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A Xeno Boy in Sg

I am Xeno Boy, The Political Savant. I bring forth Singapore's First Political Blog.

Updated: 2017-09-30T02:26:19.068-07:00


To hope till Hope creates


The story began when a group of parochialists, under the cloak of noblesse, stole an organisation. Disguised, stealthy, hidden, were hearts of misplaced religious zeal. An ilk of the self righteous. In power, they were proud, arrogant, aloof. With almost casual disregard to the organisation's history, traditions and heritage, they began work by dismantling years of work, building illusory walls, reconstructing the organisation into a prideful image of their narrow religious visions.
"Have you come here to play Jesus. To the lepers in your head"

Than the voices spoke. Voices that refused silence. The truly pure and radiant hearts. First, the pioneers who built the organisation from nothing. Then, the marginalised who felt most threatened. Then you. Then me. And finally everybody. Old Guard, LGBT, bloggers, netizens, muslims, buddhists, christians, Singaporeans. The voices rejected the temptation of silence, rejected the opium of de-consciousness. They voices spoke to reclaim a precious space in secular society. To decry this robbery of a common space. An imaginary space undoubtedly, but real, tangible enough to unite all these different voices. To reject an organisation based on principles of exclusion, on a basis of hurt, from creating boundaries in this common space.

"And I can't be holding on to what you got, when all you got is hurt."

At the Town Hall meeting, the last chance. One by one by one they stood up. Testimony. Witness. Transmission. One story after another. Different stories but one common line. No. We will not shut up. No. We will not sit down. No. We will not accept injustice. The stories piled up, one after another. I am a teacher .. I am a Muslim .. I am a Christian .. I am gay .. I am a Singaporean .. I am a woman .. all different, but all one.

"We're one but we're not the same, so we get to carry each other, carry other"

How they smashed themselves against the walled stony silence, carrying each other, caring for each other. And the parochialists were stunned. Their legal counsel was stunned. Their crafty ploy to stay in power even in the face of no confidence crumbled. Their arrogant faith shaken, their cowardice exposed, their small hearts revealed to all to see. For all to judge. For all to despise. And ultimately, for all to feel sorry. And for all to forgive them.

"Too late tonight, to drag the past out into the light. We're one, but we're not the same. We get to carry each other, carry each other."

And so the different stories, spoken with truly pure and radiant hearts, put an end to this injustice. Restored the meaning of democracy. Recovered a space common to all, open to all. And so the different stories ended this story which began so iniquitously when a group of parochialists, under the cloak of noblesse, stole an organisation.

But we must not forget. We must continue telling this story as testimony, as witness, as transmission so that another iniquitous story cannot be allowed to begin. This is the debt we are obliged to return, for the stories that ended this iniquitous story today.

"And to hope, till Hope creates, from its wreck the thing it contemplates"


Quote of the Day --

'To suffer woes that Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;
Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;
This . . . is to be good,
great and joyous, beautiful and free;
This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory.'

-- Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbound

Carafa's Eye


History is rife with examples of how organisations are subverted, hijacked through the surreptitious entry of agents from rival organisations or political entities. Perhaps the first popularly documented use of this tactic is the infamous Trojan Horse used by the Greeks to breach the walls of Troy and destroy this proud militaristic regime.The most significant refinement of this tactic occurred with the Commmunist United Front strategy formulated by Leon Trotsky and it became formally known as the tactic of "entryism". Whether in Europe, in China or even in Singapore, the Communists recognised that the key to exponentially increase their support base and importantly, also political influence, was to take over organisations and project power from and through them. The take-over of these organisations were to be led by Lenin's Revolutionary Vanguard. The key group of agents-of-influence who would infilitrate targeted organisations, and from within eventually seize control of these organisations to enact the party's political objectives. Entryism became an important force multiplier for the Communists and the tactic itself remains even as the ideology which spawned it lies in the dust of History.This particular tactic of entryism is relevant to Singapore indeed as the PAP came into power exactly through this. But the brutal irony was that they did it to the Communists who had in turn, done it against the British.Perhaps History does move around in circles.As the AWARE controversy escalates and more truths come under the harsh scrutiny of light, there are seemingly disparate pieces of information which are starting to coagulate into a slightly disturbing pattern.That AWARE was a victim of entryist tactics is now clear as day. By the admission of the New Exco and more revealingly, by the unveiling of the Feminist Mentor, Thio Su Mien, AWARE had been subjected to an orchestrated take-over. Having read through their statements deeper, what they were trying to hide in their come-clean session were not their religious motivations. What appears to be their main defence was that they are not "organised". There is a key difference here. The New Exco since day one and since their revelations have been stressing that what they did was not organised. Even Thio Su Mien insists that she just sent a few random emails, and only mentor the women occasionally. When you deny something so vehemently, it only opens the enquiry in that direction.Then, the role of Church of Our Savior and its Senior Pastor came to light. Many, probably including myself, started to think that the orchestrated take-over was conducted under the auspices of COOS. That it was a group within COOS attempting to enforce their religious beliefs on the rest of Singapore. If this is the simple picture, than the end-game is near. There is no possibility that COOS will be allowed to function as it had. The government, no matter how slow or clueless, will never allow the church institution to be used for such purposes.But what if COOS itself was the victim of a steeplejack? That COOS, just like AWARE, has already been overrun and taken over? This hypothesis cannot be rejected. What happened in AWARE cannot be isolated exclusively. We have to examine other possibilities, examine other connections.There is a church practice not commonly known to the layperson. This practice relates to the notion of "love gifts". Such gifts, usually in cash, are made to the church or to the pastors in recognition of their contribution to God's cause. As in all religious practices, we assume that such love gifts are given with no strings attached. It’s an act of faith. But then, such a practice can easily be misused. Surely, if faith and piety in this practice is corrupted, a situation could arise where particularly wealthy congregants could exert inordinate influence?It is not in the realm of fantasy that perhaps there could really be a deeper, underground organisation or fellowship at play here. Other than AWARE and COOS, there could be other organisations at risk o[...]

The Importance of a Meeting Place


How long did the new AWARE exco think they could hide the reason for the AWARE EGM venue change before someone draws the link?

Read this.


"ill minded man! Why scourge thy kind
who bow'd so low the knee?
By gazing on thyself grown blind,
Thou taughst the rest to see.
with might unquestion'd, -- power to save, --
Thine only gift hath been the grave
to those that whoshipp'd thee;
Nor till thy fall could mortals guess
Ambition's less than littleness!"

Byron, Ode to Napoleon

God's Singaporean Son


This article in TOC instantly brought a wry smile.

"Know that no one can have indulged in the Holy Writers sufficiently, unless he has governed churches for a hundred years with the prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha, John the Baptist, Christ and the apostles... We are beggars: this is true."

The above words were from the final writings of Martin Luther, a humble unknown German friar, who one fateful night on 1517 nailed 95 theses on the castle church doors of Wittenberg. With this single act of defiance, Martin Luther began a movement which destroyed the edifices of the Roman Catholic Church and irrevocably split Christianity into the various denominations we see today. Despite being the father of what became known as the Protestant movement, Martin Luther's final words were as above. That no one could have indulged the Holy Writers sufficiently. That ultimately we are all beggars, aspiring to achieve just a little understanding of God’s will.

But he is a Protestant after all.

Unlike Senior Pastor Derek Hong from Church of Our Savior, whose reading of the holy writings in the St James Bible has revealed to him God's instructions, indeed God's lines which cannot be crossed, not by his congregation, not even by the nation of Singapore. God's lines no less. Where there are no grades for sin. A pastor from Singapore who professes to know God's will and who acts in His Name based on his reading of the indisputable document known as the Holy Bible. The messiah is here to ensure that the nation does not cross the lines drawn by God?

From the article and the sermon, it is clear that Senior Pastor Hong is blissfully blind and unaware of the anger expressed so vociferously in local cyberspace over the weekend. In his devout vision, this AWARE sage is still a battle between his church and militant gay activists. Hence, his sermon devoted mostly to his insistence of the "sin" of homosexuality and the creeping militant gay movement threatening to turn Gaia into Sodom.

Perhaps Senior Pastor Hong needs to awake from his holy coma. You need not have to understand tongues to read the wave of anger against the new AWARE exco, Thio Su Mien and now, Church of our Savior, expressed over the weekend. Indeed, the anger is no longer just about the anti-gay point. Instead, the anger is clearly on how a church and some members of its wayward flock steeplejacked a secular non-governmental organisation through a premeditated and orchestrated Christian mobilisation of resources. The anger is no longer contained within the LGBT groups, the anger has gone mainstream. Your average Singapore is angry. Because they can see clearly that this action by Thio Su Mien and her puppets, given holy approval by Senior Pastor Hong, is wrong. Wrong from all perspectives. Not only from the LGBT perspective.

That our usual new media blind Ministers fail to see that what has happened in AWARE is more than petty politicking is understandable. They are always slow and headless without Minister Mentor's cloistered guidance. But for a Senior Pastor who seems to have God's prescience and a flock with a Feminist Mentor no less, to fail see this anger is humorous at the very least. Perhaps, they are likely mere mortals after all.

But then which mortal would dare claim to know the lines drawn by God and ensure that the nation does not cross it.

Quote of the Day –

"My hand grasps the killing power in Heaven and earth; To behead the evil ones, spare the just, and ease the people's sorrow." -- Hong Xiu Quan, from God's Chinese Son, Jonathan D Spence

De-legitimising Legality


Apologists of the new AWARE Exco cite the undisputable fact that they were voted in power legally and constitutionally. This "legality" justifies and legitimises their actions. This constitutionality of their new found status is the constant refrain used to blanket themselves from criticism. Indeed, this constitutionality of their actions gives them an aura of stoicism in the face of the massive critical storm blowing their way.This constitutionality argument is bullshit. It is a little known fact that when Hitler enacted the Final Solution, he was actually legally empowered to do so. His brilliant legal thinkers had carefully and deliberately solved the legal-juridical problem of sending innocent people into concentration camps. It was not just a dictatorial whim of Hitler; it was a calibrated and constructed legal strategy to empower him to send innocents into concentration camps and from there, into the gas chambers. It was legal then as he saw it, as the German Reich saw it, but do we see it, many years down the road, as legal? To rely on the constitutionality argument is basically a sign of weakness. It is short-sighted, it is escapism, it is a denial. Self silencing. It provides soothing comfort to justify looking away, stepping aside, denying a horror. Eventually, it is their motivations which we have to look into. Which we have to examine, dissect, discourse, disagree. The first Government responses are typical. We should embrace tolerance, diversity of views and the usual rigmarole of non-committal opinions. If this is the case, than the new AWARE puppets have already failed because their motivations for assuming power are based on intolerance. Their motivations are based on their own warped, intolerant vision of their religion and what they perceive their God is telling them to do. Their motivations are based on an exclusive rather than inclusive agenda. Their motivations have no place in this space where we term civil society. Their motivations are a betrayal of their own religion. It is their motivations that matter. Why they did what they did. Its not about whether it was legal or not. Look at NKF. Eventually, most of what Durai did was perfectly legal, perfectly constitutional. Why they did what they did will tell you what they will do in the future. When recipients of AWARE aid and services are excluded because they are different, because they do not believe, because they are sinners. We should be shocked and we should be ashamed that a group such as this can sit in front of the cameras and tell us that what they did was legal and that what they did was right and what they did was self sacrificing. It was not. From shock, from shame, we should be morally outraged at their audacity, at their presumptiveness that we can stomach their actions and tolerate their galling motivations. It is legal but it is wrong.To say it is legal opens up a slippery slope.Which is why, placing too much emphasis on the EOGM is not necessarily the strategy to adopt. To send this group back into their holes requires a concerted effort. Mr Wang suggests cancelling your DBS credit cards and telling DBS that you do not condone what their employee has done. Akikonomu has a whole list of email addresses which you can send to register your displeasure. Flood the newspapers with your anger. Spread the outrage far and wide and we can uncover new truths like this piece from DogEmperor. if you are in the Church Of Our Saviour or any other church and your wayward pastor stands behind the pulpit calling you to pray for the AWARE puppets, stand up and say no. Disagree, resist, refuse. Postscript -- A YouTube leak of the COOS anti gay sermon on their positioned statement.Quote of the Day --"Know that no one can have indulged in the Holy Writers sufficiently, unless he has governed churches for a hundred years with the prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha, John the Baptist, Christ and the apostles... We are beggars: [...]

A Peculiar Irony


It is a peculiar irony that perhaps the Singapore Government's greatest enemy is not the opposition parties, not our weekend activists, not even our vaunted new media but an age-old ideology birthed when a man split the seas into two and another man got crucified on a cross.Oh our pure and radiant hearts!This simmering AWARE controversy has been argued along the lines of homophobia. It is seen as a reaction against the perceived gay-friendly direction of the old guard. That is only one side of the story.There is the other side of this issue which we Singaporeans have been schooled deeply to avoid. To not touch. To pretend that it does not exist. Religion.The motivations of the new guard of AWARE stems from religion. There is no doubt in that. Their group cohesion rests on an unwavering martyr-like devotion to their God. To their God as they see it. To their God as they expect others to see it. To their God as they will others to believe in it. To their God. Call them the Elect, call them the Chosen, they are God's warriors.In every congregation, whichever denomination, whichever sect, whichever religion, whichever ideology, there is always this minority group. The self-styled martyrs. The visionaries. The chosen ones. Like Lenin's Vanguard, those who are closer to Utopia, those who are closer to God, those who are deeper believers, those who understand more. And their self appointed mission is to lead you, to lead me, because they are more right. Because we do not know. Because we are ignorant. We are the flock.Oh our pure and radiant hearts!But it is Singapore's peculiar irony that even as we witness this encroachment into a common civil space by this group of believers, we are unable to frame the arguments correctly because of this dirty word: religion.Instead we revert to PAP-esque frames of reference. The Old Guard and the New Guard. There is even a self-styled Feminist Mentor. A certain Thio Su Mien, related to Thio Li Ann, she who uttered that infamous ultra conservative invective in Parliament that left even the most hardcore PAP MPs squirming uncomfortably in their red leather seats.A Feminist Mentor no less. Pedestaled like a Minister Mentor. The puppeteer behind the machinations of Government, the puppeteer behind the machinations of these new AWARE guards. Whereas one is schooled in the most extreme sensibility of political expediency and practicality, the other is schooled in the most fanatical sensibility as God's executor. An archangel with the flaming sword of justice.It is Singapore's peculiar irony that we have in potentiality a movement that can topple the Government with one Word as they toppled AWARE with one Word. That is, sadly, the "choice" we have.--------------------------From: smthio@xxxxxxx.sgTo:, Undisclosed-Recipient:Subject: Re AwareAttachments AWARE_membership_mail-in_application_form.pdf concerned parents.1.doPRIVATE & CONFIDENTIALDear AllPlease see Attachments on some recent developments in Aware. Aware is a woman's organization which conducts comprehensive sexual programmes for girls and it runs this programme in some of the schools. They encourage girls to express their full sexuality and this includes experimenting with other girls. It would be a good idea to join it and change its focus to other problems of women and families...Please ask your like-minded friends to join Aware so that you can give the vote to those who wish to be an agent of change for the Lord. They could also contribute to the activities of the oprganization as there is much to be done for women and families in this dowturn of the economy. Unfortunately, I cannot surface but shall be assisting in the background . I attach the Aware membership application form for your use. The Aware application form has a section as to who ( if any) told you about Aware. You can just leave it blank . Please let me know whether you can join and attend the AGM which will be towar[...]

A Cup of Sg Tea


"The challenge, said Mr Lee, is to be able to boil down information and present news neutrally out of Singapore." ChannelNewsAsia, 23 Feb

like the dregs that escape the sock. scattered views, words, letters sinking into the bottom of the cup. a cusp of information, its meanings diffused into quivery aromatic wisps, swirling languidly in boiling raging water. the dregs sinking down and down. a settled scatter of stilled dregs.

whats left is a cup of a tea. subtly fragrant. calm, peaceful, soothing, therapeutic even.

the dregs at the bottom severed from the dregs in the sock. the associations dissociated. the answers unquestioned. the meanings unmeant. sensibilities unsensed.

leaving only the watered association, the dissolved answer, the distilled meaning.


and a slightly bitter taste.

Quote of the Day --

"We had a kettle; we let it leak:
Our not repairing made it worse.
We haven't had any tea for a week...
The bottom is out of the Universe."

Rudyard Kipling

Terminal Loops


Its that rally speech again, littered always with captivating words, moving promises, prelapsarian anxieties. statistical suasion. Not the chest-thumping jingo-jingle of Lee Hoong's Pax Singaporeana, but the calculated sensibilities of practical reason. A rally always of implied shifts, always heralding that slip of change, winds of change. Holding us captive, captivated that perhaps ... just perhaps ...Inflation? Do the math and you're really not so worse off. ERP? But there is your car, a dream Corolla, gleaming at the parking lot. What wants remain unfulfilled, how far the subsistence line when three billion dollars were pumped out to you and to me? Read the numbers, do your sums, what wants have not been met? The numbers don't lie, your mind tricks you. So the rally goes. Boring deep in our heads. Awaking our rational conscience, changing our minds, seeding change through a reinstatement of status quo, reinstating the state. The stubborn Singaporean, too greedy perhaps? Expectations maybe, just maybe a little too high? Forgetting the benevolence of the king? The ground shifts, the position changes, the angles are re-configured and dreams of a rainbow Singapore re-surface. First class education. Another brick in the wall.A sensible seduction, a re-dressed opening up. Pushing the infamous "boundaries". Opening up, blooming, hundreds of flowers ... wait, a wrong memory, another rally, another time, the same message. Collapsing memory, collapsed rallies. Push the boundaries, when only You can see it while they remain always invisible, amorphous, sinously sinister to us, the un-productive citizens. Push the boundaries, but where are these spectres, these lines, these conditions, when only You can will their appearance, wield that axe that makes us yield?Opening up? More freedom in cyberspace! More politics in cyberspace! Freedom during election time! Seductively re-dressed as opening up, as liberalisation. When it is already free. When it is already was. What opening up when it already exists? How to open this space when it was always already open, in spite of, despite of the porous legal barricades erected to ring-fence it?Engage you. Engage me. Engage ad nauseum. Renege. Engage. Renege. Renege. Renege.When all you have to do is listen. Forget engage. Listen. Listen to the voices in cyberspace. Listen hard in your facebooks, youtubes, flickrs, blogspots, wordpress. Listen to that sound, vaguely familar? Listen to all that text, all those pixels and you may remember a Singapore that has gone underground. Recall a vibrancy, a hope, a future, a discourse, long extinct in physical Singapore. Listen, forget engage, forget rally, forget speaking. Listen to this raucous slipstream, this digital babel of wired Singapore and you may re-discover the continuities of Singapore past, present and future.The rally speech, an annual discursive masterpiece, piping us like little children merrily to wonderland. A textual orchestra of sensible cadence, reasonable rhythm, looping and re-looping like that hypnotic techno riff that is re-mastered, re-assembled, re-presented as new music this year, next year and next and the year after next. A rally like last year's rally, like last year, and last year and the year before last and that last year.Inflation. Babies. Angbaos. FT. Economy. Opening up. New Media. Inspiration. Success story #1, #2 ... Economy, economy.Our minds, conditioned again. A condition of nervous anticipation. We smell something in the air. Hint of change. Something different. Conditioning our senses, always expectant, always dissonant. Conditioning our anxieties, always compliant, always reliant.A terminal prelapsarian loop in an event horizon imagined as Pax Singaporeana.Quote of the Day –“The Hinkypunk is a strange will-o’-wisp which stands on a single leg and consists of evanescent whorls of smoke. The Hinkypunk supposedly ho[...]

Remaining Time


You are born in KK. You go through pre-school. You go through kindergarten. You enrol in a primary school. Tuition classes begin. Extra classes in English, ballet, piano, on top of normal curricular subjects. You sit for your PSLE. You enter the secondary school based on your PSLE results; if you fail you enter the ITEs. You study hard through O'levels, you go to either a polytechnic or JC. Or your education can end here. Or if you are really good, you through-train to A'levels. For the boys, you go to NS. For the rest, it is university or work. After university, you work. You find a mate. Get married. Get a place, probably HDB. Take a loan. Work through 40 plus years. Attend weddings, attend funerals. Probably watch thousands of movies. Go for bbqs or blading at East Coast Park. Make love. Go for holidays. Have children. You retire at 65 plus. Collect your CPF. You get sick. You pass away. Your ashes finally laid to rest at Mandai columbarium.And along this life process, the Singapore political system, through its institutions and instruments of the state, imbibes you with the proper values, the proper beliefs, the proper behavior. Your outlook is schooled, your life road submitted to the vagaries of the needs of this Singapore system. Engineers, biomedical, life sciences, PPE, MBA. As this system requires, so too the available paths on your life path. As the system requires, so your humanity is gradually leached. As this system requires, so you become that little more de-humanised.What is there to cherish in Singapore? Its a simple answer. Your life outside the system. Your tranquility in those moments of peace when the system's tentacles cannot reach you. Your secret exercise hang-out at Seletar reservior. Your secret fishing spot at MacRitchie. Your little overgrown garden. Your balcony on a crisp early rain-washed morning. Your session in front of the computer, tapping wildly away at your blog, your discussion forum. Your moments with your children, without the blemish of life's worries planted across their delicate brows. Your favorite zi char stall, with your buddies and a couple of beers after a game of football, basketball. Your moments when you are you. Your humanity. Your existence. Your life.Why do Singaporeans leave? Not only those leaving to the first world countries. But those Singaporeans who leave for developing countries. In Thailand, Vietnam, Uganda, Mongolia. Why? What is the allure of that foreign land? Is it the suspense of encountering new rules, new cultural continuities, new options, new possibilities? Do they hate Singapore? No, more, they are terrified of Singapore, of its system and what it represents. An epitome of dehumanity. Why do they leave? Not to recover but to rediscover life.There is little or no suspense in Singapore where the system of rational outcomes, economic needs supersedes all of life's imperatives. It is this need which requires security. It is this need that precludes participatory politics. It is this need that determines existential continuity in Singapore. We cannot question this rule. And without question, questioning, we lose that gram of humanity which accrues through the years we co-mingle with this system. When the time comes to retirement, reflexion and the shock of system withdrawal is too late. We can only remember the moments of life at that secret spot, at that first kiss.Reader, you asked what is there to cherish in Singapore. There is much and there can be more.But will the system permit this?For those who left, they cannot wait for the system's answer.Because they know, life is lived on remaining time.Quote of the Day --"To be happy is to be able to become aware of oneself without fright." -- Walter Benjamin[...]

Why They Like Singapore


There are some Singaporeans who like Singapore.They belong to that sacred convenant of Singaporeans who have the most freedom in this island state. Well-schooled through the elite schools and recipients of prestigious scholarships to Oxbridge or the Ivy League, this class of Singaporeans are intelligent, articulate, sagely and well ensconced in the civil service, in the national newspapers, in the major GLCs, which run Clockwork Singapore.These Singaporeans have it good. They can speak, reason and talk about politics in valuable newspaper space with absolute free reign. What authoritarian Singapore? They ask. They have all the freedom to publish commentaries with absolute impunity. They can talk about the Singapore system, on political accountability, freely without the blighting shadow of defamation.For these Singaporeans, they cannot understand why other Singaporeans cry bloody murder on freedom of expression, freedom of speech, or the lack of human rights in Singapore. They cannot understand why Westerners hate Singapore.In their sanguine sagacity, they dismiss these complaining Singaporeans as blue-eyed idealists who will grow out of their angst and accept the system; they scoff at the Western detractors as jealous, as cultural bigots who cannot escape the liberal paradigms they were schooled under.These Singaporeans, so rational and pragmatic, who always have the answers, rooted deep in an ultra-Rankean historical perspective, for every contradiction apparent in Singapore society today.Ministerial accountability for a terrorist escape? Look through the annals of history, there is no need. Why this fury?Raising taxes to help the poor? Look at history and you see that the people have to bite the bullet to survive economic crises.Gerrymandering in elections? Come on, we are a multi-racial society which needs proportional representation for the sake of democracy.Every contradiction. A perfect, rational answer. Sometimes backed up with the necessary statistics.These Singaporeans have absolutely no reason to dislike, what more hate Singapore? They reap the fruits of this nation's spectacular economic success. They enjoy great career success and hold positions of influence in the political, social, economic fields. They are the direct beneficiaries of Singapore Inc, the beautiful meritocracy of controlled political diversity.These Singaporeans, who read the Singapore Story as how the PAP triumphed against the communists (after riding on the Malayan Communist Party to obtain political power and betraying them), went through a painful Merger with Malaysia (and the launch of Operation Cold Store to remove all the political opponents under the war against Communism), fighting the economic struggles of 1970s (enacting the Trade Union Act, the Newspaper Act, forcing the closure of Nantah and Chinese schools to annihilate all the bastions of Communist mass support), rising to the housing challenge with HDB (the forced repatriation of Singaporeans who received no compensation and the enactment of the grassroots RCs who receive favoured distribution of flats) and the birth of a modern economic miracle ( via the systematic de-politicization of society).Really, for these Singaporeans, what's there to dislike, much less hate about Singapore? For them, the grass is always green. For them, a 10% pay-cut is just a few hundred off their six figure salaries. For them, the ERP is wonderful for removing congestion. For them, raising bus fares is an alien notion because they do not take buses. For them, Singapore is wonderful, they are free to do anything and they are happy citizens.They just have to sing One song. They just have to believe in One nation. They just have to see One people.And these Singaporeans are One Singapore.Waltzing on a glass floor, looking down on the rest of the country, the re[...]

Singapore Spirit


It is said that during this month, spirits of the netherworld are given license to roam the physical world. In Singapore, many activities cease during this month, house-moving, renovations, marriages, wedding dinners, for fear that it will bring inauspicious beginnings to new ventures. There cannot be too much joy during this month. Because the spirits are sad, hungry, lonely.But still, we celebrate National Day in this luckless month. This year's theme, ironically, a celebration of the Singapore Spirit. The spirit of you and me. Our spirits chasing that dangling carrot in front of our eyes. A long, long queue outside the neighborhood betting shops. Hoping for luck in this luckless month. Fifty cent quickpick, dreaming a return eight million over, to lift our spirits, to lift us from our luckless lives.This year's National Day, a paean to our indomitable Singapore Spirit. A spirit sliced wafer thin by cold political design. A spirit disfigured with mouths sewn shut. A spirit disembodied from our bodies which plod on like beasts of burden keeping Singapore Inc alive. A spirit mostly asleep, awakened every four years to sluggishly ink away emancipation. An emaciated spirit looking always for flight even as hordes rush in to replace his place. The Singapore Spirit, an indomitable Spirit.The Singapore spirit, standing below the huge garishly lit National Day billboard of our beaming political masters surrounded by our multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-caricatured daguerreotypes. The Singapore spirit looking sadly at the Singaporean with his five dollar offerings of million dollar Hades money, a pair of flickering joss candles, a cluster of smoking joss sticks, praying fervently for blessings, for luck in this luckless month, in their luckless lives.The Singapore spirit, a fragile wisp of ether, sadly watching a fictional celebration of million-dollar fanfare, elaborately synchronized dance displays, precision marching, streaking sonic jet fighters, muscular anthems and paeans, telling lustrous myths of unity, strength, indomitablity. Outside the stage, the old man collects discarded cardboard boxes and drink-cans from crowded coffee-shops, filled with patrons enraptured by the olympian spectacle in Beijing on the hanging TV screens. The Singapore spirit, so diffuse, so faint, so slight, like a whiff of alchohol in a Sunday choir-boy's breath. The Singapore spirit, united only by a common dream of flight from their luckless lives, from their lifeless lives.The Singapore Spirit of National Day, a community of meanings, a sovereign display of resemblance and common reflexion, from which emerges the principles of unity and eventually political domination. While the singapore spirit of this Seventh Month, trudges on dispirited, unable to rupture its mythic patina of joyous unity, unable to voice, unable to signal its plea against the illogical political slogans of more taxes and necessary rising costs.The dispirited Singapore Spirit, accepting the ashes of offerings from little bonfires scattered around the country. Unable to offer anything back but dreams of a better life as insubstantial, as ephemeral as the fireworks we will see this Saturday night.Quote of the Day --"These pre-existing forms of continuity, all these syntheses that are accepted without question, must remain in suspense. They must not be rejected definitively of course, but the tranquility with which they are accepted must be disturbed; we must show that they do not come about of themselves, but are always the result of a construction the rules of which must be known, and the justifications of which must be scrutinized: we must define in what conditions and in view of which analyses certain of them are legitimate; and we must indicate which of them can never be accepted in any circumsta[...]

Will You Be Back Tomorrow?


Somehow, this Singapore Dissident, a former Singaporean, got himself arrested in Singapore for contempt against a public servant. Somehow, there was enough reserve of anger left in him, as he witnessed the spectacle of the Lee-Chee courtroom confrontation, to dangle himself as political bait to the Singapore Government. Regardless the fact that he was a former WP member, regardless the often muddied opposition delineations in Singapore. Regardless the fact that he has left Singapore and is living in relative comfort in the US. Regardless, this former Singaporean stood forth and issued another challenge aimed straight at that fragile weave-work known as Singapore’s defamation laws.Sometime last night, he was arrested. He wanted arrest, he wanted a challenge and our Government, mindful of face to the last iota of political insensibility, reacted accordingly. This is the fatherly political reflex which has remained constant throughout the years of chimerical political development in Singapore. When faced with a political challenge, with a crossing of the political face of the ruling regime, the necessary reflex is a fatherly arrest, detention or lawsuit.This is the political constant in Singapore. Despite all the rhetoric of opening up, allowing creativity, tolerating dissent. This is the cold basic stark political reality when you cross the invisible, shifting, convenient boundary defined by our political rulers.The knocking on the door in the dead of night. The plainclothes police, the arrest, a scene replayed endlessly across the world in regimes sharing the cozy bed of tyranny.For the dewy-eyed who continue to be able to dissect Singapore’s political system and extol or debate the virtues and merits of governance from the safe confines of political permissibility; this episode is but another transgression in an endless litany of political brutalities that will never disappear with this Government, this political party. Remember that. Talk about the relentless rising costs of living to an extent when you tap into the seething discontent of the dis-empowered and all the pretence of political paternalism, light touch, will vanish in that very instant you hear the cold hard slap of the shackles around you hands, your legs and your mouth.This is our Singapore. When you really stand, you will be cut at your knees. When you really open your mouth, it will be sewn shut. And the hardest, most cruel reality is that no one will know. Or you will be ridiculed as deserving of this cutting, this silencing. You asked for it.There is nothing in this political system that will protect you from this. And there are no brethren who will stand by your side. Because the system has ensured your total solitude when its existence, its rules, its rule is questioned.Will any Singaporean stand forth and say nay, this arrest is political irresponsibility? No, because they will say that this Singapore dissident had it coming. He issued a challenge and he was answered. Snigger snigger.Will any Singaporean stand forth and say nay, this arrest is blatantly political and an act to silence someone who is speaking up against what he perceives as gross injustice in our courts of law? No, instead they will say that this dissident is a quitter, that he has the protection of his US citizenship behind him. Snigger snigger.We have been conditioned to think like this. Better these snide remarks, better these cynical insinuations, better these rational analyses than real full-blooded anger. Anger that makes you stand forth, makes you speak up to challenge the system to come to you.This is our Singapore.Quote of the Day –Won't you come back tomorrowWon't you come back tomorrowWon't you come back tomorrowCan I sleep tonightOutsideSomebody's outsideSomebody's knock[...]

From Godot to Robot


"The state cannot and should not play the role of a surrogate father"This was the response of Minister Vivian to a request for governmental help against errant ex-spouses who evade their maintenance liabilities.There was a time if Vivian was to make this statement, it would have had an absolutely different, almost opposite intended meaning.The state cannot and should not play the role of a surrogate father. How apt a statement in Sigapore if it contains even the slightest whiff of that dirty ideology, welfarism.Stand on your own two feet boy. Gather your own feed. Raise your family with your own hands. Do not beg from the state. The state cannot and should not play the role of a surrogate father.But father we are dying.Than you will have to go for you have failed. It is not the money. it is the principle. A free quarter for you and the floodgates will open. Our economy will crumble. The state will be destroyed. singapore perishes. So go my son. The state cannot and should not play the role of a surrogate father.Then I will speak out, my father. Make known my grievances.Careful with that my son. If you are too inflammatory, if you are too populist than you will be seditious. You will be upsetting the balance and harmony of this state. Then you will have to be silenced. You will face the Penal Code. You will face the ISA.Then I will protest, my father. I will protest the CPF system, I wish to opt out and take my money.No you cannot do that. The CPF system is good for you. It ensures that you will be taken care of in your old age. By forcing you to save your own money, the State is helping you prepare for your old age. CPF plus, even, now that you can live beyond 80. And protests in Singapore are illegal. You will break the law. You will have to be arrested.Then I will write, my father. Make my story known. Talk to my journalist friends, find others like me.You are being subversive. The national newspapers cannot involve itself in such partisan issues. It can and only report facts. The newspapers are important institutions of the state. It cannot be used for the people by the people. The mainstream newspaper must report accurately, objectively and responsibly. And that they must adopt this model that they are part of this nation-building effort, rather than go out and purvey views that would mislead people, confuse people, which will in fact undermine our national strategy. So if you write seditiously, you will break the law. You will have to be arrested.Then I will vote, my father. Vote you out.Yes that is fair, that is politics. But you will find out that you are in an uncontested GRC. And we cannot change that. Its for your own good. The GRC system is so that all races are fairly represented. Its to ensure harmony, equal representation to all. It is not a system to squeeze out political competition. It is for the good of the people.The state cannot and should not play the role of a surrogate father. Do you see that? Do you understand that? Ours is not a paternalistic system. Ours is not a father-child relationship.Think. And finally accept. Even if you are dying.Like me, Godot turned Robot.Quote of the Day --"If you broke the law, there was only the one law, which everybody broke again and again ... and there was always the same penalty for any breaking of the law, from jaywalking to treason: the penalty was the death penalty, and there was agitation to have the death penalty removed, but it would not be because then, for like jaywalking, there would be no penalty at all. So it stayed on the books and finally the community burned out entirely and died. No, not burnt out -- they had been that already. They faded out, one by one, as they broke the law, and sort of died." -- A Scanner Darkly, Philip K.[...]

A Kilo of Rice from Tua Pek Kong


While we were whipped into a wild frenzy over the Mas Selamat debacle, this little CNA report quietly slipped past most Singaporeans eyes. According to charities, the queue for free food is getting longer. While this queue grows longer, the Dept of Statistics uses a fairly odd adjective to describe the situation. Inflation was "boosted", it has an uncannily happy, almost positive ring. Boosted.----------------Singapore's March inflation rate at 26-year high of 6.7% ( 23 Apr 2008 1331 hrs)SINGAPORE: Singapore's annual inflation was 6.7 percent last month, the highest in 26 years, the Department of Statistics said on Wednesday. It said the consumer price index (CPI) was boosted by higher costs of food, transport, communications and housing.The March CPI was down 0.1 percent from February's figure, the department added. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the index was 0.3 percent higher in March, compared with the previous month. Inflation reached 6.6 percent in the first three months of 2008, compared with the same period last year.Singapore is not alone in grappling with inflation.The United Nations food agency on Tuesday said the world faces a "silent tsunami" of soaring food prices and more must be done to help secure future supply.Rising food prices are driving more people in Singapore to join the queue for free meals, charities said.Crude oil is also trading at near record high prices globally.----------------------Such a major boost in inflation should have been printed prominently in our media bastion, the Straits Times. Prominently featured just as when the paper positively glowed and glistened with feel-good mojo during the glorious proclamations of the GST hike.Boosted, booted, busted, bastard.The proclamations have become faded echoes. Faded as always with these mass Govt-media campaigns. If we were to replay the jingoistic speeches during 2007’s Budget Debate , they would sound horribly hollow now. Irrelevant, inconsequent, insipid, invalid. Faced with boosting inflation, the Government reverts to its trusted media strategy, another two billion dollar package to help Singaporeans tide over these dire times just like the billion dollar package to tide over the GST hikes. Another screaming headline. Another faded echo to come. Repeating, repetitive, recursive, eventually repulsive. Media mediated visions to re-slave the enslaved, to nurse the sleeping to unconsciousness.And while the state machinery churns out its movies, its frames to rapture us about our future, to squeeze us in our ennui, its efficient and grotesque political machines continue humming at the local levels, local governance, our little temaseks, masked as town councils, blithe to the cries of our citizens, standing in line for a kilo of rice from Tua Pek Kong, a kilo of rice from Prophet Mohammed, a kilo of rice from Jesus Christ.There is something fundamentally wrong in Singapore.There is something fundamentally wrong when our town councils masquerade as little temaseks, squirreling away significant percentages of our conservancy charges into enormous sinking funds. Little temaseks hoarding 30% of what we pay every month and investing them in funds and financial products with only whispers of accountability. Town councils playing little temaseks, while those they bleed from, stand in line for a kilo of rice. Perhaps these little temaseks should occasionally pretend to be town councils and build some covered walkways to all the charities so that citizens can wait for their kilo of rice in condescending shade.It is perhaps tolerable for the citizen during times of reasonable plenty, to witness political control of local governance, our town councils, our little temaseks through Governmental manipula[...]

Of Angry Journalists, Anger & the Evil Internet Again


I remember playing the board game Monopoly once with a group of children comprising my nieces and nephews. Being the only adult and the only person most familar with the game amongst a group of DOTA and Maple Story veterans, wily me started slowly, cornered some utilities and very soon owned the essential parts of Monopoly which squeezed the liquidity from the children. Then, one of my nephews, the youngest, who enjoyed the initial luck of the dice, pushed all the little green houses and little red hotels away from the board and whined that it was not fair. He did not want to play anymore.Board games like Monopoly live through the ages because it make-believes very human emotions like greed, ability to handle failure, the embarrassment of failure, the fear of defeat/failure and of course, the thrill of winning, the satisfaction of monopoly.Reading Chua Lee Hoong's latest ST article on the Internet reactions to the Mas Selamat debacle strikes an immediate sense of deja vu. If I am not wrong, not that many years back, her fellow journalist, Sumiko Tan, opened her diatribe against the Internet with exactly the same angry descriptive barrage of the evils in cyberspace, crawling with bad people, filled with nasty brutish demons and poisonous commentaries. Years later, another fellow journalist repeats the same diatribe on this lawless space known as cyberspace.We have to engage Lee Hoong's article precisely. She has dissected and isolated this Mas Selamat debacle and ends wondering why the reactions of the Net and of the mob are so incommensurate to the issue at hand? Why are Singaporeans over-reacting? Why this much anger? This much hate, this much scorn, this much disdain? To be fair to Lee Hoong, this is not so bad a form of analysis. Isolate the issue, study it, than assess the implications and measure the reaction/response. Incidentally, this is a method of journalism which ST excels in. Isolate, measure, assess and respond. Indeed, the entire article by Lee Hoong has a narrative structure not unlike how PM Lee dissected the Mas Selamat debacle in Parliament. Clinical, efficient, laying bare the facts, laying bare the skeleton with skeletal facts. When Lee Hoong removes her surgical mask, she cries out in boiling anger: What for this anger? Why this anger?The answer is simple. This anger is not only about Mas Selamat. This anger is inextricably entwined with how the Ministers gave themselves a huge pay rise on the reasoning that they have to benchmark themselves to the private sector. This anger is intertwined with how the Government pursues accountability in every action, every utterance, every behavior of an Opposition politician. This anger is tied deeply with how the Government removed a columnist from his job at the newspaper because of his accountability for one column mocking the rising costs of living. This anger is about the unfairness of political accountability in Singapore. This anger is about the shifting meaning of accountability in the political landscape of Singapore. So Lee Hoong, the answer is simple, this anger, this “hysterical” mob manifesting in the Internet, is precisely the product of the actions of this Government.Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the angriest of them all?Perhaps, to be fair, we also have to measure, assess the reasons why Lee Hoong’s blood is boiling. Why her anger? Is it a commensurate anger? Somewhere along the commentary, she assures Singaporeans that her past articles have shown she has been critical of Government if it warrants. This is her licence to ask the thinking Singaporean why we are behaving irrationally, disproportionately. Perhaps she has to ask herself why, even if she has “rebel[...]

Politics, Gladiator, Praetorians and a Missing Fugitive


While many viewers were enthralled by the epic battle scenes in the Gladiator, hardly any noticed that the plot of the film turned on a single focal point. When the Emperor Commodus was un-sworded by General Maximus in the final fight scene, he turned to his Praetorian Guards and demanded another sword. As the Guard unsheathed their swords to offer their beleaguered Emperor, the Guard Commander, Quintus, overruled the Emperor, ordering the Guard to stay their swords. General Maximus subsequently killed Commodus with the latter's own dagger in front of a shocked Coliseum. It was not the first time that the Praetorian Guards played a pivotal role in the film. In this sense, the film was unerring in historical accuracy, the praetorians were more often than not, the true Caesar-makers of Pax Romana. The Prime Minister's explanation of the Mas Selamat escape fiasco is a lesson in politics. He perhaps more than any other recognises that the ISD is an intelligence agency, staffed by intelligence officers, whose primary job is the gathering of information of leverage, of value. Running a prison is a routine task beneath such intelligence officers, such tasks delegated to the lowly Gurkha mules. It is precisely this mindset that allowed the Mas Selamat escape to occur and this was probably what the PM meant when he singled out the mindset issue. The element of complacency. Interestingly, the PM made one slip of tongue which did not really come out in the COI report findings, he uttered something about the unclear lines of command on the security responsibility in the detention centre. This is the nub of the issue. It is apparent that ISD intelligence officers are not prison wardens. More likely, intelligence officers are egotistical bastards who like to kick down toilet doors rather than perform lowly prison escort duties. Hence, the security of Mas Selamat was delegated by these intelligence officers to the two Gurkha mules. They made the critical mistake in thinking that two Gurkhas on one prisoner should be adequate security. But alas, the Gurkhas are good only for parades and are basically gentle savage mules with less initiative than your average Filipino maid. This was the critical failure, window or no window, fence or no fence.If a cock-up of this scale occurs in a ministry like MICA, the PM will have much less of a headache. Essentially, ministries like MICA are politically dispensable. They have no value to the politicians. But when a cock-up happens in a intelligence agency, in Mindef or even in an elite military unit like the Commandos, especially in a regime like Singapore where institutional checks and balances are only of face value, the political ramifications are much more complex. When a cock-up happens in ISD, which has an organisational history that is promiscously intertwined with the political history of Singapore, think Coldstore, think Marxist conspiracy, it creates a hugely delicate problem for the politicians. The Prime Minister is sharp and recognises this fact, this conundrum he is faced with. He explains to us citizens that a demoralised ISD will be detrimental to Singapore's security. That is an equivocal statement. It is not the mob reflexively baying for the blood of Ministers and politicians he is wary of. Handling the mob is simple politics, especially the Singaporean mob which has always been fairly one-dimensional. It is evident from this Mas Selamat escape that political savvy in Singapore remains a rare commodity. Grasping and exploiting political nuances appears to be a lost art or perhaps the monopoly of the cloistered group in the ruling regime. Rather than exp[...]

Let Them Eat Cake


It is not merely the price of rice and it is not nearly so simple a solution as to switch to cheaper rice. Around the world, from Burma, to Nepal and to Haiti, there is a sweeping anger at the ineptitude of the incumbent governments in guaranteeing this simple basic commodity. There is an implicit anger at the governments for failing this most basic convenant of governance, the provision of affordable rice. Nearer to Singapore, our brothers and sisters in Malaysia have exercised also their anger and the incumbents are noticably shaken. It is not merely the price of rice nor nearly so pat a solution as switching to cheaper rice.Cheaper rice cannot be the only solution when even cheaper rice have become more expensive. What about the next citizen who has always bought cheaper rice and realises that he cannot buy rice any more because there is no other cheaper rice. When he is at the end of the grain chain? When he is left no longer with any choice, no longer with any options, as perhaps we are all invariably headed? Maybe then, we will have to devise another means test to find which grade of rice we belong to. Rice just like healthcare. Mean tests. And all this while we lower the taxes for the corporate suits as they they milk the rising price of rice and our means to get the rice.It is a global phenomenon, the Government says, with an unseen wry shrug, its not their fault. Forgetting that their repeated claims of captaincy, of the mandate to lead this nimble ship called Singapore, steering it always away from an imagined danger, is based on their ability protect Singaporeans from these global vissicitudes.And when they fail, its not their fault. With a pained look, they simply say "switch to cheaper rice". And my aged mother dutifully obeys, taking a feeder bus and another bus to another town and another feeder bus to the nearest Sheng Siong, ten kilometres away. To find the cheaper rice. But public transport hikes will come again soon. Its an annual affair now, they have promised this. To raise bus fares gradually, yearly,to even out the pain of a sudden steep increase. And when you cannot afford the bus, switch to walking then. Its the cheapest, just like cheaper rice. Same logic. Simplistic logic.What happened to the unbridled optimism and ebullience when we announced the GST hikes last year? When the newspapers were emblazoned with shiny happy headlines proclaiming with such truthful conviction, such persuasive factualisations that raising GST will help the poor, raising GST will help you, raising GST will keep prices down, raising GST will bring us to heaven? What happened to this optimism? Where is the promised outcome? How have we been helped?Switch to cheaper rice, you say.Perhaps it has reached a stage where the citizens have to imagine that we can no longer afford this so expensive Government, perhaps the citizens should consider switching to a cheaper Government? That is political naivete, the Government will say. You can switch to cheaper rice, but cheaper Government? Are you crazy? The government has to be paid, to retain the talents, the very same talents that make sweeping proclamations such as to raise GST to help the poor and advise us to switch to cheaper rice when we cannot afford rice.Marie Antoinette, queen of France, was once attributed with this response when told that Parisians could no longer afford the rising price of bread, she said "Let them eat cake!" Regardless the veracity of this assertion, it resonates through history and time as an indictment of the spectacular schism between ruling and the ruled during the heady days of the French Revolution.It is not nearly [...]

none people, no nation, not singapore


The flags are fluttering again. Unfurling a fabric of society, ravelling a fabrication of unity. National Day it is, a day of the nation, of its citizens as one people, one nation, one Singapore. The citizens become a collectivized imagination, riding the fires of the independence struggle, striding through the splinters of a communalist, communist past. To emerge as one people, one nation, one Singapore. Picture from Dansong’s intriguing Moments in Heartland seriesOne people, like these puppets, gracing the many celebratory carnivals across the weekend. Carnivalesque manifestations of the Chinese, the Malay, the Indian/Sikh. But not the Other. Where is the Other in the CMIO category found in all our little hi-tech pink identity cards binding us as one people? Carnivalesque mimics of one people, exaggerated cutesy China doll hairbuns, ambling down the roads, A delight to one and to all. Delight at their aura of un-reality. Laughter at their comic excess of racial features. Laughter at their distance from us, from us one people.One people consisting of the family unit, the basic building blocks of our social fabrication. One husband, one wife, two children or three or four to grab that tax carrot. To build our fabrication of one nation, one people, one Singapore. The unit is the family. The family is the building block. Not you, not the individual. The individual is an aberration. A defective gene to ruin the fabrication of Singapore. To unravel the ravelled illusion. What more two individuals who do not make a family unit, a gay couple perchance? They do not, they cannot, they must not, they shall not, exist in the fabrication of our social fabric. Their existence rends the fabric. Breaks the fabrication. Despoils the beauty imagined in the heads of the despotic fabricateurs. Despoils the nation. These are the none people. They are not one people, one nation, one Singapore.A carnival of puppets, to represent you, me, everybody. Grotesque harmony. Unreal reality jaunting down the streets of Punggol. While there is another series of photographs representing the Other, the gay, shunted like the insane fey. See no Evil and Evil does not exist. Invisibilise the none people, and they are none. Nothing. Empty. Replace the space. with unreal faces. of puppets. of you and me and everybody, walking fearlessly along the road of Punggol to inspire a fabrication of a social fabric. One people, one nation, one Singapore.One people always given a Choice between a Devil or a deep Red Sea. Choose a partner of a different gender, the other choice is none. Choose to accept another round of public transport fare increase, the other choice is none. Choose to accept a GST hike, the other choice is none. Choose foreign talent to sustain our economy, the other choice is none. One people or none people? So many choices, choose your choice silent voice.Ready to roll the die in 2009? Marina, Sentosa spoilt for choice. What fabric one people? What fabric but the survival fabric. To survive in a high-rolling world, we must fold the fabric, re-fabricate the fabric, flaggellate our little flag, just a little bit. Roll the die or we die? Despoilt of choice in our little social fabrication. Walk on by, little puppets, its our National Day, one people, one nation, one Singapore.WHAT DO YOU WANT? perhaps just a little bit more freedom, a little bit more space. WORK FOR IT. UNTIL 65 NOW. PERHAPS MORE. DON"T GROW OLD. WORK WORK. WURK WURK.The illusion of grammar in the Singapore wordscape drummed into us since young. Neither past perfect nor present tense. Neither present perfect nor past tense. Tha[...]

Old Singapore


"This is how one pictures the angel of history. Her face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, she sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of her feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in her wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them."This is how an angel perceives the past, a single catastrophe piling a mountain of wreckage at her feet. But we are told that it is a logical chain of events. Linear time, cause and effect, leading us progressively to a better modernity. A storm is blowing in from Paradise, dragging the angel away from the wreckage of History, dragging the angel into a Utopian futurity. Hurled into a beautiful Paradise. Some time in the future.Even an angel is helpless, what more mortals like us?There is a certain beauty in Tan Pin Pin's new documentary, Invisible City. Underlying this beauty is a grief of absence. We are shown beautiful and rare colour footage of a forgotten era of Singapore. At the same time, this footage cannot be contextualised. There is an absence in the beautiful reels of another Singapore. The documentarian struggles to provide a narrative, some form of context, but he cannot. Because he cannot remember. The screen is blank as he tries his best to dredge his memory, desperately trying to fill that absence. But there is only incoherence. And that scene transcends into a presence of absence.There is footage of archaeologists at work. Excavating bits and pieces of forgotten Singapore. There is a montage of "I was here" graffiti at one of the excavation sites. But again there is an underlying grief of absence. The same lack of context. The archaeologists are digging and dispassionately cataloguing the relics. Reading and recording each sliver of information in the relics. But again there is silence, absence. And you can feel this in the documentary.There is another narrative by Han Sanyuan, a former Chinese school activist. His recollections of Singapore history has the greatest coherence. He provides the context and has the photographic evidence of an alternative perspective of Singapore's past. But when he presents this in a forum, only the older in the audience has that look of comprehension, that gleam of understanding. The younger look bemused. He laments eventually that no one was interested. That his narrative is at best quaint when set against the dominant Singapore Historical narrative. So even for one who has the context, who remembers best, eventually there is an absence. And this absence is in the present. Now.Preceding the scene of Han at the forum is a silent slow footage of the modern Singapore skyline. Some may see progress. Others may sense absence.There is a narrative of a former anti-Japanese guerilla recounting his story to a Japanese journalist. He sings an anti-Japanese war song, tells of the atrocities committed by the Japanese occupation army, of how he meets his wife. And eventually, the article that is published highlights only absence. His story is re-contextualised. That old cliché, to forgive and forget, takes on a new dimension, a new layer of meaning. Can we forgive without forgetting?The most memorable scene is that with an old, half-blind and bed-ridden British photographer."My only regret is not leaving Singapore to go back England when I had the chance ... Singapore is not a place to grow old in ..."It is a stunning moment in the documentary delivered in such an ordinary ma[...]

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 re[...]

whats your story?


There is something odd going on in the blogosphere.

The story is this.

Two weeks ago, someone leaked a story of a 2nd Lt, who happened to be the Prime Minister's son, in a discussion forum known as Hardwarezone.

The discussion thread was deleted.

No explanations were given then. No explanation exists now. No one knows why the discussion was deleted. No one knows what happened to the forummer who leaked the story.

Another discussion thread in SgForums, on the same topic, was deleted too. No one knows why. No explanations. (Explained by CelluloidReality, a mundane replication post deletion thankfully)

An archaelogy of deletions. Very Singapore indeed.

Bury it. I won't let you bury it. I won't let you smother it ...

There is a very cute discussion thread in EDMW, a spin-off discussion forum from HWZ following the latter's acquisition by SPH. The title is "top secret news deleted" or something like that. Here, the forummers talk about the story in a way that is very funny.

Then, there is a blog entry by a SPH journalist on this story. The journalist cites the above story, but highlights the issue of discussion deletions. He suggest a little on the climate of fear and information suppression.

Fairly ironic.

Then, his blog entry gets cited in various forums and websites.

Everyone in Sg cyberspace is looking for this delicious e-mail written by the 2nd Lt.

Then, the e-mail appears, with names and details blanked out, in the comments of a post on the blog entry by the SPH journalist.

Then, the very next day, Straits Times and CNA publish reports of the story of a 2nd Lt, who happened to be the Prime Minister's son, charged by Mindef for insubordination.

The news reports also highlight the reason why he is charged.

The reports also cite in factual terms what happened to those protaganists in that delicious e-mail written by the 2nd Lt.

The news reports give closure to the problem mentioned in the e-mail written by the 2nd Lt.

Problem solved, done and dusted. The errant are punished. Fair and square.

With the news reports, the blogosphere gets all buzzed. Even Rockson is awakened from his hiatus.

Some say the 2nd Lt is a hero. Fighting the system, fighting for his men.

Some say the 2nd Lt is a zero, a spoilt brat, bypassing command chains, disrespecting the officers' corps.

Others pat their own backs. Claiming the "power" of alternative media, of the Internet.

Maybe there is another story residing in this story of the 2nd Lt.

Maybe the story is about HWZ and what happened there.

Maybe the story is why the story was deleted first.

Quote of the Day -

"Learn their needs, and they'll dance to any fuckin tune you play ..."
-- DBC Pierre, Vernon God Little

A Silhouette of an Invisible City


"Once I heard someone say that if you have to lose something, the best way is to keep it in your memory." -- Ouyang Feng, from Ashes of TimeThe above line is from a Wong Kar Wai movie, Ashes of Time, which is not very well known even though it is probably his most complex film. Its a revisionist rendition of a classic martial arts novel by Jin Yong, The Legend of the Condor Heroes. The making of the film was so exhaustive that WKW took time off to make another film, ChungKing Express, which ironically became his most recognised work.Ashes of Time revolves around the themes of memory and forgetting. The very fine thread that runs through this film is a bottle of forgetting wine (wang qing jiu) that the characters imbibe. And as one drinks, thinking that in forgetting her past, her pain is erased, her forgetting tragically moves the pain to another character who ends up drinking the same wine to forget his past, to erase his pain. And this tragic chain of forgetting result in the characters evolving into empty, elegaic husks, feeling loss, feeling lost. But not knowing what they have lost because they have forgotten. And this feeling of loss is no different from pain, perhaps even stronger.There is a new film by Singaporean film-maker Tan Pin Pin. It is titled Invisible City. Unfortunately, I could not attend a preview screening of this documentary. Based on the website notes and the trailer, I have an inkling that it is an important film. Because it deals with this tussle between remembering and forgetting of a place or a space called Singapore. The Chinese title of the documentary translates as a record against forgetting. In her own words, the film is "less about Singapore and more about people who looked for Singapore, people who were propelled by curiosity to find a Singapore for themselves, on their own terms".The film trailer has the director with two interviewees who remember another Singapore, a different Singapore. They have evidence and relics from their city of the past, in the form of pictures, of film, of audio recordings. But they display some hesitation to share their memories of Singapore. They caution, they advise the director to "censor", to ask in a correct manner. They remember a different Singapore, from one where most of us are persuaded to remember.What the director has done is to remember those who remembered a different Singapore. An invisible city. Perhaps the director in this remembering, will have etched a silhouette of a different city, possible memories which we have forgotten or for the younger, never there. At the same time, the film is edged by a shadow of hesitancy and a little underlying fear of remembering another Singapore, another city. That somehow this memory is not right. Because it does not fit the Singapore Story. That we cannot remember this.But sometimes we do. We do remember a different city. And why not?If so, this documentary is a brave piece of art. Because it shares memories which would otherwise have been silent. Stories which would have remained untold. Because this film is about people who "find a Singapore for themselves, on their own terms".In a previous post, I mentioned this moment of remembering Singapore, 70s Singapore, while in another city in the cusp of a gathering typhoon. Trying to reconstruct a memory I do not possess. Trying to feel for another Singapore, another remembrance that somehow, intuitively and disloyally, overtakes me in another city, another place, another space. Maybe I will be ab[...]

Mur's Immanence


There is a New Paper feature today on the 500 km Wall that separates Israel from the Palestine Territories. It reminded me of this excellent documentary, Wall (Mur), made by Simone Britton who has both Jewish-Arab heritage.Mur is a fascinating film documenting the building of the Wall when the project began in 2002. Suddenly, for the sake of protection, for security, a physical landscape is artificially and dramatically changed. Culture and history is separated into two sides of the Wall. There is a scene where young Israeli children reveal that the Wall has been there forever in their memories. For this children, there was no time before the Wall. Their existence has been dominated with the permanence of this edifice, this structure. To them, the wall is natural. It has been there in their forevers.There have been many other famous walls in History. Most notably, the Great Wall of China, to fend off the savage barbarians. Most recently, the Berlin Wall, an icon of the Cold War and with its utter destruction, a symbol of war's end. It is perhaps a very natural human instinct. Wall-building. To fend off the threats to our existence. In Australia, there was a 3000 km rabbit proof fence built to prevent rabbits from ravaging the Australian landscape.We burrow ourselves into these walls and fences, enclosures to ensure our safety, maintain our stability.There are many types of walls besides the physical. There are bureaucratic walls, like a letter telling you that you cannot be a relief teacher. That you cannot do this. That your reasoning is wrong. That the reality is such. That our survival depends on this or that, when both this and that are like walls, permanent, unmoving. The walls never explain why. It just is. A perpetual wall, always there since forever. Protecting something within, keeping threats without.Then, there are also walls built into our minds, protecting our sanity, our rationality. Those outside our mind walls are the Other, something bad, something to be feared, to be kept out. These mind walls ensconce us snugly into the safe, the predictable, the logical and the reasonable. For some, when trying to push through these mind walls, they experience fear. For others it could be adrenalin, And yet for others it could be transcendence, Illumination. Insight. But there are also those who walk with these mind walls permanent, seeing only squalor, seeing only the lesser, seeing only the Other. There is only a sneer, some disdain while they revel in the cosy warmth of their lofty immanence.Walls of a non-physical nature share one common disturbing trait if you decide to explore them. When you look up to ascertain the height of the Wall, you realise it looms infinite into the sky. When you look left and right, the Wall extends infinite into the horizon. No respite, no ends, no limits.In Britton's cinematic rendition of the Wall, the structure becomes immanent. Casting its all-pervasiveness across the physical landscape, altering, othering and segmenting all along its 500 km path. The value of the film is its catalogue of a reality, of a Time before the wall. That there was a Time before this immanent structure was created. That there was a reality before this immanence of the Wall. The film catalogues a reality challenging the memories of the children who are growing up in Wall's shadow. Challenging these children to transcend their known memory, their known reality, their immanence. Challenging their notion of forever with [...]

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, [...]



"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 viralise[...]