I would have bought it if I had enough cash on me or if they'd accepted NETS, which is of course completely illogical. So I said, "I don't have enough in cash. How long would you be here?" The Indian man told me that they'd be there next week, or the next day at Centrepoint. I said, "Okay", smiled and walked off.
Fast forward to today. An hour ago. Reading Alfian Sa'at's diaryland. An entry on censorship in which he talked about a film made by lecturers from Ngee Ann Polytechnic on Mr. Jeyaratnam that was scheduled to screen at one of the Singapore International Film Festivals but was pulled out eventually after the film-makers were told that they could be sued under some Act or other. It wasn't news to me; I've read about that earlier in one of my idle Google searches. But I read on and looked at the accompanying picture and to my surprise I found myself looking at the Indian man I talked to at Raffles City last Monday.
Oh, my, god, that was Mr. Jeyaratnam and I had no idea. Oh shit, really, just shit and everything. I thought he was some random Indian man selling JBJ's book to support his cause. And I was even thinking to myself, "This man speaks impeccable, flawless English, tinged with a slight accent."
Something in me almost connected the dots, but something else, more powerful, in me dismissed it. I would've said so much more, told him a lot more, told him that I'm a first year law student and I admire what he did, that we read about the abolishment of appeals to the Privy Council in SLS and how the uncanny coincidence of that with LKY's libel suit(s) against him smelled fishier than the dead-est and most rotten fish ever, that reading about him made me feel good about being in Law or at least less pessimistic, how we need some real and formidable opposition presence in the political arena, the sorry state of freedom of speech in this country, so many things and I'd just go on and on on the presumption that he'd even give a toss about what I have to say.
If only I'd known.
It's quite sad, really, the gross extent of political apathy amongst the general populace in this country. We've been so brainwashed by the ruling party that we're quite inclined to think that opposition = communist - which is as far from the truth as Pluto is from Earth. First of all, a Tamil Christian communist doesn't make sense. Second of all, communism is more or less dead and thus it makes even less sense for a reasonable opposition party to wield it as a sword in order to gain some influence in the political arena.
But the larger implication of this is that I won't be surprised if Singapore reached its apex somewhere within the next ten years and then start to decline. The people who matter in a society are those who actively seek changes, not a herd of sheep that does whatever the government tells them to. You need thinking individuals to create a formidable society that would withstand the tests and storms of time and go down in history as a people that mattered in the grander scheme of things. We tend to pat ourselves on the backs for coming this far "as a nation" but we also tend to forget that unlike societies in the USA, in the UK, France Germany China Japan even Taiwan, we're still an extremely young country and the things that we know now are actually mere broadcasting of seeds in just-fertilised soil. Nothing has really taken root, and the most dangerous thing about suffering from an identity crisis is when you don't know it yourself.
The way the government stifles opposition leaders and uses the judiciary to drive them out of the political arena would, I think, do more harm than good in the long run. It may seem like the most logical thing to do now in terms of holding on to power; but effectively you're endorsing only a select group of elite to be in the government and chasing away the brightest bulbs in our society (many exiled/bankrupted opposition leaders are senior lawyers, JBJ included), hence prodding society towards stagnation in the long run. Suppose that the PAP stays in power forever and ever, and that the opposition never comes up with a significant presence to challenge the rule of the PAP. On the surface it seems all fine and dandy: what's wrong with that scenario, asks the average Singaporean (except, he doesn't say 'what's wrong with this scenario'; he says, "Liddat bad meh?"), the PAP has proven itself to be an effective government, it has helped fuel economic progess and it is all thanks to the PAP that Singapore is where it is today.
I don't refute that the PAP has done many things that have helped the country progress and grow. But the point here is, the more you try to stifle a society to develop its political awareness, the further you'd drift from achieving your goal of turning this country into a world class city (for the record I'd like to say that I hate how the phrase 'world class' has been used ad nauseum so that it sounds very corny now). The people make up a state, a society, a city, a nation; without a people that's constantly on their feet and politically engaged, you're left with little else but apathy en masse, a people who don't think deeply, a people that doesn't know what it wants, who it is, where it's going, where it came from. You vote the PAP but why do you vote the PAP? Because everyone else is doing it? Because the PAP told you to? Because there's no one else to vote for? Because you think that opposition rule would lead to Singapore's downfall (but how can you think this if there is hardly any concrete evidence to suggest that)? Because the PAP had been in power since 1965 (1959 if you count its first electoral landslide victory) and thus it must be the best form of government?
What is the difference between Singapore and other great cities of the world, like New York London Paris, especially New York, heck even Taipei? We have the same MNCs they have, the same skyscrapers and we even have better road infrastructure and more presentable buildings, we're a lot cleaner and our alleys don't smell like dog shit in cold weather. What is it about those cities that eclipse whatever little greatness we may think we have achieved? Surely the answer lies in their political activism and our lack of political activism. Or, let's cast our net wider and award it to their willingness to think and our willingness to nod and do little else. Whatever the government says must be right, even if the government is clearly in the wrong we don't do anything because it is the government and so defying the government is like defying god, and anyway we don't want to end up bankrupt like Mr. JBJ or exiled like Tang Liang Hong (calling someone who speaks Malay and Tamil fluently a 'Chinese chauvinist' really doesn't make sense and that should be obvious to the most stupid individual in the world). So what do we do? We vote for the same party whenever the elections roll around without considering other alternatives, we shuffle along and care only about our insignificant lives, we bitch about some government policies within the four walls of our own homes but what good is bitching privately when it won't ignite any potential for changes?
Of course, you don't oppose the government for the sake of opposing the government; all I'm saying is we should have the basic amenity to think and make informed, educated decisions for ourselves, not pseudo-decisions instigated by pro-government propaganda. A society that doesn't think is doomed from its very inception; a society that is encouraged by its repressive laws not to think will only stagnate. I applaud the six people who attempted to demonstrate against the Iraq War who were eventually arrested and I have nothing but disdain for those who thought that what they did was stupid. Why is it stupid to stand up for what you believe in? Why are opposition voices immediately labelled 'irrational' or unworthy of attention?
I do believe that it is the No-Man (as opposed to the Yes-Man or the sheep) that would provide the engines for growth of our society, prod it along the direction of bustling and culturally-vibrant cities. At the risk of sounding arrogant or snobbish or elitist or rude (and yes, I know I'm all of those things), the sheep are the dispensable ones and really, we could do without them and proliferate intelligence and critical thinking by letting only the cream of the crop pro-create.
I realise how Nazi-ish that sounded. And I realise too that I've digressed quite a bit. But just in case my point was lost, what I'm trying to say is, the more the government tries to oppress the voice of the opposition and the people's ability to think (assuming everyone has that ability which I highly doubt), the more likely it is that we'd always remain Singapore as we know it, and Singapore as we know it is nowhere near the greatness of aforementioned cities - which is apparently the government's new goal.
Oh, I don't know. My parents told me not to write about politics but hey, who's gonna read this humble online diary of mine and sue me for defamation, right? I think that's something I may have to worry about in the future, not right now.
2.47 a.m. I intended to do my Contract essay but Sunday has come and gone and all I've produced is one introductory, red-herring-esque sentence that does not remotely address the question.
I'm supposed to consider the significance of the Williams v. R&N case; can't remember the full name but it's got something to do with contractors and variating an existing contract, as well as something to do with consideration. I can't even remember what the hell the holding was.
Um, yes. The essay is due on Thursday. I am so dead. I haven't properly studied for Wednesday's Torts test. I am even more dead. I told myself to organise my notes so that they'd be useful in the test but I haven't got round to doing that either.
And so the academic suicide continues.
I also wanted to say something about racism in Singapore but that few paragraphs on political apathy in Singapore took longer than expected, so I shall say (write, type) a few brief words on it before I go to bed and hell I need to go to bed soon.
I read Alfian's prose on racism and what he wrote about was so true. It jolted something in me when I read this: "And yet, of late, I have the feeling that a lot of the things I'm saying, a lot of this talk about alienation and marginalisation, only feeds subconsciously into [the majority's] sense of how fortunate they are to be born into the status quo."
I raise my hand in guilt, except it's not really as much about feeling fortunate as it is about feeling smug - which is even worse, if you want my honest opinion.
I have a grand total of one non-Chinese friend, and that's Khai. Sometimes I even forget that she's Malay, not because I'm so multiracial, but because of the accent she has and the way that she writes which isn't typically Malay - and this is, in itself, exceedingly racist, isn't it? I don't know when I became racist, and I won't even salvage my credibility by saying 'slightly racist', because you're either racist or you're not. There's no grey area when it comes to racism, no such thing as rating your degree of racism on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being slightly racist and 10 being extremely racist. What's the difference? It's the same difference: 1 being, you see a non-Chinese and you walk in the different direction; and 10 being, you see a non-Chinese and you hurl racist slurs at him. What's the difference again?
And then there are things which I won't publicly admit to, because I'm ashamed of them and I truly want to think that I'm an open-minded, all-embracing person...but I guess I'm not. And so reading Alfian's prose (which I found here) was a definite eye-opener.
I would say something about the amazing power of words, when used effectively, to touch people and give them long-awaited reality checks but that would only serve to undermine my confession to my racism subscription.
I'll look on the bright side. Admittance is the first step to cure. Public confession is the second step to cure. Time to stop deluding myself.
Time to sleep with these happy thoughts and wonderful self-revelations in mind.