On Banging Walls
In her latest thought provoking entry, Molly has dis-assembled the irony of political discourse in Singapore. The context is this: There is a proposed constitutional amendment to give the Prime Minister power to nominate up to two members for appointment to the Legal Service Commission. NCMP Sylvia Lim raised a question to this amendment. Her point was simple: by enlarging the ambit of the PM's powers to make political appointments to an important institution within the judiciary, will public confidence of the judiciary's neutrality be affected?
The Law Minister issues a predictably scathing reply, accusing NCMP Sylvia Lim of resurrecting a conspiracy theory over the political integrity of the judiciary. A host of lesser MPs join the chorus of condemnation, but couched in perfectly rational and logical language. But it is the Law Minister's rebuttal that stands out. Insinuations abound in his reply on the supposed insinuations of the NCMP's question. Aspersions are cast on the supposed aspersions of the NCMP's question.
This is what happens when we adhere to the ruling regime's lexical rules and OB markers. This is what happens when we buy into this illusion that we can have perfectly rational and logical political discourse of difference in Singapore. This is what happens when we are ushered into the well-walled conduits laid down by the ruling regime governing political discourse. You will be shredded.
NCMP Sylvia Lim's question in Parliament was perfectly rational and logical. It is the epitome of how the ruling regime wants Opposition politicians and all contrarian public figures to engage in political discourse. If Catherine Lim had gone into politics as advised by former PM Goh after she transgressed the invisible OB markers, she would also have asked questions in the style and manner as NCMP Sylvia Lim. But would the criticism of her be any different? She would still be accused of crossing the OB markers. Exciting the masses. Inciting discontent.
It is apparently not enough adhering to this lexical monopoly of the ruling regime. And the cruel irony is that you are silenced by colorful, inflammatory, even dangerous words like "conspiracy theory". You are rebutted in a way you have been told is not allowed. You are rebutted in an inflammatory and highly politicised language.
If NCMP Sylvia Lim had replaced her questions with truly insinuatory vocabulary, she would have been accused of threatening the fundamentals of Singapore society. She would have undermined the sanctity of the judiciary. She would probably be sued for defamation. And the rebuttal would be in the rational and logical language.
And there is no recourse. You are silenced. silent. speechless. There is no way to speak politics in Singapore. Damned every linguistic turn you take. Who are the ones consistently engaged in adversarial politics then?
In the same Parliamentary sitting, Minister of State, Education cited the wrong figures on foreign students in local universities. The correct figure should be significantly higher than what was cited. But if you follow the news report on this mistake, its factual and rational tone pre-empts any damage by citing another figure of foreign student population in the prestigious MIT; another interviewee states that we should increase foreign student numbers. If someone stands up in Parliament to question this mis-citing of figures, the reply would be a rational answer. It was an honest mistake. If NCMP Sylvia Lim stands up to question the political convenience of the mis-cited figures, she will be accused of resurrecting another conspiracy theory and possibly defaming the good person of the Minister of State. If it was she who mis-cited figures, her integrity and her character and her motive would be called into question without mercy. Her credibility would be destroyed. Remember the story of the bak chor mee?
A citizen wants to save an angsana tree. She goes through the prescribed process, the meetings. But for public safety, the tree is cut down. She laments if only she could be given a chance to convince the motorists ... To speak to the right people ... It’s only a tree after all. Let’s be rational and logical. What about speed strips? It’s only a tree after all. Let’s be rational and logical. But they should not be speeding in the first place? It’s only a tree after all. Let’s be rational and logical. Cut the tree down.
There is another state of the blogosphere entry at Singapore Angle in video form. There is glowing mention of social-political blogging being rational, logical and non partisan. You can throw in "objective" as well. There is a different entry by Molly which would fail much of the above features of social political blogging. But the entry pummels into my consciousness. It is writing. It is writing in a multitude of disparate dimensions, differance. It is not a social-political blog entry. It is ringisei's utility in futility written.
The following lines are the cruel words from the seminal Pink Floyd album, The Wall :
All alone, or in two's,
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the wall.
Some hand in hand
And some gathered together in bands.
The bleeding hearts and artists
Make their stand.
And when they've given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it's not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall.
If by rational, it means measuring the length and breadth of each word to stab each word deep into a reader's heart, I will want to be rational. If by logical, it means weighing the heaviness of each paragraph such that it buries each paragraph deep into a reader's heart, I will want to be logical. If by objective, it means composing each nuance and tone of a blog entry such that each nuance and each tone sears itself deep into a reader's heart, I will want to be objective. If not, I will decline the mantle of a social political blogger.
The political discourse of the ruling regime is not one of reason or of logic. It is politics. It is clinical, it is ruthless, it is efficient. The ruling regime has the lexical monopoly. They won this monopoly not by banging their heads against the wall in the 50s and 60s. I will concede them this: they won this monopoly by banging their hearts against the wall.
So you can be rational. You can be logical. You can be objective. You can be non partisan. You can bang your heads against the wall. And when it’s over. You can take a step back, pat your back and tell your children : I was so into this anti-Government thing last summer.
Or you can just bang your heart against the wall.
And you may stagger, you may fall.
You must go on, I can't go on, I will go on.
Quote of the Day --
"Where I am, I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know, you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on." -- Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable