Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Singapore is the only place where you can hear politicians uttering contradictions with confidence that no one will notice. Yesterday, I read that Prime Minister Lee agrees that Singaporeans need to speak up and to participate more as active citizens. The Government has to be less intrusive. Today, I read that podcasting and various other forms of Internet commentaries on the General Elections will be circumscribed. Last few weeks, I read from the mainstream media that blogging and cyberspace in general will have no impact on General Elections because the "stories" in cyberspace are not credible. There is a triple contradiction in these facts I have cited.

Hidden within these reactions is fear. Fear simple. Did the Straits Times or other media report critically on new PAP candidate, Ellen Lee's remarks that male Singaporeans do not get more paternity leave because first, they did not ask for it and second, fathers do not get more leave because they do not change the diapers, do night feeds etc etc. Because this is a politically charged statement to make. Just like the statement that a five figure salary is considered "peanuts".

Many years ago, a certain PAP female candidate lost her seat because after shaking hands with hawkers she was seen quickly going to disinfect her hands. This is a politically charged action. And a political price was paid.
With cyberspace and new media we can charge statements and actions with political significance at a phenomenal rate. Hence, the fear. Speak up and participate responsibly, so the Prime Minister says. Responsibility and cyberspace do not seem to go hand in hand unless there is .gov nomenclature to it. Why should this be so?
Cyberspace allows us to speak up in ways previously unimagined. Cyberspace enacts its own rules of engagement and judgment of credibility and responsibility without the Government needing to tell us what to do, what to say. Is this not what the Prime Minister wants?
In Thailand, there are many poor people. People who can benefit from a Thaksin regime which despite its thievery, brings in foreign dollars to the country, some of which trickle down to the man on the street. But the same poor person refuses this. Because the same poor person treasures certain political values higher than personal well-being. Hence, no vote. No fear.
You see. Incumbent regimes fear the unpredictable, that Neo-figure who strips away the layers of lies. Who looks straight into the core and see its decayed state. Who looks into the heart and see that it is dying. But the regime fears this illusory bogey man, this shadow of Vendetta.
Where is the irony? It is that the people, the ruled, experience fear too. Fear of the coppice men and the men of Law who will come knocking on their doors if they see and speak beyond their vision and envisage a different futurity. So much fear both ways.
And beyond Catherine Lim's stylised dance of marionettes between the governors and the governed in Singapore is this atmosphere of fear both ways.
This then is politics in Singapore. Let the Elections begin. Because this will be the first step into an uncertain cyber-tinged futurity.
Quote of the Day --
"Whosoever fears the tip of my spear shall never pass through the magic fire!"
"The flames instantly blaze up and fill the entire space before the hall, seeming even to seize on the building. In terror the women cower towards the front. Suddenly the fire falls together, leaving only a mass of smoke which collects at back and forms a cloud bank on the horizon. The Rhine swells up mightily and sweeps over the fire. On the surface appear the three Rhine-daughters, swimming close to the fire-embers. Hage, who has watched Bruennhilde's proceedings with increasing anxiety, is much alarmed on the appearance of the Rhine- daughters. He flings away hastily his spear, shield and helmet, and madly plunges into the flood crying 'Keep away from the Ring!'
"From the ruins of the half-burnt hall, the men and women perceive with awe the light in the sky, in which now appears the hall of Valhalla, where the gods and heroes are seen sitting together.... Bright flames seize on the abode of the gods; and when this is completely enveloped by them, the curtain falls."
-- Das Rheingold. Richard Wagner


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very thought provoking analysis. :-)

The current PAP regime really does not have a handle the low intensity conflict style of political debate and discussions that the younger generation is born into. That is not surprising given that their generation didn't get their feet wet in cyberspace, letting the quality of their thoughts and ideas win as opposed to beating opponents into submission through controlled traditional mass media providing one-sided views and tarring opponents with differing views as deviants and "[Insert your favourite bogeyman] Chauvinist" label.

I am hopeful that the winds of change have started to blow in Singapore, that people will start to assert their voices once again.

7:25 PM  

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