September 12th, 2015

happy girl

The Bitter Taste of Regret

I apologise for these horribly tedious and repetitve entries, but I am unfortunately stymied by my emotions and the failure of my period to arrive so that it can whisk me from this emotional blackhole that seems to feed on itself as it expands with each passing day instead of contract. In short, these entries are boring as fuck and self-indulgent and awful but I feel like shit now and it's my LJ so I will write whatever I want.

I had a dream last night, or two nights ago, of making plans to meet G. I woke up and it hit me all over again that he's gone and I think it really is the moment when you wake up and have to remember all over again that the thing that has importance to you is gone that sucks the most. The moment before you fall asleep, too, closing your eyes and seeing the person that you want to stop thinking about, seeing, in the darkness of your mind's eye, the memory of you and him lying in each other's arms just a week ago (your fingers lightly tracing his shoulder, eliciting words of contentment from him: That's very relaxing) and then feeling this treacherous desire for him to be next to you; to feel him next to you; to feel his arms around you...maybe that is partly why I make myself stay up late and go to bed only when I'm absolutely falling asleep, so that I'm almost instantly asleep when my head touches the pillow. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work. It's only a matter of how much time I spend before I fall asleep thinking about him.

I am paralysed by the fundamental conflict between my feelings and my thoughts. I miss him, I can't stop thinking about him, there's very little that I want more right now than to see him. And yet, I am afraid of what a breach of this silence would do to me. I am not yet at a place where I can have no expectations of his replies, of him still feeling the same way; I am not ready to be hurt again by this volatile romance that we had.

This inaction, though - is it like the inaction at the airport? My failure to say what I really wanted to say? My being rooted to the spot after he let go of me and briefly turned back and I felt this urge to run up to him but I didn't? I wish I had. I wish I had told him that I hoped we'd see each other again. I wish I hadn't been bought over by - I don't know, my pessimism, my fear, my mind, whatever it was that was telling me it was pointless. The same thing that keeps telling me it's pointless. For fuck's sake, how can this be pointless? How could I have told him that it was pointless for him to see me in England?

I think it's probably true that I romanticise this in my head, which is probably facilitated by the sheer drama that it produced due to a combination of his hot and cold behaviour (which he said was the product of him trying to suppress his feelings) and my own...girlishness. I am a girl. I feel too deeply. I cannot see the larger picture because my feelings keep getting in the way; they create a thick fog that hang over my eyes and I cannot see through it. All that I can think about is how I felt when we were together, how I felt (and still feel) about him, how much I regret that emotional conversation on Thursday during which I said things that I didn't properly think through, how I wish I'd kept it open. How I wish I hadn't been so fucking categorical about it. You either want to be with me or you don't; that was what I said among other things. Even if it's not untrue, seriously, shouldn't the law have taught me that there are always grey areas? What did I really expect from him after a month? I knew that he wouldn't commit, and it wasn't like I didn't have my own reservations. But why were there only two options in my head?

Fuck this shit. This is a horrible day. The PAP has a landslide victory in the election, hence taking back democracy in Singapore at least a decade, and I woke up feeling shitty. The only saving grace is that Roger is in the final of the US Open but he'd probably lose his third grand slam final in a row to Djokovic.

Fuck this shit. I'm going to take a shower. I am so sick of myself.
happy girl

What Is Democracy?

I once asked G whether he'd ever return to Greece to work and live. He said that it was very unlikely because he felt no sync with Greek society for a host of reasons.

This language of being in sync brilliantly describes how I feel right now in the aftermath of the 2015 General Election. Singapore and I are out of sync. It is even plausible that we were never in sync in the first place. We seem to have fundamentally different values; we seem to want and expect different things from the government. The overwhelming majority of Singaporeans seem to think that democracy only means getting a vote; they don't seem to care that a dominant-party style of government poses significant risks to transparency and accountability because it pretty much gets to do whatever it wants; they don't seem to be concerned at all about the state of press freedom in this country; they don't care about their lack of human rights; they don't care about the plight of the poor and the elderly; and that leaves me wondering what do they care about? Their houses, their jobs, a stable country, clean and crime-free streets? That's all well and good, and I'm all for that, but 1) at what price, and 2) then what?

This result has taken us back at least a decade. The last election was seen as a watershed because the PAP received its lowest vote share since 1959, i.e. 60.1% of the votes. Last night, they received close to 70%. I cannot comprehend this. I cannot comprehend the mentality that one possesses to keep voting for a party that runs the country efficiently but governs with no discernible value apart from pragmatism. I cannot comprehend this mindset that thinks it okay to have a dominant party style of government. I cannot comprehend how Singaporeans are okay with the Prime Minister earning 3 million dollars a year (seriously, have these Ministers no shame?). I cannot comprehend this resistance to change - and we're not even talking about another party being in charge, but simply having more opposition voices in Parliament. That is how pathetic democracy is in this country.

Democracy is about more than just voting. Getting a vote perhaps provides a semblance to a thin conception of democracy, but please do not delude yourself into thinking it means anything more than that. I can't even be arsed to qualify my opinions with reference to my liberalism, because one does not need to be a liberal to understand the basic mutually-supportive relationship between a free press and democracy, free speech and democracy, fundamental liberties and democracy. Stop telling me these are Western ideas or that I am Westernised; voting is also a Western construct so why are we doing it if everything that is 'Western' is automatically bad?

I seem to be living in a country paralysed by Stockholm syndrome, full of supposedly educated people but who do not seem to possess critical thinking skills. This isn't even a matter of reasonable disagreement between reasonable people. There can be no true reasonable disagreement if we are not arguing from the same baseline, and we cannot be arguing from the same baseline if we do not have free and open access to all the relevant information, not simply the information that the government sanctions; and neither can we be arguing from the same baseline if we don't seem to be working from the same theory of what democracy is. It goes beyond a mere counting of hands. It is not just about getting a vote; at the same time, this vote is also critically important because it is a loaded concept. What are we doing when we vote for a particular political party? What does it mean to choose your own government?

I'm no expert in democratic theories (talk to me about human rights theories please) but it seems to me that this choice is also consent to the government exercising legitimate, coercive authority over you. You consent to the government telling you what to do. This means that you agree with its policies and laws; it means that you sanction its ideology; it means that you do not believe in the things that the government does not believe in. But what does it really mean to exercise a choice in who governs you? What is so wrong with authoritarianism or a dictatorship? Why does it matter that we have a choice?

It seems to me that it matters because we are autonomous individuals with inherent dignity. Being told what to do against our will violates our dignity and disrespects our autonomy. This, to me, is what is fundamentally attractive about democracy, and why the vote is critical; and it also goes to the idea of having a choice and, accordingly, of freedom. There is a mutually reinforcing relationship between democracy and freedom. Singaporeans who think that freedom of speech and the press doesn't matter (which is the view that they endorse by voting for the PAP) have a basic and fundamental misconception of democracy. You cannot have true democracy - the meaningful kind - without freedom of speech and the press. The media point is fairly obvious: you can't make a meaningful choice of who to vote for if your access to information is restricted by one party who distorts the other party to the former's unfair advantage. As for freedom of speech, Dworkin's argument (which I think is the right one) that free speech is a condition of legitimate government goes like this. It is only when citizens get equal opportunities to air their views on a particular proposed law or policy that the losers in the debate would accept the outcome.

Okay, I just did absolutely no justice to his argument, and so I will copy and paste the relevant paragraphs from his article 'The Right to Ridicule':


Freedom of speech is not just a special and distinctive emblem of Western culture that might be generously abridged or qualified as a measure of respect for other cultures that reject it, the way a crescent or menorah might be added to a Christian religious display. Free speech is a condition of legitimate government. Laws and policies are not legitimate unless they have been adopted through a democratic process, and a process is not democratic if government has prevented anyone from expressing his convictions about what those laws and policies should be.

...

So in a democracy no one, however powerful or impotent, can have a right not to be insulted or offended. That principle is of particular importance in a nation that strives for racial and ethnic fairness. If weak or unpopular minorities wish to be protected from economic or legal discrimination by law—if they wish laws enacted that prohibit discrimination against them in employment, for instance—then they must be willing to tolerate whatever insults or ridicule people who oppose such legislation wish to offer to their fellow voters, because only a community that permits such insult as part of public debate may legitimately adopt such laws. If we expect bigots to accept the verdict of the majority once the majority has spoken, then we must permit them to express their bigotry in the process whose verdict we ask them to accept. Whatever multiculturalism means—whatever it means to call for increased “respect” for all citizens and groups—these virtues would be self-defeating if they were thought to justify official censorship.

source


I apologise for this cop-out, but I am sick of this entry and I am now more interested in working on my abs and burning calories, so I will end off with this: contrary to what the PAP appears to believe, fundamental liberties are neither Western nor a luxury.

I am so glad to be heading to the UK at the end of the month.