Change that Faulty Moral Compass for One that Works

Dov Charney, who founded American Apparel, a clothing retailer known for its racy ads, used to strut around in his office in his underwear. Not only that, he once masturbated several times in front of a journalist; was hit with numerous sexual harassment law suits and was constantly bragging about his sexual adventures.

The board finally gave him the boot.

Rolf Harris, entertainer of children, was earlier this month sentenced to nearly six years jail for being a pedophile. He was convicted of 12 charges of indecent assault. The law finally caught up with him – Harris is 84.

He wasn’t the only child entertainer who succumbed to the dark side. Harris was snagged as part of Operation Yewtree, a Scotland Yard investigation into sexual abuse allegations, predominantly the abuse of children, against the British media personality Jimmy Savile and his immoral company of merry, lascivious men.

In the meantime, there is now emerging evidence that at least 20 or more prominent figures in the UK – including former Members of Parliament and government ministers – had abused children for “decades.”

Is it me, or as each day goes by is it getting harder to tell the difference between the queen’s honors list and the sex offenders register?

And please don’t get me started on Catholic priests.

In the US, renowned child entertainer Pee-wee Herman was arrested in 1991 for committing an obscene act in public.

Closer to home, it is believed that an ex-Indonesian president was once the potential target of blackmail when the Russians threatened to publicly show videos of him having sex with swallows (female spies) sent to seduce him; the plot failed when the said president asked for copies of the video so his citizens can view him in action. His “virility” will win him hearts and minds – and presumably votes – he claimed.

Too often the world accepts the idea that boys will be boys, men will be men, and that the most successful and dynamic ones are also the most sexually driven and the most lecherous and lustful.

So we shrug and look the other way.

Think Bill Clinton. After a lame attempt at impeachment, Clinton got away scot-free.

But this is nonsense.

We cannot and we should not look the other way.

There are a lot of people whose peccadilloes we are prepared to overlook simply because of who they are.

We cannot take certain beliefs as given and accept behavior which are simply not right.

We assume that most discerning adults can make out right from wrong, but that’s a risky assumption to make nowadays.

What is right and what is wrong is often something difficult to pin down in these days that seem to proliferate with easily-confused people.

I am reminded of the National Library Board’s decision this past week to remove three children books that it considered not pro-family. (Note: the books are not banned, the Board merely withdrawn them from its children’s section.)

The backlash was fast and furious. To protest, some local writers boycotted the Board’s events.

They chose to ignore the fact that one of the books, And Tango Makes Three, has been among the most banned books in public libraries and schools across the United States, which has long been known to be an open and liberal Western society, a “Seventh Heaven” many so-called “open-minded” Singaporeans are hoping that Singapore will emulate or become.

Many seem to forget that as a statutory board, the role of the National Library Board has to be consistent with the Government’s stance on the family, which, to paraphrase Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is made up of one man and one woman raising children together. Critics also seem to conveniently overlook the fact that the Board’s adult collection does contain titles with homosexual themes and its collection policy does not exclude materials on “alternative lifestyles.”

Indeed what is right and what is wrong? Or do some people deliberately choose to leave their blinkers on?

I was flabbergasted to read that on July 13th two young mothers had organized an event for children outside the National Library in defiance of the Board’s decision; they intentionally made sure that those three books were there for all to read. One of them even set up a Facebook page, Singapore’s Parents Against Library Censorship, to express her disapproval of the Board’s decision to remove the children’s titles. Completely missing the point, she declared to the press “I want my daughter to know that every family is valid, and not to feel sorry for people whose families are different from her own.” Yeah, right, I’m sure her daughter, who’s a five-month old infant, can understand all that.

Indeed, sadly, we can no longer assume that all adults are able to exercise discernment.

Take the case of Buddhist monks in Myanmar.

Do they have too much time on their hands or what? Is the saying that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop really true?

One would think of Buddhist monks as silent, low-profile religious men of the cloth, going about what they do quietly. (I am referring to the real ones, not those fake ones from China who fly all over the world begging for money. I’ve just read that they have now invaded New York City as well.)

But in Myanmar, some Buddhist monks are busy going around killing people or provoking their devotees to commit murder.

There is a gang of monks who call themselves the “969”, after the nine virtues of Buddha, the six elements of his teachings, and the nine attributes of the clergy. The 969 are consumed with hatred for Myanmar’s Muslims, who make up 5 per cent of the population. Nearly 200,000 have been driven from their homes. For Myanmese Muslims, the numbers 969 – which jump out at them from brightly colored stickers in shops and taxis – are as menacing as the swastika for Jews. In March, Buddhists set fire to an Islamic boarding school in central Myanmar. Twenty-four students and teachers were killed; a boy was decapitated; police stood by while onlookers applauded.

In fact, despite Myanmar’s supposed opening, internal strife is as vicious as ever – more than 250 people have been killed since June 2012. Most of the victims have been members of Myanmar’s Muslim minority.

Earlier this month, hundreds of Buddhists, many of them wielding knives, clubs and bamboo poles, threatened to kill Muslims again as they rode on motorcycles through Myanmar’s second-largest city of Mandalay on July 4th.

“We’re going to kill all the Muslims,” some shouted as they rode through the streets.

An innocent Muslim man was killed, beaten to death on his way to morning prayers.

The increasing violence against Muslims is widely attributed to the acceptance by Myanmese authorities of a rogue monk named Sayadaw Wirathu, the vile preacher who leads the 969 monks, who calls himself “the Myanmese bin Laden.”

Even Aung San Suu Kyi remains silent to this day on the killing of her Muslim countrymen.

Who knows what cataclysm could be averted if the Myanmese authorities and Aung San Suu Kyi could see what is right and what is wrong and assert their moral authority?

When those with influence lack discernment or judgment and look the other way, bad situations will only exacerbate.

“Every religion can be twisted into a destructive force poisoned by ideas that are antithetical to its foundations. Now it’s Buddhism’s turn,” declared TIME magazine.

I can’t agree more.

I’m not here to debate if TIME is correct or incorrect. It is also not my intention here to attempt an explanation of why people turn evil. I am also not here to make a stand for or against homosexuality.

The point I want to make now is this – the world must change its attitude and stop looking the other way, stop accepting what is abnormal as normal, when the facts before us are abundantly clear in revealing to us what is obviously right and what is obviously wrong.

As I write this, Martin Niemöller’s poem comes to mind:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a pastor and his poem was about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

It has never lost its relevance.

It is a poem we should all reflect on from time to time.