Friday, December 01, 2006

The Age of Wonder

Imagine if on that night, through some strange intervention of fate, Singaporeans voted differently. Not much differently. Just perhaps that 10% in Aljunied. If on that night, a PAP GRC had fallen, would Singapore be so rosy today? The economy has burst into full flower, employment appears to have disappeared, growth rates are beyond expectations, bonuses are aplenty, prices can go up, Ministerial pay can be increased. Everything is rosy. So positive. Because we have able captains helming the ship. Directing the battle. An elaborate manufacture of consent which most have anticipated but none can speak of.

But what if, fate intervened on that night? Would Singapore be more gloomy? Would there be cut-backs? Would the people have to be reminded the importance of having a political party in totalistic control of Singapore? Or would there be a case even of change? That the ruling regime will re-think its approach to governance? To become more caring? More fair to Singaporeans? More symmetric to the heart of the people?

The question is : if on that night, the unexpected had happened, how would consent be manufactured?

Would the GST hike and welfare for the poor be juxtaposed so blithely? Would raising Ministerial salaries even be heard in the public domain in so cavalier a manner?

These are the possibilities which slipped us after that night. These possibilities of change, possibilities of disjunctures in the relentless linearity of the Singapore political meta-narrative. Think back to that night, when you felt alone. When you did not know that you stood on the cusp of change. When History had congealed itself into a monad of multiple possibilities, a juncture where change was possible.

I like to think that it was that knowledge-less while we stood on the brink to decide change which allows the Singapore political meta-narrative to resume normal service. A knowledge-less created by the stifled structure of Singapore's information and communication pathways, a knowledge-less created by the variegated and compartmentalized social strata of Singapore which alienates the political community and champions the loyal employee.

But there is a sadder side to the story which is not about the structures of Singapore political society. It is about us as Singaporeans who know we are on the brink and who shy away from change. It is about Singaporeans who cannot see beyond the present because they cannot or do not want to look beyond. It is about Singaporeans who live to live. it is not wrong but it is sad.

Or perhaps, we are only still at the Age of Wonder. After moving through the age of struggle of regimentation to achieve economic success, we are now languishing in the Age of Wonder. The politics have changed surely since MM Lee relinquished his Prime Minister's office. A kinder gentler Government under SM Goh. A open and more creative regime under PM Lee. And we remain in the Age of Wonder. Reveling in the limited freedoms, but nonetheless still freedoms, now accorded us. Learning to speak out, to speak up. Speaking only to speak. Learning to listen. Listening to listen. Still enjoying these freedoms which only really came about in the 1990s, abetted definitely by the revolution of the Internet.

Beyond the Age of Wonder is the Age of Action. That period in time when presented by the moment of congealed History, the Singaporean is in full knowledge that his choice really matters. That he stands at the juncture of history. To disjuncture the Singapore political meta-narrative. And his choice rests on courage. On embracing a political meta-narrative that is unscripted. Unknown even. Because the other option is a mapped and charted meta-narrative. Of PAP Singapore. How it will hub this and hub that, wire this and wire that. A meta-narrative that lives your life for you. You just need to follow its path. Your life is mapped from cradle to grave. Some promises will be broken but it will not kill you so long as you work hard and abide by the rules of the map. Faced with this clear, shining and right path, would Singaporeans go for the unlit, the unknown? As others before had chosen when they make their choice to leave for the unknown? This is the Age of Action. And if during this time, the majority opts for the known then so it shall be. There will be no age of schisms in Singapore in today's world; the world is too global for that. It will become instead the Age of Leaving.

There is a movie "Battle of Wits", which Loy from SingaporeAngle has done a good commentary on. Toward the end of the movie, the two protagonists engage in a discussion amidst the backdrop of a fierce battle in the city. The Mohist strategist asks the opposing General why he chooses not to retreat to keep his life. The General replies that even if he lives, it becomes a life devoid of meaning. The Mohist strategist is defeated for the only time in the movie in that one scene, I think. The strategist chooses to live because he has found meaning. Except that the meaning that keeps him alive has a tragic end unbeknownst to him. The movie has a sad ending ultimately. Political power always triumphs. The meta-narrative is retained.

Quote of the Day --

"In the highest sphere they blasphemed against Heaven, in the middle sphere they blasphemed against the spirits, and in the sphere below they oppressed the people. Thereupon the will of Heaven proclaimed: "From those whom I love these turn away and hate, and those whom I want to benefit they oppress. Their hate of men is without limit and their oppression of men the most severe." And, so, they were not permitted to finish out their lives, or to survive a single generation. And people condemn them unto this day, calling them wicked kings." -- Mozi, The Ethical and Political Works of Mozi, Book VII, Chapter XXVI, "Will of Heaven (I)"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey XB
I agree with you...that singapore needs to change (for the good). It is the people first who need to change, a change in mindset. WE are often told that "if we vote for oppsition singapore will be doomed" because we ahve no natural resources to fall back to and we are a very small nation and nothing will ever be the same again. I can not personally recall any nation in history that fell and never recovered. Every nation that fell usually comes back but we have to bear with the time gap.
Singaporeans need to get over that mindset and need to think that ups and downs are quite normal, the problem is in singapore we are not very used to the idea of "downs".
salute to you XB

10:23 AM  
Blogger family man said...

It is ok, XB. That is why we have th P65s who are more vocal, more in touch with the young and young at heart, in tune with the bloggers. They will be the next generation who will speak our hearts in Parliament. (if they are not whipped into shape before hand)

2:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to say this - but sad man is sadly mistaken - lived in Singkapo for over 35 years of PAP rule and Singaporean mindset - cannot change one, la!

So I got leave and now got so happy one!

4:17 AM  
Blogger family man said...

you mean the P65 already kena whip into shape already ah.... damn!

7:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey xb i was just wondering if you ever thought of yourself as the ultimate hypocrite? you impress readers with your flamboyant languid poetry and a whole repertoire of amusing lexicons which never fails to sway and influence regulars. don't take it wrong i'm a fan, but who are you really?

there's alot of heart in the crux of your writing but paradoxically i find your posts lacking the essential 21 grams. somewhat akin to a vending machine repetitively discharging yummy goodies but that's about it. i find this disturbing. another classic example of a monolithic talent shrunken by fear. fear of our fucking strategists.

please.for the sake of those who look up to you. you don't wait for the age of action to come like its your birthday. make it happen. make it work. the more you think about it the further you are from accomplishing it. we've had plenty of time and plenty more we will have. i'm not advocating blowing up the pariliament guy fawkes style but find another way. sophisticated, elegant, overpowering.

if someone's gonna do it,

why not you?

you've got great potential.
all of us see that.

why can't you?


8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such an interesting assumption.

Ask yourself these questions:
IF WP has won Alijunied, would James Gomez not be politically destroyed by the PAP? How would that affect the team in Alijunied?

The limit test is, if one day, 51% of Singaporeans voted for the opposition, will and can the PAP give up power peacefully? If not, how democratic is our country then?

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's why the age of action will never happen for Singapore.

Singaporeans scare the shit out of themselves and greatness turns into gutless. They rationalise too much and commend it as pragmatism.

Singapore is a white tiger, paled by fear. Singapore deserves singaporeans.

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i wonder how many of you know the P65s personally? have you gone to school with them? have you worked with them?

don't set yourself up for disappointments.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Rowen said...

An age of wonder it is....

Yet this age was not won only due to the PAP.....

This is an age which is won through the detemination of the people of singapore and the steadfastness in which we wanted democracy from colonial rule.

From Colonial chains we traded for another cage, a cage build of plots and plans of subtlety.

It is an age of wonder in which we wonder about what is true freedom.

We wonder about what is to transcent to the next age?

An age of slavery?


An age of enlightenment?

Will we get out of the cage?

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Rowen said...

You have poised a choice and a matter of thought to the singaporean.

Being caught up in material illusions, paper chases, walking the mapped path, many are blinded.

Many are uncaring.

Few seeks questions and few venture into the unknown.

Those who do not come back and if they did, they are not welcomed in the map anymore.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey XB
do not get me wrong, but u seem to me to be like other singaporeans who are masters at one thing: complaining.
i fail to understand, exactly what is that we want.
do we want freedom?
do we want freedom and wealth?
freedom, wealth and happiness?......
or everything...
I honestly think if opposition comes to power Singapore will sink for sure. I heard them before the quality.
We are in a world facing serious challenges, we are a country with no resources and in a very competitive region, one small mistake can be disasterous. Its not like we have mines around here u know...
I am not some PAP fan....but they do deserve credit for whatever they have done for this country. Lets be fair to them.
Its easy to type things on blogs.
do u really think it is worth the risk?

11:53 PM  
Blogger kwokheng said...

What is Freedom, except that it is Security: the capacity to change as the circumstances deem fit.

What is Security, except that it is Freedom: the novice dreamer's 'must-have' to be able to even, dream.

8:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so pleased to read the ST today. The P65s have spoken with ONE VOICE. Let us not devolve into a politics of ENVY (Shut your mouth, don't comprain). Quite scary that Josephine. And yes, increased GST is good for us!

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me no understand why so much faith and publicity on the P65ers?

Look at them! what's so great or wonderful about them??? mediocre and second-tier talents at best.

Are these the ones you want to lead you in the future? Comeon, no quality? .... this bunch not much different from the WP bunch. At least some from WP are younger. Old hacks trying to hip-hope. The better Singaporeans have all migrated to better lands. If you are a big fish, why fight in a small pond? Scums fighting with each other for a miserable life in Singapore.

Singapore has no future, no matter who is ruling lah... why kid yourself.

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is my blog which proves that LKY and PAP RIG ELECTIONS! Read and believe. If you still refuse to believe, then make a police report that my blog 'defames' LKY and PAP, which would be so if I lied or are untruthful in my allegations. When, after your police report, you note that the police still cannot take any action against me, you will then conclude rightly that the reason why they don't prosecute or LKY sue, is because everything I allege is TRUE! That is why Xeno Boy's Age of Action will not happen -- because LKY RIGS ELECTIONS!

Robert HO

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the jokers who say that GST is good for the people:
One day you will not be laughing when your company retrenches you and you still have a family to feed.

To the morons who say that we must stay and make a difference here:
One day you won't be smiling when one of us goes to jail for standing for our alternative views.

To the spineless who voted not for the opposition:
One day you will get your desserts and you will regret to the decision you have made.

One day... one day I will write in my blog and in this comment section:
Goodbye Singapore. ROD mood liao!

In actual fact, this one day is <3 months away. I feel sorry for the above people.

PS. I do not support any opposition or am I against the ruling party. We need those checks in place in any government. Those NMPs don't cut it, no matter what the ruling party tells us.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous No Name Coward said...


Nice article. I had the same thoughts myself. However, what we have now is the illusion of "limited freedom". the ruling class will not allow change that will challenge their grip on power. Even more unfortunate is that the Robert HO dude is right and his post demonstrates exactly why. The APs are brave (to put it nicely) but seriously in need of PR lessons. Not to mention that the ruling class has absolute control of mainstream media. And had the AP won in a freak election, well, you know what the MM said about "intervention". Be careful of what u wish for.

Hi Kaffein

According to PAP statistics, about 80% of blogs (and people who read them) are anti-PAP. So you are effectively ranting at the converted. anyway congrats.

Btw give the P65ers a break. They are political nobodies with little influence on policy making. Think of them as winners of lottery. After all, had the MM fielded 4 pet hamsters, I am pretty sure PAP would still have swept TP GRC.

4:28 AM  
Anonymous sim chin boo said...

Please allow a 56 year old man, born to a farmer family and worked as a construction labourer at age 21 tell you he had about 15 years of happy living here in Singapore. After that his living started to become mechanical and artificial because everyone is put through a mould to fit a certain standard. This so-called standard digitises human into a machine and function like one. I like the simple good old days, no politics, no scheming strategies, no infightings, no oppositions. There were however plenty of cares, co-operations(camaraderies/kampong spirit) in contrast to todays envies/jealousies, elitism and powershowings. Do you see the differnce ?

6:17 AM  

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