Sunday, November 4, 2007

Straight Thoughts on 377A (part 5)

Straight Thoughts on 377A: Rights

I am now doing a term paper on the theoretical analysis of the distribution of knowledge in society. Well, think of it as knowledge as a resource. Some people have more, some people have less. This depends on access to resources, as well as the centralised distribution system, which is governed by an authority acting on behalf of the diverse and conflicting interests that exist in society.

There are different modes of distribution, such as the utilitarian mode and egalitarian mode of distribution. One writer, by the name of Don Fallis, uses the epistemic value theory to discern the most/more epistemically ideal mode of knowledge distribution. Theoretically, everyone having all knowledge is the most ideal outcome. Unfortunately, that is impossible.

The utilitarian distribution strives to maximise the average amount of knowledge in society, but some people will be required to know very little for this to happen. The egalitarian distribution strives to eliminate any divide, wherein everyone will possess the same amount of knowledge, but some people will end up having lesser knowledge than they could have had.

Fallis proposes the Rawlsian distribution, where inequalities are tolerated so long as it is to the advantage of the least well-off.

Now, let us talk about the distribution of rights. When it comes to having rights, us straight folk have all the rights accorded to us, so long as we abide by the law. Sexual minorities on the other hand, may have the right to live, breathe and patronise the same yong tao foo stall as most of us, but do not have the same right to private and consensual sex. Are they underprivileged?

Yes. They are impoverished of the rights that we straight people are accorded. They are born with the same rights as us, but as they grow up and develop a sexual identity, manifesting in consensual social relationships with which the straight majority is often uncomfortable, some rights are taken away from them.

You can grow up and adopt a religious identity, your rights will still be same, no more, no less. Of course, our government is extremely cautious with religious institutions, because socio-religious integration and harmony is one determiner of peace and progress in our society. In that sense, having a religious identity may allow you to have ‘more’ rights than others, perhaps not on paper, but in practice.

The law of land strives to treat every Singaporean as equal, tending towards an egalitarian distribution of rights. Section 377A of the penal code is inconsistent with this.

What is contributing to the unnatural longevity of 377A is, as I have been arguing, the perception of homosexuality and its conflation into other social undesirables such as crime, sexual perversion, drugs, paedophelia, disease, moral and religious corruption, Western and liberalist decadence. Invisibilised are the healthy monogamous gay couples, celibate gay persons, working class and non-English-speaking sexual minorities, ordinary people, simply because there are influential gay-hating educated elite and opinion leaders in our society who are against the visibilisation of these ordinary people. They use the language of “mainstreaming/endorsing alternative lifestyles”, fearing the normalising and integration of the gay identity in our society.

Ideology is equally as empowering as it is crippling. You are crippled by guilt when you consider trying to be empathetic towards sexual minorities, because the ideology to which you subscribe does not permit you think so. This is even worse for sexual minorities stuck within particularly crippling ideologies, cultural or religious. They experience identity dissonance. How can they reconcile their identity?

The use of guilt is a very powerful way to discipline individuals and persons into becoming a people and a community. Ideology champions homogeneity as a viable mode of contribution to the development of society. What can’t heterogeneity and diversity contribute? Is diversity not worthy of contributing to the success, progress, peace and happiness in Singaporean society?

A worse aspect of ideology I observe is the wrong use of guilt, signified by its absence in the process of thinking and manifesting expressions of hate. You internalise and express hate, without feeling guilty. That is the monster ideology can turn you into.

Minorities exist, because we created them, through social and institutional mechanisms of labelling and control; because we failed to integrate them.

Macroscopically, a place like Singapore is an arena of ideologies, battling for dominance and superiority. The most dominant groups will decide what is best for the nation, and this will be reflected in the laws of the land. Their ideologies may or may not synthesize, but will contribute to how we feel and not feel guilt in making certain decisions and expressions.

This problem can be addressed with fairer representation of and for sexual minorities. Sexual minorities in Singapore, as such, deserve equal rights before they can be fairly represented. Representation in Singapore is not only about interests, but identity too, for interest and identity are often not symbiotically and homogenously affiliated.


KT said...

Hi Sam,

I've been following your "Straight Thoughts on 377A" series and I must say that I'm very impressed and touched by you.

As an open homosexual, I need to express my gatitude to you, one who supports our cause with such conviction.

It is actually quite a shame that I haven't been active enough throughout this round of the 377A debate but it is indeed heartwarming to see straight people standing up and fighting for us.

Although the parliament was a gross disappointment this time, I believe that one day, Singaporeans will start to see logic and understand what "equality" should mean. I'm glad that we homosexuals are not alone in this fight, but there are others who're concerned enough to voice our concerns along with us.

My heartfelt thanks to you.


Raymond said...

Dear Sam,

I very much enjoy reading your thoughtful, well written posts. If there are more Singaporeans like yourself out there, who are rational, sensible and with a good measure of empathy and heart, I think there is hope yet for our society to be truly modern and progressive one day.

Do keep thinking about issues and writing about them.

Regards and best wishes,


Sam Ho said...

thanks for the encouragement. i am in the long process of finding myself any way. so the change will first come from within before any external changes can occur. we all should speak up, not speak against.