“Yawning Bread” – a blog I have followed since 2000

In my blog roll updated June 2008 there are quite a few no longer out there or no longer active, but Yawning Bread powers on:

  • Yawning Bread — (Au Waipang) in Singapore has one of the oldest blogs around: over ten years now. While Singapore and GLBT issues predominate, the net cast by his regular “essays” goes much wider. “Yawning Bread” really is an erudite blog but beautifully conversational, inspired me to do this one (and its predecessors), and continues to reward regular visits.

Except now the active part is Yawning Bread on WordPress.


Au Waipang (Yawning Bread) in 2006

I first discovered Yawning Bread when it wasn’t called a blog. Rather it was a website with “essays” and was on Geocities. You can find an archive of what I found there, dating from 1996 to 2006, here. I see the very first essay is dated October 1996. Soon Yawning Bread (the blog) will be 20 years old. That must make it one of the oldest blogs still going.

It’s generally recognized that the first blog was Links.net, created by Justin Hall, while he was a Swarthmore College student in 1994. Of course, at that time they weren’t called blogs, and he just referred to it as his personal homepage.

It wasn’t until 1997 that the term “weblog” was coined. The word’s creation has been attributed to Jorn Barger, of the influential early blog Robot Wisdom. The term was created to reflect the process of “logging the web” as he browsed.

See also Au Waipang’s 1996 self-introduction.

Many of the articles here in Yawning Bread are either about gay issues, or at least tangentially touch on homosexuality.

Few people who are heterosexual can fully understand what it means to be gay and why homophobia exercises us so much.

To be gay is to grow up and live in a cage made of people’s put-downs, ignorant labels, derisive jokes, outright ranting and explicit laws. We see exclusions everywhere we look – in family traditions, employee benefits, in army service, in job promotion. We see hate scrawled everywhere – on posting boards, religious sermons, even in parents’ letters to far-off sons and daughters.

We hear silence when the censors have flicked the switch. Silence again when, even when our parents know we’re gay, they don’t have a good word to say about it. And more silence when we see so many others in our city who are clearly homosexual gag themselves for fear of exposure. But worst of all, we too often hear silence from our own lips, surrendering away our very own dignity.

The cage often looks inescapable. And we wonder sometimes if it may be wiser to just bear it all to our dying day, and take our fears, frustrations and futile hopes with us to our graves.

But some of us can’t do that. I can’t. If I did, all my parents’ and teachers’ efforts would have been in vain. I can do them no greater honour than to keep speaking about humanity over hypocrisy, honesty over hype.

And  Wikipedia:

In July 2012, the attorney general’s chambers wrote to Alex Au, now a prominent blogger and gay rights activist, demanding that he take down and apologize for a June 2012 post in his Yawning Bread blog that criticized the judiciary for showing deference to the executive. Au promptly removed the post.

In October 2014, Senior State Counsel Tai Wei Shyong, acting for the attorney-general, urged the High Court to hold Au in contempt of court for two Yawning Bread articles that made it seem that there is a “systemic bias” in Singapore’s judiciary against cases involving homosexuality. In his defence, Au’s lawyers, Peter Low and Choo Zheng Xi, accused the AG of being “trigger-happy” in taking their client to court on “imputation, innuendo and insinuation”.

On 22 January 2015, Au was held to be guilty of scandalising the court in respect of one of his two Yawning Bread articles, and cleared of the 2nd charge. The Court of Appeal threw out his appeal on 1 December 2015.

And Bloomberg November 2013:

Singapore blogger Alex Au Wai Pang faces possible contempt of court action for writing and posting articles that the Attorney General’s Chambers said “scandalize” the country’s judiciary.

An Oct. 5 article insinuates there was a plan to manipulate hearing dates on a challenge to the constitutionality of Singapore’s ban on homosexual sex, according to papers filed by the attorney general’s office in the Singapore High Court.

Au is also in contempt by publishing a second article where he alleged the court made an “erroneous” decision in an employment complaint where a gay man claimed he was unfairly treated, the attorney general’s office said in its court filings. Au intends to contest the contempt accusations…

All that intro because the latest post in Yawning Bread is an absolute must read: The gay issue in Malaysia and Indonesia as a window into the civilisational crisis of the Islamic world. (Beware: approx 3,500 words.)

LGBT Malaysians are unlikely to see a significantly better situation in their country for at least two decades, quite possibly not in their lifetimes. Meanwhile, LGBT Indonesians are facing unexpectedly chilly headwinds, and things will get worse before they get better. To understand why, it is important to see that the issue has nothing to do with sexual orientation or gender identity. These individuals and their lives are collateral damage from a much bigger event that is going on: a long collapse in civilisational Islam.

Civilisational cycles are centuries in the making; that is why the short- to medium-term outlook is so bleak…

… It would be very tempting for one to speak of this as some kind of broad inter-devotional conflict, but I doubt if religion itself is central to the matter, or that it sufficiently explains the attitudes and actions we have seen. To merely describe it as religiously-driven would be too reductive. I think we can understand it better when we see it as an entire civilisation in crisis.

I am immediately aware that we can slice civilisations in multiple ways. Even in the Middle East, the Egyptian civilisation is quite different from that of the Levant and from that of Arabia (and Yemen is distinct too), let alone those of non-Arab speaking peoples such as the Persians and Turks. Malays and Indonesians are even more removed. But one can also speak of a broad Islamic civilisation, and at least to the degree that Malays and Indonesians base a large part of their constructed identities upon Islam and what they import from the Middle East, they are part of that Islamic civilisational world. The crises that afflict the Middle East impact and shape their identities too. If they detect parallels between their social, economic or strategic situation with the countries in the Middle East, it will be easy to feel common cause….

That just gives a taste of the quality of argument and writing that Au Waipang brings to his discussion. To clarify what he means by civilisational crisis, he goes on to draw analogies with the Chinese civilisation from 1840 – 1990.  After that he concludes:

Far from being a harbinger of global progressivism, the developments we have seen in the last 30 years in the West may stand as quite anomalous when viewed a hundred years hence. The deadlock and backsliding we see in the Islamic world may be more typical. Gay rights in Africa and Russia may have a hard time more akin to the experience in the Islamic world than the (relatively) easy passage in the West.

The key difference lies in the fact that there are vast contextual differences between Western civilisation and the Islamic world. The former is self-confident (some may even say arrogant), and generally comprise countries at peace and economically better off. When a civilisation is secure, it can afford to be generous and accommodating. Change does not entail any loss of face. Moreover, Western civilisation has a long tradition of valuing liberalism and competition. Not least, the states within this civilisational ambit mostly have political mechanisms to resolve differences.

None of these attributes can be said to be in place in most parts of the Islamic world. Or Africa for that matter. And that’s why I think the gay rights story in these places will prove a much rougher and longer ride.

I fear he is absolutely right. Nor is it impossible that backsliding could occur in the West. Complacency we cannot afford.

Do read the full post on Yawning Bread. A must!