Sunday 8 January 2012

'God of Fortune gives as much hope as your lovely chubby Santa Claus'

To recap, last year, a colleague showed my photo to a fengshui expert to read my fortune based on my face and birthdate.

Among other things, the fengshui guy said that I “can be too candid with his thoughts and words, and could offend others without realising it”.

Consequently, to remedy this, I sought to change my face (since I can’t change my birthdate) by surgically removing two facial moles.

It didn’t do me any good because after that, I still offended people without realising it.

For example, last month, after Comfort DelGro announced its taxi fare hike, I wrote a column criticising cabbies for not picking up passengers. You would think this was a pretty safe topic.

To my amazement, an offended reader actually wrote in to defend taxi drivers. And he claimed not to be a taxi driver himself. He just takes cabs “very often”.

Although to be fair to the reader, it was suggested in the column that errant cabbies should be caned. It was a joke! Okay, maybe half a joke.

But that was nothing compared to the long angry e-mail I received condemning last Sunday’s column about why I like Christmas better than Chinese New Year (CNY).

How long was the e-mail? It was longer than the column itself.

The e-mail writer said: “I am sure that we all have our own preferred festivals ...but that does not give anyone of us any right to belittle the ones that we may not prefer.”

Consider me chastened and contrite.

But I would like to address a few issues raised in the e-mail.

I said in the column that I like Christmas better than CNY because I don't have to visit relatives on Christmas Day. The writer argued that “for those who truly celebrate Christmas, they do visit friends and relatives”.

But my point was that I don’t celebrate Christmas (truly or otherwise) and I don’t visit relatives on the day - and that’s what I like about it.

I also said that Santa Claus seems less creepy than the God of Fortune.

In defence of the latter, the writer wrote: “Without going into religious issues, this God of Fortune... gives as much hope to everyone over the whole world who celebrates CNY as your lovely chubby Santa Claus...

“I would think that you should perhaps offer more respect, sensitivity and perhaps a bit of sensibility... than to use 'creepy' to describe this deity worshipped by billions.”

First, I don’t think Santa is lovely. He’s just less creepy, being a housebreaker who maybe likes children a little too much. (Please, Santa worshippers, don’t write in to complain.)

Second, I apologise. My mistake was that I thought God of Fortune was a mythological figure like Thor, the Thunder God, who pines for Natalie Portman; Zeus, ruler of the Olympian gods, who gets to say “Release the Kraken!”; and of course, Santa Claus. (Yes, Virginia, Santa is a myth.)

All I know about the God of Fortune is that there will be a giant cartoon figure of him throwing out shiny stuff at the River Hongbao every year.

Oh, and some guy dressed up as the God of Fortune at last year’s The New Paper Big Walk. Now he looked creepy.

I also pointed out facetiously though accurately in the column that bak kwa is more expensive during CNY.

The writer countered: “Isn’t this how the commercial world works now? Have you tried campaigning for cheaper roses during Valentine’s Day?"

But I’m not campaigning for or against anything. It’s not like I’m demonstrating at Hong Lim Park for the CEO of Chinese New Year to resign.

I’m just trying to write a funny column without offending (too many) people (that much).

The juggernaut that is CNY will survive my little jibes, me, my children and my children’s great-great-grandchildren with nary a scratch.

While I imagined myself as giving voice to the captive minority like me who feel besieged by the trappings of CNY, I realise now that the underlying message of intolerance is wrong and should not be... uh, tolerated.

Well, I have one more mole on my face I can get rid off.

- Published in The New Paper, 8 January 2012


Hi Mr Ong

may I offer a suggestion if you want to change your features. Get rid of the facial hair and you'll be surprised by the results.

Like Luis Suarez say, in my country its ok to call a person *****. The lesson here is to be sensitive. We live in a multi cultural country. Tolerance tolerance tolerance.


Hi SM Ong

I'm an regular reader of your Sunday column, in fact it's one of the sections I look forward to when I flip open the New Paper on sunday:)

For one, I'm also a Yew Tee resident (which my friends and i affectionately call it the Yew Tee village simply 'cos there's just way too many ppl in one concentrated area served by only 1 bus) and i'm one of those who prefer X'mas to CNY (by a long shot) given any year.

The email writer u mentioned in your column today was obviously looking at the wrong places if he/she is looking for views that take into account all the sensitivity and sensibility of every possible person on this planet.

I appreciate that you 'say it as it is' and that not all views that come to print must be 'correct', politically, socially or otherwise. Kudos to that!

Looking forward to your columns... :)


Hi Mr SM Ong,

I was really tickled by your column on Sun 8 Jan. It was truly a glib comeback in response to the letter-writer who felt you were insensitive in dissing Chinese New Year. You had, with one fell swoop, adroitly turned the irate letter into fodder for your new column!

Yours is, after all, as you rightly asserted, "a funny column" intended to provide comic relief and perhaps make a wry dig at how we Singaporeans observe certain customs and practices.

I for one share your sentiment about the discordant "tong, tong tong chiang" of Chinese New Year ditties with their over-materialistic lyrics of making more money in the coming year. That however doesn't mean I am against the spirit of celebrating the lunar new year per se.

Santa Claus and the God of Fortune signify different things to different people and should remain so. Non-Taoists who do not worship Cai Shen should moreover be allowed the liberty not to venerate the deity in the same way as believers do.

I believe most readers did not take umbrage at your facetious comparisons between Christmas and CNY and know for a fact that your comments are not the rantings of a bigot.

Do keep those laugh-out-loud articles coming and leave that additional mole of yours alone...your contrition is superfluous.

marietta koh