Silly writer is silly

I said something silly when I was speaking to a group of university students earlier this week. (I also spilled coffee on myself while their eyes were all trained on me, but that's another story.) These were university students nearing the end of a course on popular culture in Singapore, and I was supposed to talk about Singapore: A Biography, the writing of history, the role of memory, nostalgia and so on.

In the midst of some blatheration about the importance of everyday living spaces, and how heritage should be something alive, not dead and documented, I said frivolously, "I think we should blow up Orchard Road and start over." Which, for anyone reading this without their sarcasm-meter turned on, I of course did not mean literally, but that wasn't the reason I kicked myself later for saying it. No, it bugs me that I said it because I was implying that Orchard Road --- and its identikit malls, and its crowds, in all its tiresome glory --- wasn't 'real' culture, was somehow less worthy than everyday lived spaces like provision shops and coffeeshops and hawker centres. That shopping and mall culture was something we (as Singapore) should disown and eradicate.

Which, at its heart, is an unworthy, totalitarian impulse that I shouldn't give voice to, even in jest. We hear enough diktats in Singapore about what should or should not happen, should or should not be spoken. I don't need to be perpetuating that way of thinking. Less silencing, more speaking.



At 4/07/2012 4:01 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't be too hard on yourself - it's easy to use colourful language (I am sure no-one thought you meant it literally) and make sweeping statements to get to a point. Orchard Road has its place: it might well not appeal to everyone, but that doesn't make it "wrong" per se, as you correctly say. The mistake some make (visitors mostly) is to think that Orchard Road is the only or the true Singapore...when it is just one facet of a multi-dimensional place. As, of course, I know you know. ;-)

At 4/08/2012 2:05 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I were there, I might have suggested blowing up dirty old shophouses and most of Chinatown to make way for more Orchard Roads, so it's no big deal really.

At 4/09/2012 9:28 am , Anonymous wenerd said...

self-censorship kickstats the lack of expression. unless strong thoughts are put forward, the danger of living according to a formula will always remain. so, if that is what one feels, then it should be said.

At 4/12/2012 7:58 am , Blogger Tym said...

@wenerd > It's not an issue of self-censorship or of not voicing strong opinions. I think the opinion, in this case, was flawed and not something that would hold up to scrutiny. Ergo, I take it back. I still think Orchard Road and its malls are worth social/cultural critique (and criticism); I just don't think what I said out loud was, on this occasion, much of either.


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