Tuesday, September 19, 2006

In the End,


In the end, the sunflowers did not really die, the Cenotaph is still enclosed and many groups of people are unhappy over this event hosted in Singapore. The guests are not happy, the hosts are also less than pleased, local activists remain immobilised and the foreign activists keep their heads high and their beliefs intact.

So the 4 million smiles did not really materialise and ironically, the 400 frowns became the more honest campaign, a more prophetic campaign.

The Prime Minister makes his grand speech of embracing globalisation in front of the world and the foreign media is at a sidewalk giving air-time to a bankrupted politician who has not taken a bath for three days.

No one's really happy isn't it?

The pre-hype surrounding the IMF/WB meeting suggested such a flurry of people, a host of activities, a sense of humanity and color and celebration. All we see is really a dominant motif of empty spaces. Empty fleets of Mercedes cabs. Empty meeting rooms filled with elegant white-draped chairs. Empty demonstration site. Emptiness except for barricades, sunflowers and policemen.

With due respect to Dr Chee and his SDP coterie, the Empower Singaporeans Rally also became an empty event really. No arrests (yet), trickling groups of sympathetic Singaporeans, lots of foreign media hungry for some action, any action. But so too, like the hyped Meetings, this event also emptied of significance eventually; to such an extent that what was previously a restricted act of handing out flyers by the group became now suddenly, permissible.

In the end really, the question to be asked is really, where are the people? The humanity for these empty spaces, to fill this spaces with meaning, with relevance?

While cinemas are filled with Singaporeans watching Singapore Dreaming, there is no one watching this movie, Singapore Reality. Perhaps it is because in Dreaming, Singaporeans are closer to the truth in their existence than in Reality. Perhaps they have watched Reality so many times, they are just tired, jaded from watching the same script, the same story, the same technical glitches occur again and again. Its not even a bad sequel. Its a repeat telecast.

And so all these empty spaces flourish in their protected and enclosed environment and this spatial emptiness leeches away the significance of the Event(s), to the extent that they become empty events too. Devoid of meaning. This is perhaps the reason why everyone is not really happy. From HDTV, to colour TV, to black and white and ultimately just white noise to an empty cinema hall, empty living room. No one is watching, no one is here. They are elsewhere.

Two SingaporeAngle entries provide contrasting viewpoints on whether or not there is a "crisis" to singapore's reputation from hosting this WB/IMF event. Both entries miss the point somewhat. The crisis is not really about "reputations" or our "image". The crisis is really about the empty spaces and all their attendant associations. The strong and the powerful will and can always play their games, spin their songs, tell their stories, lay their laws. Its whether there is anyone really listening, who really care. People who will fill up these empty spaces and give meaning.

Empty spaces are an absence. And that is the danger. That is the crisis. And maybe, if through this fiasco of hosting the WB/IMF, that this absence comes into the glaring light, it is not such an abject failure after all. Because, I do know, all of you silent readers, as you absorb, as you think, you can only envision something different, something less absent.

I originally wanted to end this entry with the question : where are you, Singaporean? Then I saw that everyone is there. Just waiting. In the shadows. In little groups, searching for the sunflowers. Encircling the cenotaph. Hovering at the edges of Hong Lim. Waiting to fill the absence.

Quote of the Day --

"In one poem, an old woman paces the hollow, thumping the floorboards of her house late at night, unable to sleep. then she hears the laughter of a child. She opens the door and sees only darkness, and calls out "Dodo?" ... outside her door is a town ... Creeping out of the darkness towards her and into the electric light come the tired faces of those long gone, men and women in plain dress, standing amid the new, not surprised, not confused or outraged. Simply standing." -- Geoff Ryman, Was

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Less tarrying please. Lest too many leave.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the coma after End. Meaningful.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Xtralicious said...

as always, unerring acumen.

8:07 PM  
Blogger sei-ji rakugaki said...

we need to eventually come out of the shadows, don't we?

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as usual u articulate Sg so well

3:10 AM  
Blogger Kitana said...

I love your posts. They are always beautifully written, and you always manage to see the big picture before most others can. Empty spaces. That is quite an apt image... And I find myself agreeing.

Everyone is just waiting. Waiting for change. Ironically, I wonder if change will come about if the majority just wait, but few ever take action.

3:56 AM  
Anonymous milos said...

my whole life is here. Fuck being in any shadow. Fuck being anonymous.

Milos Sadik. Foreigner. I love singapore, they're my people.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous red11 said...

Even if empty spaces could be interpreted as an absence of meaning, that in itself is rich in its significance. Not for the Event(s), but maybe for S'pore and its government.

Spaces need to be humanised, to be "lived" in, to hold memories, in order to become places that have meaning(s) for the people(s) who use it. Nonetheless, a sterile space, devoid of any meaning(s), despite of the many people(s) who come across it daily, does also make a statement. Two cents worth. ;)

5:05 AM  
Blogger il mango di Treviso said...

XB
I might not agree with everything you write, but I must say you are a pleasure to read and very very talented.

Ciao

9:12 PM  
Anonymous milos said...

ah drunk blogging, you always regret it. Sorry Xenoboy

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Kelvin Tan said...

While cinemas are filled with Singaporeans watching Singapore Dreaming, there is no one watching this movie, Singapore Reality. Perhaps it is because in Dreaming, Singaporeans are closer to the truth in their existence than in Reality. Perhaps they have watched Reality so many times, they are just tired, jaded from watching the same script, the same story, the same technical glitches occur again and again. Its not even a bad sequel. Its a repeat telecast.
====

I like this part the best!

10:02 PM  

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