Saturday, July 30, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Jul 23, 2011
'I've no God - and am proud of it'
Humanist Society grows as more who don't believe in a God seek like-minded people
Humanist Society president Paul Tobin (left, seated) with his children Elizabeth, three, and William, four, and wife Jacqueline, at a gathering of humanists on Thursday evening at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
A GROWING number of people here who do not believe in a God have banded together, determined to be unapologetic about being non-religious.
Registered as the Humanist Society (Singapore) last October, their ranks have since expanded from 10 to 100 registered, fee-paying members.
Their backgrounds are as diverse as their reasons for not professing a faith, but they are united by their belief that morality comes from humanity itself.
Calling themselves 'secular humanists', they are also united in their rejection of a theistic or supernatural explanation of reality, and their embracing of scientific inquiry.
Today is a red-letter day: The society presents its inaugural Humanist of the Year award to author Catherine Lim.
Another recent milestone was the society's application to join the International Humanist and Ethical Union, a European body of humanist societies around the world.
The humanists here include artists, government officials, students and entrepreneurs. The youngest member is 19 and the oldest, 65.
Most describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, though some eschew labels. Others are adamantly definitive. Take Nanyang Technological University student Eugene Tay, 24, who declares: 'I'm an atheist-agnostic secular humanist.'
Statistically, the proportion of people here with no religion has climbed steadily in the last 30 years - from 13 per cent in 1980 to 17 per cent last year.
Since non-believers have no church, temple or mosque to go to, they have carved out their space online.
The founding members of the Humanist Society came together in 2008, through www.meetup.com, a social networking website.
The online group they formed has more than 500 members.
Since it was set up, the society has cast itself as the voice for the non-religious here. Its president Paul Tobin, 46, wrote to The Straits Times' Forum page last December, in response to a report that suggested that non-religious young people were prone to violence and cynicism. In his letter, he rejected the claim and concluded: 'One does not need to have a religion to lead a good, happy and meaningful life.'
He told The Straits Times: 'That was a watershed moment. After that letter, our numbers shot up. I feel now that we have a say in what goes on in Singapore.'
Land surveyor Loh Kwek Leong, 58, who learnt of the society through this newspaper last year, said he grew up in a typical Chinese household - one that was 'a bit Taoist, a bit Buddhist, a lot superstitious'.
As an adult, he found putting his faith in science better. He said: 'The questions I had about the world, about life and death - I found my answers in science, not religion.'
The group pulls together because of a shared sense of being alone in a society where four in five people profess to believe in a Supreme Being.
Communications manager Winston Chong, 36, who said he has philosophical debates with his parents, who are religious, said: 'It's about time we had a group for ourselves. I've been waiting for this, to find like-minded people.'
As a recipient of the society's award, Dr Lim joins a list of internationally honoured humanists, including astronomer Carl Sagan and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.
Asked for her take on religion, she replied via e-mail: 'I suppose if I had a religion, it would be the 'religion of humanity', based on confidence in the indomitability of the human spirit. I would rather have faith, than a faith.'
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Jul 18, 2011
Catering to the elderly, and not just the young
Firms should invest in marketing to seniors too as the population ages
WAY back when I wanted to buy a laptop for myself, I decided to buy an Apple model. Much of that decision was based on the fact that the Apple computer was far more ergonomic and easier to manoeuvre than other brands.
Then, when my mother got one after she saw mine, she was surprised at the ease with which she could navigate Apple's user interface. When she'd get confused by a problem, she'd just surf onto Google and find out what she needed.
Her church friends - and of course, us children - thought she was extremely savvy and decided to nickname her 'iPat' before iPads even came out.
Product marketing, as opposed to niche marketing, is precisely the approach companies should take, says Mr Kim Walker. The 56-year-old chief executive of the Silver Group has held various positions in Asia-Pacific marketing and media companies.
It occurred to him one day that companies that invest in too 'niche' a market are, by definition, cutting themselves out of that larger majority market.
What made him sit up and take notice was the World Population Ageing report issued by the United Nations. It had said: 'Population ageing is unprecedented, without parallel in human history.'
As a marketing consultant, it was a statement that had him flummoxed. If it were true, shouldn't companies be widening their catchment net to include the older baby boomers, and not just concentrate on Generation Y?
So he's been studying marketing and its effects on baby boomers - quite the opposite from the approach of most marketers, who invest a lot in reaching out to Generation Y though viral marketing.
However, a small number of companies have no difficulty appealing to the elderly, and direct their efforts at reaching the young instead.
For example, Brand's Essence of Chicken recently launched an advertising campaign geared towards engaging youth. Its brand, admits Ms Geetha Balakrishna, the general manager of Cerebos Pacific, which owns the brand, tends to be skewed towards older folk.
After getting submissions for a 30-second television commercial, it finally decided on a campaign that tested people's mental alertness. Apart from the usual posters at bus stops or in retail spaces, the outreach effort set out to engage the younger generation - including the setting up of a Facebook page that allows users to play a game to test their mental alertness. It also got the help of 60 local bloggers to take its whole campaign to the digital space.
Said Ms Balakrishna: 'Through these efforts, we hope the next generation grows up with us the way their parents have.'
According to Mr Walker, however, segmenting customers into demographics might not be the best method.
He explained: 'Investing in shares of companies that boast 'age-friendly' business lines may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make money from this booming opportunity.'
According to his research, the number of people in Asia above 60 years of age is expected to be 1.2 billion by 2050. They will control 80 per cent of personal financial assets and more than 50 per cent of discretionary spending power. In fact, they will be responsible for more than half of all consumer spending, and it is said they will amass an estimated wealth of $11 trillion in the Asia-Pacific alone.
Bringing home the concept of 'age-friendly' businesses to Singapore, he identified Osim. Said Mr Walker: 'Its massage chairs were naturally geared to the more mature crowd, but it has gone out of its way to project its 'ageless' culture. Anyone can use its chairs.'
SMRT Corp is another 'age-friendly' company. He pointed out that some train stations have benches with arms at the side to help the elderly stand or sit easily.
'It's these little things that make the customer experience friendly for older customers.'
The reason it is important to be 'age-friendly', Mr Walker said, is that the baby boomers of today are going to be around for quite a while. Ignoring this universal phenomenon would be a big mistake on the part of companies, as the current members of Generation X get older, while Generation Y numbers start to fall.
'This is so important, not just in Asia but across the globe. Currently, in the United States, for example, there are more people under 65 than people under 20. The problem is very few companies are aware of this,' he said.
Returning to Apple as an 'age-friendly' company, he said the clarity of its website, the clean design of its stores and advertising that focuses on the product, and not a person, all goes towards an 'age-friendly' environment.
Going through his wishlist, he added: 'All it needs is a few older sales people and maybe some chairs for the older people to rest.'