Bygones (should not just) be Bygones

“Why did you choose to travel to Germany?!” asked my family, friends, the Italian lady next to me on the plane, (three out of four of) my Airbnb hosts and the Munich immigration officer. History.

Personal Perspective.

History is and should be a science. It is not the accumulation of events of every kind which happened in the past. It is the science of human societies. – Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, French historian

Ever since my teens, peering into the depths of our yesteryears has always been more than just a hobby. I have always viewed history as a detailed psycho-analysis into how mankind exercised its prerogative. To me, history is a never-ending dialogue between the past and the present. It informs as much as it educates. At the risk of sounding pedantic, we need to recognize the distinction between knowing what happened, why something happened and how something happened. History does not just go away, its legacy does not just disappear. It needs to be confronted intentionally, its impact named and addressed.

Recent Retrospective.

I was privileged enough to travel to the luscious locales of Munich, Berlin and Dresden. However, it was in fact Nuremberg’s antiquities and historical juxtaposition that had the most profound impact on me. History celebrates triumphs and acknowledges failures. Nuremberg perfectly enshrines both such elements. During Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, Nuremberg was the heart of Nazi rule, home to Nazi leaders and his massive propaganda rallies. It was the birthplace of the horrific anti-Semitic whereby the international community came together to bring Nazi War criminals to justice for their war crimes against humanity. Nuremberg is a complicated concoction of both pride and shame.



I keep finding myself establishing the connection of one’s personal records to that of a location’s history. Imagine an adult named Nuremberg, who carries a shoplifting past as well as a stellar sports track record. There is strength in embracing both. Throughout this trip, I gained much insight as to how an entire race was not only marginalized, but eradicated. At the same time, I was heartened to know that people back then recognised the need to punish the heinous deeds committed.

Current Directive.

Coming back home and reading the news, I knew that there had to be a purpose to my self-indulgent escapade. Despite the aforementioned events in mankind’s recent history, every single day I am finding our society as divisive and fragmented as ever. From the #metoo and #Blacklivesmatter movement, to the Repeal 377A right here in Singapore, marginalization is still very much omnipresent. Call me idealistic. I believe in equality, and that our systems should constantly endeavor to reflect that. We owe it to ourselves. There is inherent value in everyone and marginalization disregards that. Increasing one’s value does not require the discounting of another’s.

Although my analogy may seem a tad bit extreme and granted Hitler was indeed charismatic, anyone hearing him profess the superiority of a race over another should have delved further and verified the veracity of such statements. Similarly, our media is corroding civil discourse, reinforcing prejudices and making public conversations more difficult. Cookies in websites let us see what we want to see. Therefore, it is our responsibility to read, learn and understand with our eyes and ears wide open, in order to prevent the subtle creation of inbuilt bias and unintentional discrimination.

History is a double-edged sword, serving as a reminder as to how wrong we have gone and how great we can be. As wholeheartedly as I am embracing the strides that have been made, from (the elimination of) racial segregation to the voting rights being apportioned across all genders and races, I am just as strongly making this assertion – We cannot and should not go back to what was. Let us keep striving to be better and do better.





Minimalism Unpacked

What images pop into your head when you think of ‘Minimalism´? For me, as I am sure for many others, it is a scantily furnished house or a person presenting a closet that only has a few articles of clothing. Before tossing in my two cents worth, let me bring you through (what I understand to be) the basics of this lifestyle phenomenon known as Minimalism.



The What.

Minimalism is a denouncing of consumer culture and society’s obsession with having and owning more. As the spokespersons  at the forefront of the resurgence of this movement, the aptly named The Minimalists present it this way – ‘(Minimalism is) a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favour of focusing on what’s important, so that you can find happiness, fulfilment and freedomit’s using simple tools, having a simple wardrobe, carrying little and living lightly.” Put simply, figuring out what matters to you by only keeping your essentials, achieving greater clarity and subsequently personal happiness as a result.

Minimalism is as much as process as it is a lifestyle, there are no hard and fast rules and how one chooses to practice it can be best described as being on a spectrum. On one end, practicing minimalism in the strictest sense would mean living life devoid of the passion to possess. On the other end, one could look at everything he possesses and perhaps due to his sentimental and/or utilitarian nature (or hoarding tendencies) everything has a value or a use. To him, everything is deemed essential to him but that does not make him less of a minimalist.

However, there is an unspoken presumption – constantly owning more will not bring you happiness. It is recognised that individuals who turn to Minimalism are unhappy or not as happy as they would like to be, despite owning what they own. However, something must be said for those who have worked hard and see their ability to own branded goods, properties, cars and the like as a direct reflection of their hard work and success in providing for themselves or their family, which in turn brings them happiness. In short, the fundamental idea that owning more cannot bring you happiness (which is repeated to no end in articles and documentaries) is merely a presumption, and not a universal objective truth.

My Few Cents’ Worth.


What I find troubling is the overemphasis on owning less, or should I say, as little as possible. At least that is what social media is portraying Minimalism to be. There has been an upshot in videos and articles by self-proclaimed minimalists, ‘showing off’ how little they own. This is misleading. Owning little or less is more often than not, the likely result of one pursuing a Minimalist lifestyle, although it is acknowledged that one’s number of possessions could be a gauge of the impact of Minimalism in one’s life and does provide one with somewhat of an instant gratification. Personally, I find this a consequence of the cultural behemoth that is social media, exacerbating one’s need to show off and receive affirmation from others. Silly as it may sound, we do not get a trophy for owning less than someone else. One’s approach to Minimalism cannot be taken wholesale and applied on another person. Do not let the quantity of your essential possessions be an indicator of how ‘successful’ you are should you choose to apply minimalism to your life.

If Minimalism is predicated around the removing of the superfluous in your life, why is it so laser-focussed on physical goods and not extended to people? Granted, I am someone with a low social battery. I fully support a variant of minimalism whereby distant acquaintances or negative individuals should be removed from one’s life. Personally, I believe that this would be that much more effective in helping one attain emotional clarity.  On the other side of the coin, physical goods are passive, and Minimalism arguably serves as a reminder that their presence in one’s life brings no further value, utility or happiness. People, on the other hand, have the keen innate ability to expressly showcase its negative presence in one’s life. No reminders are needed.

Another element of Minimalism that I struggle with is the direct correlation between clearing one’s excess possessions/ one’s lowered passion to possess and one having a clearer, freer schedule. Most people have day jobs, family and many other extraneous obligations that keep us occupied. Minimalism cannot be viewed in a vacuum, that would mean it is both impractical and unrealistic. Unless you habitually seek retail therapy a few hours a day, I am simply unable to understand how clearing possessions and shopping considerably less can have a noticeable impact on one’s schedule.

Is It For You?

Let me be clear, I have nothing against Minimalism. In fact, when I look at my wardrobe and the amount of memorabilia piling up in my room, it is obvious that I am holding on to things that I do not necessarily need. However, the cynical realist in me does not believe that minimalism guarantees one personal happiness. It merely helps one to reassess priorities and primes one to explore as many personal sources of happiness as possible. Happiness is not a device that can simply be switched on and off.

Cheesy as it may seem, Minimalism is just another lens in our never-ending pursuit of happiness – a recurrent overarching theme that would no doubt pervade my future writings. More importantly, when embarking on such endeavours, manage your expectations, exercise your prerogative and be aware of the perimeters of the information being presented to you.

‘Do what makes you happy.’ To do what makes you happy, you need to first find out what makes you happy. Perhaps Minimalism is the preliminary step to that phrase.