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Step into others’ shoes if you want others to step into yours – A response to Jaxe Pan

Juxe Pan's follow up

Jaxe Pan’s letter from HDB

It is not unknown knowledge that there are differentiating criteria (income ceiling; citizenship vs non-citizenship; first time applicants vs second time applicants) with regards to public housing – because of its high demand yet limited supply. These differentiating criteria are there precisely to prevent abuse e.g. foreigners making quick profits at local’s expense; and to prioritize what the state wishes to promote.

Marriage and a family nucleus made up of a father and mother is promoted, as it is in the interest of the state to provide the best child rearing environment for the well-being of a child.

That said, the state has not left out the singles, or the unmarried-parent-and-child-unit totally. HDB’s provisions for them are that they should be eligible for public housing when they hit 35 years of age. According to HDB’s website, single families who are widowed, divorced or separated are allowed to purchase a flat under the public scheme. Generally, this seems like a fair criteria.

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We have to understand that any system with a set of differentiating criteria is probably never perfect, but it is necessary. Hence, within the system, concessions for appeal should be allowed. There are special situations I can think of, such as in the case of an unmarried-single family where the parent is a victim, rather than a perpetrator of the “unmarried situation”. He or she has totally no responsibility for contributing to the “unmarried situation” – one which the state has no wish of promoting to all children and families (understandably so!). For such cases, I would believe that an appeal is worth the state’s consideration and assessment for concession.

Currently, there are avenues of appeal, such as writing directly to HDB, seeing MP’s help, or writing to Minister Khaw Boon Wah himself.

I wish I know of Jaxe Pan’s situation fully. Perhaps if I did, I might be writing on her behalf now. But I don’t. Hence, I refrain from commenting on whether she should, or she should not deserve HDB’s concession. Some comments have been quick to call HDB’s letter rejecting her application for a flat unjust. At the current moment, this is still unproven.

However, I did find the way she had pushed for her issue wanting. In fact, I find it suspiciously political in nature.

Jaxe Pan’s situation first became known when she took it upon herself and her daughter to create this meme which went viral on the internet, during the heat of the NLB saga.

Juxe Pan's photo

When you consider the context of the debate at which this meme appeared, it feels rather abrupt and uncalled for. At that time, the crux of the debate was whether the children’s section of the library should contain books with homosexuality themes. Most people felt that such themes are not appropriate for children, hence, the library should leave such books out of children’s reach. This is an objective point and a legitimate concern.

However, the countering camp obscured such concerns regarding the promotion of homosexuality. They argued mainly under the guise that because “such families exist”, allowing such books would help children “recognize reality” and “love others different from them”. (I am leaving the part where the issue was sensationalized as a “witch-hunting, if-they-burn-books-they-will-burn-people” rhetoric out for another day.)

I thought that it was strange to observe a debate in such disconnecting fashion. Firstly, it was hardly anyone’s intention to not want to recognize “reality”. Secondly, I don’t think anyone is promoting the idea that “one should not love others different from them”.

Even when most Singaporeans do not agree with same-sex marriage, we are aware of the reality that we might see same-sex families on our shores. When that happens, it does not mean that our disagreement will neutralize our humane ability to treat individuals with basic regard and courteous respect. To argue for such a point is to completely side-step the crux of the issue and distract us from the main concern – that homosexuality will be promoted to children.

Till today, I have noticed that none of those points central to the problem of promoting homosexuality have been addressed in the NLB debate.

Therefore, to have Jaxe Pan suddenly come in to address Minister Yaacob Ibrahim by posting her “single family” story on Facebook was abrupt and puzzling.

In the same breadth, Jaxe Pan lumped the existence of single families with same-sex families. It gives the impression that single families have been hated and therefore blotted out by society. Now this is certain to raise emotions. If it is true, it is certainly a big concern for everyone. Singaporeans do generally care – Jaxe’s meme was shared more than 7000 times. But then, by lumping single families together with same-sex families, suddenly, an insinuation seemed to brew – if anyone solely supports the one man, one woman family, they are not just haters of same-sex families, but of single families as well.

This brought about a number of responses from the public. Many felt offended that single families are needlessly put under the spotlight of the homosexuality debate. However, most surprisingly, it was those from single families who spoke out the loudest. Some wrote to clear the air of misunderstanding brought about by Jaxe’s insinuating meme. Some called her message cunning or misleading. There are even those who felt insulted that their “natural” single family is now placed under the same category with “unnatural” same-sex families – no thanks to Jaxe’s prerogative. A blogger’s post objecting Jaxe’s argument was shared more than 1000 times on facebook – he comes from a single family as well. A countering meme from Singaporeans United for Family then went around, explaining the problem with Jaxe’s meme, but affirming single families that they are accepted and loved at the same time.

Dear mum and daughter-1
Remember originally, in the NLB saga, the concerns of promoting homosexuality to children were already obscured under the pretence of “same-sex families exist”. It distracted the public from the real issue, and pushed for the idea that because same-sex families exist, reality trumps concerns about homosexuality.

Then, with Jaxe Pan’s meme, the concerns of homosexuality are further obscured under an additional layer – “single families are hated by supporters of natural family structures”.

How can genuine concerns about homosexuality ever be discussed then? Steering the debate away from the main issue and politicising it into a “if you don’t support same-sex marriage, you must be a hater of single-families” is most illogical, abrupt and puzzling. Isn’t it?

Therefore, in Jaxe’s latest FB posting about how HDB and everyone who promotes the family nucleus discriminates against her, I felt she has overdone it. She not only called those who have tried to reassure her of their support for single families – including members of single family themselves – ignorant and hypocritical; she also reaffirmed my suspicion that she has a political agenda, and is sharing her plight not to support “single-families”, but to politicize it to undermine the family:

“I had enough of this “I want to promote the nucleus family but I still admire the single family” nonsense. It is at best ignorant, at worse hypocritical, and insufferable when these people start waving the I-am-also-from-a-single-family card in my face.”

I’ll give them the benefit of doubt that it is ignorance, so here are some facts –

Precisely because we promote the nucleus family above all others, our policies become discriminatory towards those who do not conform…”

– Jaxe Pan

In defense of the many well-intentioned people, I wish to highlight to Jaxe that it was her who first waved her flag very publicly and politically, which incurred a response from many who had meaningfully reassured single families like hers. Had she not done so to stir such public interest, would anyone have responded and be named-called and labelled ignorant or hypocritical? Jaxe could not appreciate this, nor the fact that it was her who kept the public ignorant by not disclosing her “unmarried-single-family” situation. Should she now blame others for it? People were clueless about your status Jaxe, not hypocritical. Had you been forthright about your family situation, they might have had more insight into your circumstance.

So now, with another wave of flag that gives us slightly more details to her family and housing situation, she has damned everyone who stands on the side of believing that it is good for the state to promote a natural family unit and marriage.

Once again, the Trojan horse of “hate against me, against LGBTs, against families” is pushed, to sensationalize and stir sentiments from a compassionate public, so as to get society to simply discard the whole debate about the concerns of homosexuality. I can feel for Jaxe’s situation, but I cannot agree with her methods, and the statements she threw at others. Perhaps, Jaxe should also practice what she advocates. She can put herself in the shoes of others to understand them – she has not been the only one who felt, in her own word, insufferable. Maybe then, she wouldn’t be accusing HDB and others of discriminating against her, but would understand the obvious need of a differentiating set of criteria. This would perhaps enable her to ask for more benefits in a legitimate, non-insinuating, non-confrontational way.

In principle, while I believe society should respond to those in crisis, the world does not revolve around individuals, even those who are in unfortunate situations. Quite frankly, every individual and family has their own set of problems. If we demand society to save us all, or for everyone else to change at their expense for our benefit, when will we ever learn to be responsible for the natural consequences that come with the choices we make with our own will? Does anyone really believe that an individual’s right should incautiously overhaul all of public good?

If Jaxe Pan had not politicised this as a LGBT rights issue, but approached the public forthrightly from the start, seeking help for her plight by sharing necessary details about her situation and approaching this matter legitimately, her efforts to fight for her and her child’s welfare might be better supported by Singaporeans across the various sectors, including me. But since this advertising industry professional seems to be after a political agenda that is against natural families and marriage, and even against other single families, I can hardly agree with her – especially her calculated, political campaigns.

Discussion

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