The hooting sound of an owl sounds like “digging” in the Chinese language (搰: hu). It is considered major bad luck if an owl visits a house wherein lives a gravely ill or wounded person. When it makes the hu sounds, it's as good as telling the family to dig a grave-hole as preparation for a burial.
Thousands with access to an uncompromised Google search bar went to town researching the myths & culture of the barn owl from around the world, and the results were mostly dark and dismal. In the Middle East, folks actually believe that the owl represents the souls of people who have died un-avenged. Some compiled a compendium of owlish humour. Some will doubtless construe it as instance of cyber bullying. Like an Auschwitz survivor picking on Adolf Hitler. You get the drift. But even the most bitter of betrayed baby-boomers will be mollified when the subject of derision writes like this:
"With every passing day I am physically less energetic and less active. If you ask me to go out in the heat of the sun at two o'clock to meet people, shake hands and kiss babies, I will not be able to do it. I could do it 20, 30 years ago, but not anymore. You take life as it comes, with your physical capabilities declining over the years.
Sometimes my secretary would see me resting in my office and would ask me whether they should cancel the next meeting. Sometimes, I would say: "No, let's get on with it." I need 15 minutes for a shut-eye, so that my mind can concentrate after that. But if I cannot, I would say: "Yes, put it off. Let me have a nap."
You cannot predict what your physical condition will be like. However rigorous and disciplined I am, it will still be a downhill slide."
("One Man's View of the World", page 300)
Before you reach for the box of Kleenex - cue the string instruments here - he still shares the sentiments commonly attributed to Marie Antoinette when she was told the peasants had no bread, "Let them eat cake". In the Q & A format of the book, he is asked about the reality of cashing out on property:
Q: But you can only unload if you already own property. The local new homeowners have no such option.
A: For Singaporeans who do not yet own property, they can buy HDB flats at subsidised prices, if they meet HDB's eligibility criteria.
Your blood pressure starts to go up when he says that, being out of office and not attending Cabinet meetings, he seldom expresses a contrary opinion, except when the government was looking to reintroduce Chinese dialect programmes on free-to-air-channels. He had antagonised an entire generation of Chinese, who found their favourite dialect programmes cut off, and he was not about to repent.
Q: So you have no unfinished business that you wanted to ...
A: No, I have done what I had wanted to do. I gave up my duties as prime minister to Goh Chok Tong. I helped him. He passed them on to Lee Hsien Loong. It is a different generation now. So my contributions are less meaningful - except when they want to go back on dialects.
The jury is still out on whether tears or jeers will dominate the day when the final moment of reckoning arrives. The big question on everybody's lips is, should we give a hoot?