Do You Know the Way to SG100?

Just read the transcript of SDP’s Dr Paul Tambyah’s rally speech at the Bukit Batok by-election on 1 May.  His speech pissed me off. It made me angry at how our first-world parliament is not populated with more people like him, who have the ability to make such sound, scathing remarks, eloquently and respectfully.  Class.  Instead we get a plethora of pot-shots by overpaid and under-stretched career politicians who don’t even do their own research.  It made me angry that so many good and inconvenient questions will go unanswered because they will be covered in the deafening silence of a majority too scared to rock the cradle in and around parliament.

I know this and some of my FB posts risk me being seen by some friends as one of those pesky Singaporeans who doesn’t appreciate the wonderful life and system we have here.  I see posts, by many of my friends who declare how they love this and love that about their Singapore, sometimes #tagging SG50 and the like. Much as I roll my eyes at every mention of SG50 and that overused red-dot, I love how people are so effusive and positive.  In my defence, I wasn’t raised like that. I grew up in a very cold, negative, household that went through a lot of pain before I even existed and never quite knew how to get over it and so, passed it on to me.  I carry a lot of that generational pain on my shoulders.  It made me grow up quickly, having to fight, often in vain, for the things I love and so, if my picture of the ideal looks darker or less pretty, it doesn’t mean I hate the sunshine or my love is any less.  Having said that, I am learning how to be more sunshinely expressive, so keep posting, friends!

Back to the by-election and the SDP candidate, Dr Chee Soon Juan. To be honest, he used to scare me. I remember his hunger strike and thinking, “Wah so extreme, so militant, ah?  What about his family?” He used to raise questions like, “look at the price of your teh-oh and tell me the cost of living has not risen?”  They were confronting and to my mind, overly-simplistic, not in a stupid sense, but that he expected us to work to understand him, not the other way around – self-focused – great if you’re a crusader, not great if you’re a leader of people.
However, observing him over the past years; after he was barred from teaching in Singapore; banned from travelling which effectively cut off any opportunity for him to earn his keep elsewhere (talk about a non-competition clause!); how he found alternative methods of making ends meet by writing and the feedback he would’ve received from that process and how that would’ve helped him to reflect and grow; how he picks up his daughters from school and lives in an HDB flat.  I know that this is a man who has given everything for what he believes in instead of using political position to land-grab.  In my opinion, this is also now a man who has learnt the value of working with others like and unlike himself.  He’s really grown and he should be given a chance to duel in the hallowed chambers of parliament!
Speaking of growth, SG50 wasn’t built on yes-men who have a vested interest in keeping the status quo.  It was built on loud, oftentimes arrogant, idealistic people who were not afraid to roll up their sleeves, for more than a photo-op, and rock the boat in their day.  However, as it stands, even as parliament grows in number, the seat of power gets smaller, with an ever-expanding silent moat to protect it’s core.  If SG100 is in any way going to build on the growth of SG50, this status quo bias is not the way to go.
That’s why I think people like Dr Chee, and Dr Paul Tambyah should be in parliament, although Dr Tambyah is, sadly, not running in this by-election.  Guys like these are not part-time politicians, part-time businessmen who are beholden to their ministerial salaries and government-linked contracts (paid for largely with taxpayers money, mind you); or a product of Singapore Inc. who, smart as they are, have some seriously permanent blinkers on by virtue of a lack of real-world exposure and are even more beholden to the way of life accorded to them by the current system, having known little else.
Gerrymandering already makes having alternative voices in parliament a near impossibility.  For every bit of ground that any opposition team fights to gain, they have to fight even harder to keep because everything in the system around them has been engineered to dilute their dissenting voice with that of a majority that is silent, primarily for fear of losing what they have.
The majority, like salespeople all over the world, have been trained to live on the edge;  buy that car and condo, spend on that credit card, enjoy this air-conditioning, and use that  to motivate you to work harder, make more money. By the way, if you rock the boat, you could lose it all, so, Don’t. Rock. The. Boat.  Take care of your own and let us do the thinking for you.  So, history is written over and over the same way.  50 years, and another, and another while as a country we chase the dollar bill.  Revolutions.
I think people like Dr Chee and Dr Tambyah are attempting to re-write how Singapore’s history unfolds.  What I like about what they’re trying to do is that they’re not taking a pre-authored storyline wholesale and selling it on to their constituents.  They research and write these themselves, which means they will ultimately take ownership – something I’ve seen less and less of in today’s crop of leaders who seem to serve a  author/paymaster.
As citizens, we have our responsibility to write our own versions of history too.  If we surrender that responsibility to someone else, we will only have ourselves to blame when the after-effects broadside us.  On the other hand, we could look back on days like this and say, “I had a hand in making that happen.  In my own small way, I re-wrote history.”

We Move in Circles

The first day of this new year is almost at an end. I hear 30,000 kg of rubbish was collected at the party to celebrate this crossing.  This new year, itself a construct within a construct. A register of lines around a rubberised band, a box to make it a thing.  We don’t seem to like open endings.
Now, sitting in the middle of a disused fountain, observing the world, I smell the waft of unhealthy cooking. I hear children, the construct of men, playing wildly, calling for their parents, screaming. Dead ahead, an arch, a circle and beyond that, another arc and next to it, sits, of all things, a stone octopus.  Eight legs standing the test of time; a singular piece of ill-fitting construction that hasn’t had to evolve in order to survive this cruel world. I’m sure it made some sense then, as each of these arcs did when they were made, one in front of the other. We really liked circles way back when.  Now they look like disparate stonehenges mashed together, all but forgotten by the throngs that saunter by on their way to dinner. A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.  I think i might die here. I might live.

The Little Thing(s)

Likes small spaces

Likes small spaces

As I was preparing to feed the cats today, the skies opened up outside and a darkness exploded upon the flat in a crack of thunder. I realised that Wilma, my tiny black cat with white socks, who normally hides around the corner waiting for her turn and comes when she’s called, had disappeared. I called, but no Wilma responded.

Leaving the two boys and Zoe waiting in their usual spots below me and on top of the fridge, I went in search of the little black one and found her huddled under the bed. As I called her name, she whispered tinily. I placed her food bowl on the floor next to the bed. She crawled out to take a sniff, but the sky let out another angry cry and she retreated back to her hiding place under the bed. I closed all the doors to the bedroom, left with a promise to be back and went to feed the others.  Regular feeding in the kitchen resumed without drama and after washing up the food bowls and clearing the litter trays in anticipation of post-meal deposits, I went back into the bedroom to find Wilma’s food bowl still untouched and her position unchanged.

The sky had cleared by this time. Our local thunder god in the east has a pre-disposition towards deafening, but short-lived explosions. We might’ve had a similar upbringing.  I sat down on the floor and called to the little one. With a small sound, she slinked out from under the bed and settled down tentatively in front of me. I cradled her in my arms and as she relaxed, I showed her the window and how the world was beautiful outside with a bit of light and a layer of wetness that meant life had just been refreshed and renewed. I then placed her on the floor in front of her food bowl and watched as she took a sniff and then proceeded to slurp quietly at her meal in peace.

That was when I realised, that after all is said and done, through the battles lost and won, these are the moments that I truly live for.

Wilma's fan

Wilma’s fan

Electro Canto

In my seat on a very crowded aeroplane in Hong Kong, amidst the din of boarding passengers and frazzled stewardesses, I’m drawn to a steady stream of robotic sounds that vaguely resemble speech. The sound of words seem to be there, as is the cadence and emphasis, but any tonal variation is completely missing. Metallic, artificial, like a tone-deaf Cantopop loop meeting a stream of consciousness. I’m insanely curious. I search beyond the curtain of moving bodies and, in the next aisle, see an old woman talking to her companion in the seat beside her. The old lady looks about 90, gaunt, faded, preserved, hair newly dyed, with a sometimes serious gaze that stretches beyond the confines of the cabin. One hand is pressed against her throat, holding what looks like a grey tube that is hung around her neck.  Some sort of throat amplifier. Then the plane jerks as it leaves the gate and Electrocantopop grandma puts down her voicebox, brings her handkerchief to face, closes her eyes and sits in silence.

Relationships, HPB FAQs, Lim Biow Chuan and Pastor Lawrence Khong

Relationships are relationships. They are not heterosexual or homosexual. Relationships are not respecters of persons. Relationships are also not a statistic, as much as statistics are not facts. A sample size of less than 7 billion guarantees that.

A relationship is a state of being connected. An ever-changing, interchangeable flow of fact and feeling.  Romantic relationships exist between two persons. They exist, and are sustained, regardless of, and sometimes in spite of, race, religion, sexual orientation or sleeping position.

A religious leader who trumpets his personal beliefs in public is wholly entitled to do so. Everyone else who is not the religious leader, including his followers, is entitled to agree or disagree with his point of view. Each person, has the right, and perhaps the responsibility, to choose whether they want to begin or sustain a relationship with this religious leader, based on whether his values and methods mesh with theirs.

A government representative who chooses to speak out in a similarly public manner, using a shallow secondary school argument, against making potentially helpful information available for citizens, shows little capacity for qualitative analysis or human connection. The people who made this person their governing representative have a right, and perhaps a responsibility, to question how this shallow thought process affects his other decisions, which in turn affect them.

The people might also question whether this representative should be given the responsibility to lead them in the future. In other words, should their relationship with him as their representative continue? The choice is theirs.

Each one of us has a choice. That is how relationships work.