The Value of Altriusm || Musings

So I remember quite clearly talking to my boss about the possibility of yours truly going to become a social service worker. She then mentioned that she found it difficult because the poor never seem to help themselves. And then I smiled and nodded.

To be honest, I have mused on this question for quite a while ever since an incident I like to call “the GP experiment”. Well, it wasn’t a true experiment but the idea was there. What happened was that at around the same time, a friend of mine and I got a large amount of online currency. How large was it? I got a sum equivalent to 300 USD worth of online currency and my friend got the same. The interesting thing was 1) our backgrounds and 2) how we spent the currency.

For 1), My friend is from the US but she is on disability. Her husband is unemployed so as you can tell, her family is not particularly well off. I am a student in Singapore from a upper-middle class family.

So what happened with me was that I was super happy. Yay! Finally capital that I can use to generate income. I started buying items that I knew I could not make a loss on and then reselling them. I estimate that I have made at least 50USD worth of online currency by that method in a few months, which is about a 15% ROR. Not too bad. I could’ve probably made more but I am a little conservative. On the other hand, my friend basically spent all her money. Of course, she got the deals when she could too, but she spent it on herself.

In other words, she sought instant gratification while I saw giving up certain items for a good amount of profit could prolong my use of the money.

So what has that got to do with our backgrounds though? I say this with the greatest sympathy, but I suspect that much of the difference in the way we handled the money is because of our backgrounds. I don’t blame her- if you had only $5 left a month, I suspect most of us wouldn’t even bother saving it, let alone invest it. My parents have long proclaimed the virtues of investment, so much so that I’ve even started to do it in an online game, where I can play with virtual currencies and losing doesn’t hurt as much. But more than that, I know the market so well I am unlikely, if ever, to turn a loss. Perhaps break even, yes. But it will be most unlikely that I’ll turn a loss.

So what does this have to do with -anything-?

Well, I guess I’m just an idealist in the end. I’m hoping that somehow I can become the change I want to see in this world. That as a social worker (or whatever I decide to become in the future), I can somehow equip people with the skills they need to effect change in their lives. I don’t think its easy though, given that I am privileged in ways that most people will never be. But hey, somehow has to do it somehow.

In other words, yes, the poor tend not to help themselves. But instead of making seem like the plague for not helping themselves, perhaps it is a lack of hope that causes them to be this way. And that is perfectly valid and takes time to change. And hope is a currency that perhaps is mainly the domain of people who have had everything in life.


Module Reviews || S2 2014-2015

So here are some of the modules that I took this year and my take on the lecturers. Please note that I have my own biases and that there are reasons that I may not have preferred a certain module/ a certain lecturer and I will try to cover that as comprehensively here as I possibly can.

HL4002: Major Author Study: Chaucer || Professor Walter Wadiak

Its Professor Wadiak who is taking this class so I am a fan since I really enjoy his style of teaching. And cmon, Chaucer is extremely interesting! 😉 That said, this module IS a lot of work (though not much different from Feminist Studies last term). The reason for this is because we have study questions every week, plus 2 presentations overall, one essay and exams. And you’ll be reading Chaucer in Middle English (not as much of a problem if you took HL 2001), so take note of that. I am inclined to think that this module requires slightly more work than the rest of the level 4000 modules but the difference is not as great as people make it out to be.

HZ9201: Creative Writing: Poetry || Professor Divya Victor

If you have the opportunity, do take this module especially if you are into experimental poetry. Professor Divya Victor selects really awesome and inventive readings and I found that it helped me become more creative, so to speak. I will not lie though, this module requires work as there are poetry prompts every week, three portfolio submissions and 2 event reviews. I would recommend that people who wish to take this module start early on the module reviews as finding poetry events became a chore later on in the year. Overall, I would recommend this module for students who are hoping to become more experimental with your writing. New writers may find this module intimidating but I think it will be worth it in the end.

HZ9204: Creative Writing: Playwriting || Jean Tay-Inn

I took this module because I wanted to try other genres of writing (since I write primarily short stories and poetry). As such, I found myself not as interested as I should have been in the writing exercises and such. Though there are exercises for scene setting, monologues and workshops for the plays, I feel that it was geared towards people who already had an idea of what to do (vs me who had no idea what to do. How do I write in a character? Should the play even be character driven? Can characters act as plot devices? What if I want to play with audience expectations?). As such, I would recommend this module for students who are already interested in playwriting

HL3031: Scottish Literature || Professor Richard Barlow

Whyy? Why is this module not popular?

I think this module is really great. Though the readings are a little dry in the beginning (I’m looking at you Waverley), it does get better and I think this module has some of the most intriguing readings of my time in NTU. It is also an interesting insight for those of you are interested in the conscious of a nation. This module also links to quite a few different areas of literary studies (including but not limited to) postcolonalism, modernism and postmodernism. Professor Barlow has also been quite supportive, though he has that little penchant for springing surprise quizzes (which resulted in me freaking out a little because I did not study). Anyway, I would recommend this module because I found that it was able to translate across different areas.

HP8003: Are You Ok? Mental Health in Singapore || Can’t remember I’m sorry Professor

I found this module really interesting (but this is because I have a prior interest in mental health). Covering most mental health problems in Singapore, you can expect to walk away from this module with a deeper understanding of the mental health landscape in Singapore. The Professor is also a practicing mental health professional (though he specialises in adolescent mental health) so he brings in real life examples which kinda humanifies the problem, if that makes sense. Would recommend for people who want to know more about mental health problems in Singapore.

So yes, this rounds out my review of modules for this semester! For those who actually read these reviews (are there even people?!), please note that next year I will be embarking on my FYP so I expect to only take two modules.