Thursday, January 11, 2007

Weaving a World

The known world for me when I was young was a fairly good world. There was a lot of peace. There were some hard times. But I never felt unsafe. I felt secure. I had an education. Violence was an imagination. The known world as I read the Straits Times was a world of terror, a world of war. And I was ensconced in this nest of safety. With a roof over me. That was the known world. When I took my first overseas trip, with my school-mates for community work, I was given to know how lucky I was. That I was in Singapore. Look at all these poor peoples. Their hopelessness. This was the known world. The world I once knew.

There is a book by Edward P. Jones. It is titled "The Known World". In one of the blurbs, Jones is described to have "woven a footnote of history into an epic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all of its moral complexities." In a very sparse, quiet narrative style, Jones delivers a crushing story. One of the slaves, Alice, feigns madness to survive. Feigns madness to freedom. The sheriff of the county, John Skiffington, almost a hero in the book, disintegrates in a culture, in a society, in a system he is born into. The book is about your body. Your body as a property. When your body is deemed a property, where does your mind go? where does your soul go. Where can they go but into madness? The book is about those who own property and how they reconcile their relations with property which is human. Which is alive. Where can their minds go? Where do they seek righteousness? Where do they gainsay their justification to property? The known world indeed.

For about 5 weeks, I was in a country spelt with ten letters with only one vowel. Internet access was non-existent, but I wrote a fair bit. Prose which will probably fail to cross the bridge to this blog. In this country, as I did my work amongst people devastated by power, by Nature, I saw their happiness still. Their hopes still. Their aspirations still. Its hard and not all of them will make it. But some will. And it struck me that I had long forgotten about being lucky. About being Singaporean in this Othering sense. Somewhere along the way, I had forgotten my known world. That world of safety. Of security. Of blessed good living. The world I once knew. And I feel no loss.

To Gayle, if I have to sit in a TV panel in front of a Minister, I would have to feign madness. I would have to feign humour when I have anger. I would have to disappoint TSFT. The people who govern Singapore are highly intelligent, achievers in all senses of the word. I believe they see and they know what ails Singapore; but in their weightage of the known world, it is still a good world. That they speak and behave in certain ways is because they have this known world they wish to preserve. A known world that has been fully reconciled.

And this known world will not change because of blogs. We are but footnotes at the moment, which some read but not all. Footnotes to the history of Singapore, annotations to Straits Times' reports, endnotes in a grand meta-narrative. And this is already progress. Its weaving.

Quote of the Day --

"Moses was the first slave Henry Townsend had bought, $325 and a bill of sale from William Robbins, a white man. It took Moses more than two weeks to come to understand that someone wasn't fiddling with him and that, indeed, a black man, two shades darker than himself, owned him and any shadow he made." -- Edward Jones, The Known World

5 Comments:

Anonymous vesance said...

"my first overseas trip, with my school-mates for community work

Hi XenoBoy, Do you do community service with Mercy Relief type organisation?

6:42 AM  
Anonymous amethyst psychic said...

As usual, it was worth waiting for your piece. Your analogies show some pretty amazing insight. You are so right...sadly.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous day said...

whenever i go through your pieces, they leave me a little bit breathless and humbled. more impt i actually think and re-read. thanks you're reallie an exceptional writer

12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi XenoBoy,
Reading your blog has been an inspiring experience. Though hailing from a neighboring country I find your pieces bear strong relevance. I believe your blog will continue to nurture awareness among the masses and help to make the world a better place sooner.

6:56 AM  
Anonymous Rowen said...

Ever Since Singapore was founded as a colony in 1819 till 1965, we were under the rule of the white man, A slave nation to others.

Having broken the chains of colonial rule, we progressed to an independent nation.

Thru this all the hands of a master guided. In the beginning, this master's power was not absolute and firm. He needed alliances from many. Thru many years and actions, his rule was consolidated and his power became absolute.

Hence from one master, we progressed to another. Never truly free and never truly just.

We feign not maddness But indifference.

I read Mr Jose's Saramago's "blindness" which tells of a diease of blindness striking all but one and this one person who was not blind needs to pretend and hide and act blind.

In singapore, those who see, acts blind, those who know act dumb.

In yet another book by him "seeing" he draws scene of an election day in which about 67% of voters voted with blank slips.......

Would it happen too in singapore???

Would we see?

3:07 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home