Monday, July 12, 2010

Why i still support Holland

My love affair with Dutch football began at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea. I remember the talk of the town being of the incredible transformation of the South Korean team under Guus Hiddink and how the South Koreans played a style of soccer that was oddly reminiscent of the Total Football approach of the 1974 Dutch Finals team. I then remember being fascinated by this Total Football idea and the Dutch system of soccer. I watched a few of Holland's matches then and liked what i saw, even though they weren't at their best form. Since then, my love for Dutch Football has grown, as has my respect for their style. Yes, they lost 1-0 to Spain yesterday morning. Yes, their style is far from the Total Football of Johan Cruyf's era. Yes, they didn't play as beautifully as i would have liked or as well as their match against Uruguay. Yes, i'm sad to admit, the Spanish played better and deserved to win (though i argue based only on that game's performance.) But still my heart beats Oranje. And here's 3 reasons why.

Firstly, the Dutch team had more than one player capable of being a dangerous star striker. And in this respect, they're more Total than the 1974 Total Football team. Obviously, men like Robben down the right flank, Van Persie down the middle and the Dirk Kuyt-Wesley Schneider combination down the left flank were dangerous enough, with strong midfield performance by the likes of Van Bommel and van Bronckhorst that have translated into goal scoring shows in previous matches. Other team members like Van der Vart and Van der Wiel were dark horses that i believe will mature in the future. Others like Khalid Bourlahrouz, Jan Huntelaar, Elia and Ibrahim Affelay i would have liked to see more of, especially in the substitutions Holland had yesterday. Affelay, especially i believe, would have made a tremendous performance if he had come on as the last sub yesterday morning.

Secondly, this team really had fantastic teamwork, a certain camaraderie and powerful esprit de corps that made defence intuitive and strongly challenged Spain for possession of the ball throughout the 120 minutes (44 percent). In contrast, the German team only managed a pitiful 30 odd percent possession of the ball when matched against Spain. The rapid closing down of Spanish players and closing of gaps in the defence was done intuitively and with a flair that was totally different from boring Italian Catenaccio routine. Moreover, this Dutch side really believed in their skill, game, cause and their winning. Unfortunately, their luck ran out, which is always a prerequisite at such knock out stages. (imagine what would have happened if Fernando Torres had pulled his hamstring before, rather than after that winning goal had been scored by Iniesta and had been taken off the pitch to make it 10 men for both sides)

Finally, i believe this side played better than the 1974 Total Football generation in some key aspects. The reality of Total Football (and something many don't realise) is that it is actually a very inefficient system, where everybody has to be able to do everybody else's job just as well as their own. The concentration, energy, skill and teamwork neccessary for this are incredible and thats why its so loved, but Total Football just can't be sustained in the long run, especially in gruelling competitions of the World Cup's stature. Moreover, Total Football was always reliant on a very strong and gifted captain or leader like Johan Cruyff who could see the possiblities and direct the flow of the game. Total Football isn't democratic football, contrary to what some mistakenly believe. Not everyone was a scorer, only one or two, whom the others filled in for and supported. As such, the current Dutch side with multiple danger men is much more Total than Total Football.

They change and adapt, as i believe they will after this tournament. Their next chance might be in 30 years (though i hope not) but they'll keep fine-tuning and attacking. Thats why i love the Dutch.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Grace of the King

As i sat through Greg's talk at Unichurch tonight i had some reflections on my character and my attitudes in life and the areas where i came short were revealed.

The reading was from Matthew 1:1-17 which was really what John Dickson had covered in his first talk for NTE last Dec. But the reminder that Jesus is the King who is the Son of David, heir of David's throne and through 2 Sam 7 prophesied to be the King of the Universe was wonderful. And not only is Jesus the Son of David, he also is the son of Abraham, through whom God promised to bless whoever blessed Abraham and curse whoever cursed Abraham in Genesis 12. In other words, Greg said, whoever had a positive relationship with Abraham would be blessed. And Jesus is Abraham's son, according to Matthew. He is firstly, the New Abraham, the origin of God's new people, and secondly, Jesus inherits the promises to Abraham: whoever has a positive relationship with Jesus will be blessed by God with all the blessings of heaven. 'Jesus is Lord' should be our response, as it was for the earliest christians who received the gospel.

Secondly, Greg talked about the women in Jesus' lineage whom Matthew records for us,again like John Dickson. These were Jesus' skeletons in the closet: Tamar, who acted like a prostitute to sleep with her father-in-law, Rahab, a 'working girl', Ruth, a Moabite, and Bathsheba, who married a Hittite and then committed adultery with David. Incest, prostitution and adultery are paraded in Jesus' genealogy in Matthew 1. The point Matthew seems to make is that Jesus is king of and for the 'skeleton people', men and women who have ugly pasts and dirty lives.

Son of David, son of Abraham, king of the Universe, king of the skeletons. Thats who Jesus Christ is. Which is where my summary of Greg's Talk ends and my reflection comes in. How often do i want to judge people who are sinful and who still live in sin? How often have i thought that these people are unclean and unworthy of my affection and concern? How often have i desired revenge and thought malicious thoughts against those who have hurt, offended or slighted me? How often have i shown forgiveness, grace, mercy, kindness and love for my enemies and those who hate me? Clearly, i can see that i am far, far from the character, image and behaviour of this Jesus of Nazareth, whom i call my king.

"There were some present at that very time who had told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, i tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them:do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, i tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
Luke 13:1-5

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I am Such a Loser!!

Guys in the know, remember those times at the SA when we used to laugh at losers who spent time in the kitchen on New Years' Eve helping their mothers with reunion dinner preparations when others were out with their (probably imaginary) galfrens?

well guess what? i was one of those yesterday evening helping my mum with the Yu-sheng and the fish steaming..and i told her to add more of my sauce mix but she wouldnt the fish came out tasting a bit more blend than i would have liked..and she complained about my rice not being soft enough when it tasted like restaurant quality stuff to me..Mum!!!

Man, i am such a flipping loser right guys?! haha

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Social Basis of Tax

It was Malcolm Gladwell, in his writing for the New Yorker and his fantastic books, The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers and What the Dog Saw, who helped me realise that the majority way of thinking is not always the right way of thinking.

As Tsang, Gabriel, Varun, Shamir and myself met last nite for a short while after steamboat with my singapore bible study group, we had some interesting conversations, reminiscing about life, our St Andrews School days and onward to politics and a social commentary on the state of our country.

one of the topics that stuck in my mind was that of taxation. Tsang was saying Singapore was a country where social studies students were taught that indirect taxation helps the poor and those from low income households. He pointed out the incongruity of it all, because for the poor, consummables such as food, water and electricity are the main things they spend on. These are taxed. And, the taxes they pay for consummables form a larger percentage of their income then for the rich. How can indirect taxation be good for the poor?

Well, i said, only if 1) indirect taxation is used to directly fund additional health and medical, education and welfare services that are only available to the poor [some form of means testing determines who is 'poor'], 2) the poor [determined by means testing] are given rebates for the cosummables they spend on, for as long as there exists an indirect tax on consummables, or 3) those who have been means tested and found to be financially lacking are given coupons that waive the Goods and Services Tax when they purchase consummables [and present these coupons] or 4) remove basic consummables like food, water and electricity from the list of taxable items in the GST. But of course, across-the-board application is always inefficient compared to means-testing.

In all our discussions i realised one thing, and that is, what on earth is the justification for taxation of any sort? To be more specific, why do citizens in a democratic country allow their governments to tax them? Most people think that because my government has the power to do so this ends the matter. Well, what if the government decides it is within their power to legalize murder? Some will say that taxation is there to finance public services and the salaries of public servants. Of course. But thats not close enough to the heart of the matter. We pay taxes so that the administration of the country may ensure that all citizens have basic needs, like healthcare, education and public transport. Taxation is about state intervention in the individual accumulation of private wealth, so that public needs are met for all in the community. The very idea of taxation is against the principle of a laissez faire free market economy.

Secondly, because taxation is state intervention in private wealth for the benefit of the larger public, it is always biased towards those with greater private wealth who may benefit the public most. In other words, the rich pay more because they have more to give, and the poor pay less because they have less to give. Thats also known as income tax. But wait a minute! thats not the case in indirect taxation..every one pays the 3 odd 4 percent in Singapore's GST or the 7 odd percent in the UK's VAT..why? fairness for all? but taxation as a concept can never be fair. Can fairness for all really mean everyone pays the same amount? You wouldnt think of getting someone in the lowest income bracket to pay 49% of tax, the same as the head of a billion dollar firm, in the interests of 'fairness', would you? In fact, to be fair means exactly the opposite, that not everyone pays the same amount of tax.

therefore, whats the end of the matter? the way that the majority of economists think about indirect taxation is wrong. As long as the phrase 'indirect taxation' contains the root word 'tax' and behaves like a tax, intervening in my private wealth on state orders for the benefit of the greater populace, well then, it has to be graduated for different income earners, shouldnt it? so Singapore, take my suggestion and implement one of the first three recommendations i gave above, or some combination of them, won't ya?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Animal Instinct in Me

My fav. Cranberries MTV! ever wondered why the road signs are all reversed? my theory is that justice is back to front..instead of protecting the innocent and helping a single mum care for and raise her two sons, the courts now punish the innocent and victimize the single parent, preventing her from caring for and raising them..the idea is that human justice always miscarries..i like that!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Dolores Oh Dolores

The haunting voice of Dolores O'Riordan haunts the moments before i drop off to sleep and in that in-between state before waking..God its at these times that i curse my not-being born Irish..stunning bodies and stunning brogue

Communicating the Gospel

as i sat through Bible Study last night, i gained some very interesting insights into what sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ involves. I had forgotten that Christians are indeed called to be signposts for Christ. we give true, clear, honest directions and we need to be noticed, but we're not drawing attention to ourselves, but rather, the message, in this case the cross of Christ.

also, i was convicted of a central reality that i'd not consiously articulated for 4 years in Australia: people are not conversion targets to look good on a list of statistics about my faith or my church. Instead i need to view people as long-term gospel relationships that are cultivated for the long (namely, eternal) view. This changes the way i relate to my non-Christian cousins, for instance. If i truly view them as long term gospel relationships, then i should visit them at Chinese New Year and seek to get to know them more, while presenting a christian view on the issues they face.

another thing i took away from last night's study was the fact that as Christians we often don't realise that behind the cutting, strange or defiant questions may indeed be deeper issues and deeper hurts that need to be addressed. Miss S related how people had asked her questions about sexuality and the Christian perspective which masked deeper issues that prevented them coming to the Cross. Only by getting to know people in long term gospel relationships can we bring out these issues and address them with the words and love of Christ.

Finally, i was challenged to think about the issue of contextualising the gospel for clarity and understanding amongst different groups. Here Eugene's example of christians in the part of the Philippines where some missionaries work and where he has visited strikes a deep chord. Do ask me in person about this sometime if you're interested because this public domain has limitations to what i want to speak about. Even so, i think we should distinguish between good and bad contextualisation. Contextualisation should never be done to encourage or pander to the sinfulness of human beings in a particular culture, and the prosperity gospel is one example of bad contextualisation, since it encourages human greed at worst and blurs our focus on an eternal destiny at best. But i will honesty admit, i'm still figuring this one out, as its a thorny issue.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

l'esprit d'escalier

The "spirit of the stair" its called. l'esprit d'escalier. imagine having an awkward conversation or a quarrel with someone and being tongue tied and not knowing what to say. Then as you're walking down the stairs on ya way to the coat rack you suddenly come up with this brilliant comeback or sarcastic comment you should have made that would surely have left the opposition at a loss for words and reeling in disarray, winning the match like Federer versus Davydenko at the Melbourne Open, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5.

i find that true for myself in many situations as well, even those of a non-confrontational nature. For instance, at the IMPACT Conference last week for fresh australian students trying to link up with churches and/or campus christian groups down under, i found myself tongue-tied at sudden moments when called upon to talk about my university or what Architecture as a course was like or even why prospective students coming over in June should consider Newcastle-upon-Antipodes instead of Sydney (that fantastic Con of a city) or Melbourne (2nd best Sydney). All i could come up with were some nervous jokes about Newcastle being more regional and scenic than the metropolitan cities which are great breeding grounds for vampires who hate the sun, and where rascism is open and above board rather than disguised and hypocritical. Better to get bashed in broad daylight than stabbed in the back at night right?

Or at Bible study last Friday when i should have said that the new Michael Morrow song i'd like to share was meaningful for the lines "His is the right to rule my life, mine is the joy to live for Him" and how contemporary christianity has man (specifically each me) as the centre of the universe, with God revolving around him, doing my bidding and at my beck and call whereas the New Testament is quite clear that Jesus Christ is the centre of the universe, with me at the periphery revolving around Him, to do His bidding and His calling. (at least, thats how the early church preached Christ). Like Tim Keller i want to see a Copernican Revolution in our view of God, life, and the meaning of existence and the best way to do it is from the ground up, in small Bible Study groups around the world.

Instead, all i said was i like this song because its very challenging for christians and because i think contemporary christian music doesn't challenge christians out of complacency enough. i know. Pathetic isn't it? The spirit of the stair strikes again.