Monday, January 09, 2006

Preterite Singapore

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


Blogger KnightofPentacles said...

Such difficult words.

I like simple words. And cartoons. I like Lilo and Stitch - which I just watched again recently.

"Ohana means Family. And Family means nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten."

Did not the "Moral Education" textbooks back in the 80s extol the idea of the nation being the extended family. Confucius Asian Values and all that?

5:20 PM  
Blogger xenoboysg said...

Its an indulgent entry, a style, an error which I am prone to committing.

I like cartoons too, just watched "grave of the fireflies", simple and touching.

Perhaps if one scores an A* in "Moral Education" than one stays close to the bosom of mother but if one fails, than she gets left behind without the anchors to bind her to the Nation.

11:53 PM  
Anonymous Ted said...

Hmm hello KoP, we missed your net presence, at least I still do check in your blog occasionally (hoping against all hope, sigh).

I forgot what I got for Moral Education, but it was easy to get a A or the worst a B, just tell them what they want to hear even though us kids then may not believe in it.

But I got a A for social studies in primary 4, so proud of it, I spent heaps of effort trying to mould unwieldy plasticine
into the shape of Singapore complete with rivers(or actually streams).

1:47 AM  
Blogger expat@large said...

XB, don't change your style, it's kickarse.

Elite - or damned. Not preterite at all.

A politically free link for you:


8:47 AM  
Blogger clyde said...

Didn't you love the way NIN's song Closer sounded so subtle until you started listening to the lyrics...

5:55 AM  
Anonymous Libertas said...

When you mentioned "The state of perpetual emergency", it reminded me so much of Dr Lily Zubaidah's reference the the government's constant emphasis on the crisis mentality, that since young we are drilled with the seemingly utter hopelessness of Singapore after separation, being a little red "chinese" dot among predominant Malay presence having little or no natural resources and etc.

A Preterite Singapore would defintely infuse debate on our national history, something which will make other appreciate the complexity surrounding our national past, rather than the sterilised versions that we so constantly feed on.

1:27 AM  

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