"The Thai Journalists Association said in its annual report that the (Thai) government used sophisticated and subtle means to co-opt the media in 2002," The Nation in Bangkok reported on Jan 3, 2003. Familiar?

Of course, not! If Thailand is emulating our system, it has (like Malaysia) much-much more to learn. Firstly, OUR journalist-association (if we have one) would never say such a thing about our Government. Besides, our Government resorts to "sophisticated and subtle means to co-opt the media"? NEVER! We don’t ever need to resort to such asinine tactics. Ours is a system born solely of love — as in, paternalism, honey, and with enough of it to make the media WANT to uphold the pillars of society on its own accord.

It’s a little disturbing to note that the Thais have forgotten something so fundamental to their nature as "free-will" and "own accord." But then, even concerned members of OUR public can sometimes forget the obvious too.

"Public transport is a basic necessity of the masses, the lifeblood that moves resources. It should not come with the added cost of unnecessary technology and automation (like having a driver-less system on the North-East MRT line)," a reader wrote in to The Straits Times’ Forum on Jan 27, 2003.

One wrong assumption there, luv. "The lifeblood that moves resources" on these shores is not the masses but, of course, the Govt. So consider it not unreasonable that more money has to be… well, tapped for running the new MRT line. Ungracious? Of course, not. How dare anyone even think of accusing…

But wait, maybe there’s no need for me… for us to get all defensive now. The word is finally out. "Come on, Govt., don’t be stingy with praises" — Mrs Tisa Ng, present president of the Association of Women for Action & Research, bemoaned in The Straits Times (Jan 24, 2003). Professor Tommy Koh, our Ambassador-At-Large, responded to Ng’s plea with this very daring statement: "The Singapore Govt. is very ungracious."

Oh dear-dear. I do hope my citing this will not cause the sweet professor to be sidelined. I mean, my diehard-readers will surely remember the fate of Koh Buck Song, Tan Sai Siong and even the minister who said that OB-markers cannot be defined, after they were quoted in The X’Ho-Files. I mean, what’s happened to those public figures’ high profile now?

A friend of mine says there’s no need to fear for the sweet professor in today’s more-than-funky climate. It’s a little tactic to let Singaporeans know that our Govt. is graciously owning up to whatever needs owning up to, even ungraciousness itself. But then, she could be wrong, that’s why I fear. After all, it’s not funny being marginalised on these ardent-for-praise-singing shores. Me, I’m so taken in by what the papers say, my mind is working in even stranger "praise-singing" ways.

"Woman nabbed for selling porn videos — a Chinese national tried to bribe an off-duty police with $300, when she was caught with pornographic VCDs. She was unable to produce valid travel documents to substantiate her entry status. She was charged with illegally entering Singapore and peddling pornographic VCDs." (ST, Jan 26, 2003).

My response to that is — I sure hope those poor starving folks in China, when they read the report, will nonetheless still wanna come to Singapore for a means of living. I hope they don’t think that our system wants to keep out Chinese nationals. We already have an alarming number of immigrant-Chinese in our midst… So yeah, from that, what I deduce is — we want YOU, China-Chinese, Hong Kong-Chinese… whatever-Chinese.

And please, don’t think that a little petty crime you commit will repel us so. On the contrary, who else can we count on to create that exquisite little chaos in our kiasu-midst? It’s nice to have obedient citizens on the one hand, but what can we show for a little World Class Chaos to achieve that funky dynamism of a swinging new gracious Singapore? (Click here for January’s X’Ho-Files on World Class Chaos.)

"Now ‘no’ to agreement (on selling water). Later ‘no’ to independence?" — went the headline for Chua Lee Hoong’s essay on how water-talks has soured in the issue of Malaysia selling water to Singapore (ST, Jan 26, 2003). "(We) ask the Malaysians to name a price — a reasonable price. They won’t. They name one price today, ratchet it up 10 times a few months later. Sixty sen becomes RM 6.25. They don’t really want to resolve this issue," explained Chua.

So, the fluctuating price from Malaysia is, I take it, a little like the state of our ERP pricing? As in 7.30 am — 50 cents, 8 am — $1.50, and 8.05 am (!) — $2.50! I thought the whole rationale is — you want to use, you pay, lor! Maybe we’ve forgotten that the Malaysians don’t have to concede to OUR well-regulated system. Besides, we shouldn’t stretch the argument to Changi Airport to ask — what if ‘no’ to independence? The Malaysians, we must remember, are not obedient Singapore citizens.

Oh, one more thing. Ong Sor Fern wrote in her essay on censorship: "More than just relying on the State to decide what to ban or not to ban, the populace need to acknowledge their own individual responsibilities — in terms of exercising judgement, and striking a balance between tolerance and respect for others — when it comes to censorship." (ST, Jan 26, 2003)

I know some of you may be tempted to say in response — Oh purlese, who is she really addressing? Indeed, Ong’s call for Singaporeans to (re)claim some self-empowerment is way too subtle for the kiasu-populace to grasp. Consider me old-fashion, but what happened to the good old father of all rationale — paternalism? If it’s history, let it be bluntly declared so (as in "the Govt. is ungracious," that sort of directness. That’s how mindsets can only be changed. Just ask the professor).

Let’s face it, we do need to be told on every, and I mean every, which way to think — with little beating ‘round the bush for the desired effect, thank you. — X'Ho

NOTE: Visit X'Ho's official site at www.xhosux.com.

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