Wednesday, October 8, 2008

We the suckers: Inspired by the fag and the pad

In a moment (of madness or assholicism) (and moments like that come very often) (wow, 3 parenthesised statements in a row! Is that permissible?), I wrote in someone's blog, somewhere along the lines of , "In Singapore, we suck either one of two things: The thumb on our hand, or the appendage of the establishment."

Of course, there are many figurative forms of sucking that we do throughout our lives, but I have chosen two prominent ones that are relevant to my experiences.

And it is the two (sucking thumbs and sucking phallic appendages) that are probably the source of frustration for many of us.

For the uninitiated, to suck one's thumb refers to one's eventual state of helplessness, loss of autonomy, to have a defeated (not defeatist) attitude, a position of non-actionability, resignation to the nature/circumstance of the situation.

To "suck cock" is to pander to someone (usually the owner of the "cock"), patronise, praise, submit to, be subjected to, often times the soft-soaper, apple-polisher, so as not to cause conflicts between the sucker and the receiver.

It is not surprising the crude and androcentric terms have their roots in the Chinese dialect, as how we understand them. Of course, "suck cock" is also understood in the same way in some Western cultures.

Post-industrial capitalism has led to complex levels of alienation, resulting in a culture of figurative fellatio (please don't cite me on that).

Agrarian societies, mostly micro-economically self-subsistence, have at the most a barter trade market. Now, with higher and more specialised divisions of (skilled) labour, and the condition we are so acquainted with that is bureaucracy, there is a market for "cock"-sucking.

There are high-level and low-level "cock"-sucking. For example, a high-level grassroots representative might execute some "cock"-sucking manoeuvres on the member of parliament in some meeting, for the sake of pursuing an agenda (either for him/herself or for the community).

That is not to say that the highest level of rulers/politicians are always on the receiving end of the conceptual cock-sucking. They too, suck as hard and as many, as the lower-level people. In thanking and giving credit to the masses, they renew their mandate and leadership, as they renew their acquaintance with the phallus. In the end, we see an exchange of "cock"-sucking.

"Thumb"-sucking on the other hand, while being the metaphorical cousin of the activity most toddlers are engaged with, is more of a reaction. However, it is often a reaction that yields no returns in the end. Thus, "thumb"-sucking is waste.

As children, we derive a sense of comfort and satisfaction when we suck our thumbs. But when we suck our "thumbs" in adulthood, we do it for consolation, often out of exasperation and fatigue.

The child sucking his/her thumb is the subject in the process of socialisation, while the adult "thumb"-sucker is the socialised subject. It is more of a natural and primal reflex for child thumb-sucking, but it is a social and ritualistic process (at times in the context of an urban and bureaucratic environment) for the adult "thumb"-sucker.

In being socialised and institutionalised, the child transits from a state of sub/un-conscious thumb-sucking, to a conscious, social and reflexive state of "thumb"-sucking. Also marked is the transition from a emotional and physiological means to gratification, independent of social structure, to a rational and social means to gratification/consolation. "Thumb"-sucking is thus functional to the larger social and political structure.

"Thumb"-sucking is indicative of the loss of agency. In sucking the "thumb", one has withdrawn his/her participation in the decision/policy-making processes of the establishment, letting it continue to reproduce itself and its ideology.

Philosophically speaking, sometimes "cock"-sucking is "thumb"-sucking, although "thumb"-sucking is no necessarily "cock"-sucking. A general submission to structure informs of both processes. Sometimes, both serve the purpose of sustaining the progress of an individual whose morale and sense of self-worth are dependent on the structure.

Enough of the concepts. I have to give some spotlight to the empirics.

As I cleaned my new flat today, I realised my upstairs neighbour had hung his/her wet clothes to drip dry, making it rather inconvenient for the neighbours below to dry their clothes.

I have also suspected that it could be the same neighbour who has rained blessings of cigarettes, a styrofoam food box and a used sanitary pad (now I know the meaning of heavy flow days) onto my air-conditioning compressor and the small ledge on which its brackets are fastened.

Perhaps my neighbour is the anti-social menstruating smoker who eats take-aways and handwashes his/her clothes. Of course, there could be many people living under one roof, because there is an assortment of clothes (children, adult, male and female) hung out to dry from above my unit.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) sent a representative today to inspect the house and surroundings for mosquito-friendly breeding grounds. I asked her what I could do about neighbours who shower us with cigarettes and sanitary pads. She told me to call the NEA hotline and also inform the town council. These are good ways to use the thumb (to dial the numbers, although I only use my thumb for dialing numbers "1", "4" and "7" on my fixed-line phone; we all use our thumbs to dial on our mobiles, don't we?), rather than sucking on it.

At the same time, she told me that the upstairs neighbour had refused to let her into the house to inspect.

"Aiyah, these people are uneducated one", she remarked. I could see her putting her own thumb into her mouth, in my mind of course.

What can I do about such neighbours any way?

They will not like it if I threw cigarettes and sanitary pads down on them, although I neither smoke nor menstruate.

It is also anti-social to an extent if we went "vigilante" on them, and do the following:
1) Take pictures/videos for evidence.
2) Collect the items in a zip-lock bag or box, and go upstairs and ask them if they have dropped these items.
3) Collect the items, and leave them at the neighbour's doorstep (but it could be the wrong neighbour though).

What can we do? Learn from Everitt Road?

At the moment, we have collected pictures. Although the sanitary pad one came on the day we did not have a camera with us. We are engaged in arbitrary acts (photography) just because of destructively anti-social acts. The kind of anti-social act I appreciate is the "you leave me alone, I leave you alone" one.

On the domestic front, I'm inclined to sucking my "thumb". Outside the home, and for the sake of earning some money, I have to suck some "cock".

I long for a life where one can be free from "thumbs" and "cocks". But social relations are as such that the sucking of "thumbs" and "cocks" are important processes.

The experience of living in our new home is, to an extent, at the mercy of our neighbours. We may have upgraded our flats (although the opposition wards might find that ironic), but we have not upgraded our attitudes.

In order to make peace, I am presented with two options: Suck my "thumb", or suck my neighbour's "cock". Perhaps, due to disempowerment at various levels, my neighbour has found autonomy in the form of unchallenged anti-social activities, such that others are compelled to do the sucking.

At the level of the establishment and formal institutions, their "thumb"-sucking often times inspire people to take matters into their own hands.

"Sorry, this is a minor case." "Sorry, not our jurisdiction." "Sorry, we don't handle this." "Non-seizeable offence!"

Recipients of such responses often juggle with the thought of taking justice into their own hands, or simple take their hand and suck their "thumb". In Singapore, some random person can punch you in the face and can get away with it. A crazy auntie (not related) can hit you with various weapons, but if you floor her with a clothesline or shoved your thumb into her eye (forms of self-defence) to subdue her, you could be in greater trouble than her. I'll probably talk more about self-defence next time.

On the one hand, we are given "thumb"-sucker responses, on the other, we are told to refrain from taking the law into our hands (I think about doing that all the time any way). It ultimately leads to a society of "thumb"-suckers. And in a society of "thumb"-suckers, one increases one's chance of being socially mobile (upwards of course) by engaging in "cock"-sucking.

"Hi, I think your under-aged son is smoking today."
"Hi, your wife is still menstruating!"
"Hi, I guess you were too tired to cook today. Is the economy rice stall good?"
"Hi, how big is the basin you use to handwash your clothes?"
"I'm glad you're kicking the habit, because you've thrown the cigarette box out the window too."

And I just thought of a song in the tune of "My Name Is Luka".

Hi, my name is Sam Ho. (one half of the ang mo pai newly-weds)
I live on the "di4 san1" floor.
I live downstairs from you.
I don't think you've seen me before.

If you smoke something late at night.
Some kind of Marlboro you had to light.
Just don't throw it on my 'con. (air-con)
Just don't throw it on my 'con.
Just don't throw it on my 'con.

I think it's because I'm angry.
I try not to talk too loud.
The pad is sanitary!
It fucking doesn't float like clouds!

What you have done just make me cry,
That you are an eff-ing chao chee bye! (a mean-spirited piece of female genitalia)
Just don't throw it on my 'con.
Just don't throw it on my 'con.
Just don't throw it on my 'con.

Yes I'll call N E A. (National Environment Agency)
T C, N P P again. (Town Council & Neighbourhood Police Post)
I'll repeat what I would say.
It's bureaucracy any way.

I guess it's better you live alone.
And cluster-fuck with what you've thrown.
Just don't throw it on my 'con.
Just don't throw it on my 'con.
Just don't throw it on my 'con.


Weiye said...


This is Weiye, NM Year 3.5 student. Saw you at the hons thesis talk recently and happened to see your blog link from Anj's blog (what a small world).

Oh. Your hons thesis is with me 'cause I read it to see if it's relevant to my thesis. Haha. Random. Nvm.

Sam Ho said...

hi weiye,
yes small world. and even smaller when you've a kaypoh like me lurking around.

what's your thesis topic on and who's your supervisor? writing a humanities or social science paper?

Weiye said...

Thesis topic seems to be constantly changing for me now. I started off with the topic of feminism and Christianity, how female Christians come to term with their conflicting identities through the use of Internet.

So I started reading up on feminism, and then it becomes the issue of the representation of feminism in MSM vis-a-vis new media. That's the topic for now I guess.

Supervisor is Dr Ingrid, too! She challenges my mind. I'm trying to write a humanities paper (or it seems to be going this way). But it's a little scary when I'm not required to "go out and collect data". This is something I'm not used to.

Yeah. I like to blog surf. hahaha.

Sam Ho said...

ah yes, i see.

i hate collecting data too, because 1, i don't like to deal with people and 2, there's the ethics review board to contend with.

you could also engage the graduate students, because we look forward to learning from you guys too.

you could always do a hybrid paper, where you collect data (using social science methodology) and engage in a discursive analysis of the data. that's what i did for my thesis, and it paid off, but it could have been better.

i'm a bit intimidated by "feminism" because there are many subgroups and differential views that make up it. so it can be problematic when you go into the topic without acknowledging the historical development and the factions of feminism.

there will still be "data", because you still have content to look at.

if you need help or want to discuss the topic, i'll be around any way. just drop me an email. all the best.

Weiye said...

Hey. Thanks for offering help. =) Don't worry. I'll definitely look for you when I need help.