Monday, August 31, 2009

The Low Blow on Ris: It is trendy not to give credit to others

Amazing. I mean. Outstanding.

Ris Low has drawn flak and harsh criticism in cyberspace for her poor diction, basically her poor English. Since the YouTube video has been taken down, you can give SPH's RazorTV the visits they need at http://www.razor.tv/site/servlet/segment/main/lifestyle/32776.html. If you're not too visual a person, you may want to check out The New Paper's report.

Firstly, I would like to say that when people (this time, a large number of people) start criticising, they reveal more about themselves rather than the person they are criticising.

What is revealed is our bias towards a certain kind of representation/ambassador of Singapore. Yes, we do not like Singaporeans with apparently broken English to carry our flag. We want women with education, or a certain class (in almost every sense), to represent our nation.

But the reality is, in doing so, we further invisibilise other segments of the community, who may not have the upbringing or opportunities that endow them with good English.

It is obvious to me that the English language may not be the primary language of Ris Low. There are many Singaporeans whose primary (and comfortable) language isn't English. Why should we be ashamed of this? Is there anything wrong with this?

Why should our local pageant winners speak fluent English when they could speak better in another language? Maybe their ideas and messages would not become diluted or distorted by their otherwise limited vocabulary and/or poor diction.

Ris Low could have done the interview in another language, but at least she is the one who is trying.

Singaporeans, so disempowered and generally impotent in many areas, are just too quick to deny credit to people who try.

I get mocked for speaking poor and broken Mandarin, but I still try. And recently, I tried speaking Mandarin to a taxi driver, who told me to continue speaking Mandarin and "heck care" people who react in a mocking way to me.

Others: Sam, you're Chinese. Why don't you speak Chinese?
Sam: (It's Mandarin, fuckwit) Ke yi. Wo .... bla bla bla bla Mandarin stuff....
Others: Ok. I think you better don't speak Chinese. Ha ha.

Whether this is said trivially or seriously, it reveals how trendy it is not to give credit to fellow Singaporeans.

As reported in The New Paper, one interviewee asked critics to put their money where they mouth is: Join a pageant and see for yourself.

I share that sentiment, but feel that is a little unfair, considering everyone has different talents and comforts.

I can say that doing interviews require some degree of experience and PR savvy. I do feel nervous when I am interviewed by the press. Sometimes, simple questions become tough questions, and other times, I distort my intended message with some fluffs. People do that. It is very much similar to unscripted public speaking, or scripted public speaking and presentations.

What is more important is how the criticism reveals our society and the people we are.

We are apparently ashamed of other breeds of Singaporeans. We want to dust the broken English-speaking folks under the carpet. We want a quarter Chinese, quarter Malay, quarter Indian, quarter Eurasian girl to represent us, not some alleged "Ah Lian". Why? Because we are uncomfortable with what we see are the "imperfections" of our society - apparent "Ah Lian" subculture/aesthetics, poor English and all that.

So what if her pronunciation is atrocious and comical? There are so many Singaporeans who speak like that too - pronouncing "fifteen" as "feev-tin": "EE"s are not stressed, "k"s become "g"s, "r"s become "l"s. So what? These reflect their position and socialisation, and why are the rest of us ashamed of it?

It is not as if they are lying, preaching hate, or revealing how evil they are.

I used to be critical of Singaporean representatives, asking "How the fuck these guys/girls get to represent Singapore?"

But now, I ask myself the standards and criteria I use to determine what is right. And I realise how my prejudices, both personal as well as informed by socialisation, play a huge role in how I think.

Sure, a woman like Ris Low is definitely not aesthetically appealing to me, not because she is ugly, but that judgement is due to individual taste. I realise, perhaps given my exposure to media and socialisation into various English-speaking Singaporean (sub)cultures, that Ris Low will fall outside what I like as a woman, and national representative. There is a cultural and social class dimension to all these, but of course, people do not like to self-interrogate, and that is why we probably have religion.

Yes, I support Ris Low, not because of Ris Low, but because the criticism is stupid and reveals how stupid and insecure we all are. Maybe Ris Low is the unintended performance artist who draws out reactions from all of us to reveal the condition of our society and psyche.


(picture from Lancerlord.blogspot.com)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Louis Theroux: The Most Hated Family in America



Maybe this goes on in some Singaporean homes...

NAH! We're not that MILD!

-add- For extra reads, check out http://www.godhatesfags.com.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Straits Times is George Lim Heng Chye!!!

And possibly, SPH is George Lim Heng Chye!!!

Watching WWF (World Wrestling Federation) and WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), wrestler Chris Jericho, before becoming the first ever undisputed World Heavyweight Champion, once re-christened popular weekly show Monday Night Raw's slogan "Raw is War" to "Raw is Jericho".

The "Millennium Man", now enjoying his second stint at the global brand, has undergone an interesting character development, that sees him playing the 'heel', or professional wrestling's bad guy.

Part of his on-screen character is this bitter soul who incessantly drones on about how he is going to save the WWE and probably the world. It is definitely biblical in a way, considering this is his "second coming".

Although Chris Jericho can play the ultimate bad guy, he will always have tons of fans and admirers - people who respect his talent, his wrestling, his mic skills and of course his acting.

And now we come to George Lim Heng Chye. Although George Lim can play the ultimate good guy, he will always have tons of detractors and many folks who are inclined to laughing at him rather than with him.

In his latest article, he feeds on the souls and bodies of youths and calls on them to adopt his moral agenda, while passing them off for universal values.

"George Lim hungrrrrrry... George Lim feeeeeed..."

I guess the taut and nubile bodies of young folks are more appealing for him. Reminds me of another Straits Times article today (Saturday) on the criminal Alan Tan, who is described as an internet sex predator. I somehow feel sorry for him, because he is used as an excuse for how horrible our society is. He may be incarcerated, but there will always be "greedy bitches" roaming freely, waiting to exploit their statuses as minors and getting away with it.

Not bad for George Lim, reminds me of the charismatic and influential character that the Secret Bible episode on National Geographic described last night (Friday). You know, the one they call the 'Beast', whose number is 666, which historians/scholars have found to be a numerical code (in Hebrew) for a really badass Roman emperor Nero. Although he is probably not, he reminds me of the antichrist character, which is describe as mobilising people to do his bidding. Crazy exegesis, but if everyone is doing it, I guess it's ok.

If there is the metaphorical biblical antichrist, this person is definitely the "antichrist" to non-religionists and atheists, suffocating society with historical and political leverage. Just because religion is given protection in Singapore, it does not mean that people without specific faiths or subscriptions to recognised religions deserve no protection.

Having a religion does not make you superior, more learned, wiser or less of a sinner (even if you judged the world according to your religion's definition and checklist of 'sin')

Having a religion does not give you one extra reason for feeling offended.

I feel religion (not faith) is dangerous, because it gives people one extra reason to die for. Some say martyr, some say terrorist, some say noble, some say evil.

Like priests who sexually fondle their young, like conservative politicians who discreetly go about their homosexual soliciting, life is fraught with ironies. A keenly conservative and ultra self-righteous individual like George Lim, who outed his family (wife and four children) as heterosexual in 2003 in the very same Straits Times forum he so frequents today like a voyeur at a peepshow, will only provide us the largest ironies in life should they come to light.

Like widespread suspicion of a raging homosexuality within him, these ironies, paradoxes and contradictions are only waiting to be found, expecting to be discovered as the antitheses that balance out the persona with which we have grown so fond.

Truly a mysterious person that continues to drive up the waning readership of the Straits Times, the one and only George Lim Heng Chye needs the Straits Times as much as the Straits Times needs him. One needs to be heard and the other needs to be read. George Lim letters provide the necessary flame-bait and discussion that will stimulate sufficient interest and participation in certain sections of the Straits Times. They combine together, their respective agenda penetrating their respective orifices in a complete business-like, yet 69-like, coitus. And this sex is anonymous as I believe George Lim and the forum editor continue to remain strangers despite their many tangos together.

That is the beauty of paradoxes and balances in this world. And interestingly, I admit I have a fascination with George. I can't quit him. He is probably the reason why the forum section will always remain the second part of the newspaper I will turn to after reading the sports section. He is the reason why I am continuing to blog even though I said in my previous entry that I will be taking a break and blogging less frequently. I want to meet him and hear from him his personal views of the world and his faith, and if I get that chance, I will reproduce it here.

His letter is reproduced below:

Kudos to young crusaders with civic spirit

I was heartened to read of selfless Singaporean youths in last week's Saturday Special report ('Young crusaders'). I think such positive civic consciousness is a result of responsible parenting.

A key concern for Singapore revolves around human relationships. To measure our progress as a civilised people, we should examine the quality of relationships among kith and kin, child and parent, citizens and the Government.

A civic society is one that cares for the common good and naturally looks after the less fortunate.

Our youth should also promote social values by:

# Upholding traditional family values such as marital fidelity and the virtues of sex within the boundaries of marriage;

# Honouring one another, elders, spouses, parents and the authorities;

# Setting aside time for the poor and needy; and

# Helping to curb teenage sex and pregnancy, and helping unwed teenage mothers.

In all these, our youth, who may not have the benefit of experience, should seek counsel from mature and credible sources such as religious organisations, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

George Lim

Monday, August 17, 2009

Race and Religion: Must talk more

From Abdullah Tarmugi to Yaacob Ibrahim, the Singaporean Government has always - well, since 1996 at least - saw a need to look after the minority Muslim community in the country.

The portfolio 'Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs' is not merely a responsibility to "look after" Muslim Singaporeans. To be "in charge", it implies two things, possibly opposing - to care and to listen, versus to monitor and put under surveillance.

It is, to many Muslim Singaopreans, injustice and utter misrepresentation when the world's (Western dominated) media portrays or mention Islam in the same breath with terrorism. Muslim Singaporeans are also victims of history, which is constantly invoked by the government to explain why they do certain things. We have had racial riots and a very very small segment of religious radicalism, radical enough to threaten what we define as 'national security'.

This explains the reality that Muslim Singaporeans face in a country dominated by pre-dominantly non-Muslim ethnic Chinese Singaporeans, most of whom are either Christian or of Chinese religious beliefs (Taoism and Buddhism). Our leaders demarcate positions of responsibility as "sensitive positions", creating the extra hurdle for a Muslim Singaporean to be there. But things are slowly changing and we had our first Malay (and possibly Muslim) General.

The older generation are affected by the history of our bloody riots in the 60s, but the younger generation only have books and constant media and political reminders to understand what on earth actually happened.

As part of the "younger generation", I am very puzzled as to why we need a Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs. The threat of Islamic radicalism is more likely to be external, in my opinion. Maybe I'm wrong.

Our government and the community have been very accommodating and accepting of various religions and faiths (except for the Jehovah Witnesses), providing space for religious worship and processions. To have a Minister overseeing Muslim Affairs indicates the state's presence and intrusion into the domain of religion.

I am curious as to why we do not have a Minister-in-charge of Chinese Religious Affairs, or Christian Affairs? A majority of Singaporeans are Taoists or Buddhists, given that the majority of Singaporeans are Chinese. Should we not take care of them too by appointing a government representative? Do we have one?

How about a Minister-in-charge for Christian Affairs? Seeing how Christian religiosity has enjoyed an increase due to covert and overt conversions of youths and adults for the past 3 decades, often at the expense of Chinese religion and Catholicism, shouldn't we have a Minister to "look after" the Christian community?

Given the presence of certain segments of the Christian community, gaining economic (money and funds) and political power (rising to more influential positions in civil society and public service), as well as the coup of women's group AWARE, there might be a spiritual, cognitive and identity dissonance between one's faith and the way things are run in Singapore. This dissonance might manifest in one feeling it is one's duty to take responsibility, take charge and take over.

How can and how does a secular state and a religion whose one of many aims is to "spread the gospel" reconcile? Of course, by "spreading the gospel", we refer to the engagement of English-speaking ethnic Chinese Singaporeans or people who "look like a Christian" but yet are not.

Just as Islam is intimately entwined with Malay culture for many centuries (although there are a small segment of the Malay population who are non-Muslim), Christianity as a religion intersects many axes of society - that of ethnicity and class. Christianity in Singapore has evolved to accommodate various langauges, obviously driven by the aim of proselytising.

With all due respect to Christians in Singapore, I feel that some segments of Christianity in Singapore poses more challenges for social cohesion. Maybe it's not Christianity the religion, but the segments of people of Christian faith.

For instance, to essentialise, when Chinese "prejudices" combine with Christian doctrine, we may observe further social distancing, to match the ideological distancing, from others in the community. The wonders of monotheism also inspires a follower to believe that its abstract concept of an all-mighty being and lack of animistic rituals easily reducible to irrational superstition, are way superior and more "truthful". Moreover, given there are scriptures in English, a growingly anglicised ethnic Chinese Singaporean population will more likely develop an affinity with the Christian movement and discourse than existing Chinese religion.

In short, I believe that the discourse and values/beliefs of an English-educated Chinese Singaporean dovetails with that of Christianity in Singapore. I have to admit that even some of the values I personally hold dear to me, happen to coincide with Christian doctrine, but then again, some of my values are also similar to that of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism.

My values aside, I believe that all the religions are simply wasting their time trying to find things they share in common. Similarity is not the only way to cohesion. I believe being fundamentally different can be a strength for cohesion and harmony. Difference is okay, and we need not be obliged to dig for similarities just to show others that we can be together, work together or live together.

Some have told me what they think about Christianity and ethnic Chinese Singaporeans. Ethnic Chinese Singaporeans are generally not expressive, for cultural and perhaps political reasons (see la! What you have done, PAP?!). Christianity provides that empowerment for expression/expressiveness.

That is why we have unabashed individuals, strangers in fact, smilingly approaching you in public places to talk to you about Jesus and the god in the Christian cosmos. The faith instills a senseless of fearlessness, taking away that cultural inhibition that prevents you from engaging strangers. It is seen as a very small duty, to introduce Christianity to another person and let him/her decide whether he/she wants to know more. This is their expansionist policy and there's nothing wrong with it.

It becomes slightly contentious when affairs of the state do not go down well with Christian communities in Singapore. For the moment, the concept of "(Christian) sin" and "godlessness" have yet to permeate the domain of politics, given the almost invulnerable PAP forcefield erected around it. Civil society, having a lower level armour with smaller hit points, finds itself susceptible to the invasion of Christian doctrine.

The issue with monotheistic religion (not faith, mind you), is that it seeks homogeneity, in the form of the total recognition and worship of the same god or deity. There is nothing wrong with this model, because it is a harmonious thing. However, this scenario is especially difficult to achieve given the presence of other religious establishments and the different faiths of different individuals (theistic and atheistic).

Since death and persecution are now the politically incorrect things to exact on those who do not want this homogeneity, conversion and subtle introductions to religious doctrine are the way in modern society. This poses a threat to any government wanting to remain secular and multi-cultural/religious, and wanting to always improve the economy to appease both the elites (it's true) and the working class.

To speculate, I believe our leaders got wind of how potentially disastrous it might be if religiosity entered more domains of social and political life. For example, they encourage more inter-religious/cultural mingling, perhaps as a reaction to the isolation that some groups consciously and unconsciously practice. I mean, if you have more than a thousand friends from church, why the need to mingle outside it? And to be a little bit more politically incorrect, why mingle with others who faith might be allegedly "less rational", "less truthful"? Ouch. I sometimes get that vibe, but maybe I am too sensitive and my judgment is wrong - quite subjective.

Singapore is already highly stratified and segmented. English-speaking/educated ethnic Chinese versus Chinese-speaking/educated ethnic Chinese. Feel free to create another column for Christian versus non-Christian versus Chinese religion. This is diversity at its best, but it is tainted by respective communities wanting to keep to themselves and propagate nonsense and ill will against one another, knowingly and unknowingly.

Imagine a Chinese-educated ethnic Chinese of Christian faith saying something about an ethnic Indian worshipping at a Hindu temple. You will probably get a fine example of "axes of oppression".

The way we treat our Muslim friends is like they're some mystical creature that needs to be handled with care. I am sure some of my Muslim friends feel that is a bit ridiculous - knowing how Muslim affairs are often handled with extreme care and caution, inadvertently implying that something bad might happen if we didn't.

That is why I always joke that to be a good government, you must adopt the "don't piss off the Malays/Muslims" policy. Seriously, I do not speak for my Malay and/or Muslim friends, but I feel that they want integration, not bubble-wrap.

Maybe I am fortunate to know friends and acquaintances who are either ethnic Malay or Muslim, but they are apparently more open-minded than some people I have met in my life who identify as Christian (not Catholic by the way). This is not to put down my Christian friends by the way.

Growing up, and being English-speaking ethnic Chinese, I am bombarded with the rhetoric of "racial and religious harmony". Mind you, how an English-speaking ethnic Chinese understands "racial and religious harmony" is way different from how a non-ethnic Chinese understands it. For me, I used to internalise the "don't piss off the Muslims/Malays" idea of racial and religious harmony, because that is how I identify with the message as an ethnic Chinese Singaporean.

And that is why, till today, I am still very cautious when blogging or talking about Muslim affairs and what I thought about it. Some people (Malay and/or Muslim) have told me that it's ok. I later realise that non-Muslim and non-Malay discourse and engagement is also important to integration of Malays and Muslims in Singapore, but the idea of "don't piss them off" has often resulted in conscious silence and non-engagement. It is basically a fear to talk about it.

With regards to Christianity in Singapore, I feel it is not as protected as Islam, despite Christianity's economic and political growth and influence in the country. You criticise Islam and someone blows the whistle, you will be in hot soup for stoking racial and religious tension. When you criticise Christianity, the effect is assumed to be smaller, but mind you, people do get hurt too.

And given that Christianity is rather intertwined with race and class in Singapore, wouldn't it create more problems should there be some critical amount of Christian-bashing? This is why I believe Christianity should be protected, along with other religions in Singapore, given the same attention as Islam.

"Racial and religious harmony" in Singapore often invokes, for me, the imagery of the Malay Muslim population. Take the agent out of me and you will see how the discourses of the Chinese elite and PAP government have infiltrated my mind and influenced how I think.

Speaking of discourse, have you notice how little I talked about ethnic Indians and Hinduism? They are truly the forgotten people in Singapore, a Singapore that assumes that all Indians are Hindu and all of them speak Tamil. Culturally relative, but with an economic imperative to focus our attention on, which Chinese person will care?

With state involvement in Christian affairs, as in Muslim affairs, as least there is a direct and public consultation with those of Christian faith. Lines can be drawn clearly and the community will understand where secular politics begin and end, and where religion begins and end. Faith on the other hand, will be a private matter, without the obligation to penetrate the mind of a non-believer.

It already says a lot on how we see/envision multi-culturalism/religionism and pluralism when we appoint a Minister-in-charge for Muslim affairs. We live in a country that should also have that level of engagement with Christian affairs, Chinese religious affairs, Hindu affairs, etc. Maybe not practical enough I guess, because they'll have to justify it by raising the wages of Ministers to ten million Singapore dollars every quarter or something like that.

I feel that Singaporeans should be open to answering questions about their faiths and religion (faith, a personal thing, is always the gatekeeper of religion, a social and institutional thing), and not be open to hardselling their religion at the expense of others' faiths (the faith and faithless included).

Equally as important are those Singaporeans who choose not to have any religious affiliation. I think they are horribly silenced and misrepresented, probably sitting baiting Christian conversion, especially if they appear to be English-speaking middle-class ethnic Chinese/Eurasian.

The Christian population may be a numerical minority, but they are not a political minority. They have considerable political (over-representation of Christians in Parliament), legal, cultural and economic influence. Most of the community have the privilege of relatively higher education, job opportunities and income. So shouldn't we have a Minister-in-charge for Christian affairs?

Our brand of pragmatism should have some foresight. Currently, we only practise a pluralism that matters to the economy (via social harmony and cohesion). We should be forward-looking and see to what extent our pluralism can be accommodating and inclusive. Our multiculturalism and multi-this-and-that is not only about our "don't piss off the Malays/Muslims" policy, but should accommodate and represent other ethnicities and faiths, whether they are numerical minorities or not. Our pluralism should not be measured by how well we integrate and how considerate we are to the Malay-Muslim population, but also to other people and communities.

We should not fear having an open dialogue concerning race and religion. And should not only look to the government to lead the way on discourses on racial and religious harmony. Let us talk more about race and religion and learn more. Along the way, we can humbly and honestly say "thank you" or "sorry", and we learn from it. If we do not talk about it or be more open, stereotypes and prejudices will dominate our minds.

---

Add: Oweing to poor health and some sleep problems, I will be making changes to my lifestyle. Yes, that's poor dietary habits, irregular and insufficient sleep, inability to sleep, constantly falling in and out of sickness, sometimes feeling my head is going to explode, feeling fatigued, and all that for almost a year. And the sad fact of life is that suffering is either alone or shared between a very small exclusive group, unlike inspiration, humour and fun, where everyone will get involved. So, priorities have to be reevaluated.

Changes include blogging less often for the time being, among many other things. I must listen to my body as I try to get things and priorities in my life in order again. I need to make the necessary investments and take time off from other investments. No, I'm not trying for a baby, although that will be nice too, but the maternity leave is too short and there is literally no paternity leave in Singapore. Some more, given my annual National Service reservist training, I worry that the absence of the father figure might result in my child becoming transgendered or gay, according to popular medico-psychiatric discourses that are so obsessed with paternal absence.

I will aim to update the blog with the same amount of humour, nonsense and discussion as I did before, but less frequently.

Take care.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Come to the SinQSA Game Show

http://sinqsa.wordpress.com/2009/08/01/the-sinqsa-game-show-2

Just plugging the SinQSA Game Show, an event SinQSA is organising.

This Sunday, August 16, 3pm at 72-13 Mohd Sultan Road.

What is unnatural death?

(Unpublished - August 9, 2009)

I refer to the recent deaths of the two Republicy Polytechnic students at the KTM railway track on Saturday morning.

In the most unfortunate of situations, the train had hit both the youths and killed them.

My condolences go out their families and friends.

Security should be stepped up at the railway track to ensure unauthorised persons do not get themselves onto the tracks.

The deceased should not have been at the track in the first place.

Tabloids and online buzz have already suggested a suicide.

I would like to ask the Singapore police to what extent do they classify cases as unnatural death and suicide.

Aside from this tragic situation, I would like to point out our suicide rates are still rather high, about one everyday every year.

Could these numbers be suppressed due to police classification and declassification of what constitutes suicide, unnatural death or misadventure, etc.?

Can the processes of classification be clarified?

Nevertheless, we should engage, and not hide from suicide and any distress symptoms prior to one.

We as a society cannot be too repressed or shy about mental health issues, be it that of the young or the adult.

Also, we must always readily address the environmental factors contributing to the stress and problems Singaporeans, young and old, face.

Ho Chi Sam

Consultation Workshop on ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights

The Singapore Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (MARUAH) is organising a Consultation Workshop: “Engaging the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) – The People’s Views”. Read more in their e-flyer.

More at http://maruah.org/2009/08/07/registration-for-consultation-workshop-on-asean-intergovernmental-commission-on-human-rights/.

You can sign up online here too.

The event is scheduled on Saturday, Aug 22, 2009, from 8.30am to 3.45pm, at Novotel Hotel, Clarke Quay. 177A River Valley Road. It will be a closed door consultation.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No to Rape



Say no to marital rape. If marriage is consensual, so should other things in marriage.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Taking on Teen Sex

(Unpublished - Aug 6, 2009)

I read with interest the report 'More girls under age 14 having sex' (Aug 5).

Teenage sex as a phenomenon is not surprising.

We should not only attribute this to liberal media influence, which has time and again been the sole focus concerning teen sexuality.

We need to recognise sexual physiology, and the simple fact teenagers are capable of making responsible decisions.

Most laypersons will not fail to observe that the population is getting more sexually developed and mature at a younger age.

However, we turn a blind eye to this and start looking for other reasons for teen sexuality to tackle.

At the same time, we have a bias against youngsters, deeming them as less capable or simply incapable of making responsible decisions.

These mindsets make it difficult for us to properly address teen sexuality.

Aside from preaching abstinence, the young need to be informed on the social, emotional and legal implications of having sex.

It becomes problematic when we are confronting consensual teenage sex.

If we say no to them, they will still have sex. That is the reality and we need to engage it, not ignore it.

While the law prohibits underage sex, we should continue to teach the young responsible sex, since they are already doing it.

Teaching safe sex does not equate to encouraging sex.

We must also have a change in thinking and stop associating teenage sex with delinquency, broken homes and the lower socio-economic strata.

There are teens from all walks of life already having sex at public staircases, toilets and in the privacy of their rooms.

Teenage sex is no longer stigmatised and we cannot use fear or guilt to control the young.

Rather, they should be learn and understand the importance of being safe and responsible. This includes a combination of safe sex as well as abstinence.

They should also protect themselves with negotiation tactics, and defend against exploitation.

We should not be ostriches and hide our heads in the ground when we discuss teen sexuality.

We should neither fear nor cave in to singular ideologies, whether moderate or puritanical.

Instead, we should let our young know what all the different advice different parties and authorities have to give on sex.

The internet may provide a plethora of information, but we often surf it selectively.

When it comes to personal advice on sex to teenagers, we are capable of being critical as we are informative, as we know any singular advice claiming to be universal is highly debatable.

If we discard other views and give our young what we think is and should be universal advice, we risk alienating them even more.

Ho Chi Sam

Monday, August 10, 2009

Just do it

January 1st is not the new year for me, but August 10th.

That's because my entire life for now revolves around the university's calendar.

My thesis will be top priority. Hopefully the ethics review board will not stall me. Hopefully I can get willing persons who identify as transgender or previously identify as transgender. Hopefully I can write something substantial by end of 2009.

Knowing my capabilities, I believe the following academic year should not be much of a worry. But somehow, I feel tremendous pressure with regards to my thesis.

The more I think about the ethics review board, or the impending recruitment of interviewees, the more I think about myself and my beliefs. In fact, the thesis on "transgender representations" is essentially a thesis on the self. As I try to identify, confront and critique transgender discourses in Singapore, I realise I'm creating my own discourse for its own confrontation and critiquing.

The anxiety is also in the upcoming SinQSA event. In my limited experience, nothing goes as planned for events, and we should always expect the unexpected. Knowing that alone does not calm any nerves, nor add an hour more of quality sleep.

Just came back from the Pink Picnic today at the Botanical Gardens. Had fun playing with the frisbee, which caused me substantial distress and grief - over a 2 week delay for a product that should have been delivered in 5 working days.

People (friends, acquaintances, faces I remember, and strangers) were happy and having fun. I think that makes a difference.

My brother, who is soon bound for his doctorate studies overseas and only returning every summer, has on a few occasions told me about making a difference - a.k.a. actually doing something about something.

The hot-headed and hard-to-please youth in me has always manifested in complaints about life, people and society in general. Simply bitching, unsatisfied.

"Why is bla bla bla like that? Bla bla bitch bla bla bitch bitch..."

"Why don't you do something about it then?"

Somehow it clicked. Lying dormant in me has always been the "put your money where your mouth is" mantra. That is why I chose to go to Ang Mo Kio Secondary School and Nanyang Junior College (because I wanted a school that was near, aside from meeting the qualifying grades); that is why I decided to go for auditions and try acting (because I was a harsh critique of local productions and acting); that is why I tried modelling (because I was critical of modelling); that is why I make music and send out demos (because I believed I could write better music than some of the stuff that are being overplayed by the radio stations, and I did not get any where). And what did I get out of it all? Doors slamming in my face, and the feelings of rejection and disappointment. But at least I walked away with the experience of having been rejected and been disappointed, instead of sitting on my butt in a greater state of ignorance, and continuing my complaints and criticisms.

That's also why I say "yes" to being part of the team behind the queer-straight alliance. It was a "why not?" kind of "yes", rather than a "yes yes yes" kind of "yes". But I guess it is important to put your money where your mouth is again. So just do/did it. I mean, I am already queer-affirming/accepting, and I have already spoken up in my personal capacity to rebut the ludicrousness and bigotry that stifles other Singaporeans.

I have the feeling that the SinQSA role for me is becoming more of a leadership position, and something I am in the process of reconciling. For a non-queer-identified individual, the motivation for forwarding queer issues, rights and awareness is and will always be extrinsic. This means, I will speak up for a gay friend not because I speak up for his/her friend to identify and to live, but rather stand up against the hatred, fear and discrimination leveled against him/her.

My identification as "straight" is a reaction to people like George Lim Heng Chye, who also identifies as "straight" (in a forum letter in 2003). If a defensive person plays the game of identity politics, I am also implicated for I share the similar identity traits as he does. I am equally driven by my distaste for being misrepresented, misunderstood, underestimated, mis/distrusted or any of the combination.

Not all straight-identified people are pre-occupied with defaming and dehumanising those who identify as queer, or a non-heterosexual and/or non-"normal" gender identity. Not all straight people readily and uncritically share, spread and proliferate bigotry, prejudice and hate against sexual minorities.

If you are a straight person who disagrees with another straight person who spews such self-righteous generalisations, you should stand up at this gross misrepresentation of not only the intended victims of bigotry that are queer people, but also yourself and your forgotten values and beliefs.

Do something about it. You need not go for the jugular and campaign for elections, or go on a hunger strike. In a society that allows people's beliefs to apparently manifest in discrimination and prejudices against others, you have every right to let your beliefs of tolerance/acceptance/affirmation shine through - be it in speech, conscious action or a simple daily routine.

Instead of complaining, you do what you believe is just. Any way, there are others who have already begun doing what they believe is just, but apparently, "just" to them constitutes discrimination and hate-mongering, and the conversion of many others into continuing this culture of discrimination and hate-mongering, naturalising it in the process.

Always look for ways where you can contribute, where you can participate. No role is a small role, but a role not taken at all is a role that never have and never will exist. A lot of us sit and complain, but play no role in the actual addressing of what makes us complain in the first place.

If you care about something, find a way to contribute to fixing/improving it. The means and tactics of doing so depends on what skills, abilities and talents you are aware you have.

And when you are actually doing something in line with your beliefs, don't expect others to follow suit, and don't blame them for not doing so - simply because they are different persons and they have their own beliefs. This is not an indicator that they are against you or not.

I had this problem with SinQSA and active straight participation. Perhaps the ideas and programmes we have are the least attractive and engaging. Expecting active straight participation at the level of SinQSA is an unrealistic and misguided expectations. As we look around us, there are many examples of queer-straight alliances being forged on a daily basis, amidst the ignorance and hatred.

A straight person might have his/her own queer-straight alliance in befriending and standing up for a friend who is either gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. On a higher level, a straight person who has no known queer friend or relative, also creates an alliance with dozens of queer-identified strangers when he/she takes a moment to educate a friend who oozes homophobia.

If bigoted hate-mongers can take the liberty to manifest their hatred and denial of queer experiences, issues and identities, you have to stand up and say you disagree. You need not stand up and say that in the face of these individuals and their organisations. There will always be people who will make greater sacrifices and do that. In your small capacity, you can share your views with your friends and loved ones, just like hate-mongers share their views with their friends and loved ones. An unspoken point of view is a silence, coming from an individual assumed to be void of any opinion, and often times taken for granted as an agreement with the prevailing discourses.

You deny your subjectivity when you shut up in the face of adversity and in the climate that adversity has created for you. Do not be afraid of being labelled a "rebel", for you are merely a individual thinking critically, asking a question and seeking to make an informed decision in a domain you believe that is lacking that critical thinking, fearing to ask any question, and seeking to continue to be misguided.

To plug the brand Nike, just do it. If you feel strongly about something, do not pretend to be ignorant, unaffected or choose not to engage it. The most significant contribution you can do is stop being afraid of hiding away from what you feel strongly about. Take a leaf out of the book from those who have already begun to created a world where some human beings are more equal than others. They may have the headstart in establishing and naturalising their discourses and dogma, but it is never too late for you to make a difference.

Queer rights for me is not my top priority. Health, family and happiness are top priority (although they're intricately linked to our economic system, bo pian). Other priorities include the need to always find avenues to express myself (in music, sport, writing, possibly art, and the occasional gesticulation). But that does not stop me from making my small contribution as I try to change minds by attempting to encourage people around me to think a little more about themselves, the things they say and believe in. After all, most of us would like to make informed decisions as a daily and lifelong objective, so why not help with that?

That is why education is important and special to me, not only for the young, but the rest of the population. I'm not only referring to the middle class construct of education and the institution, but about the reality that people are always capable of learning a little something more (about themselves and the horrible world, of course).

There are prevailing beliefs that cause substantial inconvenience to people. For example, it is stigmatising to say you are depressed and need to seek help. That is why I write to the press about it. (and also because I sometimes feel really down for long periods of time, don't we all?)

We will never reach a utopia for everyone, because everyone has a different idea of love and justice, no matter how hard we try to identify, isolate and glorify similar traits (we cannot ignore differences). But we can slowly adjust and move away is lessening the inconveniencing and suffering of others - and we begin with ourselves.

When you have stood up and made your small contribution, I believe you would at least have the right to complain about the experience, rather than making a complaint based on a little less experience, won't you?

I am putting in a little bit of effort myself. You see, I hate "people" and I often bitch about how shitty this world is and how ugly people are (inside, that is). If it bothers me enough to rant about it, I look to what I have (and possibly taken for granted) and start doing something about it. I try to be more positive when others try to drown an occasion in negativity, be more politically correct when suffocating in the thin air of cynicism. Of course, there are times I have the strong urge to use profanity, violence, or pure indifference to resolve things. It eats me inside out, but I know resorting to those measures do not constitute making a difference.

Maybe all of these thoughts are an attempt to (over)rationalise in a world dominated by specific discourses and systems of beliefs utterly irreconcilable for the many minds and souls that inhabit it. Well, you can peel away the layers of meaning and find there might be a supreme being or a deity underneath it all, or you could break the jigsaw puzzle into many pieces, when isolated contain absolutely no meaning at all. You'll find out yourself any way.

For the time being, I see meaning in participating and contributing because it's in line with what I believe in. What do you think?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Reclaiming the Ah Kua

Just a quick one in.

Watched Leona Lo's play/performance "The Ah Kua Show" on Thursday night at the Substation, and I realised she's doing something all of us should do - reclaim the words that had been used to insult and hurt us.

When someone calls you an "Ah Kua", it's meant to poke fun, tease and/or insult you. You become a victim when you get hurt by the term, your feelings incited, such that you either react angrily, or feel dejected, or even fight through the tears as you turn away from it, choosing not to engage.

Of course, the context of the term "Ah Kua Show" has its historical roots, and after undergoing considerable mainstreaming, the term has often tended towards neutrality.

Nevertheless, this person unearths the hatred/fear/abuse and engages it, reclaiming it in the process when she herself utters the word "Ah Kua".

This is very much similar to the misogynist Hokkien insult "Chee Bye" being hurled by a man to a woman, and the woman shouts back "Chee Bye" to the man. There is subversion and inversion of meaning as "Chee Bye" is being reclaimed by the previously oppressed.

Empowerment is sought in the least expected sources as the oppressed engages the items of oppression and reclaims it as his/her own.

The implication of this is that insults and words of hate and fear mongering will never be potent, and will cease to hurt and create hatred and fear, when the intended victims stand up, engage it and reclaim it. This leaves no room for marginalisation to develop, for hate and fear to grow. It also shows that the intended victim is no longer afraid.

This can be done on different levels. On the very first, the word is reclaimed and worn, very much like how sexual minorities are now okay with identifying as "queer".

On the second, the word is "returned" to the oppressor, who is only conditioned in attacking but not receiving the same attack. This is similar to the situation in which the woman shouts "Chee Bye" back at the man, for beneath the belittling misogyny, lies an insecurity with his masculine gender role and shaky self-perception of his superiority. Shouting back "Chee Bye" creates a reflection for the perpetrator, under which he might wither.

Of course, this doesn't work all the time in all contexts. Imagine if you're a fundamentalist christian, I doubt you'll call yourself a fundie.

Sometimes, we also make fools of ourselves as we uncritically claim (not reclaim) and adopt terms referring to us. For example, an insecure homophobic man saying "I am a straight man!". The word "straight" is a gay creation. The insecurity, self-professing and wearing the label is very much to a school bully wearing a "kick me" sign on his back.

So, when the "fucking Ah Kua", shouts "fuck you" or "you're a fucking Ah Kua too" back at his/her oppressor, the oppressor will be put into the defensive and probably can't think of any other means of rebutting, other than probably resorting to violence. This is because the oppressor is never prepared to be oppressed.

There are other forms of reclamation. Some do it passive-aggressively, oozing sarcasm and irony, for example, "Okay lor, I'm sexually challenged what... What do I know?" This is another strategy of engaging, more indirect but equally as disrupting as the oppressed readily wears the label and demonstrates how ineffective it is.

That's it from me today. How I wish we had 3-day weekends every week.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Kit Chan in 1999 and still laughing 10 years on

I've no idea who drew these. Kit Chan, someone synonymous with National Day (she sang "Home") had her face on some card, that was distributed to us in class one day. So I think some classmates wanted to give her a make-over. Very rude, but 10 years on, I'm still laughing at it. Since it was done by youths, it is a silly and funny thing.

And in case you wondering, yes, it is pretty difficult for a Chinese person to grow that kind of goatee.

Celebrating National Day: We're Coming Together, We're Coming.... !!!!

The nation is turning 44 soon! But hush on the digits, it's not a favourite Chinese number any way.

"Come together" is the theme. When some gay friends and acquaintances snigger at it, I knew what was happening. Even the Beatle's 1969 hit (every Beatle song is a hit any way, except for Revolution No.9) "Come Together" has its connotations - sex and drugs. Come on, "shoot coca-cola" is not about ingesting the soft drink. And not to forget the chorus line "Come together right now over me".

One man remarked, much to my amusement and it shouldn't be new by now any way, that the full theme should read:

"COME TOGETHER; CAME ALREADY"

To stereotype, I think straight men are capable of thinking of such stuff, but probably the gay ones have more guts to say it. Of course, the idea of ejaculation will always dominate when "come" is mentioned. And speaking of domination, the discourse of ejaculation is also dominated by androcentrism (male domination).

National Day is homoerotic on many levels. Parading phalli, pointing rifles at an angle and 'shooting' in the direction of the leaders (see bukakae), and the whole teasing culminating in an explosion of fireworks as the spectators look up with their mouths open. (I wanted to say to "welcome the jizz that is the fireworks", but decided not to write it here, because George Lim Heng Chye publish another Straits Times forum letter on how potentially arousing it might be if I described it)

The sub-theme, or whatever you want to call it, is "Reaching out, reaching up", which probably implies a rather erotic moment of groping. Depending on your orientation, you could imagine it as a heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or bestial moment.

Despite our National Day being (homo)erotic and amidst sensitive observations of our Prime Minister being a 'gentle' person, I think this year's theme means a lot more than its orgasmic eroticism.

Sometimes I feel like "reaching out, reaching up" and grab the ERP gantry and smash it to the ground.

There are times I feel like "reaching out, reaching up" to the top government officials and make them see the shit that is happening on the ground. They are rather blinded by the bureaucracy, and this affects ground-up feedback.

Everyday on the trains, many men fear the shame and stigmatism of being photographed for being "ungracious", so they willingly choose not to sit, but stand. They 'reach out, reach up' for the handles/bars instead.

"Reaching out, reaching up" also connotes the government pandering to the middle and upper classes. You don't have "reaching down" mah! Maybe the PAP have changed their elections strategy and are targetting the more privileged classes. More over, "reaching down" signifies auto-eroticism, which according to very religious is the leprosy of desire.

The absence of "reaching down" means that auto-eroticism (which is masturbation, but only more scientific and cooler sounding) and mutual masturbation (means you reach down to help another person, by using you hands or other limbs to simulate intercourse) are not condoned in our theme of "coming together".

The not-so-subtle subtext (the lowest denominator must be able to understand it, you know) states that we must "come together" naturally so we can procreate. I read somewhere that the female orgasm will help suck the sperm in better, or something like that (and that's probably why my wife says I have no sex education).

Maybe we need to make Singapore more sexy, and what better way to do it than with innuendo-laden themes that will whiz by the metaphor-blind conservative and puritanical populace. For example, George Lim Heng Chye sees a penis or the outline of a penis other than his, he will write to the press. But the suggestion or the implication of a penis or its function may be too subtle for him to pick up, thus reducing his chances of actually writing to the press, and even if he did pick it up, he will probably risk being too homoerotic and too sensitive to appendages of the same sex. Hmmmmmmmmm?

To further the message of procreation, we must open the dam, the Marina Barrage, because it represents the diaphragm, the female contraceptive. But unfortunately, this metaphor is too weak for a culture that sees the world in the binary "penis or no penis". Rather Shakespearean, don't you think?

We define things according to the presence and absence of the phallus. Phallocentric. Let Elmo teach you kids a new word today. Phallocentric. Let's spell it together! P H A L L O C E N T R I C. Phallocentric! YAY! (waves arms wildly in the air and shake hips)

Yes, the opening (or demolishing) of the Marina Barrage must be accompanied by the entrance of a cruise ship. The PAP government can decide what size of ship they like it to be. But since we are in the season where we are obsessively occupied with multiculturalism, we should have 4 ships - each painted yellow, brown, darker brown and white!

And these 4 ships will sail/speed into the mouth of the Singapore River, before changing direction and reversing quickly, then go in again, then out, and repeat the process until the fireworks come out. (We will need strong engines then)

This way, Singaporeans, young and not so old (we discriminate against old people any way), will know what to do. The message of procreation is not impeded by its subtle nautical coitus imagery. And since there might be a considerable number of deeply religious folks amongst the crowd, the removal of the dam will be cheered. Not natural to put a dam there, right? The greater powers might not like it that way (and I'm not talking about Lee Kuan Yew).

On a more serious note, I do not feel a strong sense of belonging to Singapore the nation, or Singapore the culture. The only sense of belonging I have is to family, and Singapore is not and will probably never be my family.

To bitch a little more, I feel, for instance, National Service for (only) Singaporeans is not justified. Not only do we sacrifice youth, bodies, time and drowned lungs for the entity called the nation, and its economy and non-NS liable foreign talents, we are emotionally exploited and ransomed into feeling that this is where we belong. I find it difficult to understand why I should defend a place full of ugly hearts, holier-than-thou attitudes and people who behave like everyone else owed them a living.

I will be a little more motivated to serve and have a greater sense of belonging if there are more Singaporeans out there with the hearts of Ace Kindred Cheong, for instance (although that guy has been unnecessarily criticised on the internet for being a government "pander bear").

Any way, there's no point defending and no reason to feel a sense of belonging to a place full of self-righteous power-hungry (if money-hungry) bigots. And since conscientious objection (to National Service, for example) is not allowed, the distaste, apathy and/or resentment become stronger and deeper. How to feel a sense of belonging when you have dissonance on every level?

In my opinion, Singapore is only defined as a nation on paper, by the government and in school textbooks. But I believe that most of us do not feel like we're part of the nation, saved for international sports competitions.

It is because of our unequivocal anchoring mantra of pragmatism that we live ambiguously, hence no sense of belonging being fostered. On the one hand, we do pluralism, on the hand, we submit to a majority vote. Very conflicted, very bipolar, but it's all justified under the rubric of pragmatism, economic pragmatism any way. Probably our leaders feel it is pragmatic to repackage "economic pragmatism" as "pragmatism", pragmatic, no?

When we "come together" in celebrating the nation's birthday, I think we are all tokens and calefares in the Singapore show, majority Chinese, children and elderly included. How many of those performing/marching are willing performers/marchers? How many of them actually said "YES!!! OH GOD!!! YES!!!" when they were nominated/volunteered to be part of NDP, compared to those who said "FUCK!!! NO!!!! ARGHHH!!! WHY ME???"

The PAP government is the leader and director, we are just the crew following orders to make them look good in the international community. Except on one day every 5 years when the crew becomes the director and tells the director what is going right or wrong. *hint *hint

I will feel a greater sense of belonging if the government is a compassionate one, but when you say compassionate, our leaders will cringe like schoolgirls when a spider is thrown on their laps, thinking about that dirty W-word. Not whore, but welfare. Welfare is not a pragmatic thing, you see, so the government leaves the care/welfare of the people to private organisations, even though the job of a government IS TO TAKE CARE OF ITS PEOPLE. Ironic, right? But I guess it is "pragmatic" to be occupied with economy and staying in power, and not taking care of people. Why must my mother pay so much out of her own pocket for medical and hospital check-ups when she can't touch her own medi-save, which contains her hard-earned money?

If you want to control Singaporeans, you also have to care for them. If you want to beat us, make sure you feed us too.

If you want me to commit 2 and a half weeks of reservist training in the middle of my full-time graduate studies, pay the university 2 and a half weeks of fees so I can have that time returned to me to finish my research. If I wanted to extend my studies beyond my scholarship by 2 and a half weeks, why should I pay for it myself? If you want to look like a fair government, step forward, be responsible, be fair and offer to engage the university to extend my scholarship/study by 2 and a half weeks. I give you my time and sweat, and all you need to give me back is time.

There is never a fair exchange and even reasonable Singaporeans do feel they lose out in this deal.

Instead of a crescent and stars, I see a whip and dollar bills, and maybe that's due to poor eyesight I guess. I'm not living in Singapore, I am try to survive in it. We need change, in heart and in mind, and only then will we be able to progress from "this is Singapore" to "this is my Singapore".

Pigs on the Train

Guess what? I no longer a "one song a year" guy!

Been only churning out one song a year since 2005, with the second latest song coming after an 18 months drought.

I thought about the tune of this song, "Pigs on the Train", when I was taking the train everyday during a part-time stint at an internet business. It's such a miserable feeling (but enough to inspire me to have this tune in my head).

I imagine we are all animals headed for the abattoir, rounded up in the MRT trains.

Enough talk, here are the links. Check out the song "Pigs on the Train" at here or here.

Lyrics:

Wake up smelling like the toothpaste in your smile.
Some are sleeping as we move in rank and file.
Just like sheep in office clothes,
We run the race like rats in coats.
Every morning’s just the same.

We are just pigs, pigs on the train,
Prols to the bourgeoisies and their abattoir.
Pigs, at 8.30 we are there.
We are just pigs, we can’t complain,
We work for the money, slaves for economy.
Pigs, at 8.30 we are there.

Trains are packing, and the stations are not spared.
People fighting, as we push to get ahead.
Just like sheep in office clothes,
We run the race like rats in coats.
Every morning’s just the same.

We are just pigs, pigs on the train,
Prols to the bourgeoisies and their abattoir.
Pigs, at 8.30 we are there.
We are just pigs, we can’t complain,
We work for the money, slaves for the progeny.
Pigs, at 8.30 we are there

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How to write a National Day song

Welcome to a special workshop I'll be conducting today. "How to write a National Day song". Before I begin, I would like to warn you of material you might personally identify as racist, but rest assured, they are mere observations of stereotypes that could be disappointed (I must assure those who have the habit of reading things too literally).

When I was younger, I always wanted to write a National Day song. However, that sense of pride and belonging has faded along with that musical inspiration.

But that does not mean the following advice and tips aren't helpful at all in getting your National Day song accepted for future National Days, right?

First and foremost, you must write a good and catchy melody. Simple enough for sing-alongs and translations into Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. And since we are getting more chummy with China, along with our ferocious learn Mandarin campaign (sorry Malay and Indian friends), you must definitely write a song that can be sung in Mandarin.

That means, no complex chord progressions, but more singable parts with reachable high and low notes. The melody should not jump here and there, otherwise mass singing would not be possible and there is only so much 50,000 thousand people and the millions watching on their television can take from errant voices.

The melody also cannot have too much soul, because the ethnic Chinese are just too stiff. And speaking of ethnic Chinese, we cannot afford too many "R"s in the lyrics because they'll probably be forgotten when sung. Since we leave no Singaporean behind, the Ah Lians and Ah Bengs must be spared from singing too many "R"s. Imagine "fiftein yeal-old teenagel eating flied lice in the aftelnoon".

Siah la, don't forget about our Malay friends too. You should always write a National Day song in all the key signatures, because while most Malay folks are savvy with their rhythm, they often go off a few keys off pitch. You wouldn't want your National Day song to be massacred by the droning Chinese and off-pitch Malay voices, would you?

As for the Indians friends, well, who cares, right? As long as we appease the Malay folks, Singapore is ok, no?

Just make sure you dedicate 10% of the song to feature instruments that are significant of Indian culture, or what non-Indian Singaporeans will (culturally and stereotypically) imagine as representative of Indian culture. There is no point incorporating vibrato and complex Southern Indian singing techniques, because they are just the minority. They are such a minority that most Singaporeans think they only (and uniformly) speak Tamil, and they are probably least significant because the MRT trains only play the Tamil instructions on security and graciousness as the last language. Such a forgotten segment. But for the sake of the National Day song, you must dedicate a few seconds for the Indian drums and string arrangement.

To have a widespread appeal, it is best the song be composed in 4/4 beat. It matches the military regimentation half the nation (excluding the exempted foreign talents) have to go through. Don't be like Radiohead and write 5/4 beat songs. Even a 6/8 beat would be pushing the boundaries in a Nation where most of us can only count up to 4. Given the majority Chinese exposure to pop music from the west and east asia, it is best that we cut the 70% (and dwindling due to poor birth rates) of the population some slack with a simple tap-along 4/4 beat song. If not, you will get an unintended and hideous canon-singing rendition of you proud National Day song.

For tempo, it should be just right. Not too slow, not too fast. The young will complain it's too slow, the old will complain it's too fast. So we must uphold the status quo and move on, because that is what the majority wants. Tee hee hee, I can be a minister too! Tee hee!

A good melody will go well with the right tempo, but sometimes it is difficult to make it very melodious. Most Singaporean men are so insecure with their sexuality that they probably see singing well as something that's "sissy" or "gay". It's okay to sing the song with our bellowing voices and it's okay to sing them out of tune. HAROOH! (300 spartan-like, minus the insane bodies, because most of us are ravaged by poor diets and lack of work-life balance)

For example, a true man will sing the melody of "Home" in only one note of his choosing. Of course, this is outside the context of the Karaoke lounge, and on the national platform. What better way to re-emphasize your masculinity and manhood than singing a song in a monotonous manner.

For the lyrics of your National Day song, think about being politically correct. There are certain key words that you have to include in you song for it to be approved by the powers that be:

1) Home
2) Nation
3) Land
4) Flag
5) Hand in hand
6) Heart to heart
7) Share / care
8) Together
9) Hope
10) Reach out

And once you include these words, you need to find their rhymes!

1) Home - condom, foam
2) Nation - masturbation, erection, authoritarian
3) Land - man, fan, li-ann
4) Flag - wag, hag, fag, sag
5) Hand in hand - demand (ambiguously American and Brit pronunciations clashing), see land
6) Heart to heart - butt, fart, jelat, jihad
7) Share / care - dare, compare (with Malaysia)
8) Together - hot weather, elite very clever,
9) Hope - dope, cannot cope, drop the soap
10) Reach out - usually used at the beginning to signal that we are trying to grope something

Don't forget your "believe" and "achieve" rhymes too. We love songs that harness the nationalist conscience for the economic imperative.

And always be forward, if not upward-looking. "Love" and "above", because we need to look up and reach out for the bird-bird.

Speaking of birds, try not to have "peace" in your song, because the Ah Lians will kill it into "piss".

Try not to have "rock" in the song, because although you would like to write, "Singapore you rock!", you'll probably be stumped in finding a decent rhyme, as "cock" and "sock" are not very flattering for a young nation.

Same goes with "long", because the feminists and the George Lim Heng Chyes will not appreaciate "schlong" and "dong" in the song. It is offensive on many levels too, as "Chok Tong", "KS Wong" and "Hsien Loong" shouldn't feature in the song. Moreover, we should avoid negatives like "wrong" and "talk cock sing song".

We love Christian-imagery in the music too, because most of the educated elite are Christian any way. So "light", "sight", "fight", "delight", "fright", "bite", "kite", "flight" and all that are useful words.

It'll be great to have "presence" and "heavens", but if you're out of ideas, you could include "peasants" and "tumescence".

Every child loves "best" in a song. "Do our best" or "do your best" rhyme with "breast", "distress", "caress" and "harass". We can include education on child sex crimes in the sing-along too.

And since the government wants everyone to believe they have a part to play in nation-building, you should include the word "participate". The words that rhyme with it include "demonstrate", "hesitate", "masturbate", "irrumate" and "fellate". Well, the last two words best describe what most of us have to do to survive in the rat race. Who cares about "procreate"?

As for song structure, it is best to keep the song really simple with an A-B-A-B structure. The verse could end with a short pre-chorus and we can climax into the chorus.

For the sake of making it a long singalong a la Oasis songs, we can repeat the chorus. To add variety, we can keep transposing each chorus that repeats like a Michael Jackson Heal the World song. You'll start the song in C major for example, and after a few repeated choruses, end it one octave higher. Reaching up, mah? So must go higher and higher, right?

To go higher and higher, just read the score/lyrics alongside your latest utility bills, because the invisible hand of the government will be literally squeezing your testicles, which some believe may give you a higher and wider range to sing out the rest of the song.

As the choruses are repeated, you'll be able to add in the orgy of cultural instruments representative of the 4 major races in Singapore. Be sure to put the Malay instruments first, because the Chinese elite are rather sensitive to pissing off this 20% of the population, most of whom are thought to be PAP voters. Next, put in some Chinese instruments, followed by the poor token Indian instruments. It is better to space the Malay and Indian instruments apart, because most Chinese Singaporeans probably can't tell the difference given they are probably too culturally ignorant, relativist, or simply besiding themselves with lazy Malay and drunk and drama Indian jokes.

The message of racial harmony should be a subtle one, but not too subtle otherwise most Singaporeans will not know what hit them. You need not preach racial harmony through lyrics, as the presence of these cultural instruments will do. So if your song is fast, slow, with orchestral or rock band backing, sung by a woman, a man, a child or a government official, or rapped, you have to include these instruments.

Religion and sexuality issues are a no-no in National Day songs, and even though we are already rapidly developing, we will still enjoy songs that talk about building and progressing.

Your National Day song must essentially capture the spirit of the middle-class Chinese folks. Every ethnic Chinese's wet dream is economic progress and stability. Peace and harmony are only a means to achieving these materials, not to forget happiness.

And what is a National Day song without a music video? You have to rope in all the four major races. Since we are visual creatures, their skin colour must be contrasting enough for the average Singaporean viewer to recognise that these guys actually look different. You need children, because nobody cares about old people in Singapore. And you need some young adult to guide these children to do something meaningful, but they should keep their distance from these kids otherwise George Lim Heng Chye will have yet another letter published in the Straits Times Forum reflecting his obsession with inter-generational love.

Block out the ungracious behaviour, block out the middle-aged man pissing at the void deck, block out the old woman collecting recyclables, block out that persistent tissue paper-selling man at Maxwell Hawker Centre, because you must portray Singapore as a haven for the middle class, who will have the freedom to chase the 5 Cs.

There you have it. This is your guide to writing a National Day song. I hope you will take this advice and embark on a inspirational musical journey, and maybe one day, we will be singing your song!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Token Straight Guy

Maybe it's me, but I always get myself into situations in which I've always emerged as the minority.

In class, I often sit in front. In school (for many years), I do not willingly join social events and outings.

Perhaps I do not see a need to fit in for the sake of acceptance. Maybe in this current climate of political correctness, we sometimes feel the urge to make compromises so that we are accepted. Good and bad.

Barely into the first week of Singapore's pride month, which includes a series of events under the banner Indignation, a term punny enough for a stereotypically cultured gay man's taste, I realise again I fall into the minority group.

In truth, a straight man, be it former nominated member of parliament Siew Kum Hong, pastor Reverend Dr Yap Kim hao or a straight male SinQSA subscriber/member, will have little reason to directly address homophobia and social harmony regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

A gay man's problem is not a straight man's problem, unless by some sheer coincidence, there is a common understanding of the very subjective and debatable entities that are justice, rights and well, simply what is right.

I think we live in a society and have a history that is rather averse to difference. We vilify differences that threaten the institutions and ideologies we subscribe to, and we make it seem that this ritual is right and just.

A straight man will never fully understand what a gay man goes through, and if we want to talk 'gender' here, will probably not understand what a lesbian woman goes through.

Therefore, it is rather difficult if we brought in deontic discussions to make straight people think about themselves. The "imagine if you are gay" exercise will not work on straight people, as they will have to negotiate between stereotype, misinformation, possibly limited contact/interaction with gay persons/friends/family members, and other sources just to construct this scenario of which they may have little or no attachment and understanding.

I am no different. Even though I know what it is like to be at the wrong end of what most people see as "just" and "right", I will never know what it is like to be a sexual minority.

I am blind and choose to remain blind about people's sexuality or gender identity, because these traits do not bother me in any way. This form of difference between me and another person who is queer, is neither a problem nor an issue.

It is only in such a society, one that is filled with bigotry, misinformation, divisive self-righteousness, Thios and George Lim Heng Chyes, that I find myself in the unfortunate position of emphasizing difference just so we can embrace it.

This is similar to ethnic difference and its accompanying PAP government emphasis. We are different, but so what? Difference is only a problem if you hate it, if you cannot tolerate it, if you choose to disturb it. Difference to me is not a problem.

A SinQSA member has often reminded me (and kept me rooted) that I have to respect people who basically do not identify as straight. I agree whole-heartedly, but I believe there will be many toes to be inadvertantly stepped on before I can make the right message and carry it with conviction in my daily life.

He says, somewhere in the line, that there will always be the implication that I, the straight person, will be condescending and disrespectful if I said "I accepted queer people" - that the speech alone, no matter how sincere, will always be in danger of being construed as treating the queer person as inferior but deserving of another (superior) person's acceptance.

What a dilemma.

Apart from the irony that I am growingly terrified of people, I feel that it is odd that a person who doesn't give two hoots about difference has to bring attention to something, make it salient before it can be embraced.

I am also personally not interested in thinking and discussing about the things we all have in common.

However, I have been disturbed into doing it. Some people and some organisations are creating conditions in Singapore that might not be conducive for friendships to be forged, ideas to flow freely and suffering to be minimised. Worse, they hide behind the rhetoric I personally identify with, which are morality and family, sharpening these previously personal and private values into knives that slice us into permanently separate pieces.

It is the recognition of difference, and a considerable distaste for it, that creates the need for division.

I find myself at Indignation 2009, one of the few straight men who attend it and support it (and I am talking about the self-identified heterosexual males here, not the women). I'm just one of the few token straight guys at some of the events.

And that's the same thing at the regular SinQSA meet-ups. Straight men will not attend a SinQSA meet-up just for fun, unless there is some serious discussions and all that, but SinQSA is not about serious discussions - it is about forming mutual friendship and understanding that underpin an alliance; it is about a small change in mindset that result in personal yet informal contributions to social harmony. (but for the straight men who turned up for our meet-ups, you're very much appreciated)

A problem with sexual minority equality and rights in Singapore is engaging the sexual majority, assuming straight people are 100% fond of the opposite sex, but I do not believe so. Imagine asking a straight middle-class ethnic Chinese man if he loves women. He'll say yes. Ask him if he prefers as certain skin colour, body shape, certain odour, certain socio-economic and educational background, he'll start becoming a little more discriminating. And if some women are left out of his choice, can this person fully qualify as heterosexual?

Back to engaging the straight people in queer advocacy. While some see apathy as a failure, I see it as a sign that society is ok with straight people. Okay, I am lying, I too see it as a failure at times. But any way, most of the "why should I care?" attitude show that there are straight people who do not bother about the lives of queer people enough to condemn them or make them feel guilty or fearful about themselves.

It is, in my opinion, bordering on wishful thinking, that queer people want straight people to march alongside them to advocate equality and rights for the former. The fact that sexuality is private and that most people, saved for overtly and destructively homophobic ones, do not care about others, implies, for me, that sexual difference is not an issue for them.

If difference is not an issue, why raise it?

The straight person may say "yes, I support", "I will join your FaceBook group" and "my attitude is already queer-friendly" and I believe that is enough on a personal level to make a small change.

The problem is getting the message into the minds and hearts of the haters and the bashers, show them that their justified hatred, fear and discrimination are unjustified, which is an impossible task.

As long as these people exist, they will always paint a picture that queer people are the bullies of society, bullies of what we conceived as morality, bullies of our "children", and bullies of politics - basically bullying them into adopting the label of "bully".

Should we innocent (and straight) passers-by stand up against bullies in our neighbourhood?

Everyone is bullied in some way or another. Single mums, the underprivileged and homeless (they exist by the way), certain foreign workers, children in schools, people suffering from depression (silent and stigmatised group), abused husbands (lagi silent and stigmatised group), etc. Why can't we stand up for them and speak up?

The impression society gets of queer people is the image of an affluent rich gay man, with a high-paying job, swimming in heaps of pink dollars in his mansion, visiting night clubs every other night and having random unprotected anal sex everyday. And that stereotype sticks. We forget that there exists among the gay men for example, the lesser socio-economically privileged, the abused, the son of single parent, the ethnic minority, the one with disability, the one who is struggling/questioning, the one who is retrenched/unemployed. That is probably why some segments of society choose not to sympathise with the queer cause.

To make a change, a personal attitude change is only one of many contributions. I believe standing up and putting your money where your mouth is as another contribution, that runs parallel to others in advocating equality and harmony regardless of orientation and identity. There is no shame to putting your face and your name to a message you believe in. It also serves to expose the bigots, the misinformed and the intolerant when they come out of their bunkers and heap vitriolic criticisms and remarks at you.

Standing up and speaking up is equally important in a society that is characterised by 'majority politics'. You have an educated conservative elite making the noise on behalf of what they think are the "majority" and the "conservative majority", and the government, for the sake of appeasing this economically and potentially politically influential bunch, buys into this rhetoric. Straight people who feel their personal views are misrepresented, or who feel their education and experiences are belittled and insulted, should raise their hands, stand up and speak up. Show those people who play 'majority politics' that their majority isn't exactly the majority they think.

Sadly, there aren't enough straight men who will pro-actively engage the press, engage his fellow straight friends and others, and get them to have that little change in attitude. Almost all of us don't see the point because these are things that do not personally matter much to us. At the least, we should have a "live and let live" attitude and only stand up against the inconveniencing of fellow Singaporeans, i.e. fear-mongering, guilt-tripping, misinformation-spreading.

A "live and let live" attitude is probably the happier cousin of apathy. People won't go out of their way to vilify and defame other people that way.

People with "live and let live" attitudes will allow others to live and not be oppressed by other people and institutions.

I feel there should be new ways of engaging these people. Making friends is only one of many ways.

It's very ironic that an advocate of friendship isn't exactly very fond of people. I don't have many friends, but I'm happy actually. But I'd like to live in an environment of peace and harmony, and get on with my life. Unfortunately, there are people who wish to continue creating more suffering for others. So, I just happen to be one of many who stand up and speak up. I hope when it comes to queer discrimination/oppression in Singapore, more straight men can just stand up and speak up too.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Being Straight Singaporean and Grateful

(Unpublished - July 31, 2009)

I am inspired by Eric J. Brooks' letter on the things Singaporeans take for granted.

The Toronto native writes as an outsider to give an additional perspective for us Singaporeans to appreciate.

I wish to do the same and would like to raise the things that heterosexual or straight Singaporeans take for granted.

This time only different, as I am an insider - a heterosexual married man.

Straight Singaporeans enjoy many taken for granted privileges relative to Singaporeans who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

We are not questioned or looked down upon by others for our sexual orientation or gender identity.

Our personal sexual identity is not dismissed as a lifestyle choice or morally questioned.

We do not need to go through the pains of gender identity disorder, transitioning and the stigma of being transsexual.

We are not thrown out of the house for identifying as straight.

We are also thought to constitute 'stable families' and assumed to be better parents.

We enjoy next-of-kin administrative and visiting privileges when our loved ones are in their moments of need.

We enjoy living in a mindset and environment that do not cause inconvenience and guilt to our conscience.

Our idea of relationship is validated and supported by many social and political institutions as correct, moral and legitimate.

Our love and its expressions enjoy bountiful coverage on various media platforms.

The list goes on.

Since we are a young nation, we may be preoccupied with pursuing economic progress and social stability.

That does not mean we are unable to develop graciousness and compassion.

That does not mean we are unable to stand up for those who are silenced, invisible or thrown to the margins.

If we want to function as a nation and as a unit, no Singaporean should be left behind, regardless of their identity.

Ho Chi Sam

Sunday, August 2, 2009