There is an obscure quote by Nadine Gordimer, a South African Nobel Literature writer which mentions that the State has no imagination because it puts imagination into its service. For the writer however, he/she is put into service by imagination.
And so today, prompted by another one of those illuminating comments left by an anonymous in my previous entry, I would like to consider imagination in Singapore. Many have dissected and rightly thrashed Andy Ho's column on why blogging should be State-managed just like the mainstream media because it is beneficial in developing individuals' political consciousness and building social bonds. I would like to steal two words in his commentary which represents freedom. Wiggle room. It is a curious choice of words to denote freedom for both mainstream and alternative media. Wiggle room freedom. Why only wiggle room when what you want to do is roll down the windows and scream on a deserted street at 3 am in the morning?
The imagined freedom of a wiggle room is modest. Just a little wiggle. Nothing substantial. Wiggle. Small freedom, a little shake, a little twist. Why this limit of imagination? Granted that there are of course barriers, both legal and assumed, to self expression, institutional expression in Singapore, why then when we do imagine freedom, we imagine only a wiggle. A wiggle in a room. It is as if the re-iterations of small Singapore, small space, small island, red dot, transcends the physical into our minds. That even when we imagine, we imagine small as well.
In conversations I have had with some of my friends whom grew old with me, they come across now as tired; tired of thinking. Tired to imagine big. To imagine beyond their capabilities. They dismiss this as the process of growing-up. Being all the wiser. Humble of their own limited capabilities. In their fatigue, they appreciate small mercies. All they want is indeed just wiggle room.
Are they tired or is it because the State has somehow claimed their imaginations into service? This is a question which I cannot truly answer even though I think it is the latter :
Imagination like all living things lives now, and it lives with, from, on true change. Like we all do and have, it can be co-opted and degraded; but it survives commercial and didactic exploitation.
If we take the above line at its value, which I am inclined to do so, than imagination in Singapore is truly in danger. It explains the little imaginations we have left in Singapore. It reasons why we imagine less and imagine small. If imagination in Singapore tires and shrinks into ever diminishing amounts for lack of true change, and it is left only to a select few in political power to imagine for Singapore, than the infinite opportunities which unfettered imagination brings about dwindles as well. And there will less possibilities because there is little to imagine beyond. And the possible paths of Singapore's future grows narrower.
The signals are there. 53% of Singapore's young wants out. There must be something more than just consumerism, materialism or commodification which create signals as such. For the young should have the biggest imaginations, not necessarily the most realistic, but always the most beautiful. And if slightly more than half of these imaginations do not have Singapore in them, then is it not a case that imagination in Singapore is diminishing. Two steps into the twilight?
And so when there is an event like the Singapore Theatre Festival, it is a gem to be treasured. Yes, it may not be cheap. Yes, it may be raw. But when you view it from the perspective of endangered imagination in Singapore, its value is deep. The Festival is a gathering of imaginations which are given Form. Imaginations enlivened with human voices. It is powerful to hear some of the messages transmitted by the performers' voice, a human voice. At certain moments in these articulations, art and reality fused. And then, further imaginings are born to lead us away from living fraudulent lives. Lead us away from the fear of stealing screen-time with a political blog in a school library.
All this just from the phrase "wiggle room". But still we cannot let imagination diminish further in Singapore.
And it begins by letting imagination put us into service.
PS : In line with this entry which stole the words of Andy Ho, the word thief that is me, have also stolen situations, lines, words, names and quotes from various nice blogs which have helped imagine this into existence. Thank you.