Sunday, April 12, 2009

AWARE - Beware the Conspiracy of the Pun-damentalists

After reading various views (refer to links), I realise something evil, something insidious, is happening in our country. That is, Singaporeans are obsessed with cheap puns!

AWARE, beware, wary, unawares, etc. Come on! Yes, even I am guilty of it. The pun-damentalists have taken over and we are all part of it - linguistic pun-damentalism.

On a serious note, I am growingly wary (d'oh!) of the alleged hidden agenda here.

There will be lots of questions asked here, some have already been asked by other bloggers.

What's the religious organisation connection here? Is there one?

Are some of the newer members of AWARE related/connected to one another in any way other than being AWARE mates?

Is there an organised Christian alliance / Christian Right in Singapore? What's their agenda?

Who is behind this? Who is organising them? Who is funding them?

I hope bloggers will be careful and polite when addressing the issue. You will never know if there could be a reaction, and whistle-blowers might cry wolf on what they define as seditious speech. There has already been suggestions that might appear to villainise the alleged religious movement, and I wonder if these are enough to get the "guilty" folks charged.

If there is an organised Christian alliance/Right in Singapore, what is the government going to do about it? Of course, Parliament has over-representation of Christian folk.

There are also cheeky speculations (I shall use this term for the moment) that Law Society might be next.

If the conspiracy is real and true, there are many implications to consider. Sex education, abortion and queer integration are some of them. Under the banner and behind the veil of "Singaporean feminism", we might see subtle yet underhanded forms of proselytising, guilt-trapping and fear-mongering.

The whole AWARE issue might probably have little bearing for the most of us, because we are probably that apathetic. Your ordinary straight man may give two hoots about this, for instance. Moreover, we are in an economic downturn, so it is all about jobs. Most of us cannot multi-task, for as we speak the language of economic stability, we cannot speak the language of social harmony and human rights.

Still, there are enough flies on this piece of metaphorical garbage to make it more newsworthy. There are a significant number of people, in facebook, in blogs, in forums and in face-to-face interactions, who care about this to talk about it.

As a member of SinQSA, I am concerned about this from the position that the situation at AWARE (and whatever has been speculated) might have implications on our Singaporean idea of harmony, pluralism and equality in Singapore.

The queer movement has to first change its approach and don't play on the same field as the anti-gay folk. Anti-gay folk may polarise, but the queer movement should avoid biting the bait, and do the same polarising. They should instead create newer counter-discourses.

Language should change too. We should move from "gay is okay", to "queer is fine". Let us introduce "queer" to Singaporeans, because "queer" means much more than sexual identity, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender role. The idea of "queer" in Singapore is opened for us to mould it. "Queer" is not only about being different, it's about a collection of differences.

Back to AWARE, the only thing can that can put the whole thing to rest (or make things worse) is an independent investigation/inquiry into the whole thing.

1. Profile all the newer members - religious affiliation, organisations affiliations.
2. Find out the reason why these members join AWARE.
3. Establish if there are any extra-organisation relations between these members.

Of course, AWARE is not representative to begin with. Mainly Chinese, mainly middle (to upper) income, socio-economic status folk. But, (religious) ideology that stems from a person's religious profile/background poses a whole different problem/possibility.

It's a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" kind of scenario. On the one hand, attention will be turned to petty Christianity-bashers who have developed this paranoid series of overreactions to everything any Christian organisation/movement does. With less (critical) attention on the "fundies", people tend to depoliticise and naturalise their moral crusading. The bad guys are these Christian-bashers, so please jail them for sedition. On the other hand, if nothing is done, other religions/faiths, sexual minorities and affect groups will be marginalised, and we all will think that there is nothing wrong with the picture.

What's interesting is that, if there is a Christian Right/alliance here, nobody is open about it. It is secretive (if it exists). You can be a loud and proud Christian by faith, but less so a loud and proud Christian by organisation in Singapore. It is our diversity that prevents this coming out of the Christian closet for any possible right-wing Christian subject. Think about the reactions of other faiths, or the non-religious too. I wouldn't even dare imagine how that might piss off the Muslim community.

Even if there is a Christian infiltration/coup/invasion (although there already is since the 1980s, and it has created its own definition of "Asian values", "morality", "family values" and so on, for us to digest uncritically), there will be resistance to prevent it from growing, physically and institutionally. The government and various communities will see to that. The only thing they can do is influence ideologies, via conversion of course (by promoting Christianity as greater "truth", as a more rational religion, make it more appealing beyond the English speaking middle-class Chinese folk, and so on), and through policies/legislation. This is an indirect form of moralising, but effective. Instead of forming groups and waving placards, just pose as ordinary folk and ascend to positions of power and authority.

Maybe we are all too educated, too media savvy, that we are hallucinating from making all these connections and speculations, weaving a nice tale to distract ourselves from the bad economic situation?

Maybe there is really a conspiracy, lucky enough to be timed with the downtown, so people might think the speculators and suspicion are just mere overreactions?

Well, too good to be true, I say. But what if this is really, indeed, "too good"? (yes I am speculating)

If the abovementioned questions (related to the suggested investigation) can be answered, the speculation will end and we all will know well enough to take the necessary action. In the mean time, can we have better, more creative puns?


mathialee said...

Many people have been voicing their concern about the impact of the new exco on AWARE’s existing programmes, especially where things like Sexuality are concerned.

For those of you who have been following my blog, you will have noticed I’m very active in this programme, and so is Caris Lim, one of the old-timers who was re-elected.

I will assure everyone, that as long as I am involved, I will always make sure that only secular, responsible and non-discriminatory messages are being put across.

I sincerely hope that supporters of secular, responsible and non-discriminatory education of any subject, will continue to support AWARE, and to let others know that we are still committed to this vision. There are many people who might not be in the exco, but we are the ones making sure this programme works and that it is being carried out. We do face prejudice from the conservative factions of society, and we hope that the enlightened people will continue to support us, instead of simply writing us off, because they have been scared off by an ST report about an unusal AGM outcome.

If we lose your support, then perhaps, what the ST report would have achieved, is the damaging of the credibility and effectiveness of AWARE, more than anything itself. In Singapore, platforms for non-governmental alternative voices are few and far between, and we need united support from all who share the same philosophy, in order to speak with a louder voice.


Sam Ho said...

reproduced from the other article:

hi mathia, thanks very much.

people need to know there ultimately is still blood and sweat in every AWARE effort.

it is never easy to be part of any organisation/team, because you will always be sandwiched between conflicting interests.

it is also odd that a lot of attention is focused on the alleged "anti-gay" faction of AWARE, more attention than say, AWARE having a more than proportionate participation/representation of ethnic Chinese, English-educated, middle-to-upper class folks.

whatever good intentions and equality/awareness objectives AWARE has, the politics may bear some imprints of the identities and backgrounds (and interests) of the members.

inevitably, gender equality encompasses queer (and trans) equality/integration. and that will always be on my agenda, as well as SinQSA's and other queer-interest groups.

the straits times article is doing its own politics. i agree that it is not helping AWARE's image, and perhaps the reporter is queer-friendly/affirmative/supportive.

i still agree with AWARE's vision as a layperson, and many people do. AWARE may have formal campaigns and programmes, but there are ordinary people like myself who go about our daily lives (in)directly spreading the same vision we share.

thanks again.