Like You, I Remember
I am XenoBoy. I am the Political Savant.
Black is a cool color. In a classic scene from Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, which was never shown in Singapore, the crew of bank robbers were assigned code-names so that their real identities would be protected. Their code-names were Mr Red, Mr Brown, Mr Purple etc. The crew were dissatisfied and wanted their own names. The Boss scolded them. His rationale : if he let them choose, everyone would want to be Mr Black.
In NUS, quite a number of students are wearing black. To protest the fee hikes, which seems to be a regular affair in NUS. Not protests but fee hikes. This is good. This is like the White Elephants and the black White Elephant t-shirts. This is new form of cultural protest, at least in Singapore, which vexes the Singapore authorities very much. The authorities are not psychologially equipped to handle this form of political action. The Police battalion mobilised in shenton Way against the CPF protesters. The Police scrutiny of the sale of White Elephant t-shirts at Buangkok. These are indicative of authorities who are paralysed when political actions lodge themselves in the interstices of law and authority.
You see. The fabric of security reality has been woven by an appreciation of protests like the Hock Lee riots, the racial riots, the Maria Hertogh riots. Random burning, murders, woundings. Mass violence.
When faced with a cardboard caricature, black t-shirts, lettered t-shirts, hanged statues, creative symbols and siguls of protest, the authorities are stumped. Scrambling to find that one piece of regulatory legislation which says "Yes! Thats it, it is not allowed." Whats the irony? In every regulatory regime, there is always an umbrella clause. That which covers everything. More often than not, modern protests fall under this umbrella's shadow. And its an uneasy fit. In the public's eye, it is not credible even if, under Law's eye it is valid. The Law's gaze is blind.
The protest in NUS via black t-shirts reflects an embryonic and necessary appreciation of political action which is part of the global movement of political expression which is no longer about violence, rioting. That more younger Singaporeans are increasingly comfortable with such forms of political expression is the hope for the future. This is creative protest. A protest form which challenges authority, challenges the system in place with grace and necessary emotion. The NUSSU spokesperson who urged students not to be emotional is wrong. His form of conflict resolution is based on an established paradigm of rational discussion. It achieved nothing as he himself has said. And what's worse, the failure is representative of nothing.
This NUS black t-shirt protest will fail but even while it fails, at the symbolic and representative level, it registers something into the consciousness of both student body and administrator body. That is the importance of such aesthetic protests, to build that sense of strategic awareness of political action and what it signifies.
One of the commenters, Gayle, in the Nian entry has very astutely pointed out that what is needed in Singapore is to move away from poltical criticism as a blame game and look at it from a systems view.
"There's not much point attributing blame to any one party. That which transcends time, and the plethora of parties involved, would seem to be systems; a concatenation of instances and circumstances that make things what they are, a system to be changed."
This is precisely the point. Creative protest forms chip away at the efficient systems, causing little stutters and little blips. At the same time, creative protest forms harness the power of the many and captures the imaginations of the many more. Protest as a beautiful art-form opposing the brute efficiency of a blind system. What better foes?
To capture the imagination(s). So that, when the next opportunity arises, we look at each other and say : Like you, I remember.
Quote of the Day --
"Don’t sacrifice your dreams for the illusion of security. There is no security. Realize there is no security and become comfortable with that. It will free you up to do what you really need to do.", David Mack, Kabuki