2.5.05

Why

"If you care too much about Singapore, first it'll break your spirit, and finally it will break your heart." --- Alfian Sa'at
I'm long overdue in writing about the latest citizen heartbreak (translation: government decision to push ahead with the development of two casinos integrated resorts) --- so overdue that a couple of nights ago, even the husband had to asked what specifically upset me about the announcement, since he didn't have a clue either.

To clarify:

I have no contention with the plans --- recently set in motion, ostensibly theoretical before that --- to build a casino in Singapore. Never did, either. Even if they permitted all and sundry to enter and blackjack their lives away, I don't think it will lead to the disintegration of our society as we know it. And hell, if it does, it just goes to show we weren't much of a society to begin with, in which case good riddance to us.

What roils my constitution here --- and I'm not talking about any lingering effects of durian consumption --- is that the government took this country through a blatant and massive public relations exercise for about six months, only to announce what seems to the layperson in me to have been a foregone conclusion anyway. I've said this to many people before, and I'll put it in writing here: I don't disrespect all the decisions this government makes, but I wish they'd come right out and say what they want to say, instead of leading us on a merry dance of consultation that twirls us right back to the starting position, from which they weren't going to budge in the first place. Be bold, be blatant, be unapologetic. Have some balls about it, for goodness's sake. Don't dick around with the faux courtship --- small talk, plastic corsages --- only to turn alpha male once the dance is up.

In particular, what cuts me to the quick is a profound sense of my own gullibility. There I am, day after day reminding the young people around me that, hey, the government wants to listen to you --- coaxing myself to believe it, even if they don't, because there must be hope springing eternal, lurking round the corner, lighting the end of the tunnel, a stormcloud on the horizon of a forty-year drought. I dared allow myself to hope, and now I feel all the more a fool for it. I thought I'd hit rock-bottom before --- when I first moved back after graduation, maybe, or when working in the system itself began to dull my sensitivities to outrage and inconsistency --- but now I've found a whole new place deep below it.

I'm done. Been drinking for days, and the bitter stab of disappointment still burns. Turn off, tune out, and drop ---

28 Comments:

At 5/02/2005 2:26 am , Blogger cour marly said...

This is why I never blog about Singapore related issues. It's not worth it. Never was, never will be.

 
At 5/02/2005 2:31 am , Blogger  said...

"There I am, day after day reminding the young people around me that..."

wa lao - u mean we not young liao? ... hmmph...

 
At 5/02/2005 10:04 am , Blogger Tym said...

cour marly --- Amen.

Ru --- Okay, younger people.

 
At 5/02/2005 10:25 am , Blogger leah said...

Hello Tym!
Waaah can't believe i've inadvertently gotten myself a 'blog' now (with a really fluffy inane moniker, sigh) just cos i needed to REGISTER to be able to leave a comment. But I don't want a blog! Especially after - well - what's been happening recently on the blogosphere. Just wanted to let you know that I've gone through days feeling really depressed and angry with 'the system' (especially since I've been wrestling with my dissertation on freedom of speech in Singapore and uncovering lots of things I'd rather remain blissfully unaware of, so I sleep better at night). But what I've come to realise is that, cliched as it sounds, there's always things to get riled up, torn up, about, in *every* system/country. If you care enough to dig, if you care enough to care. Don't be so sad! :) Hee whenever I sound like a naive idiot I think of you, saying (with your peculiarly matter-of-fact, bemused yet nonplussed expression): "Not *everyone* is born with the burning desire to save the world, you know". Now I actually think many are - but are loathe to admit it :)
Back to dissertation *yawn* last minute really IS my specialty... Oh ya, rounding up the 'posse' sounds like a brilliant idea! See you in summer!

 
At 5/02/2005 11:35 am , Anonymous The Fell Bat said...

My warhammer friends and I were discussing the casi- the *integrated resort* issue some time back.

We knew of course it was a foregone conclusion. A friend of mine said something like this...

"We do things very funny one leh, you realize. Our gahmen is just awesome you know. When it comes to things like this and they ask the public, it's not 'do you want a casino or not', it's 'WE HAVE DECIDED TO HAVE A CASINO, you guys want one or two?' Same thing happened with the merger. 'WE HAVE DECIDED TO HAVE A MERGER, your choices, citizens, are a) partial merger, and b) complete merger. Now let's discuss this issue democratically.'"

We laugh so that we don't cry.

 
At 5/02/2005 1:03 pm , Blogger Tym said...

leah --- You don't need to create an account to be able to post on my blog. Even if you make up your own generic once-off userid also can. You must let me read your dissertation when you're back, then I can get more depressed. PS: Thanks for reminding me about that line. It sure brings back the memories...

The Fell Bat --- The thing is, I'm not sure I can even bring myself to laugh anymore.

 
At 5/02/2005 1:19 pm , Blogger panaphobic said...

Isn't cour marly's response exactly what the government is hoping to get?

What would happen really, if you just send along that entry to Balakrishnan. Assuming that he reads it, of course. It's so tempting...

And him, of course, because he's kind of the epitome of this whole hypocrisy game after all.

And.. erm.. is Leah the same "star student leah" of my class.. or from another year?

 
At 5/02/2005 1:31 pm , Blogger cour marly said...

There's a difference being apathetic and being disengaged. The former says 'whatever lor,' the latter is a conscious decision not to be manipulated, not to be a pawn.

 
At 5/02/2005 1:44 pm , Blogger MysteryTanLines said...

I feel your frustration. There was a big debate and in the end, the government hardly even referred to the feedback generated. It seemed like a foregone conclusion especially after SM Lee gave his "We made a mistake" speech. If you want a real discussion with the people, SM Lee should have started the discussion process with that very speech. I wonder if years from now, if some minister who is in power now will look back on all this and go "We made a mistake, we should have listened to the people."

 
At 5/02/2005 3:31 pm , Blogger panaphobic said...

Apathetic, disengaged... they both result in the same thing.. so there isn't much of a difference, other than the knowledge of it all which makes us feel less guilty.

 
At 5/02/2005 4:39 pm , Blogger TaLieSin said...

Hey hey, more ex-students are popping their heads up! *waves at leah and chuan*

I read an interesting blog post once arguing that Apathy was actually a significant political choice on the part of Singaporeans - the final step of revolting against the system, so to speak.

Then again, since I'm an Augustinian in terms of my political views, I'm always skeptical about the ability of institutions (especially the state) to solve things / act with justice etc etc.

You try utopianism in practice and it always screws up - right from the days of the French Revolution down to the USSR and Pol Pot's Cambodia - all of which were based on Fenelon's "Telemachus, Son of Ulysses", the most popular political text of the 18th-century Enlightenment. Fat lot of good *that* did.

So, as I always say, there's only one way to save the world =P (Augustine's Civitas Dei) and everything else really is just damage-control for the earthly city. The problem is that we get carried away by scale and large numbers, and think that quantity of impact is the key - whereas the problem with institutions is, the greater your area of impact, the less your power of control. Think UN Secretary-General and you'll get what I mean.

 
At 5/02/2005 7:35 pm , Blogger leah said...

panophobic - erm I'm the only leah I know but that doesn't help does it ;) Singaporean modesty dictates that I use veritable star students the likes of Lisheng, Peggy & Kelvin Ang as my batch-markers. Or I could simply say I graduated from class A03A in 2001 :)

 
At 5/02/2005 9:55 pm , Blogger Jonathan said...

the sticker i saw in USA just 100% reflect what opinion i have.

http://offpoint.blogspot.com/2005/04/cool-sticker-on-cool-car.html

 
At 5/02/2005 10:21 pm , Anonymous The Fell Bat said...

The musical "Chess" is nowadays regarded as passé, based as it is on the Cold War. However, there's a little piece from there, a very good song, really, that in the right mood can bring tears to my eyes.

**Anthem, from CHESS, the musical**

No man, no madness
Though their sad power may prevail
Can possess, conquer, my country's heart
They rise to fail
She is eternal
Long before nations' lines were drawn
When no flags flew, when no armies stood
My land was born

And you ask me why I love her
Through wars, death and despair
She is the constant
We who don't care
And you wonder will I leave her -- but how?
I cross over borders but I'm still there now

How can I leave her?
Where would I start?
Let man's petty nations tear themselves apart
My land's only borders lie around my heart

 
At 5/02/2005 11:49 pm , Blogger Agagooga said...

Wah Tym's blog so funky huh

 
At 5/03/2005 12:19 am , Blogger TaLieSin said...

Since leah made reference to me without my permission, I must get back at her. She is being modest in a typically Singaporean fashion. In reality she is a kick-ass top geography student at Cambridge. No kidding =P

So, time to expand the list of "veritable star students" already!
Seriously, I think our batch just rocked - all of us =)

 
At 5/03/2005 12:32 am , Blogger panaphobic said...

That'd be the right Leah. *waves weakly*

I've no doubt that all the students on this page excluding myself are very good at kicking asses wherever they may be.

Apologies Tym, we won't exploit your comment-space like this again.

 
At 5/03/2005 1:15 am , Blogger sarah said...

oh goodness. a class reunion on a comment board!!!
sometimes i miss singapore, mostly the mrt though. since university started i haven't been back home long enough to remember why i wanted to go away to start with. at the same time i am quite horribly disenchanted with america and can no longer say with the same conviction that i used to that i want to live there and NEVER want to be back in singapore.
till the posse is rounded up! (leah, i'm in london. i've been meaning to come up to cambridge since getting here in january. akan datang akan datang. jess, i heard you were in bangladesh, i hope you are having a wonderful time. ms bala, sorry to use this as er a shout-out board)

 
At 5/03/2005 6:16 am , Blogger leah said...

Ok Tym (sarah! no names! shush)last abuse of your comment-space, I *swear* :) Just to say HI to jess - how are you? how come you went to bangladesh? tell tell! And sarah - ya! paul told me you were in london! come visit! I'll def be heading down there after exams but that's a looooong way off (ish). My yahoo account has died so I don't get class emails, email me your msns? or emails? :) mine's [email protected]

p.s. Lish - you left your name on this blog couple of times already what! walau! :P

 
At 5/03/2005 10:12 am , Blogger Packrat said...

It's gotten to the point that everytime that the government goes on one of its rants that Singaporean youths are apathetic, I feel like opening up a can of [email protected]$$ on my television just to let the frustration out. Take heart...it'll numb. Government's always been like that. Always been and ever will be. Let's just buggerit and enjoy the beer.

 
At 5/03/2005 10:52 am , Blogger Tym said...

What's your suggestion? You want to use my blog as a class bulletin board? Feel free... oh wait, you already did :P

In repayment for hijacking my blog, you guys all owe me lunch. And pretty trinkets from around the world. And the name of your firstborn child. And ... and ... don't worry, I'll think up more stuff.

 
At 5/03/2005 12:28 pm , Blogger Edan Bernardino said...

Isn't that the -soul- of your firstborn son? ^.^

Anyhow, I think it's clear that the problem in this case is that you have two feelings:

1. "(the casino) to have been a foregone conclusion anyway"

and

2. " hey, the government wants to listen to you"

It's obvious the first sentiment has "won"; because: (we'll call this 3.)
"instead of leading us on a merry dance of consultation that twirls us right back to the starting position, from which they weren't going to budge in the first place. Be bold, be blatant, be unapologetic. Have some balls about it, for goodness's sake."

However, I suggest that in actual fact (1) and (2) can coexist peacefully. While the feeling is very strong that it was always a foregone conclusion, the fact is that no one really knows that that's the case.

Perhaps the purpose of consultation in this case was not a popularity poll (and even if it were, I'd hesitate to suggest that those who said "nay" were greater in number), but rather to canvass actual worthwhile reasons for and against the casino. However, there is not all that much to be said: and it is certain that our very well paid cabinet would have thought of more or even all of them even before the results of any public consultation.

This is not to say that public consultation was useless, or worthless; I'm sure the extent of the fervour was unexpected. Whether this sort of fervour is welcomed in the future, or not, is the real test of whether our Government actually wants our views.

 
At 5/03/2005 1:03 pm , Blogger panaphobic said...

Ok geez for the last time, i'll reactivate the class rep Ms Lui to do something about this. I know we had another class rep, but...

I am in Bangladesh to serve as a hostage in case we do any more bad stuff to their countrymen in Singapore. Details on blog lah

 
At 5/04/2005 1:01 pm , Anonymous Jianhao said...

the whole casino thingy, many people had predicted it to be a merry-go-round... our government's almost perfected practice of governmentality... oh well... not that i'm terribly pleased to be treated like an idiot too, being brought around this episode of debates by a group of elites thinking we all have no idea, and that they know much better.

but i guess that's the way it works simply because that's the way it's been working. things would probably change the day PAP loses its legitimacy as the efficient ruling party it has been for decades, but then again, who's to say someone better in all senses of the word would come along? that's the problem too; we feel so secured with the status quo that to even imagine changes is something rather tricky, and not quite desirable after careful weighing of pros and cons... bottom line: it sucks...

hey ms bala, still remember me? been a while huh? jianhao here... seems to me that a job in the civil service isn't quite making you too happy... not a surprise to me. i've seen my teaching award officers leaving one by one. some bailed out after their bonds are done, others simply resigned... wow, such assurance for a teacher-to-be. but then again, i think i never quite thought of things you did, in your post...

but i sense it la, and frankly, i wonder how i'm going to compromise my integrity one day and tell my students something similar, and to contradict something i've believed in all my life for the sake of the greater good of our future generation. as a society, we're simply too immature and too engineered to be able to break free from all the constraints that hold us down. makes many aspiring you people lose their sense of direction sometimes. irritating! but it's something to try out for me. teaching is something pure, but to teach in a system like this... that's something i'll have to learn and adapt to la. but if i were you, and feeling the way you do, i think i'd quit... personally, the only things that can keep my passion for them burning are things i believe in. while i'm an easy-going person, having to compromise too much is just not me. it's not just a youthful impulse thing. i think many of us feel like that la. hope you regain your sense of direction and find something that really spells YOU. otherwise, hope it all works out at the workplace...

to all my ex-classmates (sorry for using this post as a launch pad ms bala oops?), hey, it's been forever since i heard from anyone, minus lionel, zhengkun, cassandra and andrew. wonder how everyone's doing. many of you should be graduating soon... hope to catch some of you around back here at home...

 
At 5/05/2005 2:44 am , Blogger Agagooga said...

Wah, this place is so happening man.

 
At 7/15/2005 10:24 am , Blogger blackorwhite said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7/15/2005 10:30 am , Blogger blackorwhite said...

Don't become indifferent to your surrounding. The NKF incident has shown that a whisper can become a shout and then a roar if everybody joins in.

First and foremost way to improve how the Government handles issues that affects us deeply is to ensure information reaches our less informed neighbours. Only when information has been disseminated can a proper debate be carried out.

Each blogger holds a profound power that can shape opinions.

 
At 3/09/2006 4:53 pm , Anonymous Ballsy said...

I agree with you, tym.

What breaks my heart more is, because of who I am, the gahmen and the people it has successfully brainwashed will always second-guess my loyalties to the country--in terms of security, defense, choice of neighbourhoods, etc,etc. I am and always will be part of a group of people in society who will always be "the other citizens."

singapore is the abusive lover i am pulling myself away from before it makes me even more bitter about having loyalties.

 

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