Friday, March 23, 2007


There is often this refrain when Singapore is levelled with accusations over its poor record in personal liberties and various freedoms of expression. This refrain says that for stability and security, for the continued success and prosperity of the nation, our citizens give up certain rights. They give up these in exchange for security. For safety. For stability. Factors instrumental for Singapore's economic growth, social stability and continued wealth-making.

The nuance of giving up in this refrain is important. In the State narrative, there is an inflection of sacrifice, something noble, something very Spartan in this imagined giving up. It is giving up in return for a more lofty goal. A communitarian sacrifice. It is giving up something for the greater collective good. In this inflection, you give up your personal good, hapiness for a diluted good, diluted happiness which can be spread across the larger community. For the whole. For the best. Noble and pure indeed is this inflection, this nuance. But giving up has other nuances. Other inflections. Some people give up because they no longer have choice. Defeatist, defeated. They give up because there is no other way, no other recourse. They simply give up. In either nuance, when something is given up, can it ever be recovered?

But this is a digression, the point of this entry really is to question fundamentally what exactly it is Singaporeans have given up?

This voluntary giving up, this imagined consent in Singapore's imagined social contract. What exactly is given up? Is it a few scribbled words on a piece of paper popularly referred as a Consititution? Is it tacit assent to a few legal words scribbled onto paper known as legislation? Is it a physical space and what we can do in a physical space that is given up? Did we give up space? Or perhaps we give up some of our time, moments of our life, to be conscripted to the State's cause? Or did we give up some speech, words which cannot be spoken? Or did we give up some form of self-identity, something which defines yourself?

Do we even know what we gave up? When the refrain, of this noble giving up, appears in its various forms, disguises to legitimise policies of difference, regulations of restraint, laws of personal sacrifice. When we encounter this refrain in the name of national defence, future success, societal stability, what triggers in the citizens' minds?

Lets cast the suppositions wider. Perhaps, when you give up "certain rights", what actually happens is that a certain mode of thinking is erased. Imagine, that perhaps, what you really gave up is a certain way of thinking. You gave up thought. In your minds, this avenue of thought is closed off. You do not even think that it is something tangible that has been given up. Because you did not even experience what you supposedly gave up it in the first place.

This is pertinent indeed for Singaporeans who were born into a Singapore that has developed into a stable and secure system. The P65s? There is no basis for giving up when the "certain rights" are non existent in your mind in the first place. It is so much easier then, to give up something isn't it? You give up imagined, illusory, uncertain "certain rights".

You give up nothing actually. Because there is nothing in the first place. Just this message, these words, this refrain, reminding you of something you do not even know. Because the knowing requires thinking, requires experience and this is non existent. It is absent. A total absence across the spaces and times which constitute Singapore.

But yet, we are reminded often enough with the inflected refrain of giving up. Reminded that it is actually something tangible that is given up. Reminded of a presence. But in the citizens' minds, there is nothing. And the refrain passes us by. Like other contradictions which pass us by. And this giving up becomes a ceremonial giving up. And for the citizen, it is easy to give up these "certain rights". Because the erasure, the loss extends completely into your mode of thinking. You do not know what is there.

Quote of the Day --

"... for it was foreseen that the city of mirages would be wiped out by the wind and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth." -- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude


Anonymous Anonymous said...

eloquent and excellent

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent as usual, Xenoboy.

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the spirit is dead, the tangible world went along with it to heaven.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


For those born after 1963, it never existed. Those born before that date willingly sacrificed it.- IrCTP

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came around your blog, many times hoping to see a new entry...and finally you dazzle me with such thoughtful script.

Hope you were enjoying while indulging in Refrain.

12:34 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home