Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Does Food Get in the Way of Social Cohesion?

After reading the article “Does God get in the way of social cohesion?” in Insight, Straits Times (Saturday 21st October 2006), I felt I have to express my insights with regard to this intricate, and especially sensitive, issue in multi-racial and multi-religious Singapore.

The caption of the article reads, “Singaporeans seem more religious these days. Will it lead to social enclaves as they mix and mingle more and more only with those who share their faith? By Li Xueying and Keith Lin.”

Daniel has voiced his thoughts concerning this article in this post of his. And I do applaud his “no mincing of words” approach. But I intend to be a little more politically correct in this blog of mine, lest I get put behind bars for expressing my thoughts too directly.

Tell me; are there any legal ways of expressing yourself in Singapore other than to write in parables? Unfortunately, I am not good with concocting parables. So, I wrote what I suppose would turn up in a fictional newspaper in Singapore in the near, or perhaps distant, future. And please do excuse me if things don’t turn up the way I have described.

Does Food Get in the Way of Social Cohesion?

Heterophilic Insights, The Straight Times 21st Oct 2016.

The following are quotes from the aforementioned article:

At work, if increasingly devout Gluttons use lunchtime for mastication sessions, when will they find time to sit with those of different interests in the coffee shops?

When a person becomes more gluttonous, he is likely to spend more time on activities at his place of eating. He or she may end up hanging out with gluttons from the same hemisphere when doing non-masticatory activities such as baking and social drinking. This leaves less time to interact with those of other interests.

“The increase in repast ardor,” says Institute of Grub Studies academic Lai Ah Beng, “will lead to weakening social cohesion only if gluttons are aggressively consuming their favourite grub everywhere, competing for tables in coffee shops by deriding each other, and if recipe interpretations are exclusivist, self-righteous and/or extremist.”

And it is this that has the most-revered Mr Yas Man (aka Mr Sycophant) worried. The former Chief Executive Officer of the Gluttons Anonymous of Singapore (GAS) speaks of the rise of what he calls ‘exclusive consumerism’ in Singapore since the 1970s.

“There is this prevailing ‘consumerism’ which calls for consumption of even animals that are close to extinction, and the claim that they have the one true recipe and the only way to cook a particular dish,” says the Yas Man, also a member of the Immediate Relieve of Antagonism (IRA).

“But no one recipe has the monopoly on absolute truth. Each recipe can claim to be the true concoction, but we don’t have the complete recipe, therefore we need to have a dialogue with one another in continuously seeking the full culinary truth.”

Chocoholic leader Brother Milky Belgian, also of the IRA, shares the concern, noting the “growth of fundamentalist sects within our gluttony groups, which are normally quite understanding.”

Says the deputy chef of St Joan of Arc’s Restaurant: “If you have really exclusive ideas about culinary truth, it sometimes can lead to great misunderstanding, that because I belong now to a school of cookery that is true, everyone else that doesn't belong to my restaurant, cafe, coffee shop, whatever, is false . . . that something is wrong with the rest of humanity, something is wrong with the rest of the gluttons of Singapore who do not subscribe to my gastronomic passions.”

“It's very simplistic thinking, but the trouble is that you're dealing with a lot of young people who consume enthusiastically with fervour everything they're given.”

The problem of an exclusivistic interpretation is not confined to Gluttony. Prof A. Sot highlights the presence of some “extremist bibbers who want to minimize contacts with non-bibbers.”


Anonymous said...


Great parable! Made me laugh, but you hit it on the nose. Very well written...

thank you.

ddd said...

Eh Vincent,

perhaps I am a bit dense, but after thinking through a few times, I stil can't get the meaning of your parable.