Thursday, June 08, 2006

What is the Time in Singapore?

Having imperfectly explored space in Singapore and its conceptions. It is logical to talk next about Time, Singapore Time. Or more accurately, the lack thereof. To do this, I enlist the aid of one of my preferred theorists. Walter Benjamin. He, who died before his magnus opus could see the light of day.

There is a concept that Benjamin explores -- Trauerspiel. Its a German way of saying tragedy. But he makes a very important distinction between tragedy and Trauerspiel. And the distinction rests on Time.

For tragedy, there is always an eschatology. This means that Time in a tragedy is time as we normally associate with. It moves. In the morning, the tragedy begins, in the afternoon, the tragedy unfolds. And at night, the tragedy ends. Tragically, of course.

There is a linearity of Time in the tragic narrative. With an end-time, a promise of a final judgement, a final destination. Tragedy is like the World Cup. There is a fixed progression in the fixtures. It reaches its climax and for the peoples of 31 countries, the outcome is a tragedy.

Tragedy is thus, a movement, a movement in Space, a movement in Time. Most governments like to call this movement, progress. Of course, most governments never see the story of their nation as one of tragedy. It is always seen as a heroic narrative; what is commonly referred as History. National History.

But historians of the National always encounter a critical problem. Having brought the nation across Time, from the Past into the Now, they are left with unwritten pages. A blank script. This is when historians of the National, with the aid of the politcians, write the History into the future. So the story proceeds into Future Time. The History of the Future is never so factual, it is wrought with more uncertainties, more hidden enemies, more shadowy vulnerabilities. But undeniably, the movement of Time in this History into the Future is present still. And its always a progressive movement toward a Utopia. A movement from the Third to the First.

Orchestrated History in orchestral reverse.

What then is Trauerspiel? It is actually more tragic than tragedy. Because in Trauerspiel, Time does not move. Time is in fugue, at rest. Stagnation. In Trauerspiel, the narrative takes place only in space. There is an "end" but the "end" is eternally deferred. So to use the same analogy, Trauerspiel is akin to a World Cup without a Final. The teams are always playing for a supposed Final, but the Final is always deferred. So Time is in stasis in a Trauerspiel. Everything else remains the same. You get drama, you still get movement in space. But Time itself has stopped or even slowed.

If citizens dreaming of elsewhere is one nightmare of Government, Trauerspiel is the other nightmare. Its dreaded Twin.

In his comments to the cost of leaving entry, Parkaboy articulates what I believe is Trauerspiel :

"alienation of stagnation"

"It's not just frustration at Singapore's political situation that turns the trick: it's everything that follows on from the deeply straitjacketed politics. The social narrowness, the cultural bogwater, the tepid lifestyle."

This is the real problem in Singapore. It is the problem that the Government is able to sense. This is the discomfort, the dissonance that Singaporeans feel. As they articulate their frustrations in anti-PAP rhetoric, as they embrace the anti-establishment, as they chafe at the restrictions, as they leave. It is the "emo" generation being trapped in a timeless fugue-State. Being held in a Trauerspiel, while watching endless stories, endless narratives stream past their consciousness. This the true horror of the Socratic Cave analogy. The narratives streaming past the consciousness alleviates the discomfort of Trauerspiel a little bit, provides the numbing comfort. but in the Cave itself, Time stands still. It is no longer moving.

So Time is perhaps, slowing down in Singapore.

Despite the Government's efforts to move Time in Singapore. In 5 years time, the education system will be this and will be that. In 3 years time, a Casino opens. The future is filled with challenges which the Government will have to address. The people must stay together with the Government, united in spirit, forging into Utopia. There will be change, change and still change. So the Singaporeans upgrade, re-skill, re-position, re-tune. So that we can walk in the future. So that we can survive. And so on and so forth, the Government engages us in its stream of narratives of a future history now.

But then, when Time stills, when it slows, its disconcerting effects ripple in our restless minds, our uneasy hearts, our silhouetted dreams. Especially when we perceive movement elsewhere, and the opportunitiy for us, for me, to participate in this movement.
What happens when Time slows and stills into a Trauerspiel? Like the story of a story in the previous entry. What then?

And so I ask :

what is the Time in Singapore?

It is always four minutes to midnight.

Quote of the Day --

"In Opus 110, nothing completes itself without perishing. For instance, that flash of prettiness near the end, perfumed by Elena Konstantinovskaya, affords the listener scant relief, it reminds us that D.D. shostakovich is dying with his eyes open. He knows what happiness is. He knows that he'll never possess it ... because Opus 110 is no progression, only a prison, and the prisoner has now paced the walls right back to his starting point. He's at the center of the world, you see." -- Europe Central, William T. Vollmann


Anonymous Parkaboy said...

"Tragedy is like the World Cup. There is a fixed progression in the fixtures. It reaches its climax and for the peoples of 31 countries, the outcome is a tragedy."


I liked this post. "Orchestrated History in orchestral reverse" - yummy.

1:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1:43 AM  
Blogger *The Lunatic Fringe* said...

I'd like to add that this is what Morpehus said to Neo,

Morpheus: What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.

Many of us have felt this splinter in our minds as Xenoboy articulates some of what we go through as we move through the stasis that is "Uniquely Singapore!"

2:31 AM  
Anonymous Molly said...

I am reminded of Gyorgy Ligeti's "Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes."

3:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

its staggering how you dissect sg's soul, your voice is the voice of sg's shadows and your writing is unbelievable

7:11 AM  
Blogger Trabant_er said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous boon ho said...

i do wonder...

if this feeling is due to its crawling out of a mind--having deadened by the Singapore Economic project-- finding its way around and often times, because it is still young, falling against the old, the thing it can't help but call stagnation.


5:00 AM  
Blogger prettyplace said...

looks like in Time, Singapore will move from Now into the Past.....
i certainly fear that...

another brilliant post....xeno boy

some of you Have Seen the Matrix...i see.

12:56 AM  
Anonymous boon said...

Reminds me of the concept of "limbo".

I was reading some of the older posts, thank goodness you seemed to have stopped with the "I am Xenoboy. I am the Political Savant." It was pretty cheesy and distracts from your posts.

I do like this post, simple yet eloquently expressed.

4:25 AM  

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