Narcissus' Echo

Thoughts, tears, rants, ruminations, hopes, fears, love(s), and prayers of just another being passing through this wracked sphere...

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Sheep May Safely Graze (no prizes for the name of the artist of this song...)

Woah! A visitor to, and a generous comment on, my young blog! Two in one! *Performs "I am not worthy" routine* ;-)

Well, if it makes anyone feel better, verbal diarrhea ranks on the same level as mental Onanism in my books--which I like to think is one of the express purposes of a blog.

I am afraid I must disagree that the reaction (or overreaction) of a certain unnamed official is an isolated case. The persecution of the blogger shares much in common with the persecution of Professor Catherine Lim for her comments years ago (for those who can remember). The Acidflask case is simply a continuation of a dangerous trend, albeit in a different medium, IMHO.

I understand your feeling of helplessness in this situation. However, I feel that it is a dangerous fallacy (tempting though, I must admit, for the weary soul) to justify inequity by appealing to precedent. God is purported to have said, "Kill all the witches," "let no witches live," "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," in Exodus 22:18. I don't think that that defense will fly in court for the murder of Wiccans. I like to believe that time would never sanction injustice, but that's just me, the ever optimistic fool.

Did some cursory parsing of William Gibson and Thomas Frank's articles, and I must admit one line that struck me was how Singaporeans traded political freedom for economic success. There is a lot of truth in that, and I am not sure if the alternative is more attractive. Not by a long shot. I would rather have a prosperous dystopia of automatons than a starving Third World nation selling the skin off its back to the IMF and renting its children to First World pedophiles.

That said, and with the explicit disclaimer that I am not instigating any kind of civil unrest, such a sorry preference does not--and should not--disqualify me from bitching on the internet, on my blog. The fact that such a thing as an "OB marker" exists speaks for the sheep mentality bred into the population. I am idealistic. I am a fervent believer in intellectual freedom and intellectual courage. I may not like everything I read or hear, but I will defend the right of writers and speakers to do so.

Take the case of Professor Ward Churchill , a tenured professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado: while I do feel that it was in poor taste for him to speak to an audience containing relatives of the 9/11 WTC disaster victims and label some of the dead as "little Eichmanns," he has the right to do so. And there is a grain of truth (however small, bitter and undigestible) in it: the policies implemented by certain organizations within those two buildings have, over decades, devastated many Third World nations with unimaginable hardship and ever spiraling debt. That is not to say that I am a terrorist sympathizer. Far from that. FWIW, I lost a classmate on 9/11. She was on the 4th plane over Pennsylvania. So, no, I am not justifying the acts of the terrorists, but if one allows the perpetuation of ethically unjustifiable policies and/or turns a blind eye to it, then it does make one wonder if one is truly a victim (in the purest sense of the word) when the oppressed retaliate. Watch "Life and Debt " sometime by Stephanie Black. It will expose a side of the WTO and IMF many people never seen before.

Where is this all leading? And why this tangent? Three points: one, freedom to speak/write should not be stifled to the extent that we have seen recently; two, the concept of "OB" markers is bullshit: what is freedom of expression when we have to be constantly reminded of the axe over our heads when we write? Three, the giving in, or appeasement of one's oppressor only encourages the act. Take the case of the "Half-tank rule": there were some pitiful letters published in the local paper for a week or so, and then it died down. A month later, it was signed into law. A little later, it became the 3/4 tank rule. Bahhhhhhhhhh! go the sheep.

I'm idealistic too. I believe that the freedom of expression should be self-regulating. If you truly crossed the line, then the courts will take care of that. Singapore needs a non-governmental body like the ACLU; an organization with the funds and resources to pit itself against institutional harassment, AND to assist individuals suffering the same fate. What is most troubling about the Acidflask case is that the individual was located geographically out of the jurisdiction of the Singapore government. Will the game be played differently if he published his sentiments in print in USA? I observe a chilling parallel between the actions against Acidflask and the fate of exiled novelists around the world; the former never returning to their homelands for fear of trumped up charges, incarceration and state-sanctioned murder--simply for writing stories against the ruling regime. How far apart are the two? Shall we wait until one and two are the same before we do anything?

Such heavy-handed persecution on the internet is not limited to blogs. A couple of months ago, the online scubadiving community in Singapore experience a local version of such action. A certain regulatory body was mocked, even flamed, on a messageboard forum. The result was the threat of lawsuits, and letters demanding the IP addresses of the flamers. Enterprising readers would have no problem tracking down the website, names and issue I am talking about.

Forcing the opinion of an individual (or a group of people) into the quiet turns him/her (them) into a subaltern (subalterns). The subaltern has no voice. It's voice is not heard. It's voice is dismissed. It's voice does not enter into dialogue with society. The subaltern's wishes, sentiments and feelings, wants and desires, are not heard by the government--for the subaltern is silent. The Dalit (the Untouchable caste) in India are an example of the subaltern. The subalterns in Singapore simply live in high-rise buildings, carry cellphones and have access to free bottles of anti-dandruff shampoo, that's all. Possessing opinions is nothing. Even the Dalit has opinions. But who listens to them? Dalits, that society does not listen to; Singaporeans, that are coerced into stifling their voices; are the two really that different?

Like I said, and like you said, my blog--our blogs--were not created for the purpose of political activism. My blog owes its genesis to the death of a long-distance romantic relationship. These rants are but a distraction. I have no reservations coming out and stating for the record that I'm a selfish bastard in this aspect, and that the world can go to Hell before I'll put my goals on hold for it, but I am idealistic: perhaps some of my rants might inspire another to become martyrs to the cause. If not, then it might at least open their eyes to what is going on around them. As for helping them? Change your own tire, buddy. Call AAA. Call your boyfriend/brother/father/uncle. Don't call me. I'll call you.

Thank you for the kind comments. It's always a pleasure to know that one has not been raging out into the dark for naught.


Postscript:
To the clown who keeps flaming me via email:
Dude, if you would just stick to one language, please?
Choose one: Chinese or English.
In English, your grammar is atrocious; in Chinese, your PinYin is all wrong; what's the matter? Dad dropped you on your head for sport as a child?

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