"The battle for eyeballs is about to get more intense. A second player in the multi-million dollar subscription TV market will break Starhub’s monopolistic hold," Today reported on Dec. 4, 2002. I’m sure smart Singaporeans are not holding their breath for the new so-called competition.

We know the kind of competition referred to there, don’t we! I mean why are Mediaworks stars like Kym Ng and Brendon Wong STILL being featured in Mediacorp’s TV and radio weekly — 8 Days magazine? In any true competition, "celebs" from rival stations are never featured in one’s in-house publication. Why aren’t Power 98’s Jeremy Ratnam or Jason Chow of WKRZ featured in 8 Days’ radio-sections?

That should tell you everything about the kind of competition practised within TV broadcasting here. In case some of you say — but Mediaworks’ publication, The Straits Times, also features Mediacorp artistes regularly, what! Let me remind you that The Straits Times is a national newspaper not a lifestyle magazine. Eh, on second thoughts, I could be wrong there!

"Crackdown on limousine-taxi touts. Drivers (are) banned from waiting near the limousine counter in Terminal 1," The Straits Times reported in December. One upset limousine-taxi driver was quoted saying: "We are treated like dirt, like third-class citizens. Pet dogs are allowed to go anywhere in the airport, but we are not." Somebody should inform the poor driver that rules ARE rules, creative ideas to increase business on an entrepreneurial charge aside. To help reinforce the view that "a rule is a rule," a Singaporean businessman was quoted saying: "This sort of thing usually happens in a third-world country. It really paints an ugly picture of Singapore." Oh yeah, go tell them lurve. We surely do bend to anything just so we won’t appear third-world. Notice the emphasis on third-class and third-world even when it comes to implementing rules here.

A certain Francis Lim writing from the UK to The Straits Times’ Forum — about the paper’s report that our education system draws "foreign compliments, local complaints" — said: "While it is undeniable that the education system in Singapore has contributed significantly to the training of its citizens… it is also imperative to squarely recognise and acknowledge the deficiencies of past education policies, especially the charge of elitism. Continuous newspaper reports of praises would just deflect the public’s attention from the crucial reforms at hand." (Nov.30, 2002.)

Those of us (still) living here (stayers, we’re called) surely do understand why praises continue to thrive in the papers everyday and why it’s easy for "quitters" working, say, in the UK to lose sight of our systemic need for a balanced argument. Or simply — why we are actually all good no bad… usually, that is. Improving the system is one thing, but forging nation’s morality for nation-building purposes is surely another altogether. There! I’ve said it for the good of all. So let me be spared of another BALANCED editorial comment in the press on the issue, okay!

"Enough. No more talks" — went the headline for a Forum-letter saying "Let’s discontinue the water talks (for Singapore to buy water from Malaysia). Let’s not allow ourselves to be pushovers" (Dec. 6, 2002). What a laugh. Like as if we’ve ever allowed ourselves to be so. If we’ve ever been, I’d like to know when, how and by whom. Wake up Ms. Enough (the letter-writer as I choose to call her), we’re Singapore — generally known to be arrogant with world-class economic challenges to our name. Not in your wildest uncovered backside dreams would we be pushovers. (By the way, don’t we marvel at why these "conscientious objectors’" views are picked for airing in the press?).

"A little chaos will give Singapore the buzz it needs. Singaporeans in Hong Kong suggest 5C’s — chaos, creativity, culture, concentration, connectivity — to inject life into the ‘boring’ country" — a report in The Straits Times said (Dec. 6, 2002). Eh, pur-leese. Can I just emphasize for the good of all that we’re only "boring" in inverted commas! Those "Singaporeans from Hong Kong" are no ordinary thinking humans but part of SON (Singapore Overseas Network) of the ERC (Economic Review Committee). So, understand dear all, that we’re only "boring" from an economic point of view and not from a socio-cultural point of view. (There, I’ve said it for the good of all again on behalf of our nation-propping press).

And what a laugh (again) — instilling chaos in Singapore! WOW (Wonderful Oracular Wisdom, can I just say!). The report also indicated that "for starters, it (SON) recommends nurturing an individualistic, adventurous and ‘dare-to-fail’ spirit in people." Ho ho ho ho ho. Now, how are we Singaporeans ever gonna grasp such a concept when Big Brother’s invisible whip hovers over us to remind all to cover backside (not to forget that a rule is a rule)? The "party whip" has been known to be lifted temporarily in Parliamentary debates and only because it serves a certain given purpose. Besides, can Singaporeans handle a little chaos when we can’t even be left to our own devices with an itsy bitsy piece of chewing gum?

However, others may counter-argue that we do have our nice little bit of chaos amidst our buzzing culture now. For example — "Break-dancers strut their stuff in an underpass. They always have to change locations because security guards chase them out of each spot" (The Straits Times, Dec. 10, 2002). I can just see readers responding to say "Let the children play." While another might chip in as a follow-up to caution "Still we must make sure they pose no obstruction to others…" And so it goes, the you-know-I-know song-and-dance of our funky new open-ness.

As for being "individualistic…" Oh, I see. Individualistic — the Singapore way! Of course — the manufactured kind. How silly of me to be knee-jerk apprehensive about it. When it comes to creating anything, nothing can stop the buzz for Singapore. Why? 'Cos we’ve got the pillar-propping-ganda dailies. Simply say and it shall be so. Just read the mag. — X’Ho

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