06 July 2006

The inutility of speaking truth unto power

A well-known blogger wrote a commentary on the latest household income statistics in 'Today' newspaper. The government took him to task for "sarcasm" saying he was being partisan. Meanwhile, I saw the Korean film 'The king and the clown', which dealt with the effect of political satire too. Full essay.


KiWeTO said...

If satire does not even truly express itself within Singapore, how can any move towards realization that change is needed start?

If people laugh at satire, its because there is a hint of truth at the core issue it pokes fun at. Its only after people recognize that there is something not right about the core issue, then can they begin to think about making it right.

An emasculated SG society, unfortunately, has few opportunities to come together to try to make things right. All we have left then are idle coffeeshop talk, because we know not how to bring about positive change.

C'est la vie. It might be truly easier to go than to fight a fight that many do not even want to think about. Or maybe, just take one peg of the structure down, and the whole ideology of pragmatic economics will evolve into something more human.


Anonymous said...

another catherine lim bites dust; people were so optimistic when his noodle video was tolerated - now and then you need to make a show of openness, but the OB markers are just a hair's breath away...

but now and then the press will seek him out, on those occasions when an officially noticed alternative voice is needed

Anonymous said...

This would not have happen if PAP did not politicise everything deem to their advantage.

PAP should not politicise the media.

I mean it is like PAP have politicise everything including NDP.

But why the need to politicise?

Is controlling Singaporeans right down to the bone that important and advantageous to PAP? Nothing more is important to them?

This would not have happen if the media was not politicise. The determination by PAP to control all things is scary.

They want to control but refuse to be responsible or apologetic when things go wrong is even scarier.

All we ordinary people can do is vote Opposition in every election even if the Opposition loses. I cannot think of any other way to make PAP eat humble pie.

Then no one would have the need to feel fear,tension and paranoid in their own homeland.

PAP has to be Opposition for some time for Singapore's culture and climate to change, that is the only way.

My vote is nothing but many votes is something.Please do not forget today's lesson even if PAP loosen control come GE 2011.

Anonymous said...

While you are fretting over grammar and language production, high-ranking civil servants show themselves unable to read texts. So what takes priority in language learning?

Maybe native speakers can help.

Anonymous said...

I guess only PAP is right and citizens are wrong in these KIND of situation. These KIND of situation have repeated many times over the years.

What is more scarier is that PAP took the most popular blogger in Singapore to put on chopping block and use it to show as an example to everyone who wants to blog about politics. (Kai Dao: Open Knife)

It is a very good political move by PAP.It has increased the fear factor by many notches. We are back to the 70s & 80s again.

Most probably after this episode, there will be less activity on political blogs and Singaporeans will be apathetic again which PAP always 'advocates'.

Maybe Mr Brown might even fizzle out.

Anonymous said...

Isnt TODAY guilty of politicization of the issue and being partisan by dropping Mr Brown?

I mean Mr Brown gave some private opinions and PAP replied. End of story.

Let the people decide who is right and who is wrong.
Not PAP or Mediacorp.

There is no need to drop Mr Brown and make this issue a political fight between PAP and Anti-PAP.

In fact, it is Mediacorp who is politicising the whole issue. It is Mediacorp who is partisan.

Anonymous said...

Rising high costs and stagnant low wages are a reality in Singapore - Mr Brown just puts in a satirical form which must have greatly irritated the powers-that-be.
Silencing him does not achieve anything rather he becomes more influential as every Singaporean feels there's little "progress" of sorts.
Also, asking Mr Brown to provide groundbreaking solutions to the social problems while the govt is already richly rewarded without resolving those social issues is a troubling one.
One gets the feeling that silencing critics and govt unconcern will be the only response to this.
This is a social problem that will grow in the coming years and will be a cause for concern.

Anonymous said...

Dear All,

Let's email British Broadcasting Corp (BBC) and ask them to report the news on BBC. If it gets on BBC, the world WILL REALLY know what is happening to Brownie. I know that once is out on BBC, it is hard for the government to avoid the issue any longer.

The email is http://news.bbc.co.uk/newswatch/ukfs/hi/newsid_4030000/newsid_4032600/4032695.stm

Do it now! If you have 100 people emailing them, I am sure they will report. Just report the facts and tell them you will appreciate BBC publishing it! Mention the news blackout in Singapore.

Better Still, Call BBC or Fax them today

BBC Worldwide (Singapore) Private Ltd
19 China Street
#03-05 Far East Square
Tel: + (65) 438 7000
Fax: + (65) 438 7007

teck soon said...

The anonymous blogger above stated that "it is Mediacorp who is politicising the whole issue" and that Mediacorp is partisan. To many of us, this is simply stating the obvious. Of course it is partisan! It is controlled by the government! How many Singaporeans have not yet realised this? Until a revision of media ownership laws, censorship laws, and defamation laws comes about, this North Korea-style journalism will continue. Therefore, cowardly Mediacorp editors are not wholly to blame. An inept electorate that permits, through voting (with a wide margin), PAP antics such as this to continue should shoulder the majority of the blame.

Cry Freedom said...

"Only power speaks to power".
Fully concur. Mr Lee Kuan Yew understood that when he challenged the colonial masters, and he understands that when he faces the opposition with knuckle busters. I like to think that Singaporeans understand that too, when they come across an injustice, and decide to voice their objections. They do not plan to wrestle power from the authorities, they just want the people in charge to know that, even among their esteemed ranks, there are black sheep undermining the stability of the nation by their incompetence or downright, dare we say it, corrupt intent. TT Durai symbolised this, that's why the NKF issue is such an ugly scar in the nation.

Anonymous said...

I agree that there is "a point beyond which no amount of clever commentary will change things."

I met one of the AP candidates (also a friend) after the election and he asked me how I was. I told him that I was greatly disappointed by the results with only 2 AP seats. He shot back immediately that if people sit around and do not want to take action, nothing will change.

There was a 15 min silence. I was not sure if he was referring to me. I was upset if he was. I was trying really hard to share the truth with those around me during the election. I also realised then if I am going to sit on my butt and comment for the next 5 years, the impact will be limited. There will be people who are just commentators. I will leave it to them with their more powerful insights.

The AP candidate broke the silence (probably feeling awkward) and changed the topic. I reverted back to where we left off.

I am now a supporter (non-menber) of a AP. I spend 2 - 3 hours per month to support the social activities. My better half is a civil servant who shares my view about politics and supports my action. I will continue to push the boundaries without getting my spouse into unnecessary trouble.

This is my second national service. One which I will be equally proud of compared to the first. I serve the first because my family and my comrades are worth my fight. I serve the second because this is my roots. I will not allowed my family to be shortchanged. Participate for the right reason. It will not be a fight to convert the 66.6%, but a fight that Singapore deserves better. That merits a sacrifice on our part.

If we all do our part, the APs will have a machinery that is as big and as well-oiled as PAP and PA. And what's more powerful is that we support because we truly believe.

Anonymous said...

Only power speaks to power.


100% agree. It is plain for all to see if one examines PAP's rise to power, and how it perpetuated its rule through the decades. The only way to meaningfully engage the PAP govt is on equal or superior terms.

Anonymous said...

Please suspend all the Pro PAP Journalists as well for being partisan and politicised.

There are train loads of them. Everyday churning out Pro PAP news until like PAP is God.

Paint Opposition like demons.

Please be fair in implementing laws(if any) and policy.

I can name some for you: Chua sisters, Loh Chee Kong, Aaron Low, Nicholas Fang etc.

Please suspend all of them as well.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Brown's "mee-poh" satire has hurt and irritated "you know who". So, what happen now is not surprising. The "power that be" is paranoid. Did not Mr. Ngaim (the retired top civil servant) warned that PAP cannot be bigger than Singapore? Sadly, it is. Another former top civil servant Mr. George Bogaar (retired long ago) said something like "it will be a sad day if no one dare to tell the emperor that he is naked". I often wonder what are these "top guys" who knows so much trying to communicate.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Re Ngiam and Bogaars, maybe it's exacly like in the movie, where even if the advisors know better, beyond a certain point, the king stops listening.

It is so sad to see Singapore repeating the same mistakes that other countries with long-duration totalitarian/authoritarian governments have made: Even though these governments started off with idealism, eventually they became more concerned with staying in power than anything else.

Sovet Union, Nasser/Sadat/Mubarak Egypt, Hafez/Bashar Assad Syria, China, Suharto Indonesia, PRI Mexico...

Anonymous said...

Satire is not something uncreative asians like us to play with or can enjoy. we must all accept the wisdom of pap. they are the best. anyway, we all voted them in. not happy? this mr brown, he really played/is playing with fire. everything our millionaire minsters proposes, he laughs at them eg hire native speakers to teach Father Tongue, GRC as sure-fire way to get top talents to join pap, and even makes joke of kumar and his car (thereby questioning teh integrity of our world-class coe system). er, you people damned free to make these comments right, i'm sure big brother will contact your bosses to give you more overtime. if not, go wash your car or polish your army boots or train for your ippt. cheeby wanking motherfuckers like you all don't deserve creative freedom.

Ananda Rajah said...

This comment was earlier submitted to Mr Brown's blog.

The response from the Press Secretary of MICA, has done an extraordinary and astonishing disservice to 'Mr Brown' (Mr Lee Kin Mun), committed Singaporeans, and, in particular - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's inclusive vision for the unfolding future of Singapore and Singaporeans.

That 'Mr Brown's' commentaries and writings (and podcasts with 'Mr Miyagi') constitute humourous satirical commentary is clear and evident. That is my opinion and of many others. What these commentaries, writings, and podcasts do - in my view - is that they celebrate and assert our Singaporean-ness, our capacity for laughing at ourselves, and a slightly cynical, sceptical eye on government. Nothing wrong in that as citizens' opinions go. That, too is, is my opinion.

We should not forget that if indeed this is how we (as Singaporeans) are and how we view matters of common concern as citizens (at least those who bother to contribute views to the print media, blogs, e-mails to the Prime Minister who welcomes such communication) then we have come to it through a system of governance (by which, in analytical terms, I mean a mode in the execise of power) that came to be established and was consolidated since 1965 - that has been carried through to the present.

The issues with regard to the 'Mr Brown Affair', as we might term it, commented upon here and elsewhere encompass what are conventionally described as the political, economic, social, and cultural. These are academic distinctions, by which I mean areas of 'specialization' as academc disciplines. For 'ordinary people', these are irrelevant 'academic' distinctions - and quite rightly so. 'Ordinary peoples'' lives encompass all of these, and more in sheer human terms.

I put 'ordinary people' in quotes, for the simple reason that all the Singaporeans I have met in the course of my life here have, really, been quite extra-ordinary.

Please also let me add: the profanities and intemperate language, well-intended or not, with regard to what may be called the 'Mr Brown' affair, that have been expressed, are not helpful. These speak more of the contributors than they do of the issues the contributors wish to address. They do, however, provide an indication of a sense of outrage.

Be that as it may, I should like, by way of conclusion, to draw attention to an issue - a discussion of which has been seriously wanting in all postings here and elsewhere.

I assert: the Prime Minister should be taken at his word: an inclusive vision of Singapore and Singaporeans. This, in my view, should be taken seriously. Some contributors have posted excerpts of his speeches that point to this and they are very much to the point. I do not believe that the Prime Minister is out to 'do us [Singaporeans] in' so to speak.

In this light, then, how are we to explain the response from MICA's Press Secretary? I am unable to produce an answer or explanation, but I can raise at least two questions:

1. Is there a 'disconnect' problem between the Prime Minister's Office and MICA?

2. Is there a difference between 'New Thinking' (which I believe the Prime Minister has) and old approaches or 'Old Thinking' to governance and the management of dissenting opinions over at MICA - which I believe exists at MICA on the basis of present evidence, i.e. MICA's Press Secretary's response to Mr Brown's article in the Today paper?

Perhaps two more questions:

1. Has the minister of MICA been quite unable to understand what our Prime Minister's vision is?

2. Was the Press Secretary of MICA (who by the way ranks much lower than a Permanent Secretary and certainly does not earn $200K per annum as was spuriously claimed)'flying on auto--pilot'?

The term 'auto-pilot' is common enough, but I use it in the sense of Mr Ngiam Tong Dow's reference to policy planning. Mr Ngiam is a retired Permanent Secretary, former protege of Dr Goh Keng Swee. Mr Ngiam is a man of formidable intellectual proportions and is totally committed to Singapore.

That said, was the minister of MICA himself flying on 'auto-pilot' and, perhaps therefore, failed to closely and seriously examine the potential fall-out from his Press Secretary's response - without regard to a more comprehensive understanding of the more inclusive vision for the future of Singaporeans of our Prime Minister - thus making a travesty of our Prime Minister's inclusive vision?

Could I perhaps end with the words of former Chief Justice Yong Pung How, uttered in court when there was a miscarriage of justice: 'What the hell is going on?!'

teck soon said...

I refer to the above comment which states that the actions against mrbrown make "a travesty of our Prime Minister's inclusive vision". Instead of a travesty, I would have called it making a mockery of his "vision". If Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" had a Singaporean edition, it would be running video clips of the Prime Minister's comments about inclusiveness, and then cutting to clips of repressive actions and comments by himself and his minions that contradict what he says. It would be funny, like the famous George W. Bush vs. himself debates.