Monday, May 14, 2007


"With regards to Xenoboy post, I am not too comfortable with his dualism on resistance; for me, I don't necessary see co-optation and institutionalization of movements and "resistance" as "sell-outs"; it could be a transformation of individuals' or group's tactics to effect positive policy outcomes. However, that depends on institutional access; you have entry points for women and environmental rights groups in Singapore, whether you have access points for issues of democratization is debatable. Whether one adopts a "co-opted" strategy versus a "civil disobedience" strategy is very much a empirical question; how would we know which one really is better? What are the goals of the movement?"

The post in question refers to this entry. Sigh.

If you have noticed, there is this NIN album, Year Zero, which topped Technorati's music links for some time. NIN is an industrial band, a musical genre which is not very accessible to many people. As a matter of fact, NIN's most accessible song, Hurt, is commonly mistaken as a cover of a Johnny Cash song. Much like Bizarre Love Triangle is commonly mistaken to be written originally by Frente and covered by New Order.

There is something very interesting about NIN's latest album. It is an actualisation of a viral marketing strategy that was probably first popularised in Gibson's novel, Pattern Recognition. Year Zero came into existence when a fan found a URL printed on his NIN concert t-shirt. He typed the URL and the entire Year Zero narrative began. The narrative is deliciously simple : we are finding relics, in the form of mysterious websites and songs embedded in thumbdrives, from future scatter. In short, we are finding fragments of the future telling a story of a resistance movement in Year Zero. As these fragments mysteriously appear, their existence are spread virally through the Web. Fans start to scour cyberspace, concert venues for these hidden fragments which provide clues to where the next song can be found. Then, download sites are set up and the songs are spread like illegal music downloads except that in this case, its perfectly legal. It is the basis of the marketing strategy, the basis of the narrative of a future resistance. As more songs and more sites are found, the story of Year Zero is gradually pieced together.

In his recent anniversary concert, Dick Lee, slipped in a segment subverting that iconic national song, Count on Me Singapore. Among the numerous positive reactions, there were an equal number expressing surprise that Dick Lee could be so "political". This is a strange reaction as it assumes that there is no precedent. But closer to reality is that such subversion of the national-istic narrative is happening daily. For a long time. At varying degrees. By many Singaporeans. The only difference now is that such acts of delicious subversion can be spread. No longer is Dick Lee's "political" moment confined to those laughing uproariously at his concert and subsequently forgotten, unrecorded. Today, now, that moment is part of the national song. Its meaning has shifted. And rightly so. We can now apprehend the "political" and perhaps achieve the understanding that the "political" is part and parcel of every single Singaporean. The walls are becoming increasingly porous. Stories and counter-narratives are slipping through the nets of the censors. If the broadcast remains opaque, then the casting needs to be viralised; more accurately, it is Deleuze and Gauttari's rhizomatic resistance.

But resistance is more than the medium of transmission.

In his recent admission on the inevitable decriminalising of homosexuality, LKY was probably unconscious of the irony in his statement on gays being creative and excellent in writing and the arts. They are creative and excellent mostly because they were forced into the margins of Singapore where their existence could only find legitimacy in imagined communities. imagine space, imagined speech, imagined rights. They excel because they resist a system which illegalised them. Which orphanised them from the State. Their very existence is a resistance in Singapore. They are Agamben's desubjectified people, existing in a space, in a state where they can be "killed" with impunity. But their defiance, their indig-nation, their tragedy, hidden, embedded, alluded, in song, in story, in art, is for the simple dignity of existence in Singapore. Dignity of existence. And now their resistance is reduced by LKY into a routine economic practicality justifying the State's embrace.

The resistance of the Sg gay community needs closer examination. It is not an active resistance, the likes of PLU, while playing an important role, is one fragment of an array of resistance forms. It is not an underground resistance unlike what the mainstream media is constantly trying to portray with "undercover" exposes of gay clubs, wild parties.

But it is a resistance which burrows deep into the interstices of defining the meaning of Singaporean-ness. It is a resistance which contests the meaning of existing as a Singaporean. At its core, it is resistance by the very act of existence. Gays exist in Singapore with any other Singaporeans but paradoxically, in the definition of Singapore's social meaning, they cannot exist.

Remove the label "gay" from the preceding analysis and consider resistance as an individual. An individual defined as a Singaporean. Imagine if we could receive scatter from a future Singapore, Year Zero, what is the story?

And we end again with the same quote :

"In this world are the strong and the weak. The strong never yield to torture, and they go to Paradise' but what about those like myself who are born weak, those who when tortured and ordered to trample on the sacred image ...", "There are neither the strong nor the weak. Can anyone say that the weak do not suffer more than the strong?" -- Shusaku Endo, Silence


Blogger voctir said...

6:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unlike the Borg collective, resistance may not be futile for Singaporeans who care about the direction this country is being led by the ruling regime.

I think there is hope for Singapore but it is too far into the future for most to visualise and crystalise in front of us. Hence, many of us contemplate escaping through emigration or at least removing ourselves from this hypocrisy of a nation called Singapore.

I also grow weary of seeing how the virtual world of the blogosphere contains more of the truth than the real world we inhabit outside of it.

Your analysis, as ever, leaves me humbled.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous gamabunta said...

causality direction not clear to me:

stepping back from the gay lens, i think it's more likely that creative singaporeans (gay, straight and the whole lot of them) are forced to the margins because they are "creative and excellent in writing and the arts".

the reason, i think, is the post-1965 economic pragmatic ideology.

in any case, just cos one's marginalized or gay/lesbian does not make one creative. that's simply an over-generalization.

7:54 AM  
Blogger the naysayer said...

Is there hope for Singapore?

I dont know. Even without the incumbent ruling party, another party is bound to step into those shoes, for better or worse

#1 tis, #1 that, Singapore creates records and does not follow up, leaving a humongous vacuum.

Ironically, Singapore has a fan club. Copycat countries who would like to model themselves after the little red dot

9:11 PM  
Anonymous phew! said...

Year Zero is an excellent album and Nine Inch Nails really nail the spot this time around with allegories of authoritarianism.

To borrow from one of the tracks Capital G, allow me to rewrite just one letter to highlight the point where apathy in this country reign supreme:

"well i used to stand for something
now i'm on my hands and knees
traded in my god for this one
he signs his name with a capital L" ;-)

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This Country is spoilt(damaged) beyond repair?

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Hope said...

Well done, Xenoboy! Your essays bring me joy and hope every time I read them. We are all suffering but many are suffering in silence either because they are not able to express themselves or because of the fear that has been systematically ingrained into them over the years.

You are one of those few who can speak up for the silent majority. I really appreciate that.

Keep it up, my friend!

7:31 AM  

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