17.9.06

Flotsam and jetsam from the week

Otherwise known as the week that the IMF/World Bank bigshots rolled into town, while accredited civil society activists were turned away at the airport and sent home, non-violent activists both foreign and domestic were arrested, and Lee pere and fils have filed a defamation suit against the Far Eastern Economic Review.

On Monday, I almost signed up with M1 (my cell phone service provider) for a mobile blogging service --- until I realised that the terms of service required me to swear that anything I posted using the service would not be "obscene, defamatory, seditious or contrary to public policy." Since they failed to define what might constitute at obscene, defamatory, seditious or contrary-to-public-policy post, the decision not to proceed further was a no-brainer, really. (Plus I would have to pay extra for this blogging service, whereas now I blog for free.)

On Monday night, while out with the girls, I found out that there is some fancypants barbed wire ringing the War Memorial Park downtown (adjacent to the IMF/World Bank meeting zone). Because nothing says freedom and sacrifice like fancypants barbed wire.

On Tuesday, I got a closer look at the sunflowers that's at the vanguard of the excessive landscaping that's taken over our downtown. Poo.

National Museum of Singapore
Taken by lisamontgomery

On Wednesday, wahj pointed me to a GOOD Magazine column on how it is that people know how to read without having actually learned to read. It goes a long way to explaining why Singapore has close to 100% literacy but so little actual appreciation for words and ideas.

On Wednesday night, the expanding Ah POH club gathered over much sashimi to initiate bee and Eva into our fold. Hurrah!

On Thursday, the Singapore Heritage Yahoogroup pointed me to Maodee's blog post on "Singapore history extended to 14th century or stay with 1819?" He thinks it should start at 1819. For the record, I completely disagree and I've been trying to find the time to write a response to it --- but linking it and merely stating the fact of my disagreement is all I've got the time for right now.

On Friday, I took many cabs, spent very little time at my laptop and had 2 coffees within 2 hours. I'm not a huge fan of the coffee connoisseur chain, but their German blend of coffee is quite yummy. When plans for a third girls' night out this week got nixed, I went over to Muddy Murphy's for the evening instead. Aside from the Long Bar, this is probably the best bar to be in if you want to surround yourself with non-Asian faces and pretend you're not really in Singapore. (Not that that was my motivation; it was just another UnXpected night for me.) Halfway through the band's rockin' second set, a group of about ten Caucasian and Asian men (but not locals) entered in their weekend casuals, each one wincing noticeably as they stepped into the bar and were greeted by the pounding music. Lost IMF/World Bank delegates, maybe?

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5 Comments:

At 9/17/2006 11:48 am , Blogger budak said...

By Maodee's definition, American history only starts with Columbus, the British with William the Conqueror, Australian with Cook....

 
At 9/17/2006 6:18 pm , Blogger  said...

"Lost IMF/World Bank delegates, maybe?"

Yah, they're actually looking for the taller building on the other side of the street...

Or as many of them do, just popped in for a quick pint before heading over to the other side.

 
At 9/17/2006 11:03 pm , Anonymous Xisla said...

So you find the flower pots excessive too? This is what I thought about it...

 
At 1/13/2007 12:39 am , Blogger maodee said...

perhaps you misunderstood my meaning, what i meant to said that in terms of a "Singapore" history it probably started in 1959 or 65, because there is no real "Singapore" before then. In terms of geographical history, we could go all the way back to the 14th century.

 
At 1/14/2007 1:47 pm , Blogger Tym said...

maodee > To say that Singapore history should "start" from 1959 is to assume that the entity Singapore did not "exist" before that, and that the post-1959 Singapore had absolutely nothing to do with what came before. It's a neat definition, and one infinitely parroted in the propaganda of the current political regime, but I think it's one that sells Singapore woefully short.

As someone who's grown up here, I prefer to think of Singapore as a larger entity --- a sense of place rather than merely a political being created by a bunch of legislation. It's about all the different lives that have been lived on this little island, because they make up the story of this place to which I feel some sense of belonging. It's not about loyalty to country or (heaven forbid) government or a particular person. It's that elusive quality that makes it home, an inhabited space, regardless of what the current political situation is like.

It's surprising how much of that broader heritage is pre-1959 (or pre-1965, strictly speaking?) Singapore. We may not know precisely who lived here during the 14th century (or before), but we know that the name "Bedok" has been in use since at least the 17th century. That's something (to me, anyway --- or maybe I'm just becoming a sentimental old git?). We will never identify the thousands of Chinese labourers who worked in Singapore and retired elsewhere, without leaving any family connections here --- but the char kway teow we eat today is a direct descendant of the food they used to eat.

These are just a few examples of pre-1959 history that I have come across in the course of my work (and I count myself lucky to have worked on projects that paid me to peer into this oft-clouded over window to our shared past). And each of them helps me to understand a little better where we all came from, what we're doing here --- what are some of the incredible ideas and experiences that have taken place in Singapore (even if the place might have been known by other names at other times).

Singapore can be more than a functional postcolonial or PAP construction. History is more than just the big man's version of "founding"/"birth" and its alleged corollaries.

 

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