Unsurprisingly, the video on torture stood out to me:
This post, however, is not about torture, important as it is and as strongly as I feel about its immorality, brutality and illegality. This post is about the manner in which I was made aware of these two entertainment sources to which I had recourse tonight, out of what was mostly sheer boredom, and partly a latent, counter-intuitive desire to do something that reminded me of the person who facilitated my awareness of these two entertainment sources. G first told me about Black Books on National Day when we were drinking at Potato Head, and again last Thursday after my tearful departure when he texted me to say that he hoped I was feeling better, and to watch this British comedy series because it always cheered him up. He played me a John Oliver clip about New Zealand's proposal to change its national flag on Sunday when we were seated at the alfresco area of Starbucks, The Cathay.
This desire to do something that reminded me of him is counter-intuitive because the rational thing to do here is to avoid things that remind me of him, so that I can stop thinking about him and get a move on with my life. But I am mopey. I am faced with reminders of him almost everywhere - lunch with Ryan at Cluny Court, going up the escalator to Simply Bread just to find that it was under renovation again, and then going down the escalator and spotting that corner table in Da Paolo where we sat at the first time we met, and then avoiding it like the plague; brunch with junior college friends last Sunday at the Fullerton Bay Hotel, rushing down the OUE Link towards the hotel and then being smacked in the face with the sudden recollection that we were in that precise area on National Day; and places in Dhoby Ghaut, The Cathay, Starbucks (virtually any Starbucks, it seems, including those that we didn't patronise together). These reminders produce a feeling in me that I can only presently describe as 'sad'; for whatever reason, I seem to have lost my connection with words and language. This thing - this thing for which I have not a name - has shrunken my vocabulary; and so I continue to miss him with a destabilising incoherence and a bewildering sense of directionless that leaves me confused, sometimes in tears, and always with a longing that is almost unbearable.
I don't know what it is that I long for, exactly. The obvious answers are: to see him, to talk to him, to be with him. More than anything else, I miss talking to him. I miss having conversations with him, listening to his thoughts, trying to explain mine. I miss this aspect of our 'relationship' more than anything else, at least right now; and so in this limited sense, I long to talk to him and have intense cerebral conversations with him because that was what I liked about him in the first place.
But surely that's not the end of the inquiry. The next question to ask is: then what? The answer is also the main reason I told him that I was done with 'us', and probably also the reason he didn't want to commit. Then nothing, that's what. That's the exact intersection in which our lives will coincide. Our lives are two separate and distinct sets. What, then, am I longing for? It seems that I long for an impossibility; or at least, in less melodramatic terms, an improbability. This raises an entirely reasonable question of why would I do this? I should move along, get it on, because I'm tired of singing sad songs. And yet.
I revisited my supervisors' faculty pages and I was reminded that my main supervisor does a lot of work on the right to privacy. I almost emailed G to tell him this, but I don't even know. I can't even express or explain or comprehend the resistance in me to do something so simple, which should be without baggage, but I'm carrying all this baggage around like a turtle shell, and so I can't even do that.
I think I really and genuinely deeply regret saying what I said last Thursday. I leave open the possibility that it could've been for the best and I simply can't see that now because I can't see clearly at all through the fog of my stupid emotions; but then again, that's just a clumsy attempt at self-consolation, is it not? It's trying to use reason to rationalise out of an action and its consequences that simply feel wrong. It's also a clumsy attempt because the reverse can be easily said: it's also entirely possible that I made a really big mistake and I can't presently comprehend or appreciate the enormity of the mistake due to the imperfection of my knowledge.
Am I even still making sense? I shouldn't be making sense. My choppy writing is a reflection of the unruly incoherence of my thoughts and feelings. I don't know. I am annoyed that my period has not come. I know that a significant part of this angst is due to PMS; as such, I would like this PMS to end so that I can properly assess how I really feel and what I really think.
Does he miss me? Why hasn't he got in touch? Is he holding me to what I said? Has he moved on? Is he trying to forget? Has he forgotten? Does he still want me in his life like he said last week? Does he miss me? Why do I care, why do I continue to care? But I do. This is still raw. I feel his absence acutely. I miss the sound of his voice, his accent, his monologues. I miss everything about what we had. I wish we'd had more time. I wish I hadn't said what I said. I wish we'd properly discussed it. I wish I could stop thinking about him; I wish he were here, right now, next to me. I wish I could forget how I feel about him. I wish I were going to Cambridge tomorrow so that I could throw myself into my new life and this wouldn't matter anymore, or it would matter differently.
I wish I could talk to him.
I wish I could stop missing him.
I've exhausted myself on that topic so I'll make a move on.
General Election. Three things:
1. I thought about it further and I take back what I said in my previous entry about the election. Specifically, I take this back:
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.
If I do something on principle, I cannot make exceptions to it. That's the whole point of a principle, especially in contrast to rules. As such, I would like to retract the above and say that I would vote for Roy Ngerng and Gilbert Goh because I vote against the PAP on principle. This stance is supported by many reasons, none of which I will go into because I am tired.
2. I met a guy my age while volunteering with TWC2 last night. He was an NIE trainee who was there to fulfil some sort of community service thing. Inevitably we talked about the election and he said that he leaned towards the incumbent.
He sounded relatively intelligent and more or less educated (I make these qualifications for a terrible reason; the reason is the name of a country that starts with A and ends with a. Singaporeans should know what I'm talking about). He claimed to adopt a 'balanced' view of politics because he saw both the negative and positive sides of the different policies. This all sounded reasonable...until he got into the thick of why he'd probably vote for the PAP. He lives in a cushy condominium in Sixth Avenue, which is one of the more expensive estates in Singapore. He said that he doesn't receive any benefits because he doesn't live in public housing, which was fine by him, but he didn't see why the people that do receive benefits complain so much about the PAP government. He even said that they/we (I forgot which) should be 'grateful'.
I would've laid out everything that was wrong with what he said if we hadn't been interrupted by another volunteer who was taking down the details of a worker, who might've had an interesting story for me. At least I managed to squeeze out, 'I disagree that we should be grateful to the government for doing its job.'
The most disturbing part about this encounter was how calm he sounded. He wasn't one of those crazy pro-PAP type who make a lot of noise and sound utterly retarded. This guy sounded intelligent. He was well-spoken. He is training to be a teacher. Yet, he seemed to think that the people who complain about the PAP government have no right to complain because they receive benefits from the government. What kind of benefits, I asked him, because I genuinely have no idea. He said something about...I don't even remember what he said, but that is not the point. The point is this: it is a fact that there is substantial income inequality in Singapore. Even if it is true to some extent that there are people who complain for the sake of it and have no real grounds to complain, it doesn't mean that the social issues highlighted by some of opposition parties are groundless, or that people who receive benefits from the government shouldn't complain about not getting enough. It is also a fact that Singapore is one of the most expensive cities to live in, something that even I feel and I come from a slightly above average middle class family. He seems to come from a rich family, at least judging by where he lives, and so I don't see the basis on which he claims to know what those in the lower income group truly goes through. Are these benefits that they get adequate for them to get by? Then again, are our standards so low that we're satisfied when the poorer amongst us merely 'get by'?
This is my problem with the PAP government and people that support it without really thinking about it. First, this idea that we have to be grateful to the government for doing its job is absolute bullshit. Second, have we become so apathetic as a society that we don't seem to give a shit about who we leave behind? Have we taken the cue from the technocratic PAP government in this regard? For 50 years the PAP government has practically brainwashed the country into believing that economic growth is the most important thing, but is it really? I think that it is a false idol. Singapore is nothing without its people. The people should be at the forefront of any policy that promotes economic growth - it should be for the good of the people, not the country. The country is an artificial construct, but the people are not. The people are made up of real, living human beings, with their dreams and aspirations and struggles and worries. The government is here to serve us, the multitude of individuals and families, not the country. Therefore, if economic growth comes at the cost of widening income equality and further marginalisation of the most vulnerable in society, then it is too high a cost to pay, and the ruling government has to seriously reconsider what it's doing.
Another thing: this guy was a living, breathing example of the oppposition's populist rhetoric of 'those bloody foreigners taking our jobs'. He couldn't get a job in Singaporean hospitals because they were all taken by the Malaysians...and yet, he really said that he didn't know who to blame for it. What?! Was I asleep when someone OTHER than the PAP governed Singapore? There's being balanced and fair on the one hand, and then there's attributing fault where it REALLY lies on the other.
3. This may be my pessimism speaking, and I can't remember if I've already mentioned this, but I don't foresee seeing a change in government at all in my lifetime. I am only 29, mind, so that's a very, very long time of PAP rule. This thought depresses me so much that it makes me not want to be here. It means a lifetime of being ruled by a party whose values don't sync with mine, and whose values set the tone for the mainstream ideology of society. I want a government who treats everyone with equal concern and respect, not adopt an instrumentalist view of troublemakers, minority groups, and people like Amos Yee. I want a government who respects the inherent dignity of every single human being that it governs, and restricts the rights to which we are entitled only on the basis of good reasons and not because it said so. The PAP doesn't do any of these things. It doesn't seem to have any values except pragmatism and some superhuman devotion to economic growth - and I say this not as an insult or in a disparaging manner, but as a matter of observation. What are the values that guide its governance? It claims to be guided by Confucian/Asian values, but these values are conveniently invoked to justify restrictive practices and non-welfare policies (e.g. severe lack of welfare); I don't feel their relevance anywhere else. While I accept the possibility that I'm cognitively blind to manifestations of Asian/Confucian values (whatever they are) because of my heavy liberal bias, it is still an important question.
The Singapore Democratic Party is clearly guided by the right values. It cares about social justice, about the marginalised, about the poor and the elderly. This is why I am so desperate for the Holland-Bukit Timah to make it to Parliament; someone in there should represent at least some of the things that I stand for. Unfortunately, and contrary to Dr Chee's stated belief, rich people don't really give a fuck, do they? Even lawyers/law students have been poisoned against him by the PAP's portrayal of him as a lunatic. If one bothered to listen to his speeches, it's actually clear as fucking daylight that he's intelligent, articulate, and he has a massive, massive good heart. He is the kind of opposition MP that Singapore sorely needs, but alas, we get what we deserve, and we will probably continue to get what we deserve.
I don't know why I stay up writing these things. It's freaking past 2 am, I was tired the whole day, and now I feel like hell.
I can't wait to vote for an opposition party of which I know next to nothing, whose chairman or whatever is a bit of a clown. Welcome to democracy in Singapore!