Front page of The Straits Times on May 24, 2003: "DPM Lee answers critics of (ministers') 10% pay cut" (being "too small"). Next to it: "Lee Family auction for charity" with a picture of the old Senior Minister. I have to say that I feel older — 'cos I looked at the headline and thought it read "action for charity." However, a siow friend of mine says "auction for charity" and "action for charity" are closely similar so it’s fine to confuse the two.

"Fuck you becos I loved you/Fuck you for loving it too," Marilyn Manson sings in the new album The Golden Age Of Grotesque. Rejoice all ye rockers. The album is not banned here in Singapore! This is truly a sign of us being hip and funky and swinging towards the young. Now, go do your thing, rockers. But be sure to do right.

Just two months ago, artistic-director of Theatreworks Tan Tarn How called for "artistes to be civil society actors." Tan must have been trying to follow up on some old man’s belief that everyone is scum and therefore likely to misbehave. Hence, the need for local artistes to be exemplary role-models, as in "do the right thing," babe, and just do it for society. 'Cos being famous can make you take a "left," believe you have more power and influence than statesmen, forget that you are just a Singaporean subjected to Singaporean codes of conduct, etc.

I was flattered that Tan’s team invited me to attend (that’s how innocent they are) — I who had just, shortly before, announced to the public that my new band is named Zircon Gov. Pawn Starz. Coincidence? (Yes, we know.) However, I had promised to celebrate Mothers’ Day with my mom that day so I couldn’t attend. A long time ago, I’ve been taught that father-paternal means little. Anyway, I’m father-less (read: a love child). But mothers! Even a Mandarin pop standard says — "In this world, only the mother is the best." Confucius might agree.

Since I am already well taught on doing right, I guess you could say (in the words of Randy Newman) — Mama Told Me Not To Come. So don’t ask me about the outcome of that meeting at Theatreworks. Anyway, I believe we should all be civil society citizens rather than just "civil society actors." But that’s a quibble. Mustn’t mar the work of the estimable new arts-leaders with the ‘focas’ to point the way to a modern "dissent" (as they call it) that’s so totally in order (maybe that should be — on order). Truly, they even go so far to say, "dissent is democracy"! (Tell that to Chee Soon Juan, lurve.) So let’s not go there. Enough prefab-everything already. Not prefab in the "co-opt" department?

What follows their "dissent is democracy" motto is a couple of referenced websites: and Ah, so, that’s the nature of their dissent!!! What? No or So, understand the magnanimous breath of their nation-propping "dissent," hor. As for the "democracy" part, I thought we’ve got "what works for the Singapore system" down pat? So why are some "young flies" trying to buzz the deal? Buzzin’ for buzzin’s sake?

Another thing, I hope these civil society actors will really make a difference and not just become civil society puppets (read: "civil" servants of social agendas). I mean, I had long written about, say, the social disgrace of spitting indiscriminately (see Chapter Four of my book, Attack Of The S.M. Space Encroachers as an example). But no one cared until SARS hit. OK-OK, spitting fines already existed. Donch worry, our system always knows how to cover its backside. So you mean to say without SARS, it’s more OK to spit?

Then there’s the problem of cycling/skating-collision at recreational parks. Even The Straits Times noted on its front page (June 11, ’03) that "such accidents are a common occurrence here because park users — cyclists, inline skaters and pedestrians — are not adhering to safety rules."

"Safety rules" for park users? Is there such a thing, beyond mere common sense and basic civility? Sounds to me more like A-B-C-talk for "digits" who only know how to play by the rules and know nothing about space-encroachment in Singapore. In other words, for a symptom-depressant to tackle the problem, I’d say go with the papers’ wake-up call on "safety rules." But if you want the real cure, read Attack Of The S.M. Space Encroachers.

Above the collision report that same day was this front-page headline: "Health & travel: Tell the truth. Patients who lie to doctors about their health condition and travel history can be fined up to $10,000 and jailed six months." There’s your answer to help explain the collision problem. 'Cos here-here, my dear, it isn’t really OK-Singapore but OK-because-it’s-all-compulsion, Singapore. So unless some regimentation-order is imposed on park-users, how are they to know how to behave?

Our authorities may end up having to see to EVERY aspect of life in everyday Singapore, but seriously, don’t they know how far Paternalism goes? We’re digits not for nothing, you know! Ah… Seems like the authorities are claiming complete innocence on the matter now. "Singaporeans must learn not to expect the Gov. to come to their aid at every turn, provide all the answers or solve all their problems" (ST, June 12, ’03). Or, in short, "Use your brain!" as one timely ST editorial points out (June 18, ’03). It’s time to look after yourselves… FOR A CHANGE. Surely a telling self-indictment of how gray matter had, all this while, been sidelined.

In other words, yesterday’s sweeping Paternalism has now been rendered void. Not that it won’t dictate your life again suddenly in the future. But donch worry, when it does, the papers will sing praises of it ‘til you’re so convinced you won’t remember it’s been annulled. So, agendas? Merely 360 degrees of separation. "Round like a circle in a spiral/like a wheel within a wheel/Never ending or beginning on an ever-spinning reel… like the circles that you find/in the windmills of your mind."

And hey-hey, they’re now saying maybe the System should do away with OB markers. Never mind that they once said OB markers cannot be defined 'cos if you choose to define them, others will play around that definition and say they are not breaking the law. So what if OB-markers are abolished? They weren’t even defined in the first place! Abolishing something that is and isn’t really there is just another 360 degrees of separation, if you ask me. The whole point is to have you think that in Remaking Singapore, Singapore IS ok. (Yeah, how’s that for sheer symmetry: "is" in capital can also mean internal security!)

Art-thinkers, if you really want to hold them to their word, merely seek out the loopholes of, say, the Political Films Act. Let’s see how far you can go with your artistic endeavours against so-called loosened markers. Be careful now. Once again, they were NOT defined in the first place (see Chapter 49 of my book, Attack Of the S.M. Space Encroachers). Don’t end up being in the wrong end of "court & art!"

By the way, if those civil society-whatevers really want to enlighten our digit-population, simply go through my books. Warning: the social ills I wrote about may not be relevant to SARS or any collision-course. Just don’t accuse me of not being provisional towards authorities’ pressing agendas, hor.

These days, you get to read about not Extraordinary People but A Life Less Ordinary in the papers (note the subtle same-difference). One Sunday in late May, there was a write-up about a man who cross-dressed, was pronounced a transsexual, backed out of a sex-change and wrote a book on sexually confused people. Tell me if the System is not subtly telling our marginalised folks not to feel too marginalised.

If that’s the case, I have to stress for the 25th time that although half a dozen gay saunas are thriving in our midst now (and it’s not as if our authorities don’t know), the laws against homosexuality and oral-sex still exist here. Just in case? Other countries also have these laws? In other words, kiasu is as kiasu does, lor. And really, we’re still as kiasu as ever then.

Trust me to notice the juxtaposition of a subtle message in the papers that Sunday. In that story A Life Less Ordinary, the headline was "Freed From Sex" (that’s in the Life! section of the Sunday Times, May 25, ’03). In the main section that same day, the big headline on the front page was: "Do Not Disturb: Babies In The Making." (Next to it was a picture of a bi-racial hetero couple frolicking in a foam bath in Sentosa.) Naturally, the whole point is — sex is okay when it serves to procreate. Otherwise, free yourself from it, if need be. Readers, be sure to get the forthcoming Zircon Gov. Pawn Starz CD when it’s out. There’s a lyric in it that says, "We’re really scared of sex/unless to boost the stats." In other words, the better transparent truth… only from yours truly, of course.

And notice this lovely bit of irony. The freed-from-sex/sexually reformed writer’s book is titled Freedom Of Choice. What freedom of choice in Singapore? Exactly. We may rejoice in the fact that people here don’t die at the hands of gun-toting Mafia and gangsters, but any thinking Singaporean knows that we will never have someone like filmmaker Michael Moore in our midst.

One of Moore’s antics in his documentary Bowling For Columbine, which calls for greater arms-control in America, was to bring two victims of gun-assault to a K-Mart store (licensed to sell ammunition) to help them return the bullets that maimed them some time back. In doing so, he also attracted a legion of journalists and photographers to witness the proceeding. The protest did convince K-Mart to discontinue selling firearms.

Now, if someone in Singapore tried such a Moore-antic, I dare say he’d be arrested the moment he reaches the supermart — for inciting public unrest, not to mention — unlawful assembly (which I’m sure America doesn’t have as a felony charge, dear). Hypothetically only, of course, since we live by the glory of having no firearms in everyday retail. Moore would love our city for that. But then, unlike the more civilised Canadians whom the Oscar-winning filmmaker admires, we (safe as we are) do lock our doors all the time because, to borrow the words of local poet Alfian Sa’at, "we are an island of walls."

Not only that, we also have "blacklists with water sleeves" (love the Chinese-opera imagery there, Alfian). Therefore, when I read in the newspaper that "US shrugs off growing global hatred" (ST, June 9, ’03), my immediate response was — maybe the US has also learnt to figuratively build a skate- and youth-park to help mask the hate. Only those who don’t understand our system enough would have no such mental recourse for all the sleight-of-hand rationalisations handed down to them.

Oh, and I doubt if Moore could stomach our "men in egosuits and pubicwigs" (another nice one, Alfian), considering that he did say "Shame on you, Mr. President" in his Oscar-acceptance speech. Yes, let’s not forget, they do have the right of free speech in America. So, "freedom of choice?"

Speakers’ Corner may bask in splashy, fulfilled greenery waiting for the next register-to-speak sucka, but you — my thinking readers — and I, naturally, understand what freedom is and what it means to live with our heads up high, holding on to whatever shred of dignity and freedom we’ve got (left). While the rest around here… they think they’ve got all the freedom of choice they could possibly need. After all, that’s what this place would like for them to believe. Well, simply see it in all their faces. That furtive and oh-so-Singapore look of the indignant SCOWL. Says it ALL, lurve. (Or is that just their unique look of a "sullen" OK?) — X’Ho

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