Monday, June 18, 2007

Half Alfian, Half Singaporean

If only Alfian can be halved. If only. Behind MOE's opaque letter explaining Alfian's termination as a relief teacher, this is the refrain. Half Alfian. If only Alfian can be halved.

His writings in prose, in verse are testament enough of his intellect. And this, without the need to list literary awards he has won. But perhaps more, his writings are testament of his heart, that thing which drives his brain to create something Singapore.

How do you want your child to grow up? Do you want a child with the ability to ask questions on the meaning of existence in Singapore society? To probe why there is injustice, why sometimes people are silent. Why we are told stories that we do not believe but have to memorise nonetheless. Do you want a child to think? Think with heart?

Sometimes we just want a smart kid. Writes well. Can think too. Pragmatic. A smart kid who knows the limits. The parameters. The markers. And to respect these lines governing him, governing how he thinks, how he acts, how he speaks, how he behaves. A smart kid.

Halved kid. Halved Singaporean.

Relieved of his duties. A relief teacher relieved. If Alfian was only half, that half which the government of Singapore so desperately wants, that half of creativity, of thinking, of courage. That half which asks so little of the state of Singapore. That does not call Singapore into question. That accepts the narrative as it is. A Merlion is a Merlion. It is a symbol of singapore and its associated virtues. Nothing else. Life is good, will be better.
If Alfian was only half. He would make the perfect teacher. To mould a perfect whole for the future generation of Singapore.

You are perfect only if you are half. In Singapore, there are no carpe diems.

There are many halving institutions in this state called Singapore. Institutions which exist on this halving paradigm. The mass media is another pertinent example. Ask Mr Brown. He would be perfect if he was halved. Witty, writes well, connects with his readers, keen nose for news. If MB was only half, it would be perfect. But like many others, who are nameless, who are silent, he too was relieved of his duties. Imperfect.

We see injustice and we give a half-hearted response. A wistful shake of the head. Friendly advice to toe the line. A glazed look. A hidden smirk. Marginal surprise. Life goes on. Halved Singaporeans. Perfect.

No students standing on chairs. Alfian my Alfian.

Just a cold letter. A relieving in the school holidays. A minor blip in the civil service machine, in the education system programmed to halve. Half your children as it halved us. Makes us smart. Makes us creative. Makes us think. Makes me me. Makes us us. Half Singapore.

Our capacity to accept incidents such as this is a mark of the success of our education system.

But there is always Alfian. Rebuking the cold refrain, if only he was half. If only. Rebuking a halved Singapore, half Singaporeans.

Hope for imperfection.

Quotes of the Day --

"Hope, the best comfort of our imperfect condition, was not denied to the Roman slave; and if he had any opportunity of rendering himself either useful or agreeable, he might very naturally expect that the diligence and fidelity of a few years would be rewarded with the inestimable gift of freedom." Chapter 2, Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

"The urgent consideration of the public safety may undoubtedly authorize the violation of every positive law. How far that, or any other, consideration may operate to dissolve the natural obligations of humanity and justice is a doctrine of which I still desire to remain ignorant." Chapter 26, Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

"A people who still remembered that their ancestors had been the masters of the world would have applauded, with conscious pride, the representation of ancient freedom, if they had not long since been accustomed to prefer the solid assurance of bread to the unsubstantial visions of liberty and greatness." Chapter 29 Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire


Anonymous Anonymous said...

half singaporean, excellent, missed you

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Molly Meek said...

A relief teacher relieved in panic. By the jumpy doubles that the system of halves has mass produced.

9:54 PM  
Anonymous StoneAger said...

XB -- very very apt entry, this is the poem from Dead Poets Society when Keating was sacked ... enjoy

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring.
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red!
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.


O captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up! For you the flag is flung, for you the bugle trills:
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths, for you the shores a-crowding:
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning.
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.


My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won!
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Walt Whitman

10:59 PM  
Anonymous little fish said...

Ur post got me thinking. If I was given a choice to keep half of me, which would I choose? Tough one huh? Which would you choose Xenoboy?

2:05 AM  
Blogger Ned Stark said...

Actually Xenoboy, if half of Alfian Saat is removed, then will it not result in a person who is no longer Alfian Saat?

3:24 AM  
Blogger xenoboysg said...

anon - tx, was away for work in a place w/o access

MM - when u halve a half, it is quartering.

stone - tx, btw this is the first time i m reading the whitman poem in full. tx again

lil fish - perhaps we dun have to choose. perhaps we can be whole. but maybe i always think heart first, brain later, tho it can probably be disputed whether this is efficacious.

ned - is that a rhetorical question? ;)

12:03 PM  
Blogger Ned Stark said...


More of a "what makes a person a person" kind of question :P

11:33 PM  
Anonymous reader said...

There is nothing left in a Half Alfian.

5:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

welcome back XB!

kudos and bouquets for such sweet succinct prose...

yes, the regime triumps again, a another part of our souls die with it.

keep on writing!


7:02 AM  
Blogger SM said...

Your writing is wonderful :)

7:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a state that wants its cake and eats it too.

12:53 AM  
Anonymous Stoned said...

To reader:

Yes, but was there anything worthwhile in the whole Alfian anyway?

7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Mr Brown and Alfian were only half perfect, then all the ministers and the president must be rotten whole!

Kway Teow Hater 3

11:40 AM  

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