Tuesday, 12 April 2016

A Matter Of Time

Or rather, putting some aside to get some writing done. A timetable, that's what I need, a routine to ironically be less routine. Routine writing. The rolling of the r's in that has a positive ring to it. Wring even, to twist out all the dormant juices. Like a quiet volcano, just murmuring and one day spewing noxious gas and vomiting glowing lava. Yup, that's me. Noxious and glowing. 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Paris Attacks And After

I wrote this in parts over the weeks since 13 November. At home, on the train, at work, on my phone and on my work computer. It sort of makes sense and doesn't. Disjointed, like the news that shaped my thoughts. Before I scrap it, I think I should put it out there. They are still words from inside. Then start again. 

__________

Who is the terrorist?

You are. You who is lucky not to know any violence because everything bad that happens is so far away that your ability to emphatize is limited to not being able to find a seat in a cafe or not being able to find a parking lot when many others have to deal with threats, fear, bombs, guns and knives on a daily basis.

You are. You with your bias that who we choose to help should look like you, a view that strikes fear among those who look different, pray different, dress different and eat different. A bias that feeds the fear and sparks the hate.

You are. You with your shock for what happened in Paris and ignorance of and apathy towards the 19 who were killed in Baghdad and the 43 who were killed in Beirut the day before, the 50 injured in Dhaka, 22 killed in Pakistan and 27 killed in Nigeria the month earlier. 

You are. You who keeps your head down and eyes glued to your phone, ignoring the world around you because all that matters is a Facebook tag or an Instagram like, ignoring those who need some help, dismissing the voices and opinions of those who care to make a difference, just cruising along life.  

I'm sorry. I am guilty too. 

Apathy, ignorance, intolerance and indifference - these traits will slowly us turn into the ones that feed the hunger in the terrorists we see on TV, the ones with the Kalashnikovs and suicide vests. They relish the simplicity of knowing you won't fight back or are afraid to interact with those who are not like you or that you wouldn't stand up to defend a stranger. 

Where are our saviours now? I read a couple of weeks ago that members of the Satanic Church were open to give protection to Muslims. Today I read the Sicilian Mafia has warned IS against going too far. The tough guys are now standing up to the enigmatic terror. Funny how tables turn. 

Now that France declared a 'pitiless' campaign to rid their attackers, the question of military might over personal rights needs to be asked. Do we do a Jack Bauer with his all-it-takes antics to get information (and bone marrow) from his captives? What personal freedoms will we surrender for this explicit mass intrusion into our private lives? I'm sure people are asking already, and are worried. 

The onslaught of bombs on Syria began almost a day after the Paris attacks. Russia also started from the other end (amazing how they can fire missiles from ships from over 1,000 miles away, a long awaited display of Russian power with lots of photos, videos and patriotic rhetoric to boot, from their Defence Ministry no less. #chestthump) The ground must be obliterated by now. In the wake of the rapid rebuttal, no one cared to ask about the people on the ground, the ones who couldn't run away. Images are now emerging of the innocent dead. Has Syria and Iraq become everyone's tit-for-tat playground? 

We know the Syrian regime isn't going anywhere anytime soon, now with Russia stepping in as muscular aide confidant. We know the western powers have been aiding different opposing groups in the Middle East to keep their favourites in power or help bring their not-so-compliant dictator down. It's been going on for decades. The difference now is that someone else has decided enough is enough and he wants that power too. The religious spin is just a way to get more people believing in the cause. In the end, it's always about land and resources. (Look at how China is buying up both overseas, to eventually feed and support its own people far away.) it's also about control. The US wants some, the UK wants some, maybe even France wants a piece of the action. Russia clearly has demonstrated its desires with their ongoing wham-bam show. The problem is that these superpowers haven't dictated any terms to make the status quo any better. The Saudis openly behead criminals in the name of Shariah law. No western power has said "Hey you Saudi ruling family, can we tone down on the savagery so that we can work together?" So what's stopping IS from invoking the same law? The Saudis are the keepers of Islam. So monkey see, monkey do? 

I asked my team mates, two Singaporean Chinese guys, at work this question - So what if there was only the IS assholes left in Syria, no one less, would you be ok if some country dropped a nuclear bomb on the place? The father of two said yes almost without hesitation. The other guy, no kids, said no. I'm sure other people are thinking it too - just do a mass clearing of the people, leave the violent Islamist cult there, and blow them to smithereens with a megaflash of blinding light with pretty, white mushroom cloud after. I say no too. It'll open up too many doors that we couldn't come back from. The terrorists will want to get a nuclear device to blow everyone else to Kingdom Come too. We've all seen the movies. This is one version of fiction that needs to stay that way. 

It's making us crazy, and we're likely to make more mistakes before things start to be better. We'll probably be ok with sending in more soldiers and dropping more bombs. And saying stupid things to make everyone just a tad more upset and perhaps unwittingly justifying the terrorists' cause. 

__________


Monday, 28 September 2015

Post General Election Blues

The GE has been over for about 2 weeks now and all the noise has subsided, replaced by an even bigger national calamity, the haze. 

You may infer from the last statement that I wasn't too happy with the outcome. I felt fooled. Maybe by the people and the promise. 

There was Chee Soon Juan with his born-again persona, the calm speeches that spoke to our hearts, with rationality that appealed to our heads and a simplicity that transcended society, like a wave sweeping and washing us clean. I was among the thousands who went to see him speak at UOB Plaza. He turned it on and turned it on well. 

There was the embattled WP. Desperate to fend off claims of mismanagement and impropriety, they spoke of teething problems and how they had to cope to with change, processes and policies they weren't in charge of. Yet the 50,000 people whom I jostled with in Hougang cheered as though we were at a pop concert. Nothing felt amiss. Nothing felt like the status quo was caving in for those who bled blue. 

And East Coast GRC looked ripe for switching allegiances too. 

I let myself be fooled by the hype and noise, comfortably collapsed into the rally rhetoric and online hullabaloo. 

It was a terrible showing for the WP. Losing Punggol East must have been heartbreaking for Li Lian. She had risen to the challenge against a doctor son of Punggol, in a by-election but apparently it wasn't enough to edge out an old timer with a big smile. It was tthe same in Hougang, where the PAP made the tide turn against the WP rather significantly, what is now a tantaliser for the men in white to go all out to woo over completely the opposition stalwarts in five years' time. And of course the Aljunied contest was a near bloody disaster. So close the numbers were, the PAP must have been reeling and squealing in delight. And it was the last result to be announced. A nail-biting finish no less. A less than a 1 measly percent win for the incumbent must have been demoralising for the team that won over residents with sincerity and resolutions just the term earlier. What will the WP do now? Have they drowned in their tears of shame? 

On a brighter note, we know a third of the people in Bukit Timah don't like the PAP. And 9% of the people in Tanjong Pagar are actually willing to throw a political novice into government. LKY must have been squirming in the afterlife over that mutinous poke in the ribs in his own backyard. 

Yes I was hoping for more opposition representation in Parliament, clearly. And clearly the rest of the population was worried about the bedlam, mayhem and Armageddon that would ensue if we didn't vote in the people who had been running the show for the last half century. 

Those who are able to "own self check own self", those who would build bus interchanges only if voted in, those who started CPF reform only after suing the young man who raised his voice about our retirement concerns at Hong Lim Park.

I guess I'm pissed that nothing's changed. (I still don't have a coffeeshop in my neighbourhood.) We somehow fell victim to the SG50 spirit, LKY's passing, the nostalgia of how far the country has come, how bright our future seems to be. All the emotions associated with transforming a fishing village into a gleaming powerhouse of commerce and industry in two generations. We had put faith in leaders who have taken us this far and we have voted them in again because of the promise that they can take us and our children to SG100 without problems and issues. Are we afraid of what comes next? Why? 

Do we fear untested madmen ruining this country? Do we inherently not give anyone else a chance? Are we this unsure of the unknown? Did the last 50 years of the same government rob us of believing in anything new? This is our lack of creativity spilling into the political arena? So dull are we that we can't imagine new faces as leaders? 

I'm reminded of how some people I've met, albeit older and some SPGs, who believe that the white man is superior. The colonial master came and conquered our lands for a long time and for a long time all we knew was his word and sword. Somehow, although now liberated and democratic, I feel we continue to succumb to trusting those we are used to having in power. From white man to men in white. Let's keep the dynasty going why not? Why rock the boat when all is good yeah? I'm wondering what will happen the cracks begin to appear. How will we find the glue to hold us together? Will the glue be handed down to us instead? What sticky mess will we be asked to handle? 

When Kenneth Jeyaratnam snatched the mic from the live report presenter and said "Singaporeans get the government they deserve" I laughed. Because it's true. We can't handle democracy. We fear change because we have few options. If you have money, you can leave. If you don't, then the fear of a shitty life threatens us constantly. The fact that elderly persons wipe tables and clear cutlery at hawker centers for a living rubs in the salt of fear. We then complain about our government. The very next day after polling in fact a taxi driver expressed his dismay. I didn't ask him whom he voted for. This is the way we are. 

Maybe I have been blind or blinded, foolish or fooled. Regardless, our duties as Singaporeans now is to keep an eye on things, to keep a finger on the pulse, to open our mouths when we are uncertain or afraid, and to march on two firm feet if the time comes.