YOUTHspeak A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS FROM ALL IN! YOUNG WRITERS FESTIVAL 2017 POWERED BY NATIONAL YOUTH COUNCIL
YOUTHspeak: A Collection of Essays from All In! Young Writers Festival 2017
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www.bookcouncil.sg YOUTHspeak: A Collection of Essays from All In! Young Writers Festival 2017 ISBN: 978-981-11-5221-4 © NBDCS 2017 First Edition Various contributors All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, in whole or in part, or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without written permission from the publishers. Printed in Singapore Edited by Carlo Venson Peña Designed by Brandon Chng
YOUTHspeak A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS FROM ALL IN! YOUNG WRITERS FESTIVAL 2017
Foreword Kenneth Quek I: The Winner’s Circle
What Makes Me Who I Am Delphie Yap, Cedar Girls’ Secondary School
Youth, Society and Definitions of Humanity Sheryl Poon, Cedar Girls’ Secondary School
What Makes Me Who I Am Metys Ngo, Nanyang Polytechnic
YOLO: Really? Pan Ci Ern Amelia, Naval Base Secondary School II: Cedar Girls’ Secondary School
Youth: Changing the World, One Plan at A Time Chee Jing Yee
YOLO: Really? Lin Yonghui
Social Media: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Ma Xueqing III: Canberra Secondary School
Social Media: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Phua Qin Ning, Hazel
Social Media: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Ng Bee Ling, Jessica
What Lies for Young People in the Future Jet Rei Johnson
Writing and Self-Expression: Going Beyond the Paper Ruth Chee Qi
What Lies for Young People in the Future Tan Xin Er
IV: Innova Junior College
What Lies for Young People in the Future Ho Xin Yun
Tweets and Posts: Making a Difference Sumedha Pundrik V: Naval Base Secondary School
What Makes Me Who I Am Daphne Mari Llorente Condecido
Social Media: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Faeldonea Luke Davis Chua
Listen to Me: What the Youth Wants to Tell the World Irinna Sharmin Bte Mohamed S
Social Media: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Romanda Goh VI: River Valley High School
Today vs Tomorrow: Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s More Important to Me? Lim Yi Jun
What Lies for Young People in the Future Yap Xin Yi VII: Singapore Chinese Girls School
Social Media: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Gracie Chua Rui En About Us
All In! Young Writers Festival The Book Council
From the beginning, All In! Young Writers Festival’s main objective has always been to inspire youth to go forward and continue writing, with the hope of providing writing-related industries with a steady stream of creative young minds that would change the face of writing, publishing and the creative arts to the next level. As history shows, the Festival’s close partnership with schools was immanent from the beginning, having the National University of Singapore’s Literary Society jointly organise the very first All In! at the Arts House in February 2009. Years later, more secondary school, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities have steadily come on board, stressing further their support to the Festival’s ideals. In 2016, All In! launched an essay writing competition that invited 13-18 year olds to explore academic topics relevant to young people. Called YOUTHspeak, the competition received a total of 14 essays from three schools from Singapore and the Philippines. A year later, submissions have grown to 21 essays from 7 Singaporean schools.
I would like to thank the students and schools who have submitted essays for this collection, the second printed publication of its kind out of All In! As we explore having this programme segment as a staple for years to come, we hope more schools will take the opportunity to use All In! as a platform to showcase their students’ writing prowess. On this note, I would like to congratulate Delphie Yap (Cedar Girls’ Secondary School), Sheryl Poon (Cedar Girls’ Secondary School), Metys Ngo (Nanyang Polytechnic) and Pan Ci Ern Amelia (Naval Base Secondary School) for being part of YOUTHspeak’s Winner’s Circle. We hope your schools and others will follow suit, by submitting entries in the coming editions of the competition. We fervently hope that more students will be inspired to pen down their thoughts as part of the competition and the Festival at large, all in support of building a nation of contents creators.
Mr Kenneth Quek Acting Executive Director National Book Development Council of Singapore
THE WINNERS' CIRCLE DELPHIE YAP SHERYL POON METYS NGO PAN CI ERN AMELIA
What Makes Me Who I Am By Delphie Yap. Cedar Girlsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Secondary School
Life. It is something all of us have. Twenty-six letters are all we are given to make that empty book ours. We all want to tell a story of our own, but we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t start out knowing how, because finding the right words is like finding a place in this big, complicated world. Living in the age where technology has annihilated all the barriers existing between us, we have come together despite our differences, making instantaneous connections over the ways we are alike. There are so many fandoms, movements and communities out there to belong to, that ironically, it makes fitting in and finding individuality an especially arduous journey. Finding an identity is an even bigger crisis for us teenagers, old enough to want to tell stories of our own, yet still too young to know what they are. Doing things we are not supposed to do makes us feel alive. The glamorous fairytales exhibited on our idolsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Instagram feeds are so attractive. What about the stereotypes society put us into, the personality tests we take, or even the testimonials our teachers write about us? Do they reflect who we are? Who am I? The question hounds our minds, like the panic that rises when we stare at those blank pages for too long. We start out in imitation
of our favourite stories. Wincing at the bitter taste of alcohol, our hearts thump louder than the bass reverberating around us. We sign our first petition and rally for the Pink Dot movement. We pore through thesaurus, using bombastic words we don’t know the meaning of. Flowery metaphors seem sophisticated enough, even if they don’t necessarily convey our message, even if writing a word feels like bleeding one out. And then we stop writing long enough to read what we’ve written – we cringe at the convoluted paragraphs that go nowhere. They evoke nothing within us… except disappointment. Our writers’ block is as persistent as the glaring whiteness of the paper in front of us, another page we cannot fill. Surely, telling stories, carving lives of our own shouldn’t be this hard? I like to think that my life is a book, and my story spills over the pages until the inevitable ending. When I was fourteen, my cousin drowned to death. She was only ten, and when I saw her body in the coffin, it struck me like the rip current that pulled her under – the dreams that were too big for her little body, the way her eyes had been full of life just a week before. It made me think about life, death, and everything else in between. When I die, what can I look back on? My life was reading the same paragraph over and over again; a never-ending cycle of tests, extra classes and trying to fit into the mould of success. I went through the motions, did what others told me to – but there is more to life than this. I want to die brave, bold and beautiful – a story that transcends centuries, one everyone talks about and wants to live. So I filled the pages with thrilling adventures and gripping plot twists I’d like to live. I tried everything I wouldn’t have tried until I die. Dying my hair purple, I piled make-up on my face like I was
trying to forget who I was. I went on late night trips to arcades, movie theatres and bowling alleys, because everything comes alive at night, just like how we only start living when death breathes down on us. It was amazing: I looked like an Instagram model, and my life felt like a movie. But it is exactly that, that made it feel like I was living vicariously, reciting someone else’s story. It was like coming home to a house full of strangers. If this is the place I belong, I don’t want to go home. Looking back, these are the pages I wish can be ripped off my book, because these are not the moments I’m proudest of. Like ink on paper, these are parts of us that we can never erase, but these experiences also shape who we are. The “rebellious” phase of my life made me realise that life can end anytime, but instead of rushing through life, perhaps I should slow it down, savouring every little thing worth living for. Appreciation is very important. We are always in the pursuit of something – happiness, belonging – but sometimes it is a matter of realising something we already have. I begin to consciously find beauty and passion in everything I do, seeing the extravagance in the simple joys of life. I find pieces of myself in places I’ve never been in, in strangers I talk to, in songs that reverberate deep into my heart. If my life is a story, then the things I appreciate are the words that truly bring it to life. I used to go the extra mile establishing a firm identity for myself, until I realise that every page and every letter add up to who I am today. Twenty-six letters are all we are given to make that ending a happy one, but the words don’t have to be bombastic to tell a good story. As Jack Kerouac said, “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” When we string the letters together, and put the simplest words next to each other, they jump off the page and fill every inch of our bodies – like happiness. Like truth, the words
seep straight into our bones, defined not just by dictionary and thesaurus, but the meaning we give them. My simple gratitude, the good or bad life experiences, and even my little quirks and habits all build up the character I am. Finding an identity is finding the right words. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s realising something we already have and finding a place in this big, complicated world. It would feel like coming home.
Youth, Society and Definitions of Humanity By Sheryl Poon, Cedar Girls’ Secondary School
Youth are the stewards of the future. Investing in youth today equates to investing in a better tomorrow. Saturated with potential, youth are one of the most accommodating groups that have renewed the definition of humanity. As Senator Bernie Sanders has mentioned before, “The youth of today are the least prejudiced generation”. Least prejudiced. Socially connected. Open-minded. Goal-driven. These characteristics are most needed when modernday society lacks tolerance towards diversity and is devoid of compassion towards victims of oppression. There is a pastiche of reasons which explain why youth participation is of paramount importance in order to catalyse future change. According to a poll conducted by Project iSideWith.com, the most popular social issues of 2016 include the controversies encircling the topics of abortion and gender identity. Kassidy smoothed her hands over her slightly protruding belly for the millionth time that day. 13 weeks. She had another 11 weeks to make up her mind, before it was all too late. The ring which embosomed her middle finger seemed to pillory her; she found it inappropriate, disrespectful even. It was nothing special, just a simple wedding band with their initials engraved on its inner surface. Only it no longer bore the same meaning to her as it once did, because he had disappeared off the face of the earth upon learning of the pregnancy – her pregnancy. Sudden rips of words rose to a crescendo before crumbling. 13
Breath robbed by still air. Voices rip through the air. Static building up somewhere behind her eyes. Lacking any form of family support, working 30 hours a week at the local McDonald’s and the need to maintain her 4.0 GPA in school certainly didn’t make decision-making any easier. 17 years old, unwed and 13 weeks pregnant. For the millionth time that day, she found herself lost yet again in this recurring dilemma. The 2003 Gallup Youth Survey found that a majority of teens aged 13 to 17 find abortion acceptable. Nearly 700,000 women in the United States seek abortion care each year, with the majority of these under age 30. Increasingly, young women face challenges to accessing safe abortion care, including near-constant legislative attacks and cultural stigma. Yet, millennials are among the most supportive of the right to safe abortion care. In contrast, many adults subscribe to traditional beliefs that do not condone abortion and have thus expressed their disapproval towards legalising abortion, without realising that this may only result in highrisk abortion procedures. Thus, it is comforting that youth have redefined the meaning of humanity, in the way they are much more undogmatic and liberal towards one of the most pressing social issues in this day and age. Delaney slung her legs over the parapet and gingerly positioned herself on the 6-inch wide platform. She’s gazing up at the stars with a hopeful heart, because she’s in awe of how their flavescent hues contrast against the darkness of the night sky, and how they act as the sole source of brightness in her otherwise sepulchral life. She’s pensive as she sits on the brink between life and death, deliberating whether a life of grays and nothingness was better than one painful second of splattered blood against hopes and dreams. With one final inhalation, Delaney crushed whatever’s left of the cigarette into the faded railing, watching as it engraved a burn mark on the surface next to several
identical ones, each representing a time of uncertainty, a tear shed onto the concrete ground, a cry for help, for feeling. Beep. Instinctively, she retrieved her phone from her pocket. It was a new notification. “Congratulations! You have achieved your target of USD$20,000 for Delaney’s hormone replacement therapy and sex-reassignment surgery on GoFundme.com.” She found herself in this haze of pure astonishment and amazement at the unadulterated beauty of the online community, and the support she had received from a group of people she had never met in person before. It didn’t matter anymore. Even if she was always going to have to live with her parents’ denial of her gender identity, at least there was a loving group of people who was accepting of who she really identified as. In one swift motion, Delaney turned around and slung her legs over the parapet, landing on the sure ground of the balcony. For many years, gender identity and sexual preference have also been widely debated topics. Our non-cissexual counterparts, as well as those who identify with genders differing from their biologically-assigned sex, have borne the brunt of it all – from looks of disdain to merciless massacres fueled by hate. A Gallup poll in May 2016 found 52% of Americans saying they believe homosexuality should be considered an acceptable alternative lifestyle, up from just 34% in 1982. The poll also showed that a stronger majority – 62% – of young adults aged 18 to 29 consider homosexuality acceptable. This indicates that youth are more inclined to display acceptance towards deviations in terms of gender identity and sexual preference, as compared to majority of the older generations. There have also been many accounts of support groups set up and sustained by youth that cater to members of the LGBTQIA+
community, who may be struggling with rejection in real life. This extension of a helping hand towards those who need it can be seen as an act of benevolence. At his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama mentioned, “America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention.” In fact, this statement is relevant to all countries and is most definitely not exclusive to the United States of America. With the diversity and acceptance towards deviations from what we recognise as the “norm”, motivation to spark change in the world and valiancy to speak up for what they believe in, youth have redefined the quality of being humane and are the panacea for a slowly-corroding world.
What Makes Me Who I Am By Metys Ngo, Nanyang Polytechnic
I think, for most people, at some point in our lives, we will start questioning – what are we? What defines us? What is it that makes us who we are? Some answers pop up almost immediately, like the music we listen to, perhaps. Or the colours and foods that we enjoy. Things that we think highlight our sense of self and individuality. Of course, it is easy to say that we are all our likes and dislikes. The problem, however, is this – we, as people, are malleable and ever-changing. Are we still us, if at another point in time in our past, we have had completely different interests and views as we do now? This question is something that has existed prior in what was called Theseus’s Paradox, where Theseus questions whether an object that has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object. It is needless to say that we will always have things that we hold close to our hearts at several points in our lives. We will have favourite songs, and foods, and quotes, and colours. But these things can change all the time. We can change all the time, and we do. This means that we are often not our favorite things – they simply 17
complement us at the particular points in time in which we feel great fondness for them. To strip ourselves of them would only strip ourselves of our ability to self-express, but it does not mean we are no longer the people we are. But this only begs the question – What shapes me? What creates me? What is it that represents all that has caused me to be who I am today? I think that we are all a mix of things extracted from other people – a patchwork of ideals and dreams. I think this is how we become individuals. We are all Frankenstein’s monsters, scientists of our own stories, making and being made. But no matter what we are, we are always made from the things that we have lost. Losses happen all the time. They define us because human awareness and personality is shaped by context; nothing provides greater context than the loss of context itself. We fear them, and they sting (or rather, tear us apart), because we are often too painfully aware of what it is that we have lost, even long after it is gone. Sometimes it’s our parents. Others, our friends, or siblings, or significant others. Some people go for long periods of time mourning losses, sometimes long before they happen, believing they will never be complete again – thinking that they cannot possibly continue living without a certain something or someone. We think, and overthink, and miss dearly things we wished we could hold on to and keep close. These feelings of yearning and loss come
back, even when you’ve become a different person, because they are still, undoubtedly, something you wish for, even now. How do we live with these losses? We live with them by obsessing over perfection and innocence – because perfection exists exclusively from pain and loss. We all first start out as perfect, with nothing yet to shape us and impact us, and cause us to become the way we are. But then we grow older, and we change and lose and gain things over the years in a process we like to call “living”. Then we yearn for a time before heartaches and pain, and we go to great lengths in order to preserve the same purity and innocence we see in children that comes from a lack of living. I’d like to think that I have had both the privilege and misfortune of having lived a life filled with losses, even if this meant compromising some parts of my childhood that could have been far more enjoyable, filled with ignorance, bliss, and perhaps, completion. This is because perfection is stagnant death. It exists in its own state of forever but there is never room for change or growth- this would require the perfection to first be broken down, and this is how loss operates. I am defined by loss, because without it, I would never have seen the world as I do now. As a child, I have lost a father. And, like other people, I have also lost friends, and mentors, and companions that I still miss dearly.
Sometimes my mind still wanders back, and I think of those memories that Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d like to keep, tucked safely away in spaces deemed sacred to myself. I think of all that could have been and all that was lost in possibilities that never came. But I also think of all the things I would like to have again, and all the things that matter to me now. I think of all the beliefs I now hold that stems from the losses Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve suffered, and I think of all the things I strive to be and all the things I want to keep, because I know they are not forever. Where we lose parts of ourselves, we can always find growth, to compensate for what is now gone. We learn from these experiences, and we are shaped by them exactly because they hurt. We learn, especially, to put ourselves back together after we have fallen apart, and then we gain greater perspectives because we learn that these losses do not have to continue being the only thing that defines us. They do not have to hurt for the rest of our lives, even after all the times we spend suffering from phantom pains of things that can no longer be. We see that the world is far larger than we are, and than we will ever be. And we learn, eventually, that we will be okay. We learn to live with ourselves. I am defined by the losses Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve suffered, but I am anything but incomplete.
YOLO: Really? By Pan Ci Ern, Amelia, Naval Base Secondary School
What is “YOLO?” The term YOLO has been used by many youth nowadays, but what is YOLO exactly? Well, the term YOLO stands for “You Only Live Once” and has often been associated with youth culture and music. Many people have used the term “YOLO” as an excuse for things like not studying for exams, drinking, and doing bold and daring things like cliff jumping or skydiving. So how did the phrase “YOLO” come about? A search on the internet revealed that variations of the phrase have actually been in use for more than a century! Equivalent phrases included “memento mori” (a Latin phrase meaning “remember that you have to die”) and “Carpe Diem” (another Latin phrase meaning “seize the day”). In addition, there was a restaurant, a bar, a county, and a clothing line all named YOLO. There was even an 1855 waltz by the famous Austrian composer Johann Strauss II, entitled “Man lebt nur einmal!” (“You Only Live Once!”). However, it was not until 2011 when Canadian rapper Drake used it in his song “The Motto” that it became a wildly popular catchphrase and one that is embraced by youths as their anthem. Many people use the terms “YOLO” and “Carpe Diem” interchangeably. However, this is not accurate. The phrase “You Only Live Once” is often interpreted as: since we only live once, 21
we should engage in any behaviour and pursue any pleasure we choose regardless of the cost, as we may not have the opportunity again. When interpreted in this light, the YOLO ideology seems to promote risk-taking behaviours. Coupled with an “invincibility” mentality that many youths share, the YOLO way of thinking often results in reckless behaviour with disastrous consequences. One of the most famous examples is the case of Ervin McKinness, an aspiring rapper. He had been drinking and driving and had tweeted about doing so, ending his comment with the word “YOLO”. Minutes later, however, the 21-year-old met with a fatal crash that resulted not only in his death, but also the deaths of four other friends who were in the car with him. Apart from endangering their lives, many youngsters believe that, because you only live once, therefore, you should take your chances. Experimenting with drugs or other pleasure and thrillseeking activities – even illegal ones like painting graffiti and trespassing etc. suddenly become acceptable and “cool”. In my opinion, by doing so, they are messing up their lives and making their lives end faster than it normally might. This is not only terrible but also, frankly, unintelligent. In contrast, “Carpe Diem” or “Seize the Day” means: Seize every opportunity, use your days (time) wisely. It is an exhortation to embrace life to the fullest. This phrase originated from Book 1 of Odes, a collection of poems written by Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 BC – 8 BC). The poet advocates that because we do not know the future, and we should not leave our future to chance, we should therefore do everything we can today, to make our future better. The phrase was popularised by the 1989 film “Dead Poets Society” where the main character, an English teacher, exhorted his students to “seize the day” and
make their lives extraordinary. I believe that the Carpe Diem philosophy, with its emphasis to prepare a better future, is more congruent with a call to make our lives count for something. As we do not know what the future holds, or even when we might die, we need to make the best of whatever opportunity we have been given today, to make an impact on the future, not only for ourselves, but also for those around us. We need to think about the legacy we want to leave behind, and that should influence how we live today. Whilst YOLO seems to be a more self-centered motto, where the individual pursues his or her own interests and pleasures, Carpe Diem, on the other hand, encourages us to lead meaningful and purposeful lives. To end off, I would like to share a story I heard from my mother. My mother has a friend who is an Occupational Therapist working specifically with people who are dying. This friend shared about a patient who was under her care. The man was in his forties but had very little time left to live due to his sickness. Though he was dying, he tried to be as positive as possible and was determined to make the most of his limited time left. Having heard of the phrase YOLO as well, he suggested that it should be changed to YODO - You Only Die Once. The phrase “You Only Die Once” brings me a whole new perspective to living. The thought of dying makes me re-think the choices that I make – if they are worth it, given the fact that once I die there’s no coming back. As well, I cannot bring anything with me when I pass on. Since we do not know when we each will die, therefore, how can we spend each day of our life and our time, so that we will not have regrets when we face death? This sort of mentality encourages us to cherish life, and to do as much with our
life as possible. It challenges us to examine our life and the choices we make, and to live to our fullest potential. YODO philosophy is therefore more in line with Carpe Diem. I believe that if more youths embrace the YODO philosophy and live by it, we would become a powerful positive force and make the world a better place. Carpe Diem. You Only Die Once.
CEDAR GIRLS' SECONDARY SCHOOL CHEE JING YEE LIN YONGHUI MA XUEQING
Youth: Changing the World, One Plan at a Time By Chee Jing Yee
Youth. Synonymous with inexperienced individuals suggesting jejune ideas, initiating impractical solutions or impulsive movements incapable of effecting change in the real world. Indeed, the youth have a notorious reputation. From being stereotyped as immature and ignorant to being categorised as illdisciplined adolescents, the contributions and voices of the youth are neglected to a large extent. Youth do have the gumption to make a difference, but undoubtedly their positive impact would be amplified with the aid of people who hold greater autonomy in todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s society. This includes world leaders â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the government and the current heads of state â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the general public and the adults in the workforce. This includes you, the reader of my essay! People have to be receptive to the ideas of youth instead of discrediting them due to their age. As the youth explore the world around them, they are brimming with opinions for social progress. Prevalent and pertinent issues such as gender inequality, racism and climate change are necessary to address for the improvement of the society. As catalysts of change, the youth place emphasis on vital issues, participating in striving to make the world a better place.
Firstly, gender discrimination still exists in contemporary society. The most familiar form of gender discrimination is prejudice against women, which deprives women of having the same opportunities and rights as their male counterparts. It is a negative trend that has been persisting since the medieval times. Nonetheless, the youth have been chipping in to ensure it diminishes, slowly but surely. An uplifting example of a teenager standing up for women’s rights is Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban. She gallantly championed for women’s rights, striving to remove the belief that girls do not have the right to education, which is entrenched firmly in the roots of patriarchal societies. Undaunted by the backlash she received and violent attacks aimed at her, she set up the Malala Fund with the goal of allowing girls to have access to education. Her efforts are commendable and she won the support of innumerable youth advocates and peers. This reveals how we are not going to let our voices be smothered as we proudly promote girls’ rights to education. We wish to tell the world that it is our collective responsibility to target the root causes of this inequality and to engage actively in standing up for women’s rights. Moreover, apart from the inequality encountered by women, racism is also encountered by individuals of non-binary genders. In response to this inequality which is endemic in our society, the youth would like people to accept and respect homosexuality. Currently, in conservative countries, innumerable people harbour anti-LGBT views, denying gender-nonconforming people employment and segregating them. Youths prompt them to open up their hearts and embrace the LGBT community, for everyone is born equal in the world and no one should be alienated for being different. Next, there is another global phenomenon denigrating individuals
by devaluing their identity â&#x20AC;&#x201C; racism. Racism is the belief that one race is more superior than the other. Its seeds have been planted and sown in the soils of society since time immemorial. In American campuses like Brown University, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Missouri, student demonstrations and protests highlight the prejudice black people encounter, raising awareness on gender discrimination. Youths challenge bigotry, taking combating racism to the next level for social reform. Youth explicitly advocate for people to treat everyone impartially regardless of race for an egalitarian culture to manifest. Indubitably, social inclusion is fundamental for this revolutionary transformation as we achieve a fairer society. Indeed, previous generations have attempted to eliminate racism through various movements. Though their efforts are not fruitless, racism stubbornly lingers in todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s world. The difference between youth and adults is evident in the fact that adults are preoccupied with affairs they prioritise more, like elements of the economy and their wealth and social status. On the other hand, youths place high values on social issues, in this case, equality, and hence their contributions would be of more aid in abolishing racism than that of previous generations. Last but not least, the repercussions stemming from climate change can potentially destroy our world. Climate change is caused mainly by anthropogenic activities. The burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity that powers our modern lives emit greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The result? Rising sea levels, the melting of glaciers, longer, more intense heat waves, extreme droughts and massive air pollution. The youth are coming forward, taking the initiative to counter
climate change with baby steps. In Guatemala, young Red Cross volunteers plant trees to protect communities from landslides and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In Adelaide, Australia, youth volunteers developed a climate change framework leading to the development of a national climate change strategy and policy. On Red Crescent Day in Pakistan, youths used drama to inform others on the impacts climate change has on their lives. Youths make tangible footprints while tackling climate change as we motivate others to take action with us to reduce our influence on the fragile environment. Undoubtedly, the youth are more passionate than the current older generation in taking strong action for the deceleration of global warming as after a period of time, they and their children will still be living in this world. In summary, the youth embody the greatest potential, possessing a crucial role as leaders of the future. Contrary to the notion that we are apathetic to current affairs, we are filled with tremendous and towering ambitions for a brighter future. As youths of the current generation are more literate and wired as compared to past generations, we as digital natives take to a multitude of social networking platforms to express our suggestions to the world. As long as we present our ideas civilly and pragmatically, we are definitely capable of making a difference. Our voice matters â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and it is time for you to acknowledge it. References Marglin, J. (2016). ISIS vs. Islam. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/8613826 Student Protests Are Key to Ending Racism in America. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from http://fortune.com/2015/12/03/student-protests-racism-america/ International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Youth on the move. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from http://www.ifrc.org/Global/Publications/ youth/YOTM-CC_Clim-AG-EN.pdf
YOLO: Really? By Lin Yonghui
â&#x20AC;&#x153;YOLO!â&#x20AC;? When you hear a 17-year-old shout out this phrase, do you smile and silently congratulate the teen on her vivacious outlook in life, or do you cringe and slowly back off in anticipation of the foolish actions that are usually sure to follow? If it is the latter, you probably belong to the group of skeptics who scoff and vehemently believe in the collective downfall of the youths who have adopted this phrase as their mantra. If it is the former, however, you might be one of those who have truly embraced and accepted the concept of YOLO in its entirety. YOLO, to those who grasp it, is a call for action. It is the urgent call for everyone to explore and experience the richness of the world around us with the one chance that we are given, and to lose ourselves in its depths. From the breathtaking grandeur of nature to the unfathomable depths of history and art, the world is one rich treasure cove that awaits our exploration and touch. Such a deep and mysterious world should have had our hearts thumping with excitement and our senses tingling with anticipation, but more often than not, youths, myself included, have found ourselves enveloped by a grey shroud of indifference and boredom with no interest in engaging the world. It is not helped 30
by the fact that our education system is such a rigid and restrictive one. With our society’s singular focus on academic excellence, it cannot be said that a child is free to explore and chase her rainbows. How then can we learn to have a passion for life and all its unknowns? With the line between pragmatism and downright restrictive living growing ever finer, the notion of YOLO has become more and more important. YOLO has become the recognition that 80 measly years are all that we have. It is a spark that rekindles our passion for life and gives us a newfound sense of urgency to explore the richness of the world. Society may have restricted us and told us no, but YOLO helps us asks ourselves, why not? Why shouldn’t we go deep into the Amazon rainforest and lose ourselves in its lush trees and primal beauty? Why shouldn’t we go climb up Mount Everest, and let the snow and storm envelope us while we stand on top of the world? What is preventing us from living a fulfilling life that encompasses all experiences? The questions that YOLO have raised have been the start of a chain of questions that I have begun to ask myself; questions that have prompted me to take the first steps to see the world with new eyes. While YOLO calls for youths to experience the world, it also calls for them to change it. Innovations and breakthroughs are achieved through calculated risk-taking, which involves the capitalisation of opportunities. Young people, the leaders of tomorrow, are at the frontline when it comes to innovation and should never hesitate to take them. However, the path towards success has been so firmly dictated and is so narrow that walking this tightrope is a feat in itself. Boxed in by homework and extra classes, it cannot be said that our society allows the easy breeding of the culture of risktaking – and that is precisely why YOLO is so important. The idea
that we only have one life nudges us to take that leap of faith over the abyss of uncertainty, over to the other side where innovations await. The greatest innovations have come from the biggest risktakers, so say YOLO and take your leap of faith, for it will bring you further than you and the rest of the world can ever imagine. Then again, the concept of having only one life that one can truly live has caused many to undergo a psychological metamorphosis, transforming them into defiant creatures with no regard for authority nor the consequences of their actions. Rather than spurring on a passion for life, YOLO has given some the excuse to waste their lives away on a thrill-seeking joyride. It has acted as a tempting invite to break out of the firm grip that schools and parents have on us, and egg us on to rebel just for the sake of rebelling. Should I complete my homework? YOLO! Is it alright to skip school today? YOLO! Because it seems like an easy way to cancel out all the responsibilities we have been made to carry, it is so convenient to forget the true meaning of YOLO. However, if we continue to let such an attitude cloud our judgement, the consequences may be far direr than facing an outraged parent. At the end of the day, the impact of YOLO is entirely based on its interpretation. Much like how religious extremists misinterpret their holy text, many people fail to comprehend the true meaning of YOLO, and act in a rash and impulsive way with misguided belief. However, upon understanding its true meaning, it is evident that YOLO is simply a call for courage; courage to explore and love the world around us, and the courage to take risks with a purpose. It is also the courage to do all these without the support of a community behind us, and to stand strong living our one life without regrets.
YOLO is henceforth a plea â&#x20AC;&#x201C; no, a war cry, for youths everywhere to step out of the box that they have been forced in by society or even by their own minds. Let us make our mistakes, and let us enjoy the rollercoaster ride of life with all its drops and twists. YOLO, so that we will be able to end off this one life that weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve lived not with a diary that is pristine and made to be perfect, but one that is stained and filled with rips and jagged edges, but contains a vibrancy and richness that tells a tale of a life that leaves no regrets.
Social Media: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly By Ma Xueqing
I have always taken pride in telling people “I’m not on Instagram”. Perhaps it is because of the odd satisfaction I get, knowing that I am able to refrain from social norms and temptations or seeing the conflicting look of horror and admiration on my friends’ faces whenever I tell them that. To them, having Facebook and Snapchat can never compensate for the crime of not having Instagram, especially since Instagram is the go-to for teens now. I had the luxury of saying my catch phrase up until right before I turned 16, when I finally joined Instagram. It was not a spur-of-themoment thing, and I had discussed with my parents and friends about it weeks before. The truth is, as much as I enjoy the bragging rights of not having what people deem a necessity, I have always felt like I was missing out. During casual recess banter, I would find myself lost in the series of Instagram jargon and reference to posts I have never seen. Through Instagram, everyone seemed to know everybody, which made my social circle seem extremely small. I was sick of being seemingly left behind, so I finally decided to spice up my life. Instagram has proven to be quite an experience thus far. The concept of Instagram, in its simplicity and accessibility, has allowed me to reconnect with primary school friends I have lost contact with, and even add mutual friends. While Facebook and Snapchat warrant familiarity to be friends online, Instagram seemed like an 34
ideal way to socialise and expand my network far beyond the people I know personally, and even beyond the shores of Singapore. Yet, little did I know what I was getting myself into. Unbeknownst to me, there were many unspoken rules of Instagram. For example, one should never post unedited pictures, never post multiple pictures consecutively within a day and never follow more than your number of followers. I had broken these rules one week into my new life on Instagram and my phone was blown up with texts from friends trying to help me salvage my account. In fact, my mind was unable to adjust to a certain choice of language online and sometimes completely comprehended things out of context. I took things too literally and misunderstood people multiple times. I have thus resorted to proofreading my captions at least 5 times by reading it out loud to check if it was logically sound before sending it to my friends to vet. Everything was so new and strange to me â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and I did not want to mess it up. However, all this time, I had known that somewhere inside of me, my alarm bells were ringing. There is a fine line where the difference between healthy and obsessive usage is drawn. I was already spending a whole day thinking about the perfect caption and editing my pictures, and I had only just started using Instagram! Despite my much-needed and already lacking rest at night, my brain would choose to start a debate on whether my choice of comment of my friendâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s post was an appropriate one. Did I overstep? Should I have commented? What will people think of me? My friends had already warned me about the emotional trauma Instagram could inflict upon its users, and I actually thought that I could manage whatever was to come with creating an account. But, in truth, we are all disillusioned by what we want to see as opposed
to what we actually see. Ideally to me, I did not want social media and my own narcissistic tendencies to change me, and so I thought I could prevent it. Yet, social media has a peculiar way of weaving itself into our lives and then setting off a chain of dominos in its wake. It targets the subconscious. It cultivates a sense of loneliness and yearning for the friendships we see in pictures. I have been very fortunate to have been brought up in a safe and protected environment, but my inexperience with the real world has left me particularly vulnerable to shrewd comments. Being in a girlsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; school with gossip that spreads like wildfire, I have heard terrifying rumors stemming from a single post online. As much as I would actively prevent any such instances occurring to me, there is still an inherent danger to social media, and Instagram in particular, where people are free to express their sentiments and have no qualms about censoring anything. Yet, the allures of social media, and especially Instagram, have been able to effectively cover up its inherent threats to our identity as individuals and also our social fabric. People much like me have been able to live in a fallacy where people only see social media the way we want to see it, rid of any fetter that pale in comparison to the satisfaction we garner from each post. I would never want to be one of those who rely entirely on social media but neither do I want to be the least informed person amongst all my friends. Is it really wrong to want to feel included, to feel as sense of belonging? I used to be proud that I did not frequent social media. I used to think that people who actively share online are shallow. I used to think that I would never use Instagram.
Yet, I have, and I have been using it for the past two months since. In all honesty, I used to be afraid of Instagram, of a wide-reaching social media platform. By not utilising this tool, because of a fear losing control, we disconnect and only get to live within the bubble we created around ourselves. Why limit our options when we can choose to confront our fears with appropriate self-control? In the end, giving social media a shot might prove to be more enlightening than we think. I might just be sticking with Instagram for a long time to come.
CANBERRA SECONDARY SCHOOL HAZEL PHUA JESSICA NG JET REI JOHNSON RUTH CHEE TAN XIN ER
Social Media: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly By Phua Qin Ning Hazel
What exactly is social media? Social media are technologies that allow people to create and share information, ideas, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. Some prominent forms of social media are YouTube, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram and Snapchat. Social media has made a big impact on us and our daily lives. For instance, when I am at school, during our recess time, most of my friends and schoolmates are on their phones using Whatsapp, Youtube or playing games. Social media has brought positive and negative effects to the people who use them. One of the many good things about social media, is that it is easier to make friends. In the past, it would be more difficult than it is now to make friends, unless you were an outgoing person who enjoys connecting with people. Now, it is quite possible to have over a hundred friends on Facebook. Though you may not know all of them personally, they are still friends nonetheless. Social media enables us to have these many friends is that it is because a lot of people, such as me, are shy and do not speak up a lot in fear of embarrassing ourselves or appear as boring. However, on social media, we are not talking or expressing ourselves directly in front of other people. Thus, we would feel less nervous and more calm compared to talking to a crowd. I feel like it is easier for me to talk to people on social media than in person as I always get nervous when I am in front of people. Maybe it is because there is 39
a backspace on my keyboard when I am texting someone. I can edit my thoughts and not make a fool out of myself. Thus, I feel relieved and open to whomever I am talking to. Social media also allows you to find other people in society who share a common interest with you or are like you. Facebook, for example, asks you to list who and what you are into right from the start, meaning that a common ground with others is much easier to find. For example, I love to watch anime. However, not everybody in my class shares this interest with me. On Facebook or Instagram, I just have to type in anime and I am able to find thousands of people who like anime as well. This does require you to share some information about yourself and give up a bit of privacy. However, being able to find people who share a common ground with you in society is a great reward, one would not feel lonely anymore and is able to find people who understands them. However, everything comes with a price. Now for the bad things about social media. One of them is that social media is extremely addictive. Sometimes it is hard to stay focused and on track when you are surrounded by various social media that are just trying to seduce you into taking some time and checking them out. For example, your favorite Youtuber has just posted a new video on YouTube. You just have to watch it, right? Sometimes, there are the addictive games such as League of Legends or Game of War where you only want to play for 10 minutes and in the end you spend your whole afternoon playing it. This causes a disturbance in their studies. According to a new study from Pew Research Center, 92% of teens report going online daily, including 24% who say they go online â&#x20AC;&#x153;almost constantlyâ&#x20AC;?. More than half (56%) of teen defined in this report
as those ages 13 to 17, go online several times a day, and 12% report once-a-day use. Just 6% of teens report going online weekly, and 2% go online less often. One of the ugliest part of social media would be cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying mainly happens among youths but that does not mean it cannot happen to adults. Cyber-bullying can happen to anyone, anywhere and most of the times, victims do not seek help and let the bullying continue. Cyber-bullying happens when the perpetrator, anonymously or pose as someone the victim trusts, terrorise individuals in front of their peers. These ‘attacks’ could leave the victim permanently scarred for a long period of time, possibly even for life. In the most severe of cases, victims have been reported to have been driven to suicide or thoughts about suicide. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death among youths with approximately 4,400 deaths every year. The CDC estimates that there are at least 100 suicide attempts for every suicide among youths. There are a lot of cyberbullying cases in the media now more than ever. One of the most notorious cyber-bullying cases happened in 2003. Due to his parent’s jobs, Ryan Halligan received special education since young thus resulting in him being smart for his age. His academics and physical struggles made him a frequent target to one particular bully in fifth grade. After an incident, Ryan and his bully became new friends. However, after Ryan shared a personal story to his new friend, this ‘friend’ became a bully again and spread rumours online about Ryan being gay. This continued until 2003, when he became friends with a beautiful girl. However, the girl was only using him to get more embarrassing stories about him and she shared the stories with her friends via AOL Instant
Messenger. Finally in October 2003, he hanged himself in his familyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bathroom. He was only 14 years old when he died. In conclusion, social media has its good, bad and ugly moments. As long as we do not misuse social media, it shall be a wonderful life experience for us.
Social Media: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly By Jessica Ng Bee Ling
Social media allows us to share our thoughts, knowledge and interests via online networks. We are living in a time when the world is open to us. How many people do you think have social media these days? In this fast-paced society, there are various impacts social media have on us – the good, the bad and the ugly. Firstly, the most common benefit among us is the ease of communication. It is possible for like-minded individuals to discuss important topics. This will help to widen their personal knowledge and find out about the things that they never knew before. For instance, blogging sites can be used as a platform to share content, encourage debate and answer queries. Some teachers set up hashtags for individual course to create online discussion for their students. This serves as a great benefit as the students’ comments can be seen by their classmates and teacher. Therefore, they will not only consider what to say more carefully but also pay more attention to how they write it and be more careful with their grammar, spelling and punctuation. Therefore, the students will not repeat the same mistakes and be able to learn properly. My classmates and I used Covaa for a topic in science. We had to watch a video on ‘Transpiration’ and answer the questions given by our teacher. We were also allowed to ask questions relating to the topic which can help everyone to better understand the topic. Another good impact of social media is how it offers connection with 43
people. For example, Korean entertainment companies, such as SM Entertainment, inform fans on the details of upcoming live videos by the idols through Twitter. The fans can then view these live videos on V live, a social platform where people can view live videos. People can have access to any source of entertainment with little effort. People can find new music, movies, or any other source of entertainment through what they read on social media. To share what we are listening to through effortless sharing applications such as Spotify is certainly is one way to contribute. Social media is also a platform where people can express themselves. For example, I post videos of me dancing and singing on Instagram. I am a person who does not communicate much. Therefore, by posting these videos online, I can further express myself. Other than having benefits, social media also has disadvantages. To begin with, it may cause poor productivity. According to ‘The Washington Post’, those aged 11 to 14 spend an estimated average time of 8 hours and 40 minutes on social media. Next, we have limited face to face social interaction due to social media. We get the feeling of being social without going out and socialising. Similarly, we have the feeling of being a friend or having a friend without having to put in much effort to build the relationship when it comes to the crunch. We feel that way because with social media, we can know more about a friend just by texting through social platforms. Nowadays, many peoples’ eyes are glued to their phones. We look at our devices during meals with our family when we can actually spend the time talking to each other. This leads to us spending less time to bond with each other. Lastly, social media might cause stress. For example, I read an article about Sarah Folk on ‘The Straits Times’ officially website. She 44
stopped using her Facebook and Twitter account for last the four years and her life improved since then. She mentioned, “When we see many images of perfect lives, people and food on social media, it raises our expectations of how things should look like, and we often end up disappointed.” Due to that, we put ourselves under more stress. Worse comes to worst, there is the ugly of social media, that is cyberbullying. Social media is making people more open. This ‘exposure’ is giving chances for people to easily leave negative feedbacks without thinking twice and remain anonymous. Let Jeraldine Phneah be an example. She became a victim of cyberbullying in 2012 after posting on her blog about immigrants coming to Singapore. Although she did not imply that she held harsh feelings against immigrants, Lim Jialiang, who attended the same university as her, and his friends misunderstood her and began attacking her on Facebook. Jeraldine reached out to the professors at her university but no action was taken against the boy. He issued an apology to her but continued to bash her on Facebook. There are also cases of racist rants on social platforms. For instance, Amy Cheong disparaged Malays for what she perceived to be their low-cost and lengthy void-deck weddings and mocked their divorce rate on social networks. It was quickly picked up by one of her friends and was circulated in cyberspace. She was branded racist by netizens and also got fired the following morning. Online vigilantism has sadly gained a foothold on social media and this witch hunt is scary. To conclude, social media has its share of the good, the bad and the ugly. If we focus more on reality and use social media responsibly, social media is here to stay.
What Lies For Young People In The Future By Jet Rei Johnson
What lies for young people in the future? Many might have thought about it already, but now I shall write down as far and as broadly as I have thought about differences, advances, or even dangers of our future. I will start off with the topic of jobs, and transition to future struggles of the next generation and some of the gains as well. Many new jobs have appeared over the past few years due to advanced technology, and many have disappeared or depleted as well due to this reason, but in the future, who knows what crazy or advanced technology there might be? We have advanced so quickly in the last century. Who knows where we will be in the next years or so. If we do however get highly advanced, it would be most probable that many everyday tasks or even jobs might be done by A.I. or robots. The decrease of these jobs means the decrease of the employment opportunities for such jobs, as they would be very rare if such technology comes around. Thus, there would be much more competition for jobs for making technology or working at the factories. Furthermore, programming or coding A.I. would require the knowledge. Not everyone has this knowledge to code or to program. So we might get too advanced for our own good, which might lead to higher unemployment rates. What if there was a lack of people willing to learn such skills or who knows it? But there could be many ways to get around this problem. One possibility 46
would be to add such skills into the education system for either math or science to make it compulsory, as this would be highly effective, and would teach children early on to do these skills. For example, more and more schools are introducing technology and software-related subjects for students to learn and understand how to use them for work. One of the biggest reasons we need to advance quickly is because if we do not switch to electronic powered cars, factories or cut down the use of fossil fuels, we will face serious global warming, and the world will become extremely hot, and this would be catastrophic and nightmarish to our generation and the ones after. If we do not solve the serious problem of global warming quickly, we could be in for a lot of suffering. We can solve this by increasing the use of solar energy to power our homes. However, these require many acres of space. there could be a mass extinction of many animals and plants, or even ourselves. If no one acts, our future generations would suffer horrible heat waves or even early death. The use of smart phones, computers and laptops has increased greatly in the latest years. In the future, everyone could be looking at a screen daily, playing video games, with possibly only a few still interested in sports. Since this generation is so addicted to computer games and social media, future children could be much of a hassle to deal with, unless we limit the use of these devices. Peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s interests might also be really affected by video games, as video games are really exciting and get your heart racing sometimes. But when compared to something such as reading books, studying or drawing which take patience and time, they might find it much more boring and mundane compared to video games. Hence, we will have to collectively work together to keep the future generation of children playing sports, and reading books.
One overlooked topic is birth rates. Information shows that from the 1900s to the current time, birth rates in first world countries have decreased drastically, especially in Singapore, every year. Since 2003, birth rates have been decreasing. There could be many reasons for this, but what we know is this should not continue since our population keeps dropping, we wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have enough people for the jobs in Singapore. Once people come to Singapore to work, locals would not have many job openings, which could be very bad for our country. Hopefully this decrease will not continue, as this could also affect the social fabric of Singapore as the young people of the future might not be able to consistently compete in the global economy. Some good things that could happen in the future is that our healthcare could improve greatly, possibly lowering death rates of diseases, and decreasing our fear of such diseases, as well as decreasing the severity of illnesses. This could provide much more comfort for the elderly and parents and children as well, as they know they will be in good hands, and as for the young in todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s age we would lead lives with better health, we would have much less to worry about. Sicknesses would not be as much of a hassle and cause lesser complications. As for criminal activities, factors such as the advancement of police technology and effectiveness would lean to the policeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s favour as it would allow them to track criminals better, as well as improved security systems and defences. But If terrorists are still up and running and carrying out attacks, it would be scary to imagine how much damage they could do and the threat that they would be to the world. In conclusion, the future for us youths and future generations
is unknown and will definitely be different and will always have obstacles we will have to overcome, but we should always have a goal in mind and work towards it, and not live a life of random chance and choices. We need to collectively work together towards a safer, healthier and altogether a better future, as well as doing our best to discover and conquer new goals and high moments in our lives.
Writing and Self- Expression: Going Beyond the Paper By Ruth Chee Qi
Writing is a form of art. In a sense that it is not just paper printed with written words. It is a way for writers to express and convey their deepest feelings through how they write their stories. You may commonly hear skilful writers mentioning this phrase, ‘Show, don’t tell’. This refers to being able to describe emotion, the setting, scenes and instances in the story by using adjectives or phrases. In this way, the story is brought to life, involving and encouraging the readers to paint vivid images of how the story is depicted to them in their minds and making their creative juices flow. That is the main aim of writing, to make readers fully experience this story you are telling, in various ways. It is not just to make them blindly read words off the pages of the book. In writing, we use words that we do not necessarily use when communicating with others. However, writing involves the depiction of emotions, thinking, perspectives, characters and places. There is an important need for these words. Sure, everyone knows the basic words used to describe emotions, such as anger, sadness, happiness, et cetera. However, it does not stop there. There are many synonyms and phrases to take describing emotions to another whole level. Take real life as an example. No one would openly tell you, that they are angry or upset. I may be no psychologist, but you can still observe their behaviour, and interpret it. For example, someone who is down in the dumps will avoid having eye contact with others. Someone who is furious 50
would have his arms folded. I cannot assume everyone would have the same mannerisms that I mentioned. Although, you can create a distinct way which your character portrays his or her emotions. This is not through spoon-feeding the readers by telling how the character feels like, but by showing their reactions and behaviour, it provides them a chance to understand the character. This also aids in recognising their emotions in future. In stories, given that there are many genres, there would be endless possibilities of diverse locations, vast landscapes and buildings. Being a writer, we must make these places special, not something you would see every day by walking down the streets. Giving a place a unique description would make readers remember it. As a reader I absolutely enjoy reading fiction because it always whisks me away to places that are breathtaking and ethereal. Being able to experience the atmosphere makes me feel somehow connected to the characters; in a sense that I am with them, viewing these remarkable sights. That is what we want to achieve with writing â&#x20AC;&#x201C; taking readers on thrilling adventures that can even be unreal. There is no right or wrong way to describe a place. Instead, go all out on describing the strength of the breeze, the ambience it creates, how pristine or blue the sky or water is. The deeper the description, the easier it is to immerse the reader into your story. The most important aspect of your writing, are your characters. Characters play the largest role in plot development. Whether the character is yourself, a protagonist or background character even, it is still essential to develop these characters. You need to make them seem relatable and engaging to the readers. To me, the purpose of writing is to make readers feel connected to your story. The introduction of the characters creates a huge impact too. The appearance of a character is equally important
too. You cannot just let them don some regular clothing; create a clothing style for the character that suits their personality. It also depends on the genre, so find something appropriate. Although, in writing, unlike animation or in a film you cannot visually depict a character’s looks. This can be a downside or a perk. This applies to when you describe the character’s features – like eye colour, hair length, their physique. Readers can visualise for themselves how the character looks like, having no fixed appearance, unlike how it is in movies. You could also create a backstory for your character, or significant milestones that occur throughout that help develop the character, like how a person progresses in life. This leads to questions pertaining to the characters brewing in their minds. Encouraging the readers to continue reading while paying attention to minor details. That is when self-expression comes in for story-telling. I am sure everyone would like to share a small part of their life. Most writers I know of put their personal life experiences into their story, making it a moral. Perhaps there was this instance in their life where something humorous, tragic, life-changing or romantic occurred. Adding in personal experiences makes the story more lively and interesting as readers can easily relate to it. Be honest about everything as no one would judge since this is a story. Meanwhile, think of it as benefitting readers. You may never know but, expressing yourself could become a turning point in other’s lives. There are books that are based on true stories which can inspire readers by reaching out to them. All this is possible simply because they did something simple – which is being willing to openly share their thoughts and feelings to the world. I feel that if you genuinely know the purpose of why you are a writer and how your written pieces will benefit others, you can
give writing a shot. Be it thoughts about life, perspectives about some milestones, or some hobbies you love. The sky is the limit. In one way or another, readers would be able to relate to your experiences. So long as you know how to pick up a pen, identify your feelings and perspectives. Self-expression in writing is meant for you.
What Lies for Young People in the Future By Tan Xin Er
With so much chaos going on, has anyone ever wondered what lies for young people in the future? Positive or negative, nobody has the answer to it. However, one can still make deductions about the future. Just based on today alone, youth are already facing a lot of problems. Teenagers are getting bullied, be it online or offline. Drugs, alcohol, peer pressure; the list can go on forever. Not only that, young adults have their struggles too. Soon, they will experience higher taxes, lofty housing prices, and longer working lives than their parents in the future. Despite the dreadful situation, there are still high expectations for the youth, such as achieving world peace, finding a definite cure for cancer and advancing technology even further. What are some of the expectations, you may ask. Racism, poverty, feminism, gay rights, equality â&#x20AC;&#x201C; those are what the adults cannot agree on together. Firstly, for something the adults cannot do, the youth are expected to be able to. They expect the youth to make it possible for everyone to live together in harmony. Secondly, in the other part of the world, thousands of people are still starving, living without clean water and praying for an education. Yet, the rich ones who can help to change their lives choose to ignore them and only care for their well-being. All of us can do something to help as long as we believe and persist. We are 54
not blind people, however, we are worse than them. To be born with sight, but no vision. Destruction is everywhere, but do we even take a glance at it? Even if we do, was it the bright red that caught our eye, the sound of chopping, or the sweat dripping down from our faces and realising the shade that was once there is now gone? Where there were trees that cleaned our air, are now factories that poison it. Where there was water to drink, is now toxic waste that stinks. Where animals ran free are factory farms where they are born and slaughtered endlessly for our satisfaction. We are like the plague sweeping the earth, tearing apart the very environment that allows us to live. Thirdly, thousands of species are going extinct every year. Time is running out before we know it. We are living in a world on the verge of collapse. While you are reading this, the youth are busy catching up on the next Korean drama show, idolising people they have never met before and oblivious to the current situation. Those who are aware take it to social media and rant. After garnering the likes and comments, they do not even think about the post anymore. We are scarred by our destruction, but do we catch the culprit? Nowadays, self-worth is measured by the number of likes and followers. While you are counting yours, did you realise the numbers can actually match up to the number of extinct animals? If we keep this up, will the next generation even witness the beauty of nature? Or the countless number of extinct animals that have their own uniqueness? Our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals. We are currently experiencing the worst spate of species die-offs since the loss of dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
How far do youth think for their future? Do they even think about it? The youth are seemingly ignorant and focuses on more important things to them like celebrity gossips. They think that they can just rely on their smartphones and their parents. And yet, not even the adults nor Google has a solution to all the problems. As terrible as it sounds, the adults are calling this destruction a progress. Truth can be denied, but not avoided. More or less, we discover the world through a textbook. For years we sit and regurgitate what weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been told. Tested and graded like subjects in a lab. Raised to not make a difference in the world. Raised to be no different. We are taught about inventions, algebra, and languages. But do they teach us about helping one another, striving for peace and not seeing the world from a rectangular frame? We wait for someone to bring change, without ever thinking of changing ourselves. We witness the extraordinary on screen, but ordinary everywhere else. We are a flash in time, but our impact is forever. Certainly we cannot revive the dead animals. Nor cover the holes in the ozone layer. Perhaps, one intelligent youth might be able to do so in the future. However, no one is able to do it now. Up to this particular moment. All hope is not lost. Do not be dismayed. There are some things the youth can do still. Be aware. Do not add up to the destruction. Spread the word and contribute by doing something. All is possible when you believe. As much as we try to look away, the youth will also be the one making history and build the future for the next generation. As for to the main question, an unavoidable reality lies for young people in the future.
INNOVA JUNIOR COLLEGE HO XIN YUN SUMEDHA PUNDRIK
What Lies for Young People in the Future By Ho Xin Yun
The future is grounded in the present. Our current state invariably determines what lies ahead for future youth. In todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s context, technological, environmental and educational issues are rife. With these problems surfacing, the future appears bleak. Conversely, optimists see a glimmer of hope, fervently believing that challenges present opportunities. Would youth after us experience a better life than the generation before them? This seems to be the central question of the next generation. In developed economies, the pervasiveness and indispensability of technology are one of the defining characteristics of the twenty-first century. Technology would arguably continue to rapidly progress in the future, leaving no room for regression. Technological advancements have resulted in radical changes globally. This segment will expound on the drastic economic and social changes brought about by rapid advancements in technology that future youth would possibly face. A seemingly innocuous objective of enhancing productivity in production processes has gravely impacted the labour market, forcing millions out of jobs. With automation sweeping over several industries, many blue-collared jobs have been rendered obsolete. Automation would undoubtedly lead to an ever-increasing number of people thrown into structural unemployment, with the certainty that this trend will only keep growing in industries. This 58
is supported by a projection of 50-75% losing their jobs to robotic technology. This will have disastrous consequences especially for future youth as they will be victims of this staggering trend, taking a toll on their standard of living. However, some may offer a differing opinion to this in that automation calls for higher-order skills (such as the learning of technological operations), which still require the human touch. This can be refuted with the notion that automation arguably results in the loss of certain professional skills, degenerating the role of humans to that of observers or side players in the workforce while also eroding fundamental interpersonal skills. This is evident in the aviation industry where the auto-pilot mode feature has resulted in pilots only being required during take-off and landing. Additionally, prominent hotel chains, Hilton and Marriott, have allowed loyal members to check in online at 700 of their hotels, using an app as a room key. This act does away with the need of a receptionist, effectively eliminating the need for communication. With the looming potential of driverless taxis, take-away food by drones, and automated bartenders in the future, it can be concluded that with increased reliance on technology, the role of humans in the future would be substantially minimised. The emergence of automation in many fields begets convenience, deeming the nurturing of higherorder skills impossible, leaving future youth entering the workforce with mere observational skills. Adding to this, future youth would also clearly lose the key to human touch: social interaction skills. Heavy and thick smog have been blanketing the cities of developing nations. In November 2016, the level of harmful PM2.5 pollutants has reached at least 999 in certain areas of India, more than 16 times the safe limit of 60. A staggering 92% of cities in China have average annual PM2.5 air pollution concentrations that
fail to comply with the national standard. With industrialisation taking place at an unprecedented rate in emerging economies to fuel economic growth, widespread industrial pollution has taken place across these countries, causing severe health issues and increasing premature deaths. It has been shown that a whopping 1.6 million deaths annually are a result of air pollution in China. Appropriately, it has been termed the ‘Airpocalypse’. Being plagued with such environmental and health concerns, youth born in the near future of developing countries would internalise the harmful effects. From another perspective, all is not doom and gloom in the long-run with developing countries being able to achieve developmental goals. They are increasingly able to centre their focus on environmental and health issues, allowing future generations to reap better non-material standards of living. The Paris Climate Deal of 2015 would see developing countries reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with China agreeing to cut carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65% from 2005 level by 2030. This brings hope for a greener future closer to reality. However what lies uncertain is if the world is able to withstand the damage done before these countries adopt greener measures. In the words of Malala Yousafzai, ‘One child, one teacher, one pen can change the world’. It is apparent that education is paramount in moulding a youth’s future. In developed nations, education is well-established and of main focus. With an overemphasis on education, many are overqualified, leading to a rise of underemployment rates. This could then deprive many future youth the opportunity to maximise their potential in the workplace. The changing social trend of graduate glut calls on youth of the future to be more innovative in order to be worthy contributors to their country’s development. As a result, there has been increasing
focus on encouraging creativity and innovativeness in youth. The World Summit Youth Award, established in 2005, awards young developers and digital entrepreneurs who use internet and mobile technology to put the UN sustainable development goals into action in order to make a difference. Such awards incentivise youth to expand their creativity and innovativeness, instead of being passive learners. On the other end of the spectrum, literacy rates in Afghanistan are a mere 28.1%, with Ethiopia standing at 39%. These developing countries are either disrupted by ongoing civil wars or hindered by heavy corruption. Being unable to even meet their fundamental needs for survival, education inevitably takes a backseat. However with such high rates of illiteracy, it is likely that future youth of developing nations would continue living below the poverty line, unable to escape their social hierarchy. Hence, this highlights the pressing need for education as a tool to enable social change. To conclude, it seems that future youth would face a multitude of challenges in their times. However if the world in the present can embrace measures to counter these, there would still be hope for a brighter future.
Tweets and Posts: Making A Difference By Sumedha Pundrik
In today’s world, social media seems to have become that glue which holds our social fabric together. Social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook have amassed millions of users and have become pivotal platforms through which information can be disseminated globally. Tweets and posts have made a conspicuous difference in our global community — from changing the fate of elections to enabling people to become more aware of the struggles of a refugee living halfway across the world. While the phrase “making a difference” might seem to have a positive connotation but in actuality, it may not always be so. This heavily loaded phrase could also refer to controversial messages which have sparked debates and riots throughout the globe. As long as there is a change in the status quo, it is, “making a difference”. How impactful one’s tweets and posts can be is not always dependent on how many followers one already has, rather it is the individual message that decides the impact. A quintessential example is Bana al-Abed, a 7-year-old Syrian girl who became the face of civilian plight in Syria. Bana captured the world’s attention after her and her mother, Fatemah, began posting live updates from their besieged location. Initially, Bana only had a small pool of followers, however, over time, as the war worsened and her tweets turned to desperate pleas, her following grew exponentially. Bana had once tweeted, “My name is Bana, I’m 7 years old. I am talking to the world now live from East #Aleppo. This is my last moment 62
to either live or die. -Bana”. This was when the world finally turned its attention to the helpless young child, desperately clinging onto her dear life. After gaining much attention, Bana and Fatemah even reached out to world leaders like the First Lady of the United States and the Turkish President to request for assistance. On top of that, many renowned celebrities such as football star, Cristiano Ronaldo, have also rallied their support for the Syrians who are living in dilapidated homes or shoddy tents in overly congested refugee camps. We have all witnessed how social media platforms played an outsized role during the 2016 U.S. elections. Candidates took to social media platforms, especially Twitter, to hype the electorate and engage those who had gone astray from the political discourse. Their rapid ascent to Twitter fame set the stage for contentious political conversations between the two nominees. Donald Trump became best known for having a penchant for speaking his mind through his tweets — which were usually extremely brash and derogatory and also reflective of his seemingly muddled thinking. His tweets, though uncivil, garnered the support of millions of Americans and were inextricably linked to his eventual victory in the elections. They were composed in the same way his speeches were — simple words and unfiltered thoughts that rattled the nerves of the zeitgeist. This is evident from one of his most famous tweets which sparked global outrage and debates between climate change sceptics and environmentalists: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” As much as this appealed to the nationalists, the tweet hurt the dignity and pride of various minority groups, caused disparities among Americans and besmirched the name of America due to its perceived ill treatment of foreigners.
These instances are testament to the fact that as much as social media platforms can catalyse the process of building communities, they can turn people against each other and tear communities apart. Religious bigotry, especially Anti-Islam has been nurtured in Western nations for quite some time. The internet has become a middle ground where religious bigots come face to face with the masses who practise and believe in various faiths. Contentious remarks about oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s religion or race are carelessly strewn across the internet, which propagate the derision of various religious and racial groups. A case in point is Richard Dawkins, an English ethologist, who sparked fury among many Twitter users with his anti-Islamic remarks. Dawkins identifies himself as an atheist, a non-believer of God. He goes out of his way to scrutinise Islam and make a mockery out of Islamic figures. In one of his most controversial tweets, he suggested that â&#x20AC;&#x153;if Muhammad were alive today, he would be a member of ISISâ&#x20AC;?. Such tweets only serve to deepen the existing fault lines between Muslims and western nations and underscore the misconception that Islam is an intrinsically intolerant and violent religion. On the other end of the spectrum exists religious extremist organisations who also abuse the worldwide web to spread their warped ideologies. Twitter and Facebook have been used as mediums to proliferate propaganda messages that promote dangerous ideologies. For instance, jihadist organisation, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is most commonly known for using social networking platforms to brainwash innocent men, women and children into thinking that they would lead better lives after joining their organisation. This has also given rise to the self-radicalisation conundrum which has culminated in individuals carrying out terror attacks in different parts of the world and
pledging allegiance to the organisation. This only accentuates the fact that tweets and posts have the propensity to take lives and wreck countries. Tweets and posts do make a difference. Tweets and posts that gain heavy attention have helped to shed light on underlying issues faced by various minority groups. A vigorous embrace of feminism, homosexuality as well as groups like Black Americans by Facebook, Instagram and Twitter communities was observed in 2016. For example, #BlackLivesMatter and #BringBackOurGirls are instances of the trending topics that helped to increase awareness about disproportionate killings and abuse of black people as well as the missing girls kidnapped by Boko Haram respectively. Supporters all over the world spoke out and sought justice for those who were discriminated and incapacitated as they believed that the power of the people was stronger than the people in power. In 2011, millions of tweets were sent out in support of the Arab Spring movement, they include tweets like: “Physically in #Egypt, heart in #Libya, soul in #Bahrain, eyes on #Syria, ears on #Yemen, mouth shouting #Iran, mind in #revolution & #hope”. Furthermore, the worldwide web has witnessed celebrities such as Beyoncé and Ronda Rousey turning to Twitter and Instagram to spread messages about body positivity and encouraging girls to find strength in one other. They have even gone beyond ‘mere talk’ to endorsing supportive foundations. These online postings have sparked revelations and have made our communities increasingly receptive towards those who were previously shunned. Social media platforms are like a bodacious ride. They bring in thousands of new users each week. They are mediums for selfexpression beyond the parameters of government control.
The wars today are fought in 140 characters, with positivity and empowerment of communities, instead of weapons. The problems today are shared and solved through live videos on Facebook. The world today seems entirely different and it is not just because of Instagram filters.
NAVAL BASE SECONDARY SCHOOL DAPHNE MARI LLORENTE CONDECIDO FAELDONEA LUKE DAVIS CHUA IRINNA SHARMIN BTE MOHAMED S ROMANDA GOH
What Makes Me Who I Am By Daphne Mari Llorente Condecido
I am Daphne - a proud cat lover, Filipino, bookworm and multiinstrumentalist. I’m 15 years old with the ever-alternating energy levels of a 30-year-old and a 5-year-old. To others, I’m just a boring old chairperson in the nerdiest class and to some, a headstrong and determined person who stands up firmly for what she believes in. I am all the versions of Daphne different people see and together they make one big, unique mess. I believe that every decision, action and thought we’ve ever had or done shapes us into the person we are today. Also, our environments and what they expose us to. So, in this essay, I will illustrate to you the things in my life that have significantly influenced me as a person. Firstly, my all time favourite hobby - making music. As i’ve mentioned before, I play several instruments. My absolute favourite is the guitar. Learning how to play it was not easy. In 2010, my sister’s best friend let me play her guitar. She taught me how to play an Avril Lavigne song and from then on, I got hooked. I practised at least 3 hours a day on my dad’s rusty guitar that he had bought but never used. My fingers had callouses and my arms ached due to the guitar being too big for my tiny 9-year-old frame. The cruel strings were harsh on my unseasoned fingertips but the metallic and slightly out-of-tune sounds on the guitar I made back then compensated for the injuries I got. I fell in love with the way the twang of the strings resonated in my ears and bounced off the walls of my brain, filling my whole body with the sound, the way 68
my fingers smelled like sweat and steel after practising and the way my body curved towards the guitar and hugged it to myself. Furthermore, I taught myself how to play all the songs I wanted to play with only the help of YouTube and pure determination. Teaching myself how to play the guitar at such a young age truly developed my way of thinking. I became more independent and positive, thinking that ‘If i can teach myself how to play the guitar at 9 without giving up, I can definitely do much greater things.’ And this, makes me who I am today. Two - my friends. I’ve had many friends in my life and they have all influenced me in one way or another, whether or not we keep in contact. In primary school, I was in the Handbells CCA so I was surrounded by music enthusiasts like myself. My friends there were quiet - so I became timid as well. They followed the rules and wore the right socks. Then, in Primary 5, I met new friends from different classes. I met a girl whose dad was in a band, another who was quiet still but very hardworking and more. After being with them for one year, I ended up forming my first band with the first girl I mentioned and became more attentive in class. I ended the year with little traits of every friend I’ve ever had installed in me. They don’t always have to be great though. I still get very competitive when somebody tries to one-up me, a trait I got from a classmate back then. She was competitive too, obviously. My friends have unknowingly shaped me little-by-little into who I am today and for that, I am filled with gratitude. And lastly - my courage. If I were a colour, I’d be an electric cobalt blue. I’d stand out, be in your face and be vibrant. I live by William G.T. Shedd’s saying, ‘A ship is safe in harbour, but that’s not what ships are for’. Ships are meant to venture out far and wide across the unruly oceans and vast horizons, to get out of their
safe zones and into the open where danger can be found. I am a ship and oftentimes, venturing out into the void looks immensely frightening. The form to sign up for the Taekwondo interschool competition turns into a paper stating ‘You will fail’. A bowl of fried grasshoppers in front of you suddenly come alive, their antennae twitching at you. A dress that looks a little short on you suddenly makes you imagine other people thinking of you as a laughing stock. The sea ahead looked turbulent and treacherous, the murky waters inky black and the sky a dark grey. But, when I raised my sails and took off, the sky cleared and the ocean transformed into a deep azure. I won a medal for the competition and decided to take part in more competitions. The grasshoppers tasted delicious. The dress got me so many compliments from my friends. We will never know when we don’t take risks, and I don’t want to risk not knowing forever. This led to me making many rash decisions in my life, with both good and bad consequences. And without those impulsive decisions, I would not be where I am today. While friends, music and courage developed me as a person, those aren’t the only things that have contributed to my growing as a person. Everything I’ve experienced and will experience will help me grow and become wiser over time, and honestly, I cannot wait for what the future will bring.
Social Media: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly By Faeldonea Luke Davis Chua
Social media sites have taken over our lives. It is quite difficult to even imagine that ten years ago there was no Facebook or Instagram! Fifteen years ago people were actually waiting to hear from each other because even email wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t that common. In my opinion, social media has positively influenced our lives and the society. I am all for the broadening of the world we live in and easy communication around the world. Social media has definitely made it easier to communicate with others around the world without having to worry about the racial and language barriers that divide us. Social media is a place where one can truly express oneself. However, that does not mean that social media is a one-sided coin. Social media has its own fair share of pros and cons First, we have one of the most obvious positive effect: communication. We are living in an era where the world is open to us. We can contact anyone around the world, at any time, with just a click of a button. It is free, unlike calling across countries. We can also share elements of our life, from the things we enjoy to photos of ourselves and those in our lives. It is like being a part of that personâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s world, even though distance separates us. There is also information. Social media has made it possible for like-minded individuals to discuss meaningful topics, widen their personal knowledge and discover things they never knew before 71
through platforms such as forums. For example, young people around the world are now more involved than ever in their countryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s internal affairs. The fact that youths are more aware of the currents affairs impacting their country proves that. Social media has contributed to that increase in a big way. Non-profit organisations are seeing the benefits of using social media for their awareness campaigns too. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others are a cost effective means of spreading the word and getting support. Not to mention, socially shared petitions from sites like Causes.org, are reaching out to hundreds of thousands of people. There is no doubt that there are many reasons to love social media. However, not all consequences of this technology are good ones. For example the way it has allowed us to hide behind screens and limit our face-to-face interactions. You get the feeling of being social without having to go out and actually socialise. In the same vein, it gives you the perception of being a friend or having friends without having to put in any actual work to build the relationship. Just think of how many people you have on your Facebook friends list. How many of them do you see on a semi-regular basis? At all? Then we have the issue of how social media has taken control of lives. Seeing people on their phones out in public creates a deep sense of animosity in me. Seeing them talking never bothered me as long as they were not being obnoxious. Nor does sending off a quick text bug me; maybe they are meeting someone and telling them where they are. It is the obvious tweeting, posting or whatever else that keeps peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eyes glued to their devices. I never check social media sites when I am out doing something.
Whether it is grocery shopping, getting dinner with friends or waiting in line, it is just so boorish. It also shows a serious problem with distraction in today’s society. We can’t enjoy the surroundings the world blessed us with for just an hour without retreating back into that safe little digital box. Productivity pretty much goes down the drain thanks to social media, as well. Admit it, you check your social media profiles during work, or find yourself wandering over to YouTube or your favourite blog during work hours. Not only does social media affect your ability to stay productive at work, it also affects your relationships with friends and family. Not to mention you lose that sense of humanity when you speak to somebody you love face to face. Some of what social media has done isn’t just ‘bad’, it is flat out ‘ugly’. For example, the number of messy break ups over social media. Many social media sites have been used as tools to make cheating easier and to do things that crosses a boundary in a relationship. For instance, flirty texts and messages to a crush you had since secondary school. Or much more flagrant infidelities that you are sure to be caught for the first time you forget to log out of the computer you share with your spouse. In conclusion, I believe that the effects of social media have been somewhat balanced, to be honest. There are many good things about it, and just many bad things. In the end, if you can keep your own life centred in reality and use social networking as a small part of it just for the sake of necessity, you should be just fine. For those who cannot, it might be time to turn off the computer or switch off that phone for a bit and go for a nice stroll.
Listen To Me: What the Youth Wants to Tell the World By Irinna Sharmin Bte Mohamed S
Mama, please listen to me. Please. Mama, how are you? I have always prayed for the best for you, and I vow never ever to stop. Papa, Iris and Jonesy, the cat, are doing well. Papa managed to get promoted to be the Manager of his company just last month, and Iris has successfully graduated from the university, with honours. Jonesy simply enjoys cavorting about the house, looking for more rats or lizards to savage. Papa is forced to discard a half-decomposed carcass every single night; I remember Irisâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; horrified screaming the first time she found a moist brown mass in her favourite pair of Adidas shoes. I am fifteen now, Mama. All grown up. As for me, school has been a rather wild experience for me. Mama, why are most of my friends avoiding me? Is it due to the fact that I have started to hate my class, where I am surrounded by so many noisy, robotic people? Or is it due to the fact that I see things? Horrible, unspeakable things. Whenever I try to explain my visions to the beastly adolescents whom I call my friends, they will either laugh it off or avoid me. It is as if I am invisible, or crazy, or purely eccentric, Mama. Only a few people bother to listen to my rants, or at least I think they try to. The visions did not stop even after I had tried telling someone about them. It is not my fault; I swear I can hear the blood-curdling cries of children being silenced by gunshots. It is a horrible experience, Mama, being able to hear 74
something that is happening so far away, right here, in my ears. My mind is often filled with terrifying sights of blood splatters, fallen buildings and … twisted, mangled corpses of young children – so full of life one moment, and totally lifeless the next. Mama, can you see and hear them too? Can you see the tearstreaked cheeks of innocent children, wounds bleeding profusely, covered in dirt and ash? Can you see the weeping women, trying their best to wake up their motionless husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons? Can you hear the random chants of masked men before they pull a trigger or detonate the crude bombs they have strapped to their bodies? Mama, it is so painful being able to witness what many deem to be impossible in a country like ours. How did we even fall into the hands of those demons in the first place? Were we not united enough? Did the fault lines widen so much overnight that we could not mend the gap? Or were we simply not alert enough? Mama, where are you? Please help me! I need to know where these visions are coming from! I need to know why they are suffering inhumane torture, so that I can stop them and finally be able to have peace and serenity. The only other place where I can find solace is the ‘white room’ that Papa and Iris would occasionally bring me to whenever the stress got too much for me to handle. In there, a white table is fixed alongside a white bed, with people whizzing around in white. Most of the tablets these people in white gave to me were white as well, for some reason I cannot comprehend. Mama, I utterly reject the idea that I am ‘sick’, according to most of their diagnoses. I insist that I am not; it was just those monstrous noises and horrific scenes that got to me. The only moments when I knew I was sick was when I was hospitalised due to a high fever, and when dragging a penknife across my arm
felt so good; that was when I was stressed out, Mama. What could they not understand about it? Even though thoughts of doing that again have crossed my mind, I told myself that it was too early to do so. Mama, are you listening to me? Where are you? When will you be returning from Mumbai? Was it not only supposed to be a business trip, to meet your clients and to seal a deal? That was why you were staying in that fancy hotel, the Oberoi. I was only eight then. It is rather hard for me to understand Papa and Iris when they remind me that you have gone to a better place. Why would you not bring us with you, if it is truly a better place? But I can tell that at the very least you are safe from the monsters, and that you have found solace. Mama, can I join you? I cannot fight the monsters anymore. I do not think that I will ever be able to fight them. Mama, are you listening to me? Are you?
Social Media: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly By Romanda Goh
The first thing that pops up in most of our minds when we first wake up is usually, ‘Did I get any likes on my last picture?’ Or ‘What’s in my friend’s newsfeed?’ It has become apparent that Social Media has become a big part of our lives. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, these are some of the most popular social media. Whether it was out of curiosity, because your friend has it, or because of work, we have experienced and maybe even mastered the use of Social Media. But is social media all that good? Hashtags such as #PrayforParis helped people raise awareness of what is going on in Paris and to warn others of the potential threat they might be in. This also allowed people to give their respects and condolences to those who have passed on because of terrorism. This was done because there are good people out there who care and want to help those in suffering. There are also many people on the internet from all over the world who are willing to share their experiences and people who want to make new friends. I was able to make friends with people from all over the world because of Social Media. For example, my best friend who lives half way across the earth from me. This has exposed me to their cultures and their way of living. It is exciting to be able to learn new things personally from someone who lives in another country. I too have shared some of the interesting things we indulge in Singapore, such as lions dances or our weird 77
culture of ‘choping’. Through these instances I learnt more about their culture and found some interest in them. They too were quite thrilled when I told them about what we do in Singapore. But what one might not know is that the Internet is not as reliable as it seems to be. Providing false information is common, especially when it is about something that is foreign. This might result in misuse and even racism of a certain culture. An example is the term “Weeaboo” which refers to someone who disrespects or makes fun of the Japanese culture. Stereotyping is also the product of misinformation. Stereotypes like Asian people are good at math and white people can’t dance are actually not true and is totally nonsensical. I, for one, can assure you that my math is very bad, and I’ve seen countless number of awesome white dancers. One recent issue caused by providing false information was when a famous YouTuber called “Pewdiepie” was falsely accused of joining and being a member of the ISIS terrorist group just because of a joke he made on twitter. A parody of a social network called “Sky News” just wrote a tweet about it saying that he was unverified because he joined ISIS. Even though it was clearly a parody account, people took it seriously. Because of this, he had to make a video to explain that it was just a joke even though he did not need to make that video. Although all that seemed bad enough, there is an even uglier side to social media. People on the Internet are easily offended. Some people who did not get the jokes took it seriously and went as far as to threaten and bully the person who made the joke just because he was offended. There are even people pointing fingers at each other for things that they have not done!
Have you heard of the YouTuber “Keemstar”? He is the host of a YouTube channel named “Dramaalert” and its title is exactly what it is about. He talks about recent dramas in his videos. Most of this drama is true and did actually happen, but it isn’t always the truth. An example was him accusing a YouTuber of being a paedophile just because they looked alike. This caused that unlucky guy to be constantly cyber bullied because of the video. He even made a video of him crying and telling his fans that he is not the paedophile. Keemstar eventually made an apology video but he pushed the fault to his team and that they did not verify this properly when he himself should have also checked the reports they gave him before making a video on it. The point here is that he does not give solid evidence when accusing someone of something. He eventually offended someone to the point where they called the police and accused Keemstar of having held someone hostage in his house. I have mentioned cyber bullying before, and it is one of the most common issues on the Internet. It is said that one out of three Singaporeans have been cyberbullied. A girl called “Amanda Todd” from the United States was a victim of cyberbullying. She shared what she had experienced in a YouTube video. The depressing story was shown in flashcards talking about how she had gotten blackmailed and physically assaulted. She had attempted suicide many times before finally ending her life on the 10th of October 2012. This incident woke people up to see how horrible and sadly common cyberbullying is and to take action against it. Social Media is a place to share your opinions, to talk about yourself and make new friends. But we need to do it with sensitivity. We can also help the Internet by reporting people with wrong intentions and inappropriate content. We should consider
if the words that we use would not insult anyone before posting them. If we all do this, the Social Media might be a better and more peaceful place for sharing our experiences and feelings. Then we will be able to bring more good, by spreading good cause and awareness to others through social media.
RIVER VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL LIM YI JUN YAP XIN YI
Today vs Tomorrow: What’s More Important to Me? By Lim Yi Jun
Today v. Tomorrow. The ultimate battle of importance, whereby each word tries to vie for its rights and assert its dominance. Imagine a judge slowly walking up a brightly lit stage, announcing before an audience: “The battle between Today and Tomorrow has now begun. We now invite Today to come up on stage.” Then, a young dude with a jaunty walk waltzes up the stage and takes the mic. “HELLO EVERYONE! I am Today. Young, fresh and new. Every day is a new day! Do you want to start something? Do it today! Don’t be like Tomorrow! Look! He’s nothing, (at this point of time, Today will point to an empty seat whereby Tomorrow is supposed to be seated at) because he hasn’t even happened yet!” Silence. Then, a gravelly deep voice (think Morgan Freeman) emanates from Tomorrow’s seat, causing a few people to gasp. “Don’t listen to him. I am Tomorrow, the day that has not happened, but will. Soon. Your future relies on me, and as they say, you can only look forward. At me. Tomorrow. Think about the potential you can maximise if you think that I’m of more import!”
Afterwards, Today and Tomorrow will continue bickering as the audience watch the debate like an intense ping-pong match, always swinging from the stage then to the empty seat. Today v. Tomorrow. After, say, an hour of debating, Today eventually came to the realisation and said, “Hey! I think we’re both equally important. Don’t you think so? I need you, you need me. We’re co-dependent, don’t ya think? If one of us ceases to exist, then the other will be nothing. Nada. Zilch.” Which is quite true, in fact. Our today defines our tomorrow, just like cause and effect. What we want to see materialising tomorrow will determine our actions today. For instance, if I decide to go for a buffet today, then, I would spend all night suffering from PostBuffet Guilt Syndrome (it’s a real thing, trust me) and decide to exercise tomorrow. See? They’re both inter-connected. At this point of time, Today will come down the stage and walk towards Tomorrow’s seat, giving him an invincible handshake. However, like all debates, there is bound to be drama in the form of hecklers. Therefore, we shall introduce Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind who will stand up and oppose the peaceful motion. “Stop!”she cries. “In the world I live in (which was in nineteenth century Georgia), I have always told myself that tomorrow would be the day whereby I would face my fears. For instance, one of my most iconic quotes was this: ‘I’ll think of it all tomorrow at Tara (Tara is her childhood home). After all, tomorrow is another day.’ From this quote,
wouldn’t you say that tomorrow is more important?” Several members of the audience will then nod in agreement and turn to the direction where Today and Tomorrow are standing like deers caught in the headlights. At this time, a nameless audience would then stand up and jeer: “YEAH! Beat that.” Today would then angrily swerve his fist towards said audience, only to be stopped by Tomorrow’s gravelly whisper. “Now Today, it’s not time to be in the moment.” Placated, Today sulks angrily beside Tomorrow as he tries to answer Scarlett’s question. Today v. Tomorrow. “Tomorrow would always be the day where I would face my fears...” As Scarlett’s voice echoes in his head non-stop, like a ghost lurking in the corners of his brain, suddenly, a flare of white light bursts inside Today’s mind, giving him an epiphany. Elated, he stood up and shouted his reply: “Miss Scarlet, do you ALWAYS face your fears tomorrow?” Stunned, Scarlett O’Hara stands silently for a few seconds, unable to reply. With a tiny, timid voice, she finally murmurs, “No... not really... only under extreme circumstances...” Following Today’s Aha! moment, Tomorrow quickly parries, “So, does that mean that most of your tomorrows are spent like your todays? Whereby they are all the same without change? Constant unless provoked by extreme circumstances? Stable unless--”
“Yeah, yeah, we get your point. Stop being so repetitive. We. Get It.” Today interrupts. Tomorrow becomes silent and unhappy. Inwardly, he is bubbling with disappointment. Today is probably just being reckless and in the moment again. That boy...always stealing my moment... “So is it true, Miss Scarlett? Is Tomorrow right about you?” Today says. Hesitant, Scarlett remains silent for awhile before saying a meek yes. Just as Today is about to open his mouth to reply, Tomorrow cuts in quickly, taking his moment back. “In your case, Miss Scarlett, you treat us as the same. Your todays are your tomorrows, and we are both equals. Today, you think that you would face your problems tomorrow, but in the end, tomorrow would just be like today. We are the same. Truly.” Stunned into submission, the crowd goes silent as they see that the duo have finally proven their point. Again. However, despite the duo’s success, Today only stares wide-eyed at Tomorrow, unable to breathe. With a whispery rasp, he finally asks: “Does this mean that we’re twins?” Tomorrow pauses for a moment, before calmly replying: “It’s all a matter of perspective.” Oh. Phew. Today lets out a long, loose sigh of relief.
“I don’t like being nothing, you know? It’s me, not you.” “You’ll get used to it.” Finally, the judge gets up onstage once more, before announcing an anti-climatic result: Today v. Tomorrow has no winners. Both are equally important. The End. As the disgruntled audience slowly make their way out of the auditorium, Today desperately tries to quell their displeasure. “Hey, hey! We’re not that important. We just taught you that it’s more important to spend each day wisely, and not think about either of us being more important than the other!” Annnnnnnd, it’s true. They’re not that important. What really matters is spending each day to the fullest, that’s all.
What Lies for Young People in the Future By Yap Xin Yi
A young woman gazed blankly, more so than usual, at the powered-down screen of her mobile phone, as she swayed slightly to the magnetic train gliding across tracks. She didn’t turn off her phone that often—for the same reason you might never do so. Today, she needed to breathe, even if it was only seven a.m. ~ I’m home. I feel as if I’m breathing again. Four months after backpacking in Europe, I’ve seen all sorts of strange technological gizmos. Still, seeing Singaporeans with the trending virtual reality headsets still unsettles me, especially in the MRT. Those protruding black, empty visors staring back are enough to put you on edge. I look to my left, where a young woman is looking down at her mobile phone in the midst of shutting off. My heart goes out to her. Remembering the hospitality I encountered in several states, I proffer my battered but reliable portable charger. “Man, that’s unlucky. Do you need one?” ~
With his wide-brimmed hat (Singapore was hotter these days, but it didn’t warrant this hat, surely) and growing stubble, he didn’t strike her as a local. Yet, the way he said it struck her to be a mix of accent and local twang. She managed a weak smile, “Ah, it’s turned off. Not flat.” Worried it might be too curt, she quickly added, “Yet.” He broke into an easy grin. “I get what you mean, batteries these days don’t seem to last long.” She smiled, half-wondering if her stop was coming soon. Maybe he wasn’t local after all. Darn, she looks weirded out. “Uh, I didn’t mean to make it weird. I’m not hitting on you or anything,” I glare at a sniggering teenager not too far behind her. “I was just back from abroad, so…yeah, backpacking in Europe. People are friendlier there.” I stuff the portable charger back into my pocket. She is a university student, displaying her school on her shirt for all to see. “Oh! It’s okay. I was just tired. That’s exciting, though—backpacking.” ~
It is! It’s great. I didn’t traverse the entire Europe, of course…” He babbled on and on excitedly while she tried to stifle a yawn. She loved travelling. Only, it got even more unaffordable with the slowing economy. If not for her mother being so paranoid about terrorists, she would’ve gone after her A Levels. She envied all her friends who flooded her Instagram feed with aesthetic scenery. ~
“…but I don’t regret doing it. How about you? What’s on your bucket list?” I count four heartbeats before her face flicks sharply to face me, clearly having spaced out. “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” I read that the attention span of today’s youths have shortened once again. It was believable then; it is grating now. I smile thinly, “Never mind.” ~ She wanted to let the conversation peter out. She sighed internally. It would have been rude. “I was just thinking about travelling. It used to be one of the things I wanted to do before university.” “Did you?” he prompted, “Travel?” “No,” she replied shortly. Why was he so persistent? “Are you in university then? Maybe you can offer some advice about which courses to apply for.” “If you want to make money, go for the sciences or computing. Otherwise, good luck.” “What about law? It was in demand a few years back.” She cast a critical eye over his expectant expression. “So was accountancy. Then the computer took over. The law market is
oversaturated, now that algorithms have the capability to decide your fate.” She should’ve pegged him as the dreamers: backpacking, and not having his future planned out. Was he even planning to live in Singapore? ~ “You’re brutally honest.” I decide to cut straight to the point. “Practical Singaporean, I see.” “There’s nothing wrong with analysing what lies in the future.” I see the teenager behind trying to eavesdrop on our conversation. I raise my voice for his benefit. “I hear what you say. There’s nothing wrong with securing your future.” She furrows her eyebrows. “I sense a ‘but’.” I allow myself a self-satisfied smile (this is familiar territory to me, because strangers often ask about my backpacking). “You’re right. There’s nothing wrong, but then there will be no fun in life! Life is about surprises, boxes of chocolate! What if you accidentally discover something you’re really good at? Or meet people you wouldn’t befriend otherwise?” I waggle my eyebrows, expecting a laugh. She rolls her eyes. ~ He clearly came from a well-to-do family; so hopeful, so optimistic.
“I live my dreams in my sleep,” she informed him. “And here’s my stop. Good day.” And good riddance, she thought privately. Even if he was slightly cute, she didn’t like the reminder of the person she could have been. “For the record, I earned a scholarship for my Arts degree. This is my gap year. I spent good months working my butt off to fulfil my dream. Don’t be young and bitter!” ~ She didn’t look back, but I know that she hears me, because her hand twitched. In some ways, I feel sad for these young people who give up on their dreams so quickly. In this year and age, most pursue theirs. I look at her receding figure, and this is what I see: a young woman believes in her dreams, believes in its possibility. Today was a millimetre closer to the goal, and tomorrow— So they close their eyes, dreaming of the future they grasp at, when they breathe in its reach. She lied, by the way. She got off four stops early.
SINGAPORE CHINESE GIRLS SCHOOL GRACIE CHUA RUI EN
Social Media: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly By Gracie Chua Rui En
In the past few years, social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, where people are able to post and share information, have seen a phenomenal increase in users. Social media is a double-edged sword yet users fail to recognise this when they scroll through their illuminated phone screens, occasionally stopping to â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;likeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; an aesthetic-looking picture or share a funny post with others. In this essay, I will be covering how social media enables us to expand our social networks, promote our private and professional interests yet encourages cyber bullying and cyber addiction. Our rapidly shrinking world is due to advancements in communications where social media can help us build and establish human relations. We are able to correspond with anyone in the world with just a click of a button. We can meet people with similar interests or gain more knowledge of different cultures without leaving our homes. For our friends, we can know what is going on in their lives so that we can support and aid them should they be going through a rough patch or offer our congratulations if there is a happy occasion. Yet, this sense of greater human interactivity is illusory as social media actually causes people to engage in fewer face-to-face conversations. It is such a common sight now in social situations, people are obsessed with checking their social media updates 93
to see how many people have ‘liked’ their recently posted selfie rather than engaging each other directly. Or people communicate with others behind the anonymity of the keyboard and computer monitor. This process undermines the art of conversation where we will not be able to pick up subtle nuances of tone and body language. Once this vital social skill which is necessary for our psychological and emotional health atrophies, it would poison our ability to have healthy relationships with people. Social media has become the latest tool in promoting causes and businesses as many young people these days are plugged into the digital network because of the ready accessibility to the Internet. It can be used to raise awareness for campaigns as seen in the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Ice Bucket Challenge which was launched in 2014. Videos of people dumping ice and water on themselves or their friends became viral, helping to raise over US$115 million for ALS research within a year.1 Businesses can use social media to market their products through advertisements, post updates on their latest venture and gain customer insights such as receiving feedback and ideas when customers leave comments. An excellent example would be everyone’s favourite Oreo cookie where the company has been very adept in producing creative content for its social media.2 However, social media has been manipulated by crooks to cheat unknowing and gullible people. A classic trick employed by these scammers would be the cash grab. They befriend naïve people on the pretext of seeking relationships or a lucrative business deal. In Singapore last year, an unhappily married woman lost an incredible S$1.2 million when she was drawn into the clutches of 1 2
a love cheat who she met on Facebook. Once people’s emotions are invoked, they become easy targets and would blindly follow instructions given by the scammers.3 Or people post personal information on the social media unthinkingly, which allow criminals to plan their next crime. The most famous example would socialite Kim Kardashian West who uses social media to flaunt her flashy lifestyle. Not surprisingly, she became a target for robbers in her Paris hotel where over $10 million in jewellery was stolen.4 For us teenagers, cyberbullying has reared its ugly head where an estimated 1/3 of Singaporean teens have suffered its baneful effect.5 Bullies who hide behind the anonymity of social media defy the conventional stereotype of the bully being the biggest, strongest or the most popular person in school. These malicious people leave mean and nasty messages to harass and intimidate others, quickly spreading to others who add to the torment of the victim. This could lead to very serious consequences such as the tragic incident of Megan Meier where she committed suicide after she received nasty messages from a supposed friend on MySpace. In reality, the “friend” was her friend’s mother who concealed her identity using a false profile to find out what Megan thought about her daughter.6 Finally, though social media can serve as a harmless form of distraction from work or study, but for some, it can be so addictive that the person is not able to function productively. Soon, the compulsive checking of one’s social media accounts dominates http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/woman-loses-12m-internet-love-scam http://people.com/crime/kim-kardashian-wests-lavish-social-media-posts-made-her-robbery-targetexpert-2/ 5 http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/one-in-three-singaporean-teens-have-encountered-cyberbullying-study 6 http://www.meganmeierfoundation.org/megans-story.html 3 4
oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life.7 It also has the unhealthy effect of causing us to compare our lives with others. This creates an idealised world where someone elseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life is better than ours, causing us to feel inadequate which may lead to depression.8 In conclusion, social media is in itself neither good, bad nor ugly. It is because of human foibles or more ominously, human evil, that causes one of the most significant technological innovations of the 21st century to be fraught with dangers and pitfalls. In order to ensure that social media is a slave not a master of our lives, it becomes critical for us to develop a keen awareness of how social media can influence us. This can be achieved by developing an educational system which hones critical thinking skills and having significant adults to provide us the necessary guidance and oversight. Only then can we discern what is right and wrong, what is real and false, and possess the necessary traits needed to ensure that we handle social media with wisdom.
All In! Young Writers Festival
All In! Young Writers Festival is an annual gathering for aspiring writers between the ages of 13 and 25. It brings together a wide array of writing mentors and industry players in publishing, broadcasting, blogging, creative and genre writing, screenwriting and journalism, among others, to meet, mingle and share their expertise with todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s young writers. The Festival intends to highlight successful industry players who have chosen writing careers and show the paths they took to get there. Starting off as a one-day event in 2009, we only dreamed that All In! would become as broad and as exciting as it is today, with a packed programme covering different fields of writing and related activities. The Festival hopes that its varied programming is able to inspire and entice more young people to develop their love for writing. Moving forward, the Festival sees itself as a platform that brings together professionals and students in a mesh of shared discussions, while creating opportunities to extend collaborations beyond the festival dates. It hopes that more attendees will leverage the networking platform and opportunities for interaction that All In! gives its delegates.
The Book Council
The National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) is a nonprofit, charitable organisation founded in 1968. The Book Council initiated the Festival of Books and Book Fairs in 1969, and with Reed Exhibitions launched the International Library Expo (ILE) in 1998. Since 1990 the Council has been organising the prestigious Singapore Literature Prize. In January 2006, the Singapore Writers Centre (SWC) was set up with the support of the National Arts Council. SWC has been providing consultation services to aspiring writers by answering their queries on writing and publishing and directing them to the relevant channels. The Book Council has now set its sights on energising publishers, writers and related professionals with the objective of developing Singapore into an International centre for writers and publishers of Asian Content. It promotes storytelling, reading, writing, and publishing through a variety of programmes and festivals, including the Asian Festival of Children’s Content and the All In! Young Writers Festival. NBDCS also presents many annual and biennial awards, including the Singapore Literature Prize and the Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award for works published in Singapore; the Scholastic Asian Book Award, and the Scholastic Picture Book Award for unpublished works. Its training arm, the Academy of Literary Arts and Publishing (ALAP), also runs publishing-related and literary arts-focused courses and workshops throughout the year. NBDCS is a recipient of the National Arts Council’s Major Grant. Know more about the Book Council at http://bookcouncil.sg. 99
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