what is purpose and where can i buy it?

for too long, i’ve been floating from meaningless task to meaningless task, meandering from my 20s to where i am today, trying to find some great big purpose in life, like the big pie in the sky.

And yet, i am here , sitting at my desk, learning to mail merge , cursing at no one in particular and wondering yet once again if there is any point in all of this? The ceaseless drivel, the mindless pleasing, only pushed by the fear that has all been drilled in to us, in to me…about service to society, feeling useful…feeling like we’re all working towards something bigger than us.

What if life itself is a pointless meaningless exercise in itself? i suppose tolstoy once said something about life as service for others.. perhaps he’s right, but i need to find a way of service that makes me happy too.


Defining Statehood

How essential is control over territory to the existence of statehood? How unstable or uncertain does control over territory have to become before the existence of statehood is called into question? To what extent has control over territory formed the basis for the emergence of new states in International law?

One of the key characteristics of a contemporary State is its territory and this is defined in article 1 of the Montevideo Convention. It is clear that one of the key criteria of statehood is the effective authority of the government over its territory.

However, in relation to the second question, once a state is formed, there appears to be little governing its dissolution or end, in the event of civil war and unrest. One key example that comes to mind is Somalia and Somaliland. Despite being classified as a failed state and having relatively little control over its territories, including Somaliland, the Somalian Transitional Federal Government continues to be officially recognized by the United Nations, the African Union and the United States and Somalia is accorded recognition as a sovereign state by the international community.

Yet the opposite is true for Somaliland, which remains unrecognized by other States since its declaration of independence in 1991 (The Economist, 2015). Despite fulfilling the conditions set out by the Montevideo Convention, such as having a population, a defined territory and a government exercising effective control over its territory, Somaliland is unable to exercise the legal rights accorded to a State as part of the international community and unable to enter into international relations.

What the Somalia and Somaliland example illustrates is the considerable contradictions that continue to exist in international law. While territorial control is one of the necessary conditions in the formation of a new state, it is clear that it is only one amongst other key criteria. Despite the Montevideo Convention and its development of norms and conditions in the context of statehood, there appears to be limitations in the legal doctrine and questions remain as to whether statehood is a notion that can be determined objectively or conceived abstractly by the international community. It is clear at least in the case of Somaliland, that while effective control over its territory has made it a de facto state, that does not necessarily translate into recognition as a de jure state.

Why Somaliland is not a recognised state. (2015, November 1). The Economist. http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/11/economist-explains


International Law Week 2

Given that international law’s enforcement mechanisms are decentralised and weak compared to most domestic legal orders, why do states comply with its requirements?

International law rulings plays an important role in maintaining peace and stability in larger world order and therefore while the compliance mechanisms are weak, states are most likely to opt for resolution rather to have a continuing dispute that may even lead to increasing friction and perhaps war. Successful conflict resolution is also perhaps the key to stabilising and creating a system that is replete with rules, accepted customary norms and resolving mechanisms that will act as precedents for resolving future disputes.

Furthermore, with the pervasive phenomenon of globalisation, most of the world’s trade is intertwined in some form or other, and therefore amicably resolving a dispute via international law ensures that the existing trade relations are not disrupted and states do not suffer the impact of reduced wealth from suspended trading. As such, it is demonstrably in a state’s self-interest to abide by rulings despite the weak enforcement mechanisms. While the state cannot be punished so as to speak, they will still be subject to equally detrimental impacts that hold enough sway for compliance.

Given that ‘custom’ is such a vague and hard-to-identify phenomenon, far too much importance has been and continues to be placed upon custom in the history and development of international law. Do you agree?

Principally, I disagree with the motion and argue that custom will continue to be one of the most important sources of international law. I would argue for this on the basis of the logic that if the community of nations has no supreme law giver, and in the absence of world legislature, customs developed by the community of nations would be a natural source of law given that no one state or institution can impose its will. Furthermore, the ongoing development of societal contexts should be taken into consideration in the drafting of legislature and as such, customs further provide a way in which the expansion of societal norms can be incorporated into legal norms. The issue of speed at which legally binding international legislature can be quickly codified is particularly important in areas such as human rights and laws of war (Tasioulas, 2015) and customs also provides an additional means of legal expression to the rigid treaties.

However, the process from which customs become legislature remain contentious, particularly with regard to when a sense of legal compellation is determined to be an obligation and binding. There are also difficulties in determining manifest intent in order to define a custom, as seen in the dissenting judgments Judge Ammoun and Judge Morelli in the North Sea Continental Shelf Cases (D’Amato, 1970). Despite the constraints, customs will continue to play a significant role in international law, as they are also borne out of resolutions from controversies in treaties and conventions and serve as an important precedence for future rulings.

Tasioulas, J. (2016). Custom, Jus Cogens, and Human Rights. In C. Bradley (Ed.), Custom’s Future: International Law in a Changing World (pp. 95-116). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

D’Amato, A. (1970). Manifest Intent and the Generation by Treaty of Customary Rules of International Law. American Journal of International Law 64(4), 892-902.


Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor

Haunting, beautiful, the shades painted by violin bow. It is hard to imagine the artistry and the precise nuances that goes into crafting each phrase until you watch something like this. Amazing, just amazing. Sibelius is not Rachmaninov, but he rages just as powerfully under the cold nordic exterior. Utterly fascinating and wondrous. The tensions of holding on to an almost dying breath set upon a dark, wintry, barren and icy landscape. Even starlight has a sound….


Friday Musings

As the world is descending into a seemingly apocalyptic, Dali-esque scene and where most things, people cease to make sense, perhaps it’s time to ponder over what’s the purpose of us being here, being who we are, saying what we say and believing what we believe. What is the role of the minority voice, whose values seem out of sync, whose intentions seem to be misunderstood and whose ideas seem out of the simplistic reach of black and white notions? Has knowledge and an education ended up being the largest wall that divides us all?

I am not being facetious not nor am I trying to suggest that there is any element of superiority in the above statements. However I am genuinely astounded at how large swathes of the people I speak with or hear from, do not appear to consider or perhaps wantonly disregard the enormous amount of variables, hazards and contingencies before arriving at an opinion. One can never foretell the future of course, and circumstances cannot be foreseen. However, how is it possible for some to be so blind, and so unseeing?  Is this the absence of a reductive framework of reasoning? And following that, do people only want a pre-packaged didactic meal of ideas, solutions laid over puréed easy-to-swallow ideology (i even struggle to class it as philosophy).

Well in this case, is this the libertarian’s own undoing? That the belief in free ironically leads to its own arrest.  As we live in a world dominated by unkind, cynical and  over-represented perspectives, will this become our frame of reference? That we are to some extent enslaved to the notion even in the form of its opposition? Will free will ever be truly free?



ASEAN Integration and its discontents

Some random thoughts on AEC formation

Will it work?

Answer: Depends on your idea of functionality. A true economic union where there is free flowing goods and services? Unlikely. But if we’re talking about improvements to the current state, then yes it is possible. But perhaps only incrementally, not a sudden disruptive gates-wide-open type of movement.

Why not the former? (i.e. the utopian ideal of a true economic and monetary union)

Answer: ASEAN states have a culture of mercantilism which is perhaps too strong to overcome. Based on its track record, the ASEAN states have a history of being selfish and self-serving (see point about mercantilism), with a leaning towards protecting short-term interests than fulfilling long term vision. And perhaps, this should be the case given the wide developmental gaps inherent in the region. The richer countries could also serve to loosen their purse strings to help bridge the gap, but that seems equally unlikely given once again, the pragmatic (self-serving) nature of its populace and government.


the problem with…

this country, is that it’s a country who want quick fixes. It’s a country that has lost its intellectual and philosophical hunger and curiosity. We want our problems fixed, but we don’t want to know how. We just want to slap a coat of paint over it and call it a day. This is incredibly tragic because Singapore was not originally built on the premise of “good enough”. This singular lack of vision and apathy in large sections of the populace is  damning… life is another plate of chicken rice waiting to die.



why trump matters

since the results of the US election, i have found myself in various stages of grief. Absolute crippling denial, palms outstretched in askance and despair…and now, i don’t even want to hear about Bannon and all the other appointees Trump is considering for his private petting zoo of cabinet and departmental posts.

People ask me, almost innocently, why i care about the US elections. Indeed, that is a fair question.  Why do i care so much? I mean, being at least an 18 hour plane ride to the closest tip of the US, what sort of fucking implication it could possibly have right? I mean, conceivably, what could another country’s national policies and strategic directions have to do with us right?? RIGHT?? Well, i’m sure it wouldn’t matter if all you cared about are Korean drama serials, gorging your face with enough food to feed a family of four and buying enough shit to fill every goddamn crevice of your house before it starts becoming a serious fire hazard. But if you don’t fall into the above categories, possess a little more imagination and care about life beyond the plastic, shiny and the edible… then perhaps you may be more than a little perturbed about the latest political developments unfolding in the USA.

For a start, let’s just get this straight. Throughout the annals of history, the winners get to set the narrative and wield their influence across policies that decide who gets what, who has what and who lives how. Influence cannot be seen, only wielded in the most insidious of ways, which makes it one of the most dangerous tools at anyone’s disposal. The winners are also given a highly visible platform to propagate their narrative and in turn influence the masses to do their bidding. The problem with this wee issue of the platform which has been given the presidential mandate by the people, will now bear more weight ever than a fucking D-grade reality TV show…which means his fucking racist, misogynistic beliefs and rhetoric will now be afforded more legitimacy than Trump has ever been given in his lifetime. In short, his dangerous and provocative beliefs and whatever he deigns to mouth off in a 140 character tweet becomes THE word..listened keenly, pandered to…even by the most level headed of all politicians around (perhaps more so, considering the pragmatic need to consider national economic interests).

Therefore, Trump who’s overarching narrative has been based on racist rhetoric, thumbing down sections of the population at the expense of others, misogynistic beliefs that have clearly crossed into acts sexual harrasment  and whose empire has been built off the backs of exploitation…now has the power to dictate national, global policies which has serious implications on the day to day lives of those that require protection, the weak, the disenfranchised and those that have already been battered by the forces of unequal and unfair treatment. Now, do you for one second, believe that your interests as a non-white, non-male, non- kazillionaire would be considered, much less adequately protected in the era of the hypocritical, two-faced, deceiving and thieving billionaire? Would you for one second believe that your agenda as a female, fighting for equality and right to assume your place at the table…to be a beneficiary of fair minded policies which have equally a snowball’s chance in hell of being created over the next four years?

It is so easy to think this doesn’t matter, that this is too far away. I wish it was but it’s not. Like it or not, the USA is a major economy and a leading actor in global trade policy and  geopolitics. With this role, the country, and in this case the President also assumes the responsibility of becoming the implicit agenda setters for the world. With globalisation well and truly entrenched in the current world order, it is naive to think that a country halfway round the world will not be subject to the ripple effect of ill thought out policy actions of some neighbour up North.Therefore if the current President-elect, who’s only agenda has been to divide the country with lies for the benefit of his victory, and who’s premise of making the country great again is based on fuzzy promises grounded in discrimination and exclusionary practices…could you perhaps see why this would be important to YOU and of YOUR concern?

Trump has demonstrated on more than several occasions, his abject lack of consideration for any interests other than his own and that is enough reason for worry. And also, this my friends and gentlemonkeys, is why Trump matters…as much as you think/wish he didn’t.




small talk and a doomsday prophecy

So i really hate small talk.. you know the sort where people just kind of carry on about nothing in particular. Talking about the most inane details of some equally inane email conversation about something inane that happened over the weekend…usually a shoe or handbag purchase of some description. You know those conversations right? Well I fuckin hate them… It drives me absolutely insane that any smidgen of time is devoted to stupid conversations that achieve nothing other than a trail of babble and  non-opinions. Why do people do this to themselves? Why do they subject themselves to painful conversations feigning interest (maybe that’s just me) and having to come up with guttural or semi-coherent responses just to be polite (maybe that’s just me). the problem is, i really hate these conversations, i really do. But some of these people are kind of nice and so i feel obliged to listen …like it’s a favour. But is it really? Do they REALLY care about what i think? (usually nothing)… Do they really want to share the trivial details of their last lunch experience, or do they really think its fascinating fodder for conversation? Sometimes I wonder what the fuck is going on with the country if these are the only conversations i seem to be hearing.

Shit i think we are doomed.


Respect for Expression

“All I’m askin’ is for a little respect…” croons Aretha Franklin in her 1967 hit … and continues to be the anthem we sing today, particularly in the light of conflicting ideologies, beliefs and religions.

One thing that bothers me the most is the lack of respectful discourse, be it in the vast expanse of cyberspace or the narrow confines of the cafes. It seems so easy to pin someone’s ideological view as a representation of who the person really is, as if it is some unmoving and unyielding monument of idea/s.

The cult of personality is dangerous either way and to subscribe to the notion that one person, party or representation would be always right, is even more so dangerous. Perhaps this is why I find it so difficult to identify and align myself with one single party or view in politics. Disagreement is only to be expected, particularly so when it involves a broad spectrum of perspectives that stem from different circumstances and environs. If there is only thing I am certain about my clear dislike, it is the lack of respect for another person’s views, the forceful takedown of another’s perspectives caused by mere offence.

Humanity has a shared platform for expression and we all should learn to respect it.