Posts Tagged ‘News’

Building Around Language, Ideology and Power

20 January 2016 Leave a comment

When did I start thinking about the nature of identity and the social world? The first answer that comes to mind is literature classes, which started in secondary school. These were things I didn’t have any difficulty seeing the importance of and the interest in, which I suppose I should count as fortune.

To have had the opportunity is something I also count as fortune. From what gets put about in the news etc., it would appear the trend is that fewer and fewer are allowed the same.

On my mind tonight were some of the things Singaporeans have made of which I’m fiercely proud, as well as a really quite good (if not exactly comforting; really the opposite) speech from K. Shanmugam. Perhaps some of his points about the really quite rare kind of society Singapore has become resonated a bit more against the background of the other things I was thinking about – but, actually, I’m generally quite appreciative of the marvels large and small that have been achieved here.

The meat of the discourse, however, was about the larger currents and more immediate management issues that exert considerable influence on the shape of that society. (Smallness again raises its head.) I was quite impressed with how he drew the link through discourse (‘how public discourse [was] conducted’), ideology, and the basic conditions constraining human agency (economic situation, social context, technology, etc.).

I’d definitely recommend reading it, say from about paragraph 10 to 42 (the before and after being the usual-serious-polite stuff). One of the things it made me think about was what I mentioned at the start of the post. What that course of thought suggested was that it would be a good thing for us – perhaps even a modestly marvellous thing – to make the genuine attempt to engage as many as possible in that reflection. I think literature is an exceptionally engaging, rich, and profitable medium for that project.

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Not A Refrain Sung Lightly?

19 November 2013 Leave a comment

The whole tawdry Purple Light ‘saga’ has been generating a ton of discussion in my digitally extended social circles, much of it in earnest, and all the more frustrating for that.

There is very little to disagree with as far as the rightness of the actual actions taken regarding the offending lyric is concerned. AWARE was right to raise it. MINDEF was right to ban it. Singing songs about rape is wrong and damaging. With the last point especially, the opposite position is morally indefensible.

Yes, it is true that there are those who seem to want to defend their right (or something) to do the indefensible. Yet I would contend that most people recognize that this would be an error.

There are those others who manage to avoid actually defending the indefensible, and still manage to be implicated as doing just that. These tend to be the ones criticizing the military higher-ups, or resenting the angry feminists. I cannot defend those males who feel that their status is being impinged on in some way by qualified feminist criticisms. Furthermore, I think it is not an easy thing for critics to patiently and untiringly put across those criticisms and take the time to qualify them, and I am persuaded that it is already an injustice that such qualifications and such criticisms need to be ceaselessly reestablished. But these things do not make unqualified criticisms any less unhelpful.

For those who’ve tended to criticize the military’s response, I don’t think their response is justified, but I do think they have been misinformed. I’ve argued elsewhere that how the ban was presented in ‘The Real Singapore’ (from what I know, the first popular faux-news source to pick up AWARE’s announcement) was highly misleading. The easiest way I can put it across is that the report came across as something like, ‘Wah MINDEF ban Purple Light!’ This naturally elicited the response, ‘Wah lidat also ban.’ This was my immediate response, and I would be confident in saying that that would have been the immediate response of many NSFs and NSmen, if  only because the discourse about the tendency of higher-ups to concern themselves with trivial things and deal with them in ham-handed ways is a pervasive one. During your full-time NS it seems as though you’re confronted with examples of it every day. Many servicemen eventually realize that part of it is structural, due solely to the size of the operation, etc., although though it never actually disappears, because the fact is that military life is fundamentally tedious. If I checked my immediate response, it was because I have been persuaded not to be so ready to think of the higher leadership as incompetent.

This is precisely where those who persistently argue that by expressing ire over the reported ban, the general run of males, barring a few or even a generous many exceptions, have shown themselves to be ready to defend rape culture because they’ve been socialized by the patriarchy are wrong. Most of them who are annoyed at the ban are annoyed for a different reason, and if you’ve not served NS or experienced something like the constant tedium of military life, it is indeed something you would not immediately understand. Within the attendant discourse, the action of banning a song does indeed appear trivial.

The problem is that the banning of a song (or a verse – whatever) was not the substantial action. What was the substantial action was the institution’s acknowledgment that the verse is bad, that the singing happens, and should be stopped. This is a moral response, in keeping with the institution’s values (as they wrote). The moral issue was treated as such by AWARE and MINDEF. It was not represented as such by ‘The Real Singapore’ and subsequent reports.

Let me affirm that the existence of the alternate context and discourse does not preclude socialization by the patriarchy and its discourses. It is clear that this is pervasive as well, from many of our responses. And it is wrong that rape culture can still be lightly justified, either in the song or in our responses to this spurious saga.

At the same time, none of this makes the majority of readings-into about why so many young Singaporean males (either my news feed, or because the older ones are further away and wiser) are upset (‘butthurt’) any less patronizing or misguided. If these readings-into happen to occur alongside legitimate criticisms, so much the worse.

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In Tribute

I spent a large part of the afternoon considering the life of one Gnome (as introduced to me in this myth). The national broadsheet published a number of reports, and I compared it with the little prior knowledge I had from my explorations from the myth. Terms like master-builder and prime architect rang true enough, but there was an awkward portion, oddly the ending portion of the last printed report, which quoted the man himself on ‘being No. 2’ (the man’s own words) and being under a ‘shadow’ (the writer’s words). It felt awkward because the writer had a difficult point to bring up, and the point could only be addressed appropriately by the party concerned, but the writer knew that too.

The bulk of what was printed was about his service to the country (the words 贡献 best capture the flavor), which was genuinely remarkable, and which takes quite an effort to begin to appreciate. (The fact is that most of my recruits wouldn’t quite know who he was, or how their lives have been influenced by him.) I’ve made the effort before, and today, as a young man of twenty, I found myself looking out for what it was that those who wrote about him or were quoted speaking about him remembered and identified as key to the man. There were many things.

There were many things, but in the spirit of my inquiry, if I had to choose a few, they would all have to do with Character, as we term it. His integrity and ‘dedication to the betterment of the lot of his fellow man’ stand out, as do accounts of his working style and the ‘moral authority’ he wielded. Another sentence I remember mentioned how he brought ‘the gold standard’ to public service: ‘probity and total reliability’. As to what motivated such a gifted man to choose to contribute in the ways he did, intellectually, at least, it was because (I quote the words of his widow) ‘he enjoyed the challenge’.

There are many things to appreciate about the man, and many things to admire, but the small way I choose to remember is to realize that there are many things to work towards in a life, and generally the betterment of others’ lives is the worthiest thing, but with regards to personal satisfaction at least, there are many worse reasons to do things than the challenge of them.

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“SIA’s historic A380 arrives in Singapore”

17 October 2007 1 comment

Though it touched down 10 minutes late. (Article.) Did I mention I saw it land?

I arrived at the airport with Zheyu to watch it come in. We weren’t fortunate enough to get the best view, and unfortunately I couldn’t any pictures worth anything. And there was that man standing on Terminal 3’s roof waiting for it: He probably got the best view of all.

Still, we saw the water salute, where two fire engines fire their hoses upwards and in convergence, forming a kind of arch for the plane to taxi through. The picture’s bad, but you can just make out the (massive) tail…

Water Salute

As a knowledgeable Changi denizen, Zheyu informed me it was traditional to welcome new planes that way. This A380, the first of nineteen (with an option for ten), ought to be based at Changi for the next twenty years or so. Twenty four 747s will also be scrapped in time.

Also, a poem.

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