Tuesday, June 07, 2005

11 days: Let's agree to disagree more okay?

Firstly, apologies for the hastily written comment previously, and thanks Joce, for the support. As if we're fighting some big battle haha.. which we I KNOW we're not, even though i get worked up, because there's a nice audience of all five of us, if we absolutely have to include Anonymous.

Haha. And btw, ain't Alvin's GEP/pseudointellectual side so completely adorable. Aw... but arguing in person is always so much more fun.

Anyway, the more I think about what Anonymous said, the more pissifying it became, and it's a very old argument you're presenting my dear, and I will try to take it lightly.

1. Criticism ≠ Ungrateful

It's realy quite a common reaction, almost human nature, to counter whining/complaining with the "be thankful for what you have" speech... I think, however, some distinction has to be made between irrelevant whining and criticism.

For instance:

Me complaining about having to put up with all this dust and drilling noises because they're upgrading my estate


Me complaining about not being able to produce a film about an opposition party.

Very different, no? Well, it is to me.

2. I am not indebted to the Singapore Government.

As Anonymous bravely said:I wonder if you can say with a straight face that if you were stripped off of everything singapore has provided for you, you'd be better off.

you are where you are because of your coutry's system.
you could have been worse off, and not have a say on the worldwide web.
you may not even have the means/ability to voice your views.

No, of course I can't say that with a straight face, and erm... it is ridiculously irrelevant because I've never insinuated that I would be better off without what they have so-called provided for me. Like.. HUH?

Anyone with half a brain in Singapore knows that the government achieved a minor miracle in 30 years with sound economic planning. I think they are damn smart to have done that.

But, I will repeat, I am not indebted to them to be grateful and obliging and silent and obedient.

I will scrap that other countries example, since Alvin pointed out that I was unknowingly using them as yardsticks, which I really shouldn't.

Regardless, I will repeat, the whole "you could be worse off" attitude is out-dated, and regressive. Why are we not looking at how things could be better? What's wrong with making things better? Does a desire to make things better immediately mean that I am not grateful for the status quo? Since when did everything become bipolar? It's not an either/or case.

For example, if said thatI think Singaporean mothers should be given an extra two months of maternity leave = are you going to tell me:

"I wonder if you can say with a straight face that if the mothers were stripped off of all their maternity benefits singapore has provided for them, they'd be better off.

they have their few months of leave now because of your coutry's system.
they could have been worse off, and not even have any baby bonus.
they may not even have any maternity leave at all."

I know how ridiculous it sounds, wouldn't be my logic of choice either.

3. What I want?

Alvin asked: "if you could make singapore anything you wanted, what "good" things would it have? complete freedom of speech? viable alternatives to the political incumbent? the press as fourth estate?"

Well i'm glad you said it was "good", because it's a value judgment if you take a look at India VS China and how democracy doesn't seem to be helping the former progress much faster to the latter, but I would say yes to all those.

(And erm, incidentally, Alvin, I never did mention the words democracy or freedom or anything like that.. did I? Other than the word 'free' in the title.)

Let's be more specific, I want the government to change their policies so that I can do a documentary on JBJ without worrying about police calling up my house and asking me to go to the station.

Or, they can say: "oh you want to do a video on the opposition? do lor... next month we're doing our own video so no problem." or, "oh you want to hold a political rally in NTU? hold lah... next month we're coming down to give talks also let's see who the students will listen to." or "want to hold a convention so that students can get together and discuss about our country's capital punishment rates? ok lor..."

Get the picture?

What's gonna be the consequences? Discourage investors because we no longer have a stable and obedient political scene? Spoil the economy because of possible riots and strikes? In the first place, we no longer have a labour-intensive workforce, so can cut the crap about worries about Union strikes and the what not, and we ALREADY have a expensive workforce so who's going to worry about increasing wages? And it is my belief that we have already built ourselves to an adequete position of advantage which is still held strong by the fact that we are one of the few non-Muslim states in our region, and very strong English and existing infrastructure. We've a good track record.

I am saying all this, because it seemed to me that most often cited reason for needing a "stable political situation" is that it will spoil us economically. Hong Kong and Japan and South Korea has more political freedom, strikes and etc you don't see investors not wanting to head there.

You know, they have all these educated-overseas-in-Harvard/Oxford/Cambridge economists in the government. Can't they come out and produce these data and say look, if we allow you guys to do all this, this and this will happen, and in 20 years we'll be right back where we started - little backward nobodies.

They said that freedom can be dangerous, Wong Kan Seng said to look at the example of Indonesia. Why can't he look at examples of other countries, where freedom has proven NOT to be dangerous?

And what kind of thing doesn't come with a price. Everything has a price - it depends on which one costs more. Which is all up to personal opinion - which is why personal opinions count in a so-called democracy - but it doesn't count here. Well, it is solicited, but we know who has the last say.

But well, it is obvious that to the government, the price of having freedom outweighs the price of controlling the freedom, and I suppose we've to make it "bor hua" for them to do so.

4. Ideals and Cliches

There's not need to be afraid of embracing the cliches I think.. they've become like dirty words "press freedom, freedom of speech, political space, fourth estate" - why are we so disdainful of these things? I am not saying we should embrace them without thinking - but there's no need to push them away either.

But I am not arguing for these ideals for the sake of having them just because they're the yardsticks of Western democracy. (Which is what Chee Soon Juan seems to be doing).

I am only saying all this because these are things that we are prohibited from having without good reason.

So, I am not arguing FOR something that we do not have, I am arguging AGAINST something that exists. The main point of contention here is not so much "I want freedom of speech", but "I want you to stop preventing us from having freedom of speech."

You know the saying, "ask me no questions and i'll tell you no lies", well in this case, it's the opposite.

If there were no Martyn See, no JBJ, no A*Star incident, no conspiracy theories floating in ST and Mediacorp - if i had not witnessed the act of disallowing us to have this political freedom/space/whatever you want to call it - then I probably would have no argument at all.

5. Being noble but ultimately futile.

(or, being Hamlet. hahaha.)

Alvin: attempting to fix these flaws, be it from within or without the political sphere, is a noble but ultimately futile goal.. especially if the method amounts to angry words on the internet and little else

giving the benefit of the doubt, internet-only dissidents are patriots who truly care about their homeland and the people in it.. put bluntly, they suffer from a serious case of over-education

I agree with you that angry little words amount to little else than mere rhetoric and indulgence of someone's ego at some point or other. I agree that we should do more than just argue, then forget.

And so, does this mean = unless i can do something about it, I should shut up?

That's exactly what the PAP says, isn't it? Unless you've something constructive, unless you're part of a political party = don't do empty talk.

Most of such conversations end nowhere, but some do lead somewhere. That's how it all starts, isn't it? There's debate, and discussion, and ideas, and sooner or later, one of these discussions get strong enoough to motivate its participants to do something about it.

And also, what is the alternative of empty talk is silence = which is a lousier option, in my opinion.

Everyone always says, "what's the point", "so what?", "makes no difference" - when are we going to discard this mentality, and realise that we can try fighting for whatever it is we feel we should have?

It's not all big and idealistic stuff - even with the small things, we can't even be bothered.

Big words.. big words, I know. Well, just shoot me and judge me if in 10 years I still saying the same things, ok? But you don't know that for sure, and if you laugh at my idealism - take note that it is your own that you scorn, not mine.


I really wish that I could've been more concise and coherant and give a good argument.. but I am limited laaah. I shudder to think about how many other pple in their 20s have had the exact same conversation. Its unavoidable.

Could we not end this lovely debatel? WHERE IS PH????? PH!!!!! COME OUT!!!!!!!!

My brain is yelling at me cos i know i got more stuff to say and i am not finished, but my stomach is more pissed cos its hungry. Must satisfy physical need first then tend to mental needs - Maslow say so one.


Once again, my favouritely phrased "complaint" by Tym.

I've said this to many people before, and I'll put it in writing here: I don't disrespect all the decisions this government makes, but I wish they'd come right out and say what they want to say, instead of leading us on a merry dance of consultation that twirls us right back to the starting position, from which they weren't going to budge in the first place. Be bold, be blatant, be unapologetic. Have some balls about it, for goodness's sake. Don't dick around with the faux courtship --- small talk, plastic corsages --- only to turn alpha male once the dance is up.


alvin said...

1) there is a difference between: a. letting everyone's opinion be heard, and b. letting anyone who wants his or her opinion to be heard, be heard

the former is nice in the way a weekend trip to the moon would be nice. i am not convinced the latter is as wonderful as it's often made out to be

2) i say futile not because it's unachievable.. i say futile because the very nature of political systems means that someone, somewhere will be marginalised

3) i hate arguing in person.. i'm an emotional wimp who usually loses

the prole said...

The psuedo-civil servant joins in the fray:

"Aiyah, dun be too hard on ourselves la...

To quote an ex-opinions editor of a singapore paper, 'You know, in order to frolick in a fertile green plain, we need to accept the possibility of stepping on shit.'

He was, of course, referring to freedom of expression and the like. Well I say cut the ole uncles and aunties in power some slack.

We will be able to accept the government committing mistakes here and there, giving wrong signals/mixed cues and making abrupt U-turns...etc etc if we see that the country is progressing generally. Well, I personally believe that we are indeed moving forward - just that 'the vast bureaucracy is hampered by its own bureaucracy'.

This much is true. I have colleagues absolutely petrified at changing the laws at ministry level. 'Takes about six months of endless pushing', they say.

But generally speaking, things are good. I see exciting opportunities for local budding filmmakers."

BENNY LOH said...

Hey babe, nah ain commenting on ya stuff too intellectual for me. Nice photos, your skill go up many many notches already!

Oh yah if this is in anyway relevant, i Love being a middle income singaporean. alright lah

Lars said...

I wonder if stuff like this will some day matter in the story of "how it all got going" in the life of Jessica...". I think so.

hows the curry??? said...

let me put things in context where i came in in the first place since theres so many ppl lurking...

i made the comment in the previous post when i was telling jess about my FYP project... i was jus going to make a documentary about how the govt puts u away for 20 years if u rape a kid here but dun give a damn when u take a ferry out to another island to rape the neighbour's kids. Hey.. someone would even give u a free condom so that u wont bring back the diseases. ok.. anyway.. she asked me why not afraid of getting banned? then that remark came about. Jack neo and Tan Pin Pin got away with it... i guess i can get away with it too.

Anyway... so yah... U want me to say something?? actually i'm just trying to do my bloody FYP lor... and hopefully some film competition overseas would go "ooo they criticise their govt.. they got guts man.. lets give them a prize"

hmmm... and yes.. i agree with alvin its futile... making trouble at a SU AGM just isnt the same as arguing abt these here... at least its more fun getting those guys to look stupid.

mangomaiden said...

Gosh, Jess your blog is turning me on. I just HAVE to jump into the foray Haha!

Yes, futility seems the (almost?) unanimous point of agreement here but as Camus put it, the struggle itself is enough to fill the human heart. Futility and/or failure, whether real or imagined, should not be an excuse to desecrate one's own desire or self-censor. So yes to agreeing to disagree and no to fear-induced silence. But despite my rhetoric, I admit that it's really hard to kick the instinct of repressed silence sometimes...

Alvin: me no understand point 1. leh but point 2. me feel sama-sama with you.

PH: I help you market your FYP film haha

Munpong: Will you be censoring PH's film after I help market it?

Benny: Bon voyage to middle income living!

Anonymous said...

instead of trying to save the world, i think we should all just save ourselves from all this rubbish.

suppose one day the PAP topples and the opposition takes over, u guys are juz gonna find some other ways to gripe and whine about how things shouldnt be the way they are. its a vicous cycle thats never gonna end. alvin is right, politics is a dirty game. somebody is always gonna lose. how many people can u save wif your self-righteousness?

to quote GCT, "u wanna talk politics? enter politics."

and if u r not going to, juz fuck it, loosen up and try to make a difference to your own life. saving the world sounds great, but please, can u even save urself?

a very un-intellectual kev