After news of Passion 99.5 FM, a public service radio station devoted to the arts and funded by the State, was reported to be wrapping up by year’s end, Samuel Lee wrote in The Straits Times’ Life! (Aug 27, ’03): "Don’t kill Passion for the arts… Losing one’s Passion is already bad enough. Losing one’s soul would be the end." Actually, dear Sam, the end was ‘the beginning.’ We’d already lost our soul ages ago (to — what else? — money, of course!). But don’t try giving this perspective of mine to the national press or we’ll be flooded with readers’ response that Singapore is still remarkably soulful. And we may just get a new season of Extraordinary People on TV in tow as well. I mean, who likes to be told we got no soul?

Never mind the official reason, the general hunch is — Passion ain’t getting no funding no more to stay afloat because the money has to go to a heftier fund-recipient, that ‘durian’-enterprise building, the Esplanade, the great symbol of our love for the arts. Don’t you know façade is everything in Singapore? So what’s a real speaking voice on Passion in comparison? A truly perfect example of how, in Singapore, doing it for the people is always secondary to the view from the top or outside.

Point is — you don’t have to spell it out transparent initially. Later, after the people had gotten used to Passion’s demise, they won’t even bother about the true reasons behind it. And really, we don’t bother much about anything at all, unless it’s to do with bread-and-butter issues and the soul-sacrificing moolah. Pink, green or arts (sic), it’s the bottom-line of all our paper chases; even social/cultural/moral causes. Don’t forget it’s called Sing dollars. Praise to the dollar, hallelujah! Sing it loud and proud. Now THAT’s the real passionate Singapore for you.

"Singapore is really a Cosmopolitan city" — the big headline in ST Life! (Sept 10, ’03) raved about the 20-year ban on Cosmopolitan magazine being revoked finally. Now, do Singaporeans see how silly the ban was? Of course, not. Singaporeans see? That’ll be the day. (Is it bread-and-butter? I hear them ask.)

"Ban on advertising by hospitals to be lifted" — ST’s front-page headline on Sept 29, ’03, further showing us the alarming amount of stringent controls experienced just yesterday. "It is hoped that the move will help Singapore get a bigger slice of the regional market in providing medical services to foreigners." Like I said, it’s all about singing to outsiders. But of course, like allowing bar-top dancing, a whole new set of rules comes with the ban’s lift that’s too mind-boggling to get into here.

Biggest joke of the month — ST columnist Rand Miranda says Singapore girls’ craving the 5Cs (cash, credit card, condo, car, club-membership) is not enough, they should "make it six" (Sept 8, ’03). The sixth, being character. Ha ha ha ha. No, the joke’s not on Miranda (how can you honestly blame an earnest soul?) but on the thought that Singapore girls, generally speaking, could possess any semblance of an enviable character. (Remember, there’d be 2,000 refutations if you voice my claim in the press.)

The sad truth about not having much character points to one thing — our ‘wonderful’ education system. (Latest indictment — "JC students reveal appalling standard of English in ST survey," Sept 29, ’03.) But no worries, Rand, Singaporeans are generally incapable of making such societal connections. And even if they do, we know better than to publicise them. So, shhhh!

A 21-year-old part-time lady tutor was punched in the face by a 49-year-old man "for no apparent reason" (ST, Aug 21, ’03). Unless the suspect was a stark raving mental-case, I venture to guess that he was perhaps ticked off by a scowl to deliver that punch. Do Singaporeans know that they scowl? I know they don’t. They’re human debris, so how could they be all that aware? The scary thing is, they’ve even influenced our foreign workers working here.

The other day, I was in a neighbourhood shop, this young Indonesian maid came in and scowled at me. I just burst out laughing and said aloud — what on earth are you scowling at? Then I turned to her standing beside me and said: "You really don’t have to scowl" (like she knew what I was talking about), "just 'cos the rest of the Singaporeans are doing it, you don’t have to follow them. Just smile. You have it in you." And viola, she did! And I returned the smile. Thank god, I’m not a 49-year-old man!

That ubiquitous Singapore scowl. How do I deal with it? I’m sure you’d like to know. Well, let me tell you. Every time I get one, I welcome it with all my heart and soul, sending out a vibe (sometimes aloud) that says — oooh, gimme more! Prove to me that I’m so right to say that Singaporeans have no life (not to mention, no courtesy) and are truly repressed sour-grape space-stakers. In fact, more scowls, please. Just so I feel so reich to write a third book. C’mon, gimme all the scowls you got. I want more. (Not that my publisher needs the convincing.)

Caught a little of the panel discussion on Channel NewsAsia that talked about why Singapore Is Not A Giving Society. It’s like — don’t say we don’t pay it some lip service, okay! I’m sure you don’t need to be told what the panel’s conclusion was, unless you really want to know the ‘official’ stand on the subject. I didn’t. So don’t ask me.

Chief editor of Streats Philip Lee wrote in The Straits Times (Sept 20, ’03): "Had Lee Kuan Yew not been tough then…" in relation to Singapore’s effective elimination of triad gangs. Well, yeah! Now, we really shouldn’t put two-and-two together and ask about Remaking Singapore here. Sometimes, I do wish that the elevated one would not take a backseat and be plainly forefront again. For one thing, I’d be spared of inane panel discussions on TV. Don’t you miss those good old days when we intuitively practised refine self-censorship knowing that the OB-markers are ALL THERE? Now, we’re Remaking Singapore and asking where got there. Got, meh?!

For all our flashing of ‘quilts’ and ‘tiles’ to show for a nationalistic spirit around Singapore Race Day (that’s National Day, honey!), all it took was one of our poets, Philip Jeyaretnam, to spell it all out — "Singaporeans need a sense of national pride" (ST Life! Aug 30, ’03). How nice, that pride can be testified with quilts and tiles. (Go tell it, Lisa!)

Maybe I’ve just got piles. — X’Ho

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