Thursday, September 21, 2006

Manufracturing Consent

You wake up in the middle of a coup and the first thing that hits you is that its so quiet. Hushed. Tense. A voice on the phone which seems more distant, telling you "today not same yesterday, more better if you go north, you go tomorrow". You peer through the window onto streets which are empty. Straining to make out the tanks in the intersection a distance away. Everyone is like you, waiting, watching, wondering and wary in the beginning.

Perhaps it is what Bakunin terms as the "instinct to freedom", but people cannot stay cooped for long. Its always the children isn't it? They venture first. Tentatively onto the streets, Staring at the tanks and the guns and the yellow scarved soldiers. When the child walks, the mothers will follow. And a mother walks up to the soldier. A flower in hand, an offer of peace, perhaps hope. The soldier smiles, accepts the flower and partakes in this moment of peace, perhaps hope.

With this gesture, the empty street fills slowly. People step out from their hiding places. Its less quiet, less tense and some semblance of life is restored.

The people are happy. The bigger evil, Thaksin is gone. A little bit uneasy perhaps of the way he went, but still happy nonetheless. For there is the King still, the revered personification of Grace, who allowed this. The people are happy because the King is with Them, and they are with the King.

In my previous entry, there was some distaste at the notion of Singaporeans, in the shadows. Waiting. Commenters' fear its for Godot, we wait. And while we wait and tarry, people are leaving, one after another. There was some frustration, helplessness, resignation and well-placed anger even. And I agree with these sentiments. We can only wait because we have no King, no Messiah, no Saviour. And it may be some time for we could have possibly used up our quota of great leaders for a while yet.

I once made my way, in one of those freezing winters of NYC to attend a talk by Noam Chomsky in Greenwich. He is one of the few great living thinkers left in our crazy world today. It was in a small auditorium, crowded with leftists, anarchists, conservatives, liberals, intellectuals, intelligentsia, even hacktivists. Everyone rooted to Chomsky, a MIT professor emeritus in linguistics, rambling in his monotone. He was talking about Hume's Paradox in which, any society, the population always submits to the rulers, even though force is always in the hands of the governed. Be it democratic or not. He explained that submission is gained not through a social contract, but through a manufacture of consent. Manufactured.

Chomsky was talking about and critiquing the US sytem of governance, especially in its foreign policy.

In an entry, Singapore Central, I talked about resistance, what it means, what it can be, in the Singapore context. Its about accretion, accreting resistance into the Singapore consciousness until the moment of possiblities arrive. It could be an election period. It could be at other junctions in Time when change and disjunctures present themselves. No matter. But it is only though this accretion, that we can recognise the moment or monad in Time when "change is in the air", when History is in the making. To be able to recognise the moment is important because we lost that when the Government dulled our creative spirit and de-politicised us. We retain Bakunin's "instinct to freedom" but we have no way to act upon it.

But to accrete is slow. At times, the system will crush you. I too have said previously : it is okay to go. To run. To leave. Especially in today's world. As the visitors to this blog attests, even those who left, remain somehow for those left. We are frustrated, angry even, only when we think we are fighting alone. We have to nurture the instinct to freedom, with each other, for one another.

Remember this : force is always in the hands of the governed.

And our role is to accrete this. Then we will know when to manufracture our consent. When to refuse to buy what they manufacture. Because these moments do not come by every day.

Remember too : the coup was bloodless only when the soldier accepted the flower from the mother.

Quote of the Day --

"Whether the instinct for freedom is real or not, we do not know. If it is, history teaches that it can be dulled, but has yet to be killed. The courage and dedication of people struggling for freedom, their willingness to confront extreme state terror and violence, is often remarkable. There has been a slow growth of consciousness over many years and goals have been achieved that were considered utopian or scarcely contemplated in earlier eras. An inveterate optimist can point to this record and express the hope that with a new decade, and soon a new century, humanity may be able to overcome some of its social maladies; others might draw a different lesson from recent history. It is hard to see rational grounds for affirming one or the other perspective. As in the case of many of the natural beliefs that guide our lives, we can do no better than to choose according to our intuition and hopes.

The consequences of such a choice are not obscure. By denying the instinct for freedom, we will only prove that humans are a lethal mutation, an evolutionary dead end; by nurturing it, if it is real, we may find ways to deal with dreadful human tragedies and problems that are awesome in scale." -- Noam Chomsky, Deterring Democracy


Anonymous ahboi said...

Your allusion to "evil" being overthrown through accretion of instint to freedom will have to be judged by what comes after.

Heraclitus believed that time and history run in cycles and that everything that exists repeats itself eternally in an endless cycle of destruction and renewal.

Postulation ideally should therefore remain an academic discourse.

6:20 PM  
Anonymous jabroni said...

interesting entry. I read many of Chomsky's works. Always an interseting read

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Cher said...

I don't have to say this - but great entry as usual. :)

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't bitch lah. Can you provide a better standard of living? how many jobs can you bring in? Can your trains arrive on time every morning? This IS manufacturing consent, providing clean water and electricity, green parks, jobs, decent public housing apartments, and not navel gazing angst. Do you have an alternative?

At the end of the day. There is no gun pointing in the heads of the 66% of voters in the last GE to vote the ruling regime in. However huffing and puffing, the PAP cannot control the cross you make in the voting booth.

Why are Hamas and Hizbollah popular in spite of the overwhelming odds stacked against them? They got consent not just from poetic articulations, but building schools and hospitals ( firing rockets at Israel is secondary).

Maybe xenoboy can start a hospital to begin with.


10:24 AM  
Blogger xenoboysg said...

ahboi -- Resistance is not always against "evil". I do not believe that it is an evil regime we are dealing with. If it is evil, it would not sustain so long. It has its merits in certain contexts and de-merits at other Times. We are at a stage when its de-merits are more glaring.

I am a bit baffled by the choice of Heraclitus as the champion of cyclist history. Yes, the Stoics traced their lineage to him but so too does every other notable Greek philosopher. His most famous tag line is about "flux", about change, about instability and then synthesis.If I wished to postulate within the confines of academia, I would not be blogging in this manner?

Jabroni -- Even more interesting man when you meet him. Something special.

Cher -- Tx and appreciated.

KK -- To your questions in the first paragraph. A simple no. To your assertions in the second, yes. To your third paragraph, it defeats itself.

I'll leave your snide remarks aside. They are not the important point.

You see, I riled you. You are displeased. So you state your arguments to get your point across. After that, its here for posterity, for all to see, your valid criticisms. Whenever you read this post, you have some satisfaction, some pleasure, that you stood up and stated your disagreement with my entry. you partook in this discourse and got your point across.

The desire or instinct for that kind of freedom, satisfaction is a necessary partner to infrastructures of life.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think 'provide' is a good word. I paid very dearly for all those services so mentioned.

Any dictator ruling Singapore can also do the same if money is the ultimate objective.

66.6% referred to the percentage of Singaporeans allowed to vote. Not the larger silent majority who are gagged. That's the control they have.

Only simpletons look at the superficial.

5:26 PM  
Anonymous tsft said...

KK: why does everybody have to do something for the sake of achieving something tangible? This isn't a national education blog, and if you want one, go read a local newspaper. It's got the kind of crap you want.

You're a practical person and Xenoboy is an academic type. The world could do with both. Science and philosophy build on apparently fruitless discussions that bear some tangible fruit later on when practical people find a use for them.

So don't come here bitching about why discussing ideas for no apparent tangible objective is bad. It isn't, and I sure hope it isn't anyway. You're a creature of action, KK, but that creature is a headless chicken.

8:20 AM  
Blogger prettyplace said...

xenoboy, you lucky fellow......hope you got his autograpgh....and a well picked quote as well.....

I admire, the flux we all in Singapore.....

nice to see people identify the manufactured consent and it's erosion ....

It is good to see real people here with thoughts and fears....

somehow they, do not question....and think ahead...

and i guess it is because of cmplacency..we or most of us in Singapore are having a resonable living standard.....thus....

Most don't realise the flux....Most of their dreams are not reinvent our socio-cultural space...and hence economic freedom.....

we are still our old ways.....pitifully...they, the leaders think they can mend it using the old ways.....

Time....In time....

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sg's hope lies in Dr Chee Soon Juan.

9:08 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

" Sg's hope lies in Dr Chee Soon Juan."

I almost vomitted my entire lunch just now upon reading this phrase.

The CSJ I know is only interested in becoming a hero. A saviour to pull the masses out of The Singapore Dystopia. A martry.

I had never seen anything concrete, political or economic, from him.

I am not inspired to be "saved" by him.

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do we know "anything"
when we can't "know" anything?

see "The Nature of Awareness" at

9:29 AM  

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