Michael Schwartz, professor of sociology and author of War Without End, discusses his TomDispatch article “The Great Game in the Holy Land: How Gazan Natural Gas Became the Epicenter of An International Power Struggle.”

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  • Found this cool write-up on living in Singapore: Would most Americans enjoy living in the Singapore that was governed by Lee Kuan Yew? by Jeannette Arrowood I’m an American, and my boyfriend and I have been living in Singapore for about 8 months. We love: The weather – summer never ends! Yes, it’s hot, but there are pools to swim in, air conditioning, and a hammock to sway in. If you open all the doors where you live and the breeze is good, oh man is it good. And the rain is just like being in the Caribbean. Less outwardly hostile racism as we know it and experience it (in direct comparison to our experience in the us) – my boyfriend isn’t worried the police are going to shoot him or shake him down every time we go outside, and I don’t worry when he goes out the door to work in the morning that someone will shoot him if he has to knock on their door for an emergency or if he’s sitting in a park playing with a squirt gun or just … walking down the street. Our standard of living – our experience is great, but we also live in a condo, which is not how the average Singaporean lives. We have a pool and a gym and like 10 different places to cook and eat outside. It’s like living in a playground. We are very aware that our condo here is actually much “fancier” than our little blue house back home. Also, I’ve been to a few hdb flats here (which is how I understand the average Singaporean lives) and it is far cleaner and better maintained than what we call public housing in the us. Like anywhere, there are grey areas and people’s culture change the way they live. People here often live with their extended families and they have helpers they are often from entirely different countries that live with them. Everyone’s standard will be different depending on where you were born and grew up, and most of the expats I’ve met living in condo playgrounds have agreed with me that our condos have bells and whistles above and beyond anything we experienced living back home. My point is that when you live where you’ve grown up and where your family lives, your living situation will likely be very different. Here we didn’t have to think about how far we are from my mother or friends when we chose a place to live. But that would be a big driver for the average Singaporean who is undoubtedly spending less than we are and probably living closer to where they grew up. I’d do the same thing if I grew up here. Going out and eating / shopping – we have so so many friends here. We often can’t decide which bars to go to, which restaurants to go to, which hawker stalls to eat out and which invitations to accept. Example: last weekend we did a boat cruise with a bbq, and the next day there was a small version of Carnival with rum, big costumes, music, dancers and all the jerk chicken you could eat. This weekend: we went out for phenomenal steak for my boyfriend’s birthday and last night went for drinks at a bar with awesome 90’s hip hop playing. Today we’ll go to Spanish brunch and then to the butcher to get fresh meat. On the point of cost and shopping, the prices for things I would’ve bought in the us and on Amazon previously do make my eyes bug out of my head. But iherb is awesome, and not buying everything online anymore gets me out hunting for things and I discover other stuff along the way. Alcohol is way expensive, however. The good side is, I drink less. 🙂 Public transportation and taxis – having lived in NYC for years, the cleanness and smoothness of the public transport system here always amazes me. Yes it’s full of people most of the time, but I’ve been on much more packed, late and loud trains in NYC than I ever have here. You can actually unwind in silence on the train if you want cause there’s no “showtime!” The taxis are also extremely affordable and abundant. There are great apps to help you book them, too. Love taxi uncles (and the occasional aunties!) The people – I have experienced a lot of kindness and laughter and get a ton of hugs and feel openness. I am sitting here thinking about all of my dear Singaporean friends and all the singlish (hah) and some of the hokkien they’ve taught me and all the fun we’ve had together so far. When I first got here, I was “adopted” by a friend I met at a creative professionals night out who has taken me to do lots of traditional Singaporean things and introduced me to loads of people I wouldn’t have otherwise known. One of her friends, who had Met me only once at a brunch invited me to dinner at her home. There are so many friendly, smart and creative young people here. Like anywhere, not everyone is like this, but I want to point out that there are loads of people in the us who are insular and don’t break rank. My experience with friends here has been hugely positive. I will cry buckets the day we inevitably have to move on. Work life – love my job. I work in the tech industry, and I wouldn’t poo poo it completely here. No, it’s not Silicon Valley and doesn’t have that vibe. It’s a different place and the country has been around 50 years, so this is NOT a fair comparison. On the digital marketing side, there is some great stuff going on here. And I’d say give it some more time. If you think about the magnitude of how quickly and how well business has been established in Singapore it’ll blow your socks off. The things they’ve achieved and with so many very different people all coming together to cooperate throughout it all – it’s just extraordinary. Art and culture – I’ve met extraordinarily talented Singaporean artists, there’s a growing art scene, and no, it’s not New York, but there are some very, very brave people here. Again – the country has been here only 50 years and there are lots of people who still likely look back to their original roots for their cultural cues. But the melting pot of culture here is fascinating. Think about why language is used how it is, why food that is clearly a mashup is the way it is, and think about all the people who looked and believed in wildly different religions have come together. I think we must give the next generation, who is the true melting pot, the time to develop more before we send in the judges. For example: Watching the bike culture grow is awesome. We joke about so much about places in the world being “peak Brooklyn.” We are ageing hipsters that spent our 20’s growing up in Brooklyn (hah), but it’s cool to see younger people trying on things that are much different from their parent’s style and doing it with panache. We are all products of our experience and I think, given time, we will see more growth in the arts side, given all the culture that has come together in Singapore. Outside of all of these points, Singapore is not America. And if anyone moved here thinking they could replicate the life they have back home they’d probably not be happy. Our life here looks like our life back home and then again, of course in so many ways it doesn’t. I used to love a farmer’s market. Well they have wet markets here. I used to love a Sunday brunch – Singaporeans have this meal DOWN. I love a family dinner with lots of different meals – queue hawker center! I love outdoor activities – oh I think I’ll go ride my bike up and down east coast parkway or go walk the macritchie trail or Henderson waves. It’s not my original home, but I have memories here already, and it’s home for now. A gracious one that’s opened its arms to me, even though I’m from 12 time zones away. I love Singapore!

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