I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant
Was reminded of this word "preterite" by Expat(a)Large. It is a strange word, descriptive and prescriptive at once. It is a grammatarian term to refer to the Past Tense. When used in literature, its meaning starts to ripple. It is something in the past, something left behind, a sense of forgotten, it is a un-historical thing. Imagine "preterite tears", not only past tears but some emotions and feelings left behind. A trailing arc of tears behind the relentless linear movement of Time; around each teardrop, a constellation of emotions and stories.
Preterite Singapore. What has been left behind? A simple Past Tense, Perfect Past Tense or Irregular Past Tense? Its not only past but tense too. Forays into a national past are always tense. There is never a preterite Nanking. Nanking is a contested past. But there is a preterite Singapore. Pick up a secondary History textbook and the narrative of Singapore unfurls like the fluttering flag flown below the Super Pumas every August 9. The state of perpetual emergency that is Singapore, conflates History and Preterite into a simple past tense.
But, to be precise, preterite Singapore cannot be a History of Singapore. Because History records not the left behind, the forgotten, the trailing teardrops with their satellites of stories. Zyl, MetheGirl, Libertas have in some form or another thought about and articulated on this. The struggle for History and those mandated to record it. Below this contest of the National Narrative there is still a Preterite Singapore? What, who are the left behind? Struggling like Gibson's jet-lagged souls to catch up with Mother.
Preterite Singapore are irregular tense pasts. Many, many pasts, memory-networked pasts which are very slowly surfacing as we approach almost 50 years of existence as a collective territoriality. The new film by Singapore Rebel, a documentary on Said Zahari, an ex-detainee of the State, is one such irregular tense past. It will never be History, as the essence and urgency of this past thrives upon emotions, feelings, prejudices, but it is preterite Singapore. Someone left behind. Someone forgotten.
The excavation and recovery of Preterite Singapore should not become another totalising Narrative. It must be recovered as Deleuze's anti-genealogical rhizomes and assembled as many, many irregular tense pasts. Then, perhaps, these preterite stories will help build ladders in the minds of Singaporeans, especially those young, and help some of them scale the twenty-foot edifices all around them.
I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.
Quote of the Day --
"I'm writing on a little piece of paper
I'm hoping someday you might find
Well I'll hide it behind something
They won't look behind
I'm still inside here
A little bit comes bleeding through
I wish this could have been any other way
But I just don't know,
I don't know what else I can do"
-- Nine Inch Nails, Every Day is the Same