Friday, December 30, 2005

Melancholic Death of an Oyster City

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.

Sometimes, you have to listen very carefully to the official messaging system. Since August, Singaporeans have been psychologically flooded with the word CHANGE. Yes, change, we have to change to stay alive. The geo-economic shifts around the world dictate this. Change or die.

Inverse the message and we have a fairly accurate picture of ourselves. We are stagnant. Inflexible and fixed. Rigid and unable to be nimble. The situation is dire indeed when we realise that our education system has created several generations of the most powerful zombies, relentless in achieving their goals in a swarming herd, but dumb when faced with a Anansi, trickster situation.

Nothing can change though. Too many now can see this and they feel this helplessness. They ask the same questions. The Government asks me to change, to adapt but yet, I cannot do it because nothing has changed. Self negating paradox.

Give the regime some credit. They see as much as many people on the ground that something is wrong. It is in the air, it is in our hearts no matter how much we try to laugh it off. There is a feeling of slippage, of being left behind, a fin de siecle percolating through our society.

Arresting this slippage is another matter. Change remains an empty word when the political interest remains locked in an unhealthy embrace with economic and social interest. We can flux the entire education system but the educated zombies will still fail to change while the vampires, immaculate change artists and shapeshifters, will fly away for more thrilling kills.

Perhaps, the solution for the incumbent regime is this. A political spectacle outstripping its own excellence. Recently alluded to in a nascent form. Let the savant expand it creatively to its most audacious end-point. Self-engineer an internal split of the ruling party and create a duality in Singapore politics. Re-making Singapore indeed.

Observe then, the Winds of Change awaken the populace. An induced genesis of a 'new' political order. An "untrue" Transformative Change which re-vitalizes society, re-invigorates economy and fuels us toward a Great Leap Forward. Not more good years but more New Years.

Revolution is just a revolution. Revolve like a ferris wheel. Many things will remain the same. Institutions continue to run, bureaucracy continues to function. But what is the possible difference? The spirit to embrace change is awakened. Hope is generated. Change takes on significance rather than remaining empty of meaning.

Except that this requires political courage of the highest order. It requires a change from a political mindset of regime sustenance to true regime renewal. It requires Change as well in the minds of those who hold power.

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.

Postscript : And have yeselfs a happy little new year!

Quote of the Day,

The doctor diagnosed,"I can't quite be sure,
but the cause of the problem may also be the cure.
They say oysters improve your sexual powers.
Perhaps eating your son would help you do it for hours!"

He came on tiptoe,
he came on the sly
sweat on his forehead,
and on his lips-a lie.

"Son, are you happy? I don't mean to pry,
but do you dream of Heaven?
Have you ever wanted to die?

Sam blinked his eye twice.
but made no reply.
Dad fingered his knife and loosened his tie.

As he picked up his son,
Sam dripped on his coat.
With the shell to his lips,
Sam slipped down his throat.

They burried him quickly in the sand by the sea-
sighed a prayer, wept a tear-
and they were back home by three.

A cross of grey driftwood marked Oyster Boy's grave.
Words writ in the sand
promised Jesus would save.

But his memory was lost with one high-tide wave.

'The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy' -- Tim Burton

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Like You I Forgot

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.

It begins with a Word. Sometimes it begins with a Sigul. Deep psychological anxieties sometimes slip onto the surface. The averted gaze from guilt and from conscience creates a dissonance in one's Self. Take the tsunami commemorations by Singaporeans featured in CNA. A Singaporean artist haunted by the tsunami spends many late nights painting a wall. A family in Aceh for one day and the daughter resolves the dissonance in a 16 page photo essay.
In our cocooned safety zone we watch drama, tragedy and trauma unfold in front of our eyes. We feel guilt for our safety and exonerate this guilt in the form of an articulation of the unnaratable as a wall painting or as a photo essay. It is common enough for commemorative practices to re-visit grief and to sequence the grief into sense.
Seeing to forget. Comfort for anxious souls.
Singapore Angle was a blog dedicated to tsunami community creation. Look at what it is now. From the tragedy of the tsunami, the blog built a community and further built upon a new community and took on "a life of its own". A new pathway away from tragedy, that takes the unnarratable and gives it new voices and new hope. Remembering through building.

Back to the Word. Back to the Sigul.

I am in the lift coming home at 4 am and freshly carved were the following Words : NKF=PAP=CPF. Staring me in the face. The anger is palpable, etched deeply into the pastel blue lift wall. This act of inscription is more than anger. There is a movie, Memento, in which the main protagonist suffers from acute amnesia as he seeks to avenge the murder of his wife. He remembers nothing 5 minutes before. To remember, he inscribes his body with tattoos. Siguls on his Body to prevent him from forgetting crucial events. This sigul staring at me is more than anger.
It is a fear of forgetting.
Singaporeans do forget. In the last GE, there was the suggestion of a shadow Cabinet, what happened to that? There was once a campaign HeartBeat Singapore, what happened to that? We can memorise but we cannot remember. We know the proud facts of Singapore but we cannot narrate the story threading the facts together. We can only fall back on the yearly History lessons in August. Different immigrants landing in Singapore. Hard life. Hard work along the River of Life. The Japanese Occupation. Independence and the crushing of communism. Tumult when races clashed. Hard work. Harmony. Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore the modern global city. Presented in 5 minutes by school children running a coordinated picture show on the Padang.
History in 5 minutes. Every year, August 9 without fail. In time, we memorise this History and we forget the stories of Singapore.

The inscription on the lift wall will fail to make us remember. Like the movie Memento, the tattoos on his body become meaningless siguls because they have no narrative thread. He knows his wife was murdered. He knows what he inscribed on his body are important. But he cannot understand because he fails to remember.

In time, the anxiety arising from our forgetting will slip onto the surface. From our cocooned safety zone we exonerate our anger in the form of an articulation of the forgotten as a funny movie or a White Paper. In so doing, what we see leads us to forget why NKF=PAP=CPF.
I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.
Quote of the Day,

"Listen to me. Like you, I know what it is to forget. Like you, I have a memory. I know what it is to forget. Like you, I forgot. Like you, I wanted to have an inconsolable memory, a memory of shadows and stone. For my part, I struggled with all my might, every day, against the horror of no longer understanding at all the reason for remembering. Like you, I forgot" -- Resnais and Duras, Hiroshima mon amour

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Book At Borders

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.
Yesterday, the Merlion was in tears. I missed the spectacle. Its a wonderful narrativist symbol, a Merlion in tears. Consigned forever to look away from Singapore. Guardian against the Other. Perpetually wounded and denied a Voice. Its role as a site of memory. Part of the fabric of our official memory. Originary state and terminal state determined. What are we when our memories are woven relentlessly into the National Fabric?

Was advised against going into the city due to the crush of X'mas revellers. Orchard Road was closed for a party. Decided to write a meaningless ficcione instead.
X was never a browser in Borders. She actually bought books. Notwithstanding the fact that Borders killed MPH and Times in singapore, local bookshops which played a huge formative part in her life, X still liked Borders. Somehow, books in semi wooden shelves always made more sense to X. The books seemed more comfortable. There was only one thing about Borders which bugged X. The magazine section. That did not belong in Borders. She wished that Borders would just kill off that section. It was valuable space wasted.
X was at the Fantasy/Sci Fi section. She always wondered why Fantasy and Sci-Fi was lumped together. In her own world, Fantasy was one section and Science Fiction was another. Two antithetical genres, but always lumped together in Singapore. Strange bedfellows. Always a semantic dissonance, a frisson, when she entered this section of Borders. She scanned the selections, have that, maybe go for that, get back to this later, hey what's this?

"My Life in One Page". No author name. Its not even a printed book. Its a jotter book. Jotter Book? Hard to explain, but its a book to jot things down. Its usually empty. But this was not.
Are you dead? If you are, you will understand this page. There's a higher chance to meet a fellow dead in this section. That's why I put it here. I am still vain. I am not having an existentialist crisis. I exist after all. I eat, sleep, work. I exist. But unlike all my neighbours around me with their swashbuckling worlds where there is a villain of such epic proportion, I exist in a world without villains. Everything is good. How are you? Good. How about you? Yea not bad. Everything is taken care of in my world. In my life, the only instability is when problems befall other people I know. Usually to do with family, love or money. Problems which are always dealt with individually. Mote problems. After a while, the equilibrium is restored within the larger order of things. Mottled problems on a perfect quail's egg.
I read my neighbours to feel the Big Problems. To experience the reality of life. life with a capital L. To make the circle meet. Everything is quite good in my life. Its abit like Heaven. Which explains why I am dead. After this introduction, would you buy a book of my life if it is more than a page?

So I thought I would do something naughty. I will write this jotter book and sneak it into Borders. Its a thrill. Its something risky. I could be a villain for while. Come in every week. To see if its still there. If its gone, I will wonder forever who took it. Is it someone like me? Whose life is just as good. Will my life in one page be transmitted. Or will it be taken by a staff and thrown away. Its no loss still. It was the act of putting it there. I was not dead for that one moment. Alive.

X left the jotter book back on the shelf. Between a Tim Powers and a Neil Gaiman. It belonged there somehow.

When she returned to Borders the following week. The jotter book was gone and she wondered where it went.

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.

Quote of the Day,

"I will finally learn how to perform for evermore the final scene of my Cyrano, I will see what I have looked for all my life, from Paola to Sibilla, and I will be reunited. I will be at peace. Careful. This time i must not ask her "Does Vanzetti live here?" I must finall seize the Opportunity" -- Umberto Eco, The Mysterious flame of Queen Loana

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Lost Leaves, Lahs and Lors

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.

Sitting at RedHill coffeeshop. Drinking my "teh peng" (iced milk tea). Thinking of a conversation with a close friend from last night. He is planning for migration with his wife to Australia. They are a young couple, working professionals, the very ideal products of the Singapore education system.

"Why migrate? Singapore not good meh?"
"Singapore ok lah ... but ... (the usual reasons expressed in many forms in local Internet)"
"Ok lor"

Ok lah. Ok lor. And another pair of bright young people go.

RedHill is abit deserted today. A slight drizzle. Fallen angsana leaves plastered to the floor. Some older people in the hawker center. A little desolate actually. Maybe because many people cannot resist the inexorable pull of a glittering Orchard Road, the peripheries are left a little bereft.

Ok lah. Ok lor. I am home again.

The lah and lor opens up in that fleeting instant, a glimpse of the Singapore Conscience. That resigned choice-less-ness and help-less-ness. The plateau of apathy residing wordless in our souls. Safety from change. Safety from chaos. Loss of choice. Loss of adrenalin.

Ok lah. Ok Lor. The darkened angsana leaves on the concrete floor, the truly lost.

lightning crashes, a new mother cries
her placenta falls to the floor
the angel opens her eyes
the confusion sets in
before the doctor can even close the door.

lightning crashes, an old mother dies
her intentions fall to the floor
the angel closes her eyes
the confusion that was hers
belongs now, to the baby down the hall.

oh now feel it comin' back again
like a rollin' thunder chasing the wind
forces pullin' from the center of the earth again
I can feel it.

lightning crashes, a new mother cries
this moment she's been waiting for
the angel opens her eyes
pale blue colored iris,
presents the circle
and puts the glory out to hide, hide ---- Live, Lightning Crashes

Merry Christmas to all my dear readers.

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Singapore Conscience in Transit

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.

Its the end of the year. Festive period for many, suicide period for many others. Its always a question of perspective. Which side of the mirror you're on. What the mirror reflects depends on where you position yourself.

Many issues stood out in 2005. The NKF is one towering issue. White elephants, failed Presidential Election, sedition in blogosphere, the Casino pseudo-debate, defamation in blogosphere, the hangings of Shanmugam and Nguyen. Events rippling delicately across the Singapore consciousness, eventually smoothed over. The Singapore Conscience preserved and intact. Anxiety filtered, iced and sweetened.

Singapore is Unique. Uniquely Singapore. We have our Laws. We uphold our Laws. We are the proponents of Asian Values, which determine our societal mores and we abide by our Asian Values. The Singapore Conscience is clear. The Singapore Conscience is transparent. The people believe in the Singapore Way of Governance. Belief that is not blind. Belief that is tempered by cynicism and rendered into witticism. Vented in the form of infinite sniggering allusions by Singaporeans at their own Government. Remarks heard everywhere in uniquely Singapore settings. They remain cynics with utter faith still in the Singapore Way of Governance. There may be moments of anxiety, moments of unhappiness, moments of depression. They remain moments in isolation. Disconnected and always disjunctured; moments which are never allowed to achieve sequence and relation. Such moments are smoothed away by the Singapore Ethic of sacrifice, hard work, practicality. Ensure that hard decisions are taken and are accepted. To survive. Asian Values. Singapore Values. Confucius Code 2.0.6. The teleos of Singapore History, good, better, best ... never let it rest. Singapore is Unique. Uniquely Singapore.

There is no such thing as Asian Values. If we accept Asian Values than we accept that NKF and TT Durai represents Asian Values of governance. Consolidation of power into a Wise Leader, a Wise Council, a concentrated group. We accept that the economic achievements of the NKF require hard decisions, ruthless decisions. We accept that the denizens who fall under the confluence of the NKF Council must bow when the wind blows. We accept paying top money and conferring unparalleled prestige for talent, only the best Mandarins for the courts. NKF is what happens when Asian Values are unquestioned.

Singapore is Unique. Uniquely Singapore.

In the collective consciousness of a Nation, there should be events, images, realms of memory which Time cannot erase. But yet they can be erased, if moments are not allowed sequencing, relation. Sequencing and relation can only be achieved by a Mind willing to do it. Minds are configured in an education system which promotes segmentation and compartmentalization. Where the Singapore Conscience is molded.

What is the Singapore Conscience? We are Small and if we do not unite behind our Leader the Other will come eat us up. The Other is always bullying us because we are Small. The Other is always trying to get behind our Defence. We have to stand Together against the Other. This is a Siege Conscience.

What is the Singapore Conscience?

I am gazing out of the taxi bringing me home. The bougainvilleas are whizzing past me. Changi airport, which I walked through with Gilbert's poem in my head, behind me. I pass through Changi where Nguyen was hanged. The CBD towers in front of me and I think of the 4 person CPF protest. I pass by an MRT station and think of Buangkok and the white elephants. I pass by temporary Newton hawker center and think of Singapore the straight A student. I see a SBS bus and think of Molly’s crusade against public transport. My Immortal, piano version, is playing in my Ipod. All these events flashing in my head tells me we are still struggling to make sense. A collective conscience in transit. I hope.

I do not feel unique, just coming home.

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.

Quotes of the Day --

"I'd love to walk away and pull myself out of the rain ... but I can't leave without You, I'd love to live without the constant fear and endless doubt ... but I can't live without You ..." -- Evanescence, My Immortal (Piano Version)

"I am, I believe, alone of all our race, the only man in human memory to have been shipwrecked and cast up upon a deserted ship." -- Umberto Eco, Island of the Day Before

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Names, Spirit and Politics in Singapore

I am Xenoboy. I am the Political Savant.

"We wanted to retain the name 'Nanyang' as the institute would rise from the campus of the old Nanyang University. We also wanted the word 'Technology' to reflect the mission of the institute. An obvious name was 'Nanyang Institute of Technology'. It had resonance like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But unlike MIT, a NIT graduate would be regarded as a fool. And when NIT became the 'Nanyang University of Technology', its graduates would be NUTs.” – SM Goh Chok Tong

The logical question that every NTU graduate will have to ask then is why the name Nanyang University was erased. Why was a renaming necessary?

There is a forgotten generation of Singaporeans. The Chinese intelligentsia. Graduates of Nanyang University (Nantah or 南大), the last student activists in Singapore. The last Singaporeans with political fire to truly challenge the PAP government.

But like all before, they failed. In a geo-political climate which equated Chinese culture as synonymous with Communism (this was the Iron/Bamboo Curtain era of the 70s) and the pressing exigencies of a young nation to create a generation of Western intelligentsia, able to compete in a Western-dominated economic market, Nanyang University fell.
It fell not without a fight. It students fought to retain the school’s name, the school’s spirit. They fought but they failed. And there remains amongst us Singaporeans, this generation of fighters. Pushing into their 60s and very much still bitter at how their spirit was robbed from them. This forgotten generation was the percentage that voted for the nameless businessman, one of their own, who stood against the PAP-endorsed, Ong Teng Cheong, in Singapore’s first and only Presidential election.

The last advocate of this Nantah spirit, who sought to invoke the fire of the Nantah spirit was an Opposition politician, Tang Liang Hong; himself an alumni. He was named a Chinese chauvinist and given the usual treatment as an enemy of the State. Promulgating racial division. A threat to racial and religious harmony in Singapore.

Nantah is still one of the silenced episodes in Singapore’s education history. It remains awkwardly treated by Singapore history and politics today. Especially so, in the face of new geo-political realities of a resurgent China. The quote above by SM Goh reflects this historical tension whenever NTU is mentioned. He wanted to retain Nanyang only so that the new institute can rise from the ashes of the old university. It is a statement of staggering semantic elision, like a crippled waltz across the violence in the very act of Naming.
Retain “Nanyang” because it still has resonance. Power. But it cannot be Nantah or Nanyang University. That has too much power, too much resonance, carries too much History inconvenient for the development of Singapore. It has power because it is "old". ?. Past Tense.

This entry is not about lamenting the loss of a bastion of Chinese education nor is it about arguing the pride of Chinese culture. It is not about rebuilding something that has been effectively erased into Singapore's forgotten past.

This entry searches desperately for the spirit that so invigorated a generation of students. The spirit which quickened a group of young Singaporeans who believed in and fought for something dear to them. They fought for a Name which symbolized who they were. A Name which shaped their minds and their belief systems. They fought for a Name which held places where their memories lay.

This entry searches for that elusive political spirit that has been bled away by the regime.

Bled away? … but yet … the regime knows that it must still instill a spirit to Singaporeans. HeartBeat Singapore. Remember that? To stem that slow tide of quitters and manifest a political spirit, devoid of politics, to root people like me and you to Singapore. But what happens is the oblique, we become more lost because we cannot feel a political spirit when there is no politics in it. It is a self collapsing paradox.

The Nantah students had something to fight for. A name. An institution. A history.

What am I or other young Singaporeans fighting for? Singapore without politics?

I am Xenoboy. I am the Political Savant.

Quote of the Day :

人 生 自 古 誰 無 死 ,
留 取 丹 心 照 汗 青

-- 文 天 祥

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Translations -- Deconstructing Sg Rhetorical Program

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.
Today, I am going to perform a translation. Words can speak louder than words. It may offend some of my gentler readers. My apologies. But sometimes such a shock may wake us and force us to confront ourselves. Ask the hard questions, feel a little bit shamed.
When the mandate is absolute, more often than not, we get absolute viewpoints.
------- Translation Begins -----
Read :
1 in 25 chink men here may have HIV
ABOUT one in 25 chinks in LaLa is HIV-positive, said Dr Boebbels yesterday. Researchers came to that conclusion based on the data gleaned from the anonymous human immunodeficiency virus (HIV ) testing clinic at a Lab.
However, the Doctor was quick to point out that the data used to come upwith the figure is far from perfect. Dr Boebbels explained: 'There are many, many questions about this data.' Is this representative of all chinks? Or is it representative of a sample of chinks? We can't answer this question unless we do more detailed studies which may invade into people's privacy.'
Action Against Aids (AAA), a non-governmental organisation which runs the anonymous testing clinic, also has no idea how accurate the figure cited by Dr Boebbels may be. AAA's programme manager Anon said the figure could be an overestimate, or an underestimate.
Read :
1 in 25 Jews here may have HIV

ABOUT one in 25 Jews in LaLa is HIV-positive, said Dr Boebbels yesterday. Researchers came to that conclusion based on the data gleaned from the anonymous human immunodeficiency virus (HIV ) testing clinic at a Lab.

However, the Doctor was quick to point out that the data used to come upwith the figure is far from perfect. Dr Boebbels explained: 'There are many, many questions about this data.' Is this representative of all Jews? Or is it representative of a sample of Jews? We can't answer this question unless we do more detailed studies which may invade into people's privacy.'

Action Against Aids (AAA), a non-governmental organisation which runs the anonymous testing clinic, also has no idea how accurate the figure cited by Dr Boebbels may be. AAA's programme manager Anon said the figure could be an overestimate, or an underestimate.
----- Translation ends -----
There is a Naming violence and wounding inherent in the article. The actors may not mean the violence and wounding deliberately. But for the wordsmiths to not consider the implications of the article and to publish it as such is simply irresponsible. Yes. Irresponsible.
I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.
Here to read the untranslated article and a good analysis.
Quote of the Day --
"Looking back, I see now that the first symtpom of her problem was her loss of the ability to write letters ... then she started hearing things ... the voices would interfere with her attempts to choose her words ... [then] she can't find the right words to speak, and that put her into a terribly confused state -- confused and frightened." -- Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Rage Against the .... Pianist??

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.

Rage is a funny thing. It makes you blind. It makes you righteous. And ultimately, it makes you commit a violence. When cynics with utter faith are in a rage, the rippling violence is that much more nuanced and unknowingly, the violence returns to the cynic with utter faith. These are ripples which return.
The NS defaulter aroused alot of rage. The rage is slowly diverted to the pianist himself. Squarely at the pianist. As much as the rage tries to attack the system, the rage is diverted to the pianist. Personified. This light sentence is so unfair. It is White Horse all over again. He got it light. The system is wrong. HE is wrong. HE must be punished. The system must punish HIM more, more more.
Unfair unfair unfair.
Kill kill kill.
Thou shalt kill.
The system responds. Cynics with utter faith are after all, the babies of the system. The voters of the Machine. Assuage them, and soon it will get its ticks. Tickets to another term in power. The mandate to rule. For this mandate, the system says : Mandatory jail term for the next NS defaulter. Mandatory. Why not two and a half years since we, cynics with utter faith, all suffered the same conscripted Jail Term in NS? If still too light, why not a mandatory Death Penalty?
Mandatory : Remember this word.
Mandate : Remember this word?
As the other buzzing Bs have seen and said astutely, this furor over the Pianist has been translated. Rage against the Machine? No. It has translated into Rage against the Pianist. The system was blind-sided by the Law too. The system is just as surprised at this Light sentence on the Pianist. The System is unhappy too. Why? Because, the System is part of us. So the System, as representative of us, will change the Law. Heavier Sentence. Mandatory jail term. As a stinging B once said, be careful what you wish for.
Shall we all stand up and applaud the System? clapclapclapclapclapclapclapclapclapclap.
Clapping of chains?
Rage is a funny thing. It makes us blind. It makes us righteous. It commits a violence. And more often than not, the violence returns to us.
I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.
Quotes of the Day --

"The day was twenty-four hours long, but it seemed longer. There's no hurry, for there's nowhere to go and nothing to buy...and no money to buy it with. Although Maycomb County had recently been told that it had nothing to fear but fear itself..." -- Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

"No escape from the mass mind rape. Play it again jack and then rewind the tape. And then play it again and again and againuntil ya mind is locked in. Believin' all the lies that they're tellin' ya. Buyin' all the products that they're sellin' ya. They say jump and ya say how high. Ya brain-dead. Ya gotta fuckin' bullet in ya head" -- Rage Against the Machine, Bullet in Your Head

Singapore's B-graders : The Rememberers, Writers & Speakers

I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.
No straight A students. The B's are infinitely more interesting : -- old new B -- new B -- queen of the B -- resurrected B
Quote of the Day -- "What is holy? Goethe asks once in a distich, and answers: What links many souls together ... In the wide plains of the Euphrates an enormous architectural work was erected; it was built in common, and the aim and content of the work was at the same time the community of those who constructed it." -- Hegel

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Good Day

Truth Underlies the Darkness
Remember Not to Forget