September 8th, 2015

happy girl

General Election

The more SDP rallies I attend, the more I wish - really, really wish - that I could vote for them. By 'them' I mean Chee Soon Juan and Paul Tambyah, but this is mostly because I have not properly listened to the other candidates (except the woman who's running in Yuhua, who was not impressive at all). No matter; I'm so impressed with these two candidates. They are both well-spoken, incredibly articulate, and intelligent. Chee, of course, is a bit of a cult figure, and I won't deny that my supporting him is partly a reaction to the way he was treated by the PAP all those years ago; the sense of injustice is strong, and in these situations, I almost always side with the underdog.

Still, having listened to him twice, I cannot help but be impressed. Not only does he appeal to the intellect, but he also appeals to the emotions. At the Raffles Place lunchtime rally, I stood in the heat listening to snatches of his speech; I couldn't catch the whole thing because I went there an hour after it'd already started and I was at the back, and the acoustics were not great, so I couldn't hear everything that he said. And yet, I heard enough to understand the basic point that he made, but perhaps more importantly, to be moved by his conviction in a more just society that he envisions for Singapore, and to feel his passion for this vision. Honestly, the Singapore Democratic Party is probably the party that best represents me if I had to pick one. I haven't disagreed with them on anything so far, and their championing the plight of the poor and the elderly speaks straight to my bleeding, liberal heart. I am so happy that there is an opposition party who is making the points that need to be made, and doing so in an articulate and intelligent manner, almost without sweeping statements, and presenting facts and figures to back up their arguments. Both Chee and Tambyah are so impressive and articulate in this regard.

On the other hand, I listened to one of the opposition candidates contesting in my GRC on Toggle, and although it was okay, there were a couple of moments when I was just groaning in agony. I don't fault Goh Meng Seng for his average command of English, and I appreciated his steering the election away from issues like town council and flats upgrading and whatever, things that don't apply to me at all because I don't live in government housing. But his comments about immigration - oh my god. First off, I am anti-anti-immigration. That is not to say that I am pro-immigration, but I am against anti-immigration sentiments because I believe that having a good mix of foreigners is good for society. As a result, I cannot stand it when opposition candidates bring up the immigration issue and start blaming everything on the foreigners. GMS said that the root cause of the MRT break downs is the irresponsible increase in the number of foreigners in Singapore, as mandated by the PAP government. Huh? Is this even factually correct? It could be a contributing factor, but to say that it is a 'root cause' is a bit of a stretch. (Of course, I'm not familiar with this, so correct me if I'm wrong.)

It's all well and good to start off your speech with 'I'm not xenophobic', except if you have to clarify that, then maybe you are a bit xenophobic. In contrast, the SDP does not make such statements. They articulate a reasonable immigration policy that actually makes sense. Tambyah said that they believe that immigration is good for society (I paraphrase really badly because it's late and I'm tired), but only after the infrastructure is already in place. They also endorse a minimum wage scheme so that immigrants can enjoy the rights to which they are entitled (and there are many, despite what people like Yeo Guat Kwang or whatever would want you to believe) along with Singaporeans. That makes complete sense to me as a matter of principle. I would put my trust in a party who operates on the right principle over one that's merely results-driven anytime, anyday. It's too bad that I can't vote for the SDP.

GMS also said that the PAP lets everyone (i.e. every foreigner) in, which is blatantly untrue. There are conditions attached to the employment pass, the S pass and the work permit - and the PAP doesn't even want work permit holders to stay in Singapore after they've fulfilled their economic function. I did research on this issue for my Singapore human rights paper, and it is actually shocking, the dehumanising view of these 'migrant workers' that the PAP's regulatory framework has in mind. But that's another issue for another day (or when my chapter is published...bwahaha).

In a perfect democracy, there's no way in hell I would vote for GMS or his party after listening to his speech, and especially not after finding out that one of the candidates contesting in Choa Chu Kang is one of the Hong Lim Park loonies (I don't even remember her name...). However, Singapore's democracy is so imperfect that 'imperfect' is an understatement. I vote against the PAP on principle (unless I'm in Ang Mo Kio - it says a lot about how much I despise Gilbert Goh and Roy Ngerng that I wouldn't even vote against the PAP if it means voting for them, so I would definitely spoil my vote in this case) and it's a really simple one: an unchecked government is an unaccountable one. The PAP government needs to be accountable to the people, and the only way to do that is to have opposition voices in Parliament. I would say 'effective opposition', but democracy in Singapore is so threadbare that I would take virtually any opposition voices except proven-and-tested clowns like Roy and Gilbert.

I'm also not sure if Singapore in general is aware of what it means to live in a democracy. It goes beyond mere voting; it is also about the relationship between the people and the government. This is especially acute when some people bang on about being grateful to the PAP government for our comfortable lifestyles. I'm sorry but that is such a load of shit. The government is here to serve the people. They are not doing us a favour. It is their job to run the country, and it is their job to run it well. Of course I take it as a given that they would do a good job; why else would I submit to the rule of the government? Their competence is surely a condition of them asserting legitimate authority over me, not a by-product. I've honestly not heard of anyone outside of Singapore, from developed countries, who are grateful to their governments for doing a good job. This idea of being thankful to your government for doing what it's supposed to do (and in Singapore, who are preposterously paid millions to do it) is just insane.

What is a lacking, I think, is a proper democratic theory. I would expound on this a bit but I am tired; and frankly, I'm not all that familiar with democratic theories so I shouldn't comment too much on things of which I have mere scant knowledge.

Also, for the avoidance of doubt, even if Singapore were a proper democracy, I probably would never vote for the PAP, ever. Ever. Me and the PAP simply do not sync. Apart from immigration to some extent, their values are practically antithetical to almost everything that I believe in, which is precisely why I even have a PhD topic to begin with. I don't even understand how a country can claim to adopt a 'communitarian' approach to human rights and yet have almost zero socio-economic rights or social welfare. What can be more communitarian than welfare? If 'communitarian' merely means sacrificing the individual or a minority group for the greater good, which seems to be the case in Singapore, then it's not a very appealing society to live in. It is quite ironic that Singapore society, which has ostensibly rejected liberalism (though I'm not sure if the PAP legitimately made that choice for us considering the amount of walkovers it received in past elections), could actually be more self-centred and selfish than liberal democracies. I heard a bit of Tharman's speech about increasing welfare and how it would mean increasing taxes for the middle class. I am a member of the middle class and I couldn't see the problem with what he said. Of course, it depends on how much the increase is, but come on, taxes in Singapore are not high at all.

Anyway. I am tired. I was only planning on writing briefly about how much the SDP appeals to me and move on to something else but this entry has clearly taken a life of its own, if that makes sense. I am too tired. Bed time.
happy girl

What's Left of You and Me

Here is why I have not written about G: my feelings have rendered my thoughts incoherent, and this inarticulate sense of loss has diminished my ability to write. The words - my words - seem to be dried up, obsolete, inadequate; they capture too much and not enough all at once. Even what I've just written - 'inarticulate sense of loss' - is simultaneously exactly what I feel and not at all what I feel. It seems trivial to use mere language, with its own fixed, rigid lexicon which from the outset precludes ideas and feelings for which it does not have the words, to capture what I feel; and yet, it is also entirely non-trivial, because writing about this is probably the only way I can 1) feel better, whatever that means; and 2) make sense of it, if it's even possible. As such, I will attempt to articulate the inarticulate, even if I'm none the wiser at the end of it.

The incoherence of my thoughts/feelings prevents any semblance to narrative linearity. This morning, after posting my entry on the General Election, I was struck by a sudden thought: I want to tell him that I take it back - that I don't want to be done with us anymore. Can I take back words of this magnitude? I was almost yelling at him when I asked what was the point of him coming to see me in England. I told him straight in the face, 'I'm done. I can't do this anymore.' Later on, 'You may think it's bullshit, but whatever it is, I'm in love with you - and so I can't talk to you for a while.'

Did my subsequent conduct - two days later after one day of silence, including in response to his text messages - of calling him hours before he flew to San Francisco and telling him that I wanted to send him off at the airport because I was unhappy with how I ended things alter or change anything that I said? Is this an issue of contract formation or interpretation? What about our subsequent interaction at the airport, during which we said nothing at all about what to do with 'us'? What about the fact that when he finally arrived and I went up to him, I acquiesced to his kiss? My holding his hand? What of my failure to tell him, 'I hope we'll see each other again'? Does my failure to retract my words or alter them mean that they are therefore binding? Is this up to me or up to him?

He held me close to him just before he disappeared into the departure hall. In that moment, comprised maybe of a minute or a little bit more, I felt everything that he felt for me, the feelings that he didn't always express, my importance to him, how much I meant to him. Let me freeze this moment, so that I can keep feeling your palms pressed gently into my back, your face buried in the crook of my neck, keep feeling how it feels to be so close to each other, keep hearing your soft murmurs that I have not the time as yet to decipher. I have not the time that I want to spend with you. Time took you away from me when we let each other go and you went towards the departure hall, turning back to joke, Don't forget to vote, and I wanted to run after you to kiss you goodbye but I stood rooted to the spot. I couldn't move; I tried to be restrained and non-dramatic and I couldn't move. All I could do was watch and limply wave goodbye.

We didn't commit to anything and yet here I am, held back from living the life that I was living before him and during him because I am missing him. This sense of loss, it is physical. It is a dull ache in my chest that constricts and hurts when I am overwhelmed by the yawning gap that his departure has opened up. Don't cry, stop this, this is unbecoming; and so I get up and get out of Starbucks, The Cathay, because it is his place, 'our love nest', and I thought I could handle being there but I couldn't. I get up and I get out of there and I'm at the traffic crossing diagonally opposite the YMCA and I think about that Sunday night when he bought me the Totoro, and his silly joke about breaking into the YMCA song/dance routine right there and then.

Time heals all wounds. That is a banal platitude. But what if I don't want it to? What if I don't want to stop liking him? But why wouldn't I want to? Why would I want to carry this burden around with me, bring it along to Cambridge like excess baggage? I'd known you for a month and already I felt the difference you made in my life. Is that what I can't let go of? Do I think that I don't know how to lead a more positive and engaged life without you? I have a paper to research and write but I can't do it, I can't do it, I haven't even started and it's already Tuesday, and I can't do it because you are no longer in my life. There is a piece of me missing and it is in the shape of you. I miss you so much that it hurts.

*

Did I make a mistake on Thursday night? I was not at all prepared for the conversation. It was the end of the night and we were walking to Changi Point or whatever, where he was going to have a Skype call with some PhD students in about 45 minutes. Hours before this, he booked his flight to San Franciso; after that, we spent hours together without addressing the obvious elephant in the room. It was when he commented that I looked annoyed when he was sorting out his travel plans that things came to a head. 'I wasn't annoyed,' I said. 'I felt another emotion and it wasn't annoyance.'

I felt like I was going to cry. I probably looked it. He was sweet - 'I know, this sucks, but you are going to Cambridge and it's a good thing' - and then not so much when he tried to joke, 'In a few months' time you'll be like, who's this Greek guy?'

I told him that it was not funny. I disentangled myself from him, sat on his bed; he'd stopped smiling too and said, quite flatly, 'This is a good thing for you, and so I cannot be sad. I can be melancholic, but not sad.'

Just before we headed out, I told him that we had to talk about it. We talked while we walked. It then became clear that he was adamant about not wanting to commit to a long distance arrangement. I expressed my confusion at his behaviour; just two days ago, he was telling me that he wanted to see me in England.

'I do want to see you in England. I do,' he said. Then he said those horrible words again - it made sense. I guess someone so intelligent expresses himself differently, because I require more than some logical threshold to be met before I made arrangements to fly to another country for the sole purpose of seeing someone.

And then when pressed to articulate what was it about me that he liked or how he felt about me, and when I was not satisfied with what he said ('I like you a lot and I feel proud to have you next to me'), his words caused everything to come crashing down.

'I appreciate you as an individual.'

It was not the best choice of words. It was a horrible choice of words. I lost it. I started shouting at him: 'Are you sure those are the words that you want to say to me right now? What the fuck is wrong with you?'

I was overcome with emotions. I was feeling the force of all this pent-up angst that I kept bottled up over the past week and a half, two weeks, that was suddenly let loose by his appreciation of me as an individual. My emotions invaded and conquered my rational mind. I could not think. I could not assess the situation. I could not even stop being emotional long enough to ask him what capacity he wanted me to be in his life when he said that he wanted me in his life, but we couldn't be a couple. Neither could I stop being emotional long enough to comprehend it when he clarified that we would lose the physical aspect of the 'relationship' but not everything else.

I was not prepared for this conversation, which was in sharp contrast to the points that I had in mind when I met him at the Starbucks, The Cathay, on that Sunday when I thought that we would talk about things. I thought we would talk about our options; I thought that there was a third way, to keep it open and see how it went, see what happened in December, see what my schedule or life or whatever would be like after I'd got to Cambridge and had more information on what was going to happen.

All of that fell away. They were defeated by this scorching sense of hurt that I felt when he said again what he'd said from the start. I knew it already and yet, and yet, my pathetic flaccid heart had continued to hope.

As such, led entirely by my emotions, I told him that I was done. I told him that I couldn't talk to him for a while; implicit in this was 'I can't talk to you until I get over you'. I was shattered after that. I cried on the train all the way from Expo to Outram Park and I didn't give a fuck at all who was there to see. He texted me at 11pm, saying that he hoped I was feeling better, but I couldn't bring myself to answer. I couldn't bring myself to text him for the whole of Friday. It was only when I woke up on Saturday and was seized by this urge to see him before he left, an urge which neither tennis nor post-tennis shower diminished, that I called him and asked if I could send him off.

I wanted to tell him that I hoped we'd see each other again but the words never found their way to my lips. When I was on the train after he left, I saw a message from him: 'I will miss you.'

*

It is shocking how two people who are supposedly intelligent and good at written communication are so fucking shit at communicating with each other. I could've said something at the airport, but I didn't for reasons that I can't even discern, let alone comprehend. He never talked about whatever was going on between us unless it suddenly occurred to him in a middle of an amazing date, which then led to angst on both sides for the next day. In theory, therefore, I could pick up my phone and text him, but I don't because...I don't want it to be a knee-jerk emotion reaction to the situation? I want to be sure that I can emotionally handle having him in my life, but in a reduced and not-here manner, before I reach out and make contact? I don't know. I don't know.

I cannot decide whether I want to put this behind me or not. It is too soon, for sure; it's not even been a week. I'm also PMSing and these hormones are disproportionately magnifying my feelings and emotions and angst and melancholy. Perhaps that's why I'm refraining from contacting him. But what if I wait too long and it's too late?

I wrote to someone that I know purely online about this, and he said that it sounded like a 'rubbish rom-com'. If it were a rubbish rom-com, we would have a rubbish but perfectly scripted happy ending. Isn't it too bad that this is real life?

*

It would not be untrue to say that, as much as I like him, I also like the idea of him. But what is there not to like? He is 5 years older; I've always had a thing for older men. He is incredibly intellectual; I've always wanted someone who is at least my equal. He is exotic, but not because he's Greek.

At the same time, I don't just like the idea of him. I like him as a person. He seemed to think that I didn't know him, but that's even more bullshit than my claiming to be in love with him. He's pissed me off almost as much as he's made me happy in the span of a month; I cannot stand his annoyingly non-communicative habit, especially when he's engulfed and engrossed in work; and he remembers about half the things that I say, and doesn't even remember that I don't eat meat. I would undoubtedly lose patience with him over these things as time goes on, but the point is, I don't view him through rose-tinted glasses. I am aware of his annoying flaws. But something kept me going, and this something is currently keeping me hanging on.

He made me laugh. We had fun together. Then again, saying that we 'had fun' together is understating the connection that we had, running more deeply than just 'fun'. It was not casual. I meant something to him, which I didn't fully realise or appreciate...until that moment in the airport when he hugged me goodbye.

Is that why it is so difficult to let go? We had to go our separate ways because our lives didn't coincide long enough to build a solid foundation. It wasn't due to any inherent personality clash. In fact, we fit.

I know that I will get over him if I really wanted to, and that once I am over him, I will be over him for good. When I move on, I don't look back; I am ruthless in that regard. The problem, then, is that a significant part of me doesn't want to. It's the same treacherous part that kept hoping for this to work out during that entire month that we saw each other. It feels like such a waste to just let this go; 'this' being, of course, a genuine connection, a rare sort between two people who could've been a formidable couple had circumstances been different.

*

On Monday evening, when I was on the train back home, I was so despondent that I started looking up flights, even desperately looking up flights from Singapore to San Francisco, thinking maybe I could squeeze in a US trip in between Bali and London.

What was shocking was how expensive and long it is to fly from San Franciso from London. It's about 11 hours at least and those flights are $2,000 (not sure if SGD or USD). The 'cheaper' ones are even longer and they're at least $1,000.

I can't afford that.

*

How funny, or not at all, to think that I almost went to Berkeley for my LLM.

*

I am so tired. I am so annoyed at myself for being utterly unproductive for the last two days. This has to change tomorrow.

This entry took me about 2.5 hours to write.
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