I have always held a deep love for stories and legends, specifically the process of what makes good storytelling and the art of analysing a character. It was a passion passed on from my father to me, nurtured during my teenage years. Every Saturday morning, after visiting the wet market to get our weekly groceries, we would sit down at a nearby coffee shop – the only one that served Teo Chew porridge in our neighbourhood – to have ‘man talk’.
A cup of kopi-o in his hand, a coke in mine (because that’s the only time he indulged my love for sugary drinks), salivating over steaming white porridge and freshly cooked luncheon meat, salted veggies, braised tofu with yoo tiao and ham chim peng, dad would say “Did you read about….?”
Everything from religion, legends and fantasy weapons, to superhero comics and special abilities, we would review story plots, debate creative decisions, and – the part he most loved – analyse a character’s values and qualities. He would go over what made up a character’s personality; how they were raised, their background, the psychology of how and why a character makes decisions in a given circumstances, whether those decisions were wise, and how they could have possibly made better choices.
At that time, I thought of it as merely fun discussions. It was only when, as a young adult, given responsibilities with handling relationships, finances, work, and experiencing a real-life crisis where decisions could influence life or death, as well as the quality of life afterwards, that I realised those ‘fun discussions’ were actually his way of teaching me valuable life lessons. Lessons on morality, responsibility, sophistication, leadership and the sacrifice of oneself for family. Lessons on how to – not only be a man – but a good man.
These sessions took place nearly 20 years ago, in the days where smartphones were still in its infancy and streaming TV services were non-existent, when Asian and Western culture – though different in practice – had common values in what made good people, good families, and good society. Even then, fathers were considered unsung heroes and their celebration was relatively low-key.
While the celebration of fathers in Asian culture still remains relatively the same as before, the same cannot be said for our Western counterparts. Feminist theories and movements in the Unites States and certain parts of Europe have taken a strange turn, taking the form of disparaging men and masculinity. Major brands have even advertised their products by belittling the role of fathers in the family and sometimes even imply as unnecessary.
This may seem irrelevant to our culture and daily lives, but its important to remember that new societal trends are often imported into other cultures through consumed media, especially by children. This is even more prevalent with the existence of social media and streaming services, which provides greater exposure to international events and trends.
This isn’t to say every imported social trend is negative, some actually add positive growth to our culture in becoming an international society. What this writer means to say, is that as we develop the concept of family and what it means in today’s modern world, we mustn’t forget our roots – both traditionally and socially – and value our fathers for the virtues they teach us and their sacrifice to build strong families and provide lasting happiness.
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