Thursday, July 27, 2006

Comfortably Numb

In the Di Caprio version of Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare is snazzed up with thumping music, fast cars, cool guns. In a scene where Romeo musters his strength to approach Juliet, he slips a pill into his mouth. The movie plays through like a MTV video. Shakespeare was made hip and happening in the 90s. But the universal themes in the movie remain. Lost love. Irony and tragedy.

And so too must we understand what PM Lee really means when he wants a revamp of the PAP's image to be "hip and happening". The themes of the PAP will remain. Unchanged. When the crunch comes, the State will still raise its mandate, its monopoly on discourse to determine what is acceptable and what is not. To make me, to make us. This call is eerily like what STOMP is all about. It makes the appearance more approachable, more in sync with current fads and trends, but the messaging is the same. Nothing will change. This call then betrays the recent flurry of overtures between Government and the young Singaporean. Looks good politically, but never lacking the depth, the thinking overhaul that is needed. Its changing the screensaver not re-booting the system with necessary patches.

The human mind is constructed to recall soothing memories. It pushes away pain. This is the basis of trauma, of the silenced victims who cannot recall horror without a collapse of consciousness. So this remake of the PAP will be soothing for many Singaporeans, not all, but many enough. There will be a perception of change, of relevancy. But as it is stated, change is only at the surface. The themes will not change. The song will remain the same.

What is worrying is this. The objective of this "change" is to engage with a younger set of Singaporeans. Engagement as I can now fully understand based on PM's remarks is this : simply to talk and persuade, cajole, bribe them to the State's cause. Its not a discourse to effect any real change. Its engagement discourse is designed to include you into their policies of exclusion. And this remake of the PAP for greater engagement translates to making young Singaporeans more receptive to the State messaging insturments. Programmed to receive.

Your lips move
but I can't hear what you're sayin'.
When I was a child I had a fever.
My hands felt just like two balloons.
Now I got that feeling once again.
I can't explain, you would not understand.
This is not how I am.
I have become comfortably numb.

So for those who pursue an alternative narrative for Singapore or who envision a different possibility for Singapore, the task becomes harder. They will not be able to hear what you are saying. They will not understand the urgency. They are just comfortably numb.

It is not sinister, just politics. As the ruling party understands its growing disconnect with the future crucial demographic of Singaporeans, it puts in place its remedies. It is a simple way of ensuring that its captaincy of the ship is assured. Its like the campaign of 4 million smiles, phase 1 this route, phase 2 another angle. Final phase : 4 million perfectly crafted smiles.

But as the State goes down this road, it creates the counter-discursive possibilities. To get under and between this engagement strategy and challenge the core of the message. We still have the space in cyber-space to mount this challenge. Yellow boxing this space appears to be beyond the abilities of the State. And so far as it is unable to, we have this opportunity denied to many Singaporeans in the past.

And so we can gather all these strands of alt discourse, alt culture activities, and cast these strands into a network of windows in cyberspace for the confortably numb to feel unconfortable. Create little disjunctures, like flickers on your screen, in the transmission of this newly dressed State discourse. And let this dissonance take its course and see where it leads the Singapore consciousness. It will definitely be better than here and now.

Quote of the Day --

"The experiences of the 25 people recorded in this book will, I am sure, jolt the reader's mind ... if we are to surmount the crisis of the nuclear age, we must begin by chiseling deep into our minds the cruel events that the survivors have put into words for us." -- Naomi Shohno, Hibakusha : Survivors of Hiroshima & Nagasaki

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Are you a prophet?

No, I am just a Singaporean.

How can you foretell things that happen in Singapore?

There is a recurring pattern in its politics.

Why do Singaporeans allow things to happen like this?

We don't allow it. We just forget.

SMRT's decision to raise fares draws mixed reactions from public
By Noor Mohd Aziz, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 25 July 2006 1954 hrs

SINGAPORE: The SMRT's decision to raise bus and train fares have drawn mixed reactions from the public.

Some say a small increase is justified but others questioned the decision, especially if the company is not making any losses.

SMRT had announced plans to adjust fares for its MRT, LRT and bus services, citing increased diesel costs.

But the public has mixed views on it - some were resigned to a fare increase but others were indignant.

SMRT plans to submit its proposal to the Public Transport Council by the August 1 deadline.

If approved, the fare increase could kick in as soon as October. - CNA /dt


What is a "mixed reaction"?

Its a non partisan and non polemical way of saying that Singaporeans are unhappy.

What are "mixed views"?

Resignation and indignation.

What does this news report mean?

Responsible factual reporting. Looking at the other half of the truth. The sun sets in the West.

Why is this report like this?

Government said so. The Bhavani Commandments.

Where is the voice of the people?

In their hearts.

Will they speak up?



We have no solutions.

What will happen?

We will forget.

I see.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

National Days

here are moments when art and life intersect. In Singapore, the co-mingling of art with life is a tense affair. Especially when the life in question is political life. For that life remains the sole monopoly of the State. But art like laughter is always subversive. It always digs under the skin, beneath the fabric of society whenever the opportunity avails itself. But there are also times when art is used to add layers of skin, to dye the fabric of society. Some call this propaganda. The truly sophisticated artist sometimes abets propaganda but seeds the work of art with barely discernible pieces of resistance.

National Day in Singapore is a glorious affair. The country is swathed in red, stirring songs get aired on television. Fragments of Singapore History is often defrosted and given that magical, nostalgic aura of past time to touch Singaporeans. Grainy tears of spearation, rasping shouts of Merdeka. Bringing us to that moment of Singapore's birth and meaning.

The strength of the State's artistic production throughout National Day is its monopoly on Singapore History. Not a monopoly on the facts, but a monopoly on the interpretation of that History. Imagine a black and white video footage, scratched, fuzzied, historical, a troop of determined soldiers standing stoically in a flashing thunderstorm. Interpreted as resilience, as strength.

When we reach the Present, the State is at its zenith, precision military marching, pomp, paegeantry, a roar of F-16 fighters leaving each flat trembling in their supersonic wake. The boom of the ceremonial cannons, the retorts of the raised rifles. The rumble of the tanks, the Rapiers. Then, songs of achievement in one voice, one heart, pledges of loyalty. Harmony.

As the sun sets, the show moves into futurity and always, somehow, the State falters into the rote of performance. Gaily garbed children running obscure patterns on the Padang. Happy shiny youth placarding a cardboard Singapore-to-be. This trick, that illusion, the laser show. Than the rote is saved by an explosive climax of fireworks burning in our night sky. Singapore burning into Heaven.

As Singapore is convulsing through this performance, and the State is busy conducting this orchestra of Time and History, little pockets of counter cultural activities blossom. Indig-Nation is one.

Another I wish to highlight is the Singapore Theatre Festival (STF).

It has a delightful logo. A man garbed in red putting his head in the Merlion's mouth. Examining deep into the heart of Merlion. Or putting his head between the Merlion's jaws?

There is neither much pomp or much paegeantry in STF. But it asks alot of questions in its productions. The curtain raiser is the premiere of Alfian Sa'at's "Homesick". It asks questions of staying and quitting. People who stay, people who go. Cost of leaving. There is Ovidia's "Silence of the Kittens". Asking questions of creating safe and stable environments. Creating utopias. Very Molly there. Then, there is a doublebill on language, naming and history, the story of Utama.

All these are apt questions while Singapore is in its Celebration Narrative. I magine that the Festival is collecting the questions, the ideas of the marginal, the fringed who are brushed aside by the relentless Celebration Narrative. This is piety in Art and who knows what answers may be found in this questioning.

Smack right on National Day is the premiere of Eleanor Wong's "The Campaign to Confer the Public Service Star on JBJ". This is not exactly new ground. Such calls have been made at various times in Singapore's alternative media. But to see this Idea, given life by a playwright and presented in public is, to me, the achievement of the Festival itself. A beauty in Art, of Art.

And then on 5.30 pm, 12 Aug, Art meets Life quietly.

LIFE: Speaking and Quieted: New Singapore, Old Constraints?
ART: The Campaign to Confer the Public Service Star on JBJ

Could the Campaign to confer the Public Star on JBJ in fact become a reality in today's Singapore? How do we view the Opposition, or alternative views? How do we value or acknowledge them? Can we?

Moderator: Alfian Sa'at (Playwright)

Points of View: Gayle Goh (Citizen Commentator), Sylvia Lim (Worker's Party Chairman, NCMP), Eleanor Wong (Playwright, Lawyer), Tan Tarn How (Playwright, Social Commentator)

All the names will be familar to us all in Singapore cyber-space, perhaps barring ironically Eleanor Wong, the playwright. Alfian, he of that haunting line "if you love Singapore too much ...", Gayle the fearless blogger, Sylvia now a newly minted NCMP and Tan Tarn How, now an alternative media blogger, formerly a journalist. Its a fascinating gathering. Art, alternative media, alternative politics. This looks like engagement to me.

So my dear readers, if perhaps the Celebration Narrative of National Day exhausts you too much, or if you feel you want to think about rather just passively receive grainy footage of authoritative History, than go down to this Festival. With me, who tend to avoid being in Singapore during National Day, lets make our way into these dark and quiet boxes, known as theatres and see a different narrative unfold while Singapore hurtles toward Utopia.

Quote of the Day --

"Memory, having swept me back to the heady days of the war's eve, now drops me indecorously back in the present. I am seated at my desk, facing the row of books that stand against the wall between dusty bookends - large ungainly wooden elephants whose tusks have long since broken off. The spines of the books are marked by frequent use. The pages are yellow, blotchy and discoloured. Looking at these repositories of learning, my best friends, I pity their sufferings from our heat and humidity. Scholarship can never conquer in these parts: every seeming victory is mocked by the steady workings of the climate, a climate that rots wood, paper and fabrics with democratic indiscrimination. Perhaps it was always a hopeless battle- with that thought comes anger, momentarily shaking my body, reminding me of my increasing frailty, leaving me slumped in the chair." -- Philip Jeyaretnam, Abraham's Promise

Monday, July 24, 2006

People Who Go, People Who Stay

I do not know him.

But I know he visits this blog occasionally. He pointed me to an essay before. He told me he liked words simple.

I visit his blog sometimes. To feel that spirit who left Singapore. To help me write. Because he writes beautifully.

He is a brave soul. From Sammyboy to blogspot, he lit a path for people to follow. Those who could not stay in Singapore anymore. He made leaving real.

His story remains in cyberspace. From serf to knight. It is his achievement. There are people who go, people who stay. He has gone. Crossed the final rubicon.

Time has slowed an inch in Singapore.

For me, I think he has just stopped writing.

Ocean pulls me close
And whispers in my ear
The destiny I've chose
All becoming clear
The currents have their say
The time is drawing near
Washes me away
Makes me disappear

NIN "The Great Below"

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Mythic Creature Known as the Conservative Singaporean

Its that time of the year in Singapore when the State demands your patriotism. Hang your flags. Wear red. clamp your fist against your chest. National Day. For a few years running in Singapore though, a counter cultural festival has been occurring around this time as well. Its called Indig-Nation. This Festival is organised by the gay community in Singapore. Its about the only systematic series of activities in the calendar year in which the Singapore gay community attempts to cross the barriers into Singapore consciousness, to make the transit into physical space, graze society.

When this happens, the state messaging machine chugs into life. Crusader against gays, a Minister Balaji will make his routine association between gays and HIV/Aids. Horror of an invisible virus stamps into our psyches. Then the other bogey is invoked. This bogey is more insidious and more sinister. This bogey is that creature known as the "Conservative Singaporean".

This is a mythic creature that appears ever so often in our lexical landscape. It is a terrifying creature, this "Conservative Singaporean". This creature does not like deviance. It thinks gays are monsters. This creature does not like change, it wants stability. It wants the state to continue delivering the goods. This creature forsakes some of its freedoms so that society can be safe. So that we can walk the streets at night without fear. Occasionally this creature crops up in the Straits Times. The "Lionel De Souzas" who define Singapore consciousness, establish its parameters, banish the differents.

The State messaging machine will utter the tagline : "We are basically still a conservative society. Conservative Singaporeans are still not ready to accept gays into society". At the same breath, foreign workers are cabling intelligent nation Singapore into a super information highway. Children barely across the age of seven blog and maple story their lives into a global circuit world.

Who is this "Conservative Singaporean"? Where does (s)he live? This creature that is so common but yet so powerful in Singapore that the State actually defers to. The State actually considers for this "Conservative Singaporean". I have only caught glimpses of this creature, it is almost extinct in my eyes. But yet, I must be wrong. Because the State says that this creature is the defining embodiment of Singapore society. If so, this creature must be in abundance.

Google "gay scene singapore" and you will see a flourishing cyber-community which has built a resilient network in the virtual world. Do the same for "conservative Singaporean" and you see XenoBoy top of the list. The Conservative Singaporean is as elusive as that Lion that earned Singapore its name.

It gets more confusing. There are times that the State actually laments that Singaporeans are too conservative. Not enough creativity. Not enough razzmatazz to take on the brave new world. Hence, they change the education system. Enough of the stuffy, straight Singaporean. Lets have some creativity. Dance on the bar tops.

But when the envelope is pushed to the State. In the form of Indig-Nation, in the form of a vibrant political culture. "We are basically still a conservative society".

Lets be seditious. Lets think. Is it possible that there may actually be more gays than conservative Singaporeans? Can it actually be a case that there are more Singaporeans at the fringe of Singapore than in the empty center?

The conservative Singaporean is like foot-steps on water. It makes an imprint and disappears. But it ripples across the Singapore consciousness to win acquiescence. To deny the reality of the existence of gays in Singapore. Not even a yellow box for gays. The community has no space in physical Singapore, existing only in poetry, plays and acts of fiction, of artifice. ghost shells only in Singapore, free only out of territorial Singapore.

Indig-Nation indeed.

Quote of the Day --

"The bed was empty. She'd known it was empty all along but was only catching up ... she walked into the room and went to the window. She opened it. She threw the window open. she didn't know why she did this. Then she knew. She wanted to feel the sea tang on her face and the flow of time in her body, to tell her who she was." -- Don DeLillo, The Body Artist

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What Makes Me, Me?

It is only the Singaporean politician who can launch a campaign asking Singaporeans to define their identity and at the same time utter words which deny you your identity. Simultaneously without flinching. Without shame.

What makes you, You?

"It aims to get Singaporeans discussing, and to decide for themselves what the Singapore identity is."

What makes me, Me? The answer is simple Minister Lee. It is you. Its you and what you represent. What you represent defines us utterly and totally. The decisions have already been made. What makes me, Me? It is you. You made me. You forged a me which is a shell, an illusory individuation of the larger whole of PAP=Singapore. What makes me, Me? It is you who taught me, who educated me to understand that being open, being participatory is how You define it. It is You who teaches me to bow, to keep my silence, to sacrifice me for You. It is You who teaches me to accept dualism without flinching, without shame. It is You who tell me what is right and what is wrong. It is You who teaches me what is responsible and what is not. It is You who defines what I see, what I hear and what I read. It is You who determines whether I speak. It is You who shines the light on the path I must tread. It is You who decides me. What makes me, Me? It is You.

"And that's always been my position, or the position of this Government - that the mainstream newspaper must report accurately, objectively and responsibly. And that they must adopt this model that they are part of this nation-building effort, rather than go out and purvey views that would mislead people, confuse people, which will in fact undermine our national strategy!"

What makes me, Me? You made me Minister Lee.

And You made me wrong. I am wrongly made.

In your making, I lost me. I lost myself. Without a self identity, without a me, how can I know what is the Singapore identity? You shine the light on the path I must tread but the darkness shines brighter. You define what I read, see, hear but I read, see and hear more than You allow me to. And so it is You who confuse me. It is you who is misleading me. I see rising costs of living, I hear a Singaporean hard done by means testing, I read about Opposition wards being ugraded last. But in your making, I must deny what I see, hear and read. I must deny myself. Deny me. Accept only a me made by you.

When can I be me?

How can I be me?

These are the questions which are more important than what made me, Me? Because as these questions remain unanswered, ignored, there will be no one left in Singapore to discuss the Singapore identity. What remains are only the Yous. The army of Yous, indistinguishable from one another, an indivisible whole of shiny happy people in a white paradise who have no Me but are just a Hive known as Singapore to service the rest of the world.

What makes me, Me? It is not You. It cannot be You. It must not be You. And if you do not accept that Minister, then we are doomed to paradise.

Quote of the Day --

"Thy heaven doors are my Hell Gates.
Socrates taught what Meletus loath'd
as a Nation's bitterest curse,
And Caiaphas was in his own Mind
A benefactor to Mankind.
Both read the Bible day and night,
But thou read'st black where I read white" -- William Blake, The Everlasting Gospel

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Singapore Central

A comment in my previous entry gave me pause for thought. It was an articulate comment, undoubtedly penned by an intelligent person. the comment was replicated across several blogs, most notably at mr brown's blog as well. The comment calls for a reconsideration of the hero-ship status accorded to mb, given that his form of resistance was edged by degrees of self-interest, by degrees of profit. Calling on History, the commenter suggests that mb is nowhere near icons such as Chia Thye Poh, who suffered worst and who suffered more "purely".

It is a compelling argument. It raises a broader question of what really is resistance in Singapore? What constitutes resistance in the context of Singapore? Is resistance akin to having Rockson's "dulan in the heart"? Is it a "silent" gathering of thirty over brown-clad individuals in a busy MRT station? Is it the act of etching words on a surface? Is it time spent in detention?

There is a book I read recently. William T Vollman's "Europe Central" of which I took a quote from. The book explores the lives of several anti-heroes, individuals who lived in Stalinist Russia and Hitler's Germany as well as post WWII East Germany. It is about individuals who resist, who try to resist. But they do not resist one hundred percent of their lives. More often than not, they nurse resistance in their hearts while making compromises to the totalitarian regimes they suffer under. There are individual acts of resistance across their lives but more often, more tragically, their compromises tip the scales. Sometimes their acts of resistance remain so deeply disguised that it becomes co-opted into the state.

These people try to resist but they cannot do it all the time, all their lives. Throughout their lives, these individuals face a menace. A hidden menace. An implied menace. An invisible axe hovering inches above their necks. They live such lives, not knowing what the ringing phone means. A summons into oblivion? A call from their lover? They lived lives where their starving children must be fed, where their imprisoned sons have to be freed.

Its a book about cowards in the face of death, of threatened oblivion. Its a book about compromises for survival. Its a very sad book about lives of people who resist but not all the time under totalitarian regimes. It a book which explores resistance at its core. Individual choices, ethics and morality. But always under the impending sound of a whistling ax. In the end, the book asks me whether these people were cowards as History has deemed them.

It is only through the book's psychological intepretation of the lives of these people that we can perhaps construct the gravity of what the State has done to mb. And perhaps again, understand that the wounding inflicted upon mb and Chia is not very different.

Imagine the thoughts in mb before he pens his next entry, produces his next podcast. Try to feel what goes through his mind when he receives a letter stamped "On Government Service". Try not to flinch if you are mentioned with disapproval by the powers that define Singapore in a national broadcast. The wounding is precisely this. The psychological tension of that invisble ax hovering near.

This is exactly what Chia went through for many long years before he won his freedom and left Singapore.

Suffering like this is suffering. There are no purer or less pure forms.

Back to the main question then. What is resistance in Singapore? Where it is not totalitarian but totalistic control. Where the State embraces you seductively and comforts you physically. The trick is really that Singapore is merely totalistic in its control. It cannot keep each of us in a box separated from one another, though it tries, especially now with the Internet coursing through our lives.

And so, I would rather see four million acts of "cowardly" resistance than one grand act of resistance in the context that is Singapore. White elephants and hanging mannequins last year, carnivalesque political rallies and silent brown shirts this year. Less fluttering flags. More brown than red t-shirts. A petition here. A protest e-mail there. A play, a drama, a story. Poems, art and dance. All the hidden symbols of resistance in these activities, while we lead the majority of our lives in compromise to the State, can percolate across the Singapore consciousness, bringing forth a new generation of young Singaporeans. Getting the "dulan" out of our hearts. Resistance from thought to action, however small, however individual. Than maybe, than perhaps, we see change across Singapore.

Quote of the Day --

"In this world are the strong and the weak. The strong never yield to torture, and they go to Paradise' but what about those like myself who are born weak, those who when tortured and ordered to trample on the sacred image ... "There are neither the strong nor the weak. Can anyone say that the weak do not suffer more than the strong?" -- Shusaku Endo, Silence

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Les Cendres Du Temps

I am a Singaporean. Despite not being in Singapore most of the time. I remember when I was young. Watching the news until the very end. Then this little thrill will come into me as I mimic the newscaster's voice. When the weather is forecast : "Sunny over many areas of Singapore with scattered showers in some areas in the late afternoon". Sometimes they change "some" with "several". Then one day, they stopped forecasting the weather over the news. Perhaps weather is just not very news-worthy in Singapore.

I am a Singaporean. And today, a fellow Singaporean was dealt an unfair hand by the authorities and by the newspaper which hired him as a columnist. It is one of the many black days in Singapore history. And sadly, like the so many black days in Singapore, it will be forgotten.
Ashes of time.

I believe what Molly says is right.

"Accuse the government of being repressive and Molly believes someone would come out confidently, calmly and ever-authoritatively say that the government (if Bhavani's letter represents the government's position, that is) is only asserting its right of reply and, in fact, it didn't tell Today to suspend mrbrown."

This is precisely the problem in Singapore. What Mr Wang calls the climate of fear and a frightening day for journalists in Singapore.

"In my opinion, this reflects the frightening climate of fear under which media professionals in Singapore have to work."

Its worse than that actually.

In Singapore, mr brown has recourse to nobody. He is alone with only his family and close friends. Utterly alone. Despite the noise of blogos, despite the common Singaporeans screaming in cyberspace.

In our impassioned appeals across cyberspace, we forget that mr brown is just like you and me. Common Singaporeans with no access to the Government. We can scream. But our screams will only echo off the walls.

There are no civil rights, human rights, professional groups in Singapore which can take up his case. For that matter, no group will want to take up the matter. In the real real world which is Singapore.

It is instances like this that make Singaporeans leave. When they realise that in times when they are dealt unfairly by the Goliaths in Singapore. They cannot be Davids.

And the saddest in this tragedy is this; we will tell the soon-to-leave, "ok lor", "I understand", "Its sad but perhaps it is better".

This is the sorry state of Singapore. Of Singaporeans. When I, when we, can marshall no defence for someone who wants to leave.

And the Government will proceed efficiently. Wondering why Singaporeans have no love with the State. And coming up with more empty policies, empty promises to engage Singaporeans.

Molly asked for a phrophesy. She got Part 1. I offer PArt 2. In the National Day Rally speech, PM LEe Hsien Loong will in his smiling face talk homourously about the Internet. Claiming to understand, he will offer open-ness but with the qualifications. They will not tolerate the irresponsible views, the rants. He will not allow cyberspace opinion to overwhelm Singapore society. And the privileged audience in the National Day Rally will laugh with him.

There is nothing that can be done in Singapore. There will be no one who will dare stand up and say "TODAY and MICA, you have treated a Singaporean unfairly just because he spoke up".

In Singapore, the only recourse is Time. To turn this into ashes. Scattered across the uneasy consciousness of Singaporeans. Les cendres du temps.

There is freedom of speech in Singapore like Malaysia but not after. And the Singaporean is worse off because after he is silenced, there is no further recourse, unlike Malaysia which has greater vibrancy in the civil rights movement.

For those who owe their salaries, their livelihoods to Singapore Press Holdings. Remember that this is how the organisation will treat you.

For what it is worth, I second Mr Wang's call :

"If you feel strongly about this matter and are concerned about its implications for the freedom of expression in Singapore, you may wish to consider speaking up now and sending an email to media organisations overseas, so that they can follow up on the story. For your convenience:

New Straits Times (Malaysia):
South China Morning Post (Hong Kong):
Bangkok Post (Thailand): (editor's name is Kowit Sanandang)
News.Com.Au (Australia):
The Jakarta Post (Indonesia):

Remember to draw their attention to the RSF article above - they are likelier to detect the newsworthiness of this matter. And the greater the number of you who write to these organisations, the likelier they are to realise that this is a significant matter."

Last, I would like to make just one appeal to readers, to Singaporeans. Do not forget this black day like we always do.

Remember what has been done to a common Singaporean like you and me.

Just because he spoke.

Quote of the Day --

"Some of you have been asking, so here goes. I have been informed that TODAY has suspended my column. It has been a trying few days for me, my family, my mum and my friends. Thank you all for your emails, letters, calls, SMSes, blogs and comments, I don't know what to say. Thanks." -- Mr Brown

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Polemical & Partisan Post

Lets blog the real stuff. The undistorted truth. the truth which mr brown himself did not address. The real stuff that riled MICA. The points that caused Bhavani, the proxy of Lee Boon Yang, to attack mr brown.

What really led MICA over the boil was this. All the election predictions of the Opposition Parties are coming true. In the Opposition rallies, they mentioned that after GE06, public transport hikes would go up. Yes, we have that. The main taxi company has raised prices. Expect the other taxi companies, the bus companies and the trains to follow. Higher household electricity prices, another topic raised by the Opposition Parties in GE06, and yes true enough, within less than two months we have it.

Bhavani was distorting the truth when she said that higher oil prices meant these price hikes were inevitable. In the elections, these examples were raised not just to nettle the PAP. They were raised to address the issue of cost of living. Among the parties, probably WP was most systematic in offering counter-plans to address such increases in living costs. These were scoffed at by the PAP. Now Bhavani comes back and says that Progress Package was meant to defray these rising costs. That the Progress Package can last Singaporeans the next 4 years to the next elections to handle these price increases.

Bull shit.

Means testing. now we have an actual example of a Singaporean caught in between this concept of means testing. Dealt an unfair hand by the law of statistics. Rather than address the problem and acknowledge the limitations of means testing, Bhavani attacks the integrity of mr brown. Imagine, when means testing comes into play for allotment of C class hospital wards. A point repeatedly raised by the WP in GE06. what then? Progress Package was meant to cater for this too?

Bull shit.

mr brown was partisan? Hardly. This blog entry is what it means to be partisan. This blog entry tells you that all the PAP rhetoric in GE06 cannot stand scrutiny. This is why they did not dare address nor answer the questions raised by the Opposition parties then, because deep down they knew it was coming true. As Bhavani says, it was inevitable. The point of inevitability is this, what then are you, as the Government of Singapore, as the elected representatives, doing to address this inevitability? this was a question raised repeatedly in GE06 but was met with evasive answer after another. Who then was shirking the responsibility of coming up witb solutions to issues raised? Did these issues go away with the end of GE06? No Bhavani, these issues are still here in singapore, with Singaporeans.

Bhavani wants to talk about being partisan? Why then is HDB, an organisation in charge of public housing for all Singaporeans practising partisan politics, partisan policies? Why are Singaporeans residing in non PAP wards not given equality in treatment? Its not there is no money. Remember the obscene amounts of money dangled in front of hougang and Potong Pasir? the tens of millions? what is partisan politics, what is partisan policies?

The udistorted truth is this. After having won the Mandate to rule, unpopular policies can be pushed through with ease. Raising prices across the board, from transport to cigarettes, can be effected with no political cost.

My father says : the government raises the prices of cigarettes and more people are dying from lung cancer. Why? Because everyone is switching to the cheaper alternative of filter-less hand-rolled cigarettes. That is a fact. who wins? government because at least they earn money. This is true coffeeshop talk. And you know what? Me, a professional with multiple degrees believe him. Maybe thats why they are targetting the coffeeshops too, restricting the space of people who drink, smoke and relax at coffeeshops, because they talk too much and have no concrete solutions. Unconstructive.

This is the ruling party in its naked self. Not the party in the year before GE, when it is all smiles and forgiveness, when it becomes caring and generous. As they lull Singaporeans into forgetting.
This is polemics, this is partisan and I am not ashamed of this entry.

Quote of the Day --

"How strange, I never would have thought the truth would make you angry". Truth she thought. As terrible as Death, but harder to find." -- Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle

Monday, July 03, 2006

O Bhavani

In Singapore, when the Government says you are distorting the truth, and you are dressing up polemics as analysis and that you are speaking in a calculated manner to foster despondency and cynicism, that you are hiding behind a pseudonym, exploiting access to the media to champion political issues, such accusations are usually targeted at Chee Soon Juan, James Gomez and the other Opposition politicians who irritate the ruling party tremendously.

No. This time round, they are targeting these accusations at Mr Brown. Yes, the blogger Mr Brown, and the owner of browntown in the pre-blog days.

In a letter dripping with sinister undertones and implied intimidation, which is the other ever-present hallmark of our Government other than its smiling and happy public face, Mr Brown was given the Catherine Lim treatment. Yes the Catherine Lim treatment which gave birth to the famed lexicons of political speak in Singapore : "OB markers".

This letter bears the exact same discursive triggers as the admonishments levelled at Dr Catherine Lim almost a decade ago. Exact to a chilling degree. With only one deviation.

Making use of the privileged role as a columnist in a mainstream newspaper to champion partisan political views. Check.

Distortion of truth, the dressing up of polemics as analysis. Rememeber Dr Catherine Lim and her views on Ministerial pay and the great affective divide that was then, in her eyes, opening up between Government and Singaporeans. Check.

Offering no solution and alternatives. Unconstructive criticism. Hiding behind a pseudonym and hence, freed from accountability and responsibility to answer for his views. Read : talking politics having not joined politics. Check.

Seeking to undermine the standing of the Singapore Government. Check.

The only deviation is this. There was no challenge to mr brown to join politics. Perhaps they fear him joining a political party. Or perhaps they were saving this challenge for the next salvo to be fired at mr brown, probably by a Minister-level personality. This letter is the formal opening of hostilities. Lee Boon Yang's veiled threats at the IPS seminar were but the pre-cursors.

Despite having progressed another ten years plus in Singapore, these relics which subdue expression still re-surface in Singapore with easy impunity. When such relics lose their cloak of invisibility and comes out into the open again, we are at once reminded of what has really changed in Singapore? When such relics re-appear, Time in Singapore has inched into a crawl, a horrible Trauerspiel, slowed down to an extent that we realise that the song remains the same. Oh dear.

What has really changed in ten years plus of Singapore's progress? What has changed? Nothing. Simply nothing.

New Prime Minister, old Prime Minister, all the promises of change, more good years, Singapore21, Heartbeat Singapore, inclusive society, lose their glamour, lose their sheen of hope when such a cold cold letter emerges in our mainstream media of impeccable high standards. Standards so high that only those of similar stratospheric vision can read and understand.

You see, mr brown is entitled his views but such views cannot grace the mainstream media which is of loftier and higher standards. His are views which belong below. For the low standards. And so in one fell swoop, one cold letter relinquishes all readers of mr brown as of low standard. Low brow.

The standard of the mainstream media is so high. So much so that the phrase "to stretch out incomes" is not a distortion of truth. So much so that a civil servant can impugn with subtle and cold sarcasm the motivations of mr brown as driven by his own child's experience. These are then the high standards of civil service correspondence which automatically qualify into the same league as our impeccable mainstream old papers? The letter contained an insinuation, a sinister insinuation. It reeks with the stench of dirty Government, dirty politics.

This is the type of humour that these people enjoy.

This is the type of laughter that the Minister of the same ministry condones. This was how he laughed when he first levelled the veiled threat at mr brown in the IPS seminar. This is the laughter of vindictiveness, of malevolence.

A laughter of men in political power.

Read this letter by Bhavani as a threat. Nothing less. And I anticipate that this will be addressed in the National Day Rally speech. Couched in the exclusive humour of all Rally speeches where the audience comprise the power elites of Singapore.

You see don't you? mr brown is deemed a corruptor of us pure Singaporeans. His views, his polemics contaminate the mainstream media. Poison the minds of us pure Singaporeans. The "masses" who are always deemed pure, optimistic people. Shiny, happy people. Us pure Singaporeans who are always four minutes to midnight or one tiny slippery slip from the chasm of despair and cynicism. His views are for STOMP. Not for TODAY.

His views are politics. Partisan politics. Which party Bhavani? The party which is not the PAP? That party which from another view could actually mean the rest of Singapore. The real Singaporean? Come on Bhavani. Which party if partisan?

Like a Trauerspiel, we are stuck in a terminal loop, watching the same narratives flash us by, watching re-runs of History, absorbing the same stories, the repeated morals.

Give me a Catherine Lim story anytime, when the rich and the powerful, the snobs always get their come-uppance, in an ironic kind of a way.

Mr Wang and Molly, my two most admired Sg blogos hath spoken more quickly on this. And so too will others. Let it not rest as it did ten years ago.

Quote of the Day --

"Once she was tempted to approach Ah Soh to borrow some money-she had heard whispers of the immense sum of money that Ah Soh had slowly accumulated over forty years, money she had saved from her sale of cakes and puddings, and from extreme frugality ... But she had quickly rejected the idea. What, degrade herself by seeking help from a relative who was no better than a servant? Mrs. Khoo’s inherent dislike of Ah Soh was increased by her suspicion that behind all that effusive humility and deference was a shrewdness and alertness that saw everything that was going on, and she even fancied that the little frightened-looking eyes in the thin pallid face sometimes laughed at her." -- Catherine Lim, The Jade Pendant