18-year old Asher Ong probably never thought he would be at the centre of controversy when he was featured in a 43-second video clip on the Channel Newsasia (CNA) Facebook page last Monday.
The short video segment was from CNA’s programme “A Family Affair”, which presents different families in Asia going through the struggles of daily life.
The short clip featuring Asher showed him speaking with his mother about his need for a Mac book computer which would cost S$3,581. Asher needed to have his own computer because he had just entered polytechnic, and the family desktop computer was being shared with his siblings, which made availability a problem.
Asher, who is the eldest son, said he needed the Mac to edit his films and for his photography work.
His mother asked if there were cheaper computers, but Asher said that they wouldn’t “be powerful enough” for his use.
The clip then cut to Asher’s father expressing his worries about the finances for his family.
“When I see the bank account reach a 3-digit figure and when my wife is asking me what to do, that’s a difficult time,” he said. “I feel the pressure.”
The clip then ends with Asher’s father saying, “I don’t know what to do.”
The reactions from the public quickly targeted Asher, and criticised him for being a “spoilt brat”, among other things, for wanting to buy such an expensive computer.
“Kid, you need to learn your priorities rather than making such high horse requests,” one said, presuming that Asher was asking his mother for the money for the Mac computer.
“They just want a Mac because it’s trendy please,” said another. “You don’t actually need a Mac for most things.”
Yet another commenter said: “Is this even an issue? Get a part-time and pay for himself. Plus the house looks spacious. Bank account left 3 digits? Get real dude.”
But not all commenters were denigrating the family. Some pointed out that those criticising Asher were wrong and misguided since Asher actually has a job and had in fact earned money from a photography book he published earlier.
One of these commenters said: “He is earning for his family, he wrote his own book, edit his pictures and he gets revenue from the clients that chose to hire (?) him. Our course requires a laptop that is powerful, he has been using Mac his (whole) life, of course he finds it uncomfortable to suddenly change to windows.”
The uproar soon got the attention of Asher’s family, who took to the “6 Kids & A Pop-up Camper” Facebook to clarify matters.
We will let them speak for themselves:
“Whoa whoa whoa… ok, I knew that when we decided to do a reality show, we should expect some flak. So much of public sentiment is due to editing choices, but also the pre-conceived ideas that people bring to the conversation: in this case, the notion that teenagers these days are spoilt and don’t know the value of money.
“That’s not my son. If only people knew:
– at age 15, he learned to use a DSLR and took amazing photos all over 43 states of the USA. When we came home, by his own talent and hardwork, Asher earned his first pay check from selling his images to ST for the accompanying article.
– at age 16, he learned to work Adobe InDesign on his own and painstakingly created each of the 300 pages of our travelogue. I hope folks out there would go to Popular or Kino and flip through our book to see each page is Asher’s pure hardwork.
…..all that while juggling O levels (private candidate)
– at age 17, he helped me (his mom) with the sales and marketing of our book. Lugging books and props to set up pop up stalls around Singapore. He would tirelessly talk to potential customers about our book. He never complained to me that it’s tiring or boring.
He also started doing talks at K+, at an MOE retreat (sharing his ideas and experience to over 200 MOE VPs and important officials) and selling books together with the family.
– at age 17, with the same camera and lens that he used on the USA trip, he started a photography business, taking in family photoshoots and weddings. He goes the extra mile to please his clients and they are always very impressed by his professionalism and work.
– at age 18, he has entered Polytechnic (first time in school) and still juggling talks (NLB keynote speaker for the recent Read! Fest Launch) and some photography jobs and filming for CNA.
“Yes, folks, Asher does have a job. But he doesn’t work at MacDonalds or Starbucks. He has created his own business. Asher Ong Photography And whatever he has earned goes into investing in his business. He recently spent $1k of his own earnings to buy a new lens. And actually, he wasn’t asking me for money to buy the Mac. He was discussing with me what model he is aiming to buy for his school (but more importantly his work).
Hopefully, those who painted Asher as one of those “young people these days” could go to Popular or Kino, and take a look at Asher’s amazing work…. and buy a copy of our 6 Kids book.”
So there. People should seriously not pre-judge without first knowing the facts and truth.
And as for CNA, perhaps it could have chosen a better clip from the programme to feature as a teaser, instead of one which did not show the full exchange between Asher and his mother in context.
Hope we all learn lessons from this episode.
You can watch the full programme here.
As for Asher, well done, dude. Keep on doing what you are doing.