THE X'HO-FILES

 

"The (Thai) government has turned Thailand into a country of fear by abusing its power, suppressing free will, interfering with independent bodies and the media, and even taking the law into its own hands," the Bangkok Post reported what speakers at a political discussion in Thailand said (March 5, 2003). Just thought my X’Ho-Files readers might wanna read an unpeculiar piece of news.

Someone wrote in to our Straits Times’ Forum highlighting what he noticed at our Senior Minister’s forum with undergraduates: "It is a matter of grave and urgent concern that the best and brightest Singaporean youths in the universities have very few questions to ask the SM. The fact that most of the questions were from foreign students lent strong support and credence to SM Lee’s earlier reference to foreign youths as being ‘hungrier and more driven to get ahead.’

"Our students generally lack soul and passion for things outside the syllabus of examinations. They show little curiosity about things and events in their proximate communities and the world. At the societal level, this lack of curiosity in young people also means the lack of imagination, and a complete inability to visualize any life but their own. It breeds a selfish ‘me-first’ attitude as they cannot recognize their responsibility for their less able and less fortunate fellows in society." (First of all, can I just say, in learned nation-propping terms, our students are probably born that way, it’s through no fault of the system, okay! But what of that ‘responsibility’ spoken about there? Has it anything to do with our system of meritocracy? But I digress…)

Based on the observation made above, I would say that Singaporeans are the most "nationalistic" people in the world. Why? Simply because if those "ailments" cited had been detected in another country, its natives would have stood up with a damning cry, such as — I have seen the best minds of my generation gone down the tubes. (The tube in Singapore is literally where all sights and minds go.) But here in Singapore, we really "stand by our man"-agers and descry nothing. That’s only because we know how to practise constructive criticism (other countries, it seems, don’t). So how can I not be proud of Singaporeans?

So the top gun himself has finally popped the question big-big: Are young Singaporeans committed enough to fight for a better Singapore? (Is he trying to undermine his own paternalistic government who’ll look after everything? Just wondrin’.) Some minor top gun had already hinted at such a question not long ago in the form of "Are you ready to die for your country?"

Of course it’s a pertinent question, especially when the tag to the question asserts that if they (the young ones) don’t, then "no one else will" (The Straits Times, Feb 19, 2003). Damn right, we know there are just the young ones left now. The older ones surely have tasted enough sweeping paternalism, numbing double standards and lived through enough ballot-numbers on voting slips to simply look after No.1 — the big-big moolah! Ask those older ones to die for their country and they’d surely nod away nervously lest there’s a punitive clause in the law to prosecute anyone with a negative reply. Yes, we’re very law-by-law.

In case you’re wondering what double standards? Well, for one, sex between homosexuals (even between consenting adults) is still a crime but half a dozen gay saunas, with dark rooms and no-towel nights, are ALLOWED to thrive in our midst. It’s painfully hypocritical, may I just say AGAIN!

So yeah, it’s certainly left to the young. Future leaders, darling, future leaders… We love you so much we’re doing everything, and we mean anything, we can to make sure you wanna take over as leaders tomorrow. 'Cos contrary to what we previously ignored, the gods do have to die one day. (I think it is called crossing the heavenly gate once we get to it.)

So young ones (sing Cliff Richard, sing) don’t be afraid. Besides, you’re the only ones too young to remember good old paternalism and how intolerant we once were of funky youth culture. Simply take it as — we love you now, your youth-everything — your Linken Park, Eminem, skateboards… Really. We’ve got all the proof you need.

Remember that Janet Jackson album Janet and its BANNED-by-Singapore cover-pic of Janet’s bare-breast being clasped by another pair of hands from behind? Well, in case we haven’t screamed through a MITA memo of a (quiet) revoke of the ban, such a pictorial concept is fine by us now. We’re hip with it! We didn’t even chastise the Sunday Times for coming up with a reprint of some newlyweds’ "nude" pic using the same pictorial concept. See! We kid you not.

Picture this. Intolerant yesterday but funky tomorrow! Say, maybe we should get Ah-Do to record such a catch-phrase for next year’s Sing Singapore. C’mon, let’s dance the funky durian together! Besides-besides, when apathy pervades the air we breathe, mere motivation itself is everything. So c’mon, let’s shake it, shake it, baby.

On us not staging "large anti-war demonstrations and protests in the streets here," a Straits Times reader wrote to the paper to say: "Singaporeans should speak up in their own way" (The Straits Times, Feb.26, 2003). Hello! Look here. LOOK HERE BIG-BIG! I’m someone speaking up in my own way. Ah, but I’m sure there are those who consider my kind of speaking up as ranting. Well, lest you think it’s no different from, say, filmmaker Michael Moore’s put-down of President Bush at the Oscars, let me assure you, it’s different. Moore spoke in the name of the Fifth Amendment. I write in the spirit of kiasu-ism, farce, muted free speech and Supercilious Paternalism. (Did someone utter benign fascism? Just asking.)

Actually, it’s not enough to urge Singaporeans to simply speak up. They should also be told HOW! (On that point, see Chapter 92 of my book, Attack Of The SM Space Encroachers.) And please, don’t consider it a farce to do so. Nation-building in Singapore can never be a farce.

On how to instruct people to speak up… Make it very blatant, the ways of JB Jeyaretnam, Chee Soon Juan, Francis Seow and company are NOT the way. And we really want you guys (the people) to speak up, in that, y’know, obedient way. So, it helps to get a licence first, just like at Speakers’ Corner. Start there to begin with. It’s sanctioned grounds for speaking. Not at, say, the Istana. 'Cos look what’s happened to another Singapore Democratic Party leader Ghandi Ambalan. He’s now barred from the next General Elections because he was "trying to provide unlicensed public entertainment at the Istana grounds on Labour Day last year." And he was only trying to "entertain." Imagine if he was trying to speak up!

But no worries, the "finest" species of Singaporeans among us has cast heartening light on the day’s concern and with comforting figures to boot! Tan Tarn How in his report in The Straits Times (Mar 7, 2003) noted that "800 sign anti-war petition in Singapore." (This was before the Gov. declared support for the war in Iraq; so please don’t mistake Tan for a anti-Gov. dissident, okay!). So worry not, Singaporeans, there’s always ST to the rescue. For whatever… whenever. We’re the United Straits Of Whatever (sing it, Liam Lynch!). I’d say, let’s not even worry about unquestioning young minds and fighting for a better future, the papers will take care of everything. I’m sure you already know that anyway.

Chua Lee Hoong in waxing lyrical about Budget 2003 said: "How many realise fully that the Budget is not about putting money into individual pockets but about maintaining national economic health?" (The Straits Times, Mar 5, 2003). Well, I did! (not that I follow these things). I did because I know instinctively that the Budget cannot be for the individual.

Besides-besides, "putting money into individual pockets"? Even I know it's not Elections time yet. – X'Ho


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