an open society, and that the govt should stop using financial penalties to stop people from taking part in elections.

i was more impressed, however, by the eloquence and sharp replies offered by the dean of the LKY School of Public Policy Kishore Mahbubani. He was Singapore's former ambassador to the UN and represented us on the security council. He pointed out that the US is actually a nominally open, but functionally closed society, and justified his stand by saying that Americans today travel less and have less contact with the world outside the US.

From my personal encounters with the Americans in Australia, I do tend to think that way too. Not many of them actually seem to be aware of the realities of the world outside the US and are rather self centred and apathetic. They don't often ask you back about your home country, or where you come from, what life is like back in your home, etc. The conversation is always centred around America.

One of the highlights, of course, was seeing Alvina on stage as a panelist. I've always admired her since the days in JC for her poise, elegance, and leadership qualities. Even more so now, since she has been named SMU's Most Outstanding Student of the Year in 2005. It was great catching up with her over coffee.

Alvina, one of the panelists of the forum, posing a question to the guest speaker on stage.

It was nice of her to show me around SMU. The campus is gorgeous! There is a sprawling underground complex that links all the buildings and provides plenty of space for exhibitions and student activities. Tall glass panels serve as the walls, providing the inhabitants with plenty of sunshine and inspiration. Best of all, the gym looks really awesome, along the likes of California Fitness centre, and its absolutely free for students to use! Way better than the expensive and crappy facilities we get at Uni Melbourne. eg. a 25 metre heavily chlorinated salt water pool.