Friday, January 26, 2007

Singapore Patriot

The patriot. Whenever I encounter this word, images of the first Gulf War appear in my mind. That missile tearing across the sky, to kill the incoming missile. The great Patriot missile. Self sacrificing missile. This was the first war over Kuwait. The world's first glimpse of Saddam. The beginning of that blood feud between Bush and Hussein. Ended now with Iraq, the son's requeim for his father.

It is patriot that leads me to this entry. This word and how it sits uncomfortably next to Singapore. The Singapore Patriot. Hardly ever mentioned, hardly uttered in a sequence as this. Patriotic we must be, always that little twinge, on that day in August, when young middle and old gather to witness the paean of Singapore-ness in front of the television. But patriot? Singapore patriot? It remains uncomfortable, the words have a little resistance, a little distance between them. Two, perhaps three, more tabs of the space bar?

Singapore apathy, Singapore cynical. The distance is lessened. It trills more fluently. Rolls out more smoothly. But patriot? It is patriot, we explore. Specifically Singapore Patriot. Dotted here and there in this blog are valuable comments of those who have passed by. There is one particular type of comment that never fails to surface. It is those comments which remind me again and again to be thankful that I am not in Indonesia, Malaysia, Africa, North Korea etc. Reminds me that I am in Singapore. This place of plenty.

Are these not patriots? Patriotic? These patriots who see Singapore goodness only as a function of poverty of the Other. This Singapore Patriot, in an age where we have the ability of a global perception, sees only the evil Other and from this, draws sustenance for his survival. It is like Maliki who sees three cases and sees only evil and greed, a choosing to be homeless; is he a Singapore Patriot? Protecting Singapore from these hordes of the false Poor. It is like Lady Justice in Singapore who sees 15 grams as the defense against the menace of drugs and 15 grams as the decisive weight to hang; even as you read this in the morning, another has hanged, another soul sacrificed in our war against the scourge of drugs, another soul deterrent.

Singapore patriot in this reading, exists only as a reflection against evil, against the bad, against the Other. A relationship derived on misery. Singapore Patriot, willed into existence with a mentality of siege, of exclusivity and the threat of the Other. But surely no one would wear ths mantle, the Singapore Patriot, thus defined. Hence, this distance, this discomfort, this blush, when we locate the two words side by side.

The definition of the Singapore Patriot is the preserve of those ism-writers, those who craft the narratives of patriot-ism, those who lyricise the false songs of patriot-ism. They who tell a patriotic story of Col Adnan, of Lim Bo Seng. They who lace the papers with glowing praise of contemporary Singapore, the Singapore system. They who entwine Singapore with the ruling political party. They who humanise the Singapore Patriot. Except that to the horror of some, the humanised Patriot is almost always Chinese, homophobic, xenophobic, stoic and male.

There then arise contestations to define the Singapore Patriot. To re-humanise this creature. This two words that allow them to sit confortably. In the cultural landscape, a growing corpus of Singaporean poetry and literature questioning really, how to love Singapore. How do you love this country in spite of the cacophony of State-driven isms, narratives? They look not at the Other outside of Singapore. But they look into the Other within Singapore. within singapore itself. They bore into this place, this time called Singapore. They find poverty, they find tension, they find unhappiness existing behind the story-boards of the Great Singapore Story.

And only then can Singapore Patriot emerge.

Quote of the Day --

"Don't be cold Englishman
How come you've never said you love me
In all the time you've known me
How come you never say you're sorry
And I do" -- Sinead O'Connor, This is a Rebel Song

21 Comments:

Blogger shimure said...

Patriot, someone who serves his country and feels for this country strongly.

Someone who will speak up for the good of the nation. who will fight against a government if the government is corrupt. someone who would give his all to see justice done. someone who even if he loses everything, money, health, strength even reputation and see justice done. Putting the nation's welbeing in front of oneself.

Sun zhong shan was a patriot for China,
Mr Muhamad Gandi was a patriot for India,
There are female patriots too Song qing ling, Mr sun's wife.

In singapore there are many other patriots who did not demand a lot of salary and service to the nation.

David Marshall,

Alas...... Currently in singapore, for fear of persecution, for fear of ones' own well being. Mistakes are covered up and not brought up. Errors or faults are also

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We speak to you like this because from reading your blog, the only language that you can understand is that of criticism, cynicism, and relentless hatred of the world.

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be a patriot, one must love his country as a whole with all his heart.

Do we?

4:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance. It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong: James Bryce

4:57 AM  
Anonymous XH said...

>How do you love this country in spite of the cacophony of State-driven isms, narratives?

To ask that question suggests a lack of understanding of "country", and "love". You love in spite of all weaknesses, and "country" has nothing to do with government.

Do you love your country? Not your government, your minister, your leaders and movers and shakers? Do you love your _country_?

We, the patriots who love our country, exist. I exist. And I am neither stoic nor xenophobic nor homophobic, and the fact that you neither see nor hear us as we proceed in our daily existence with this love of our country warm in our hearts does not, in any way, mean that we do not exist-- merely that the scope of your world is not wide enough to notice us.

7:41 AM  
Anonymous ling said...

xh, i tot your comment is a restatement of xeno's post? though your tone suggests otherwise. he is precisely speaking about achieving a patriotism from within sg and not from degrading others. btw the quoted song (which is hauntingly beautiful) helps to understand ... you ar a patriot, but from the eyes of the other, you are a rebel?

9:17 AM  
Anonymous XH said...

Ling,

No, it is not a restatement of the same point. Xenoboy implies that there are no "true" patriots except for those that the government defines as so outside history. Take note:

>...patriot? Singapore patriot? It remains uncomfortable, the words have a little resistance, a little distance between them...

Even when he accepts that there are people who would prefer to be here than elsewhere, he defines us as so:

>These patriots who see Singapore goodness only as a function of poverty of the Other. This Singapore Patriot, in an age where we have the ability of a global perception, sees only the evil Other and from this, draws sustenance for his survival...

>Singapore patriot in this reading, exists only as a reflection against evil, against the bad, against the Other. A relationship derived on misery. Singapore Patriot, willed into existence with a mentality of siege, of exclusivity and the threat of the Other.


Or, in other words, he says, we are not patriots. We simply make the best of a bad world.

I do not believe that, I do not accept that, and as one who loves my country and has demonstrated this love for my country, rather than railing screeds against it and everything it does and stands for, I find myself offended and insulted.

Don't you feel insulted, being told that "your love for your country is derived solely from the misery of The Other"?

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who is a patriot?

What benchmarks are used?

I always thought one should never call yourself a hero.

Let others call you a hero, then you are truly one.

All these bullshit about being a patriot. Man, just because you pay your taxes and vote every five years do not make you a patriot lah.

Singapore patriots may exist but I know there are more arrogant singaporeans than patriots, definitely.

10:16 PM  
Anonymous Ling said...

xh, i guess my understanding of the entry differs from you.

If you read the last para, the patriot you detest and xeno detests are the same. he arrvies at the sg patriot from those who always comment that sg is good because others are worse off.

his patriots, the only clue being in the last para, are those who look into sg and its nastiness. they love in spite of its flaws. but these are considered rebels.

i m not insulted at all because the entry imho correctly points out what is patriotism, and how its meaning is contested in sg's cultural landscape. how the line between patriot and rebel is very fine and perhaps even arbitrary.

12:01 AM  
Anonymous XH said...

>I always thought one should never call yourself a hero.

>Let others call you a hero, then you are truly one.

So basically we are not patriots until people like you and Xenoboy call us patriots? Doesn't that then play into your hands, since you obviously do not consider me a patriot?

All these bullshit about being a patriot. Man, just because you pay your taxes and vote every five years do not make you a patriot lah.

So that's why you think I call myself a patriot?

I came back from six years of living overseas to serve my national service, where other people have simply chosen to not show up in the knowledge that they only need to pay $2000 dollars. And yet you claim this is not sufficient.

After university, I gave up my chance at a paid PhD to come back here and work in my country, for the people of my country. I gave up a shot at a higher-paying job to take my current one because it served the people of my country better. Yet you say this is not sufficient to be a patriot.

I speak at every possible chance in support of my country and people, with pride for my country and people, in defence of my country and people, rather than being like you who sneers and denigrates our country and our people at every turn, and yet you still claim that this is insufficient to be a patriot.

You declare that all this is insufficient to be a patriot, that the only way a person can be called a patriot is if he is declared one by others. You assume that nobody has declared that I, do, indeed, love my country, and in that, like everything else, you are mistaken.

In short, what you are really saying is that nobody is a patriot unless you declare him so.

But why should I or anyone place any weight in the opinion of someone who attacks another without even signing his name to it?

Yes, there are more arrogant Singaporeans than there are patriots. The difference is that the patriots are like me, who stand for something, and the arrogant ones are like you, who are simply against everything.

12:08 AM  
Anonymous XH said...

Ling: So what you're suggesting is that Xenoboy is saying that the only way to love one's country is to act as if one hates it and attack it at every opportunity?

I don't believe that. You see, constantly attacking the foundations of society serves no one. The only justification one might have for it is that one is trying to make it better-- to supply alternatives for what you want removed.

If you supply no alternatives, have no answers, take no actions except constantly smear the country you live in, then you are not a patriot.

And you are not even a rebel.

Such a man would be a nobody, a man without a country or identity, because should he succeed, then he will have destroyed that which he claims to love, with nothing with which to replace it.

Finally:

Even taking your generous interpretation as being the right one, he has given no thought to those who love the country despite all its flaws, and recognises the need to state that love, rather than attacking it at every opportunity.

A husband who "loves" his wife in the way you say he describes is called "abusive".

12:20 AM  
Anonymous ling said...

xh, as you have become fairly condescending with a hint of self righteousness, there is really no point continuing this. thankz for the initial discussion. cheers

1:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adding just one more character on to Shimure, could also be this forgotten person, Mr. Chia Thye Poh, as one Singapore Patriot, who though has nothing glorius or grandious like that of Sun Yat-Sen,Gandhi to show but in similar vein, he stands out as a man of principle, integrity and patriotic to the cause of "A fair, just, democratic society. Down-trodden people, low-income people should be helped."
.... source (i) http://www.singapore-window.org/81130sc.htm
(ii)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chia_Thye_Poh

6:58 AM  
Anonymous XH's wife said...

To be patriotic simply means to love one's country. Since everyone has differing views about Singapore and their own ways of loving Singapore, it is not unusual to find people who disagree with your point of view.
For example, what makes you feel uncomfortable about Singapore may not make me nor my husband feel uncomfortable. What you have said may be true of the people you know, but may not be true for all Singaporeans. If you keep that in mind, you will understand what has prompted all these notes.

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find this very interesting....

My humble opinion for the singapore patriot - if the things you did qualifies as a patriot, then patriotism has been cheapened.

Everything is about your loss and about you defending your convictions that Singapore is worth sacrifising because any action otherwise would make you a fool for doing so much for so little.

You have to protect your self worth, not love for your country.

That's how I see it.

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One can be branded a patriot if the revolution succeeds and be tarred as a terrorist if it does not.

Singapore is not a country of ideals and idealism. It is a pragmatic hotel masquerading as a country where your patriotism to the nation is to be subservient to the ruling regime who claims to represent and is the physical and idealogical manifestation of our country.

National Slavery continues to brainwash and numb thousands of male Singaporeans into the false ideal that Hotel Singapore is worth defending.

I for one do not think one should lay down one's life for a hotel. In pragmatic Singapore, everything has a price, if a foreign invader comes, why don't we IPO ourselves and join the union of the aggressor country so that we can continue to import FT since we are moving towards a globalised city with no identity except for the servile worship of mammon.

LF

9:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For a moment, I thought the title was "Singapore Parrot"!


The true singapore patriot is one who works and shops till he drops dead ....

This is the only way you can ensure this tiny dot is propped up artificially to glorify the greatness of one man.

It cannot collapse bfore the old man does, for sure.

So, for those who wants to be as patriotic as Yue Fei or whatever, just go shopping.

Counting our opportunity costs for staying in this tiny dot is really not very helpful. Spending all your money till bankrupt has more value-add.

I am the shophaholic and religiously doing my part since my career started. I even factored in dying at the MRT tracks with 10 dollars in my pocket one day. Well, I'm only being patriotic.

The patriotic shophaholic

11:15 PM  
Anonymous Bbob said...

shimure....it is Mahatma Gandhi...NOT Muhammad Gandhi....last check was that Gandhi wasn't a muslim....

Singapore Patriot is someone who willingly sign up and look forward to National Service, in the hope that when the need arises, he could join his brothers in arms and defend the country against aggressors (including both external and internal hostile forces - which make me sound like a blardy Bush supporter).

We don't have to know who is a patriot. We just need that patriot to turn up when he is needed. Without fear or favour.

8:21 PM  
Anonymous sim chin boo said...

He who died for his country, died because of the Authory(Ruler) when he could flee but never did is patriot. Quyuan(Dumpling Festival) Socrates and Chia Thye Poh come to mind.

11:44 PM  
Anonymous sim chin boo said...

My apology, typo error in above post, the word Authory should read Authority(Ruler), happy reading !

8:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mahatma Ghandi. tsk not muhamad... jeez.

11:14 AM  

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