ambiguity

July 21, 2009

No i won’t.

Filed under: Uncategorized — theinkhorn @ 2:36 am

Interesting article in The Newpaper today, page 6. Chimes will sound at 8.22 pm on National Day, asking Singaporeans to stop whatever they’re doing wherever they are, and say the pledge.

Thats just about the stupidest thing i’ve heard all month.

The author of that article, one Miss Veena Bharwani claims to have conducted a survey amongst Singaporeans. Apparently, 41 out of 100 of us do not know the pledge at all, and only 35 can recite it. And among the same 100, only 42 said they would stop and say the pledge. They’re clearly lying.

Miss Bharwani then goes on to comment on how we should take time to remind ourselves that we are lucky to be citizens, and that thirty seconds is nothing “compared to the years it took our forefathers to fight for what Singapore stands for today”. She’s also rather proud of the fact that she can recite the pledge word for word.

Interesting. What does Singapore stand for today? Miss Bharwani mentions that she has been in Singapore for 17 years and only became a citizen a year ago. Can she really comprehend what it truly means to be Singaporean? After just one year of citizenship? Whether anyone likes it or not, the fact is citizens are treated very differently from non-citizens. If you don’t believe me, ask the expats if they think Singapore is awesome. Ask the tourists if they think Singapore is incredible. Then ask a local if he thinks the same way. If he says yes, chances are he knows nothing about his own country, which wouldn’t be surprising. Call me arrogant, call me an ass, call me anything you want, the fact is, Miss Bharwani does not qualify to speak as a full fledged citizen just yet. She has yet to understand the way this country works and the way this country serves its locals. She hasn’t voted, she hasn’t owned a flat and chances are she hasn’t stuck her nose into Singapore politics. But it’s not her fault. She has plenty of time to do so.

Along the course of the article, Miss Bharwani mentions that the words of the pledge “resonates with her heart”. First, let me just say that i can recite the pledge perfectly, forwards to back and the other way round. I have scrutinised the pledge, its concept, and its execution.

“We, the citizens of Singapore,

pledge ourselves as one united people,

regardless of race, language or religion

to build a democratic society,

based on justice and equality,

so as to achieve happiness, prosperity

and progress for our nation.”

Note the highlighted sentences. Sure, it says “to build”. not “to maintain”. So technically, it’s okay for us to not have achieved democracy yet, right? Wrong. When Mr. Rajaratnam wrote the pledge, this was what he said.

“We believe in a democratic society by governments freely and periodically elected by the people… We believe, in the virtue of hard work and that those who work harder in society should be given greater rewards… We believe that the world does not owe us a living and that we have to earn our keep.”

However, he insisted that we did not need opposition in parliament.

“Given a one-party government, the capacity of such a government to act far more independently than if it were harassed by an opposition and by proxies, is obvious. In the game of competitive interference pawns which can behave like bishops and castles and knights can in certain circumstances be extremely inconvenient and very irritating.”

Astonishing. One of our “founding  fathers” declaring his intentions right from the very beginning. My point is, if we’re not going to achieve democracy, then take it off the pledge. The integrity of our national pledge has been compromised since day one and no one even seems bothered by it.

Justice and equality should be present in every judicial system, every nation in the world, yes? But what is justice really? Jailing a man for armed robbery? Yes definitely. Caning a rapist? Sure. Incarcerating 3 boys for wearing a t shirt with a picture of a kangeroo in judicial robes? That is an insult to our justice system, our rule of law and our people.

And finally, the execution of our pledge. The reason people don’t remember the pledge is not because they never learnt it, nor is it completely because they can’t be bothered. The reason people don’t remember the pledge is because they don’t believe in it. They don’t believe in swearing allegiance to a country that doesn’t seem to care much about them at all. They don’t believe in the spirit of Singapore. Making primary and secondary school kids recite the pledge everyday is not going to help them remember it, much less believe in it. Citizens need to know that we are being taken care of in all ways. It just doesn’t seem that way, does it.

I don’t know which part of the pledge resonates in Miss Bharwani’s heart, nor do i know if her feelings reflected in the article were genuine. False promises don’t make me feel warm and fuzzy, which is why i don’t believe in gods. And i really hope she was just writing the article for the sake of meeting her deadline, because this country needs more journalists sensible enough to know the truth. All i know is, on the 9th of August, 8.22 pm, when the chimes sounds, you can stop what you’re doing, place your right hand over your heart and recite the national pledge. Just remember, you are a fool to take it seriously.

Advertisements

4 Comments »

  1. Is there a rule or a law somewhere that states that someone must be born in Singapore, or have been a citizen for a number of years to be considered a Singaporean? Your question “Can she really comprehend what it truly means to be Singaporean? After just one year of citizenship?” is beyond stupid, not least of all because you are making assumptions on Miss Bharwani’s character, when it’s pretty clear you don’t know her from Adam. It’s stupid because you are in effect saying that a person who has spent all of 17 years here cannot possibly know what it means to be Singaporean, simply because she only got her citizenship one year ago. I know of native-born Singaporeans who are Singaporean in name only, and I also know of expats and immigrants who are more in tune with Singapore and its culture, for better or worse, than some of us ‘natives’. By the way, I have not voted (because thanks to the government’s special brand of zoning, I haven’t needed to), I do not own a flat, and I have yet, nor will I ever, stick my nose into local politics. And yet I have a birth cert that says that I was born in Singapore – does this make me more Singaporean than Miss Bharwani? I think not.

    Full disclosure – I know Miss Veena Bharwani, and I can tell you, she is more grateful, more appreciative, and more aware of the burden and responsibilities of being a Singaporean than I – and possibly hundreds of thousands of other Singaporeans – will ever be. She knows how well we have it when compared to many other countries in the world, and she’s thankful to be here, and to have been accepted into our society. That does not mean that she has blinkers on, or that she is willfully ignorant of the flaws in this country, so of which you have pointed out in your blog. But while you are busy nitpicking on the wording of the pledge, and arguing semantics and politics, I believe Miss Bharwani is simply expressing how the idea and the emotion behind the act of reciting the pledge resonates for her.

    Your almost personal attack on someone you hardly know aside, I also find your insistence that the people who say that they will take the time to recite the pledge are lying, or that anyone who doesn’t have the same strong feelings towards the pledge that you have are fools to be beyond ludicrous, and highly insulting. You, sir, are as much a fascist as the people you claim to decry in your blog. You impose your views on other people, and if their opinion is different from yours, they are liars and fools, or worse? I will not be reciting the pledge, because, believe it or not, my personal views about its wording skew quite closely to yours. But never would I have the temerity to show such utter disrespect, on such a public forum, to the thousands of Singaporeans who may believe, truly and sincerely, differently. Justice begins at home, so please take some time to consider this: people would pay more attention to your bleatings about justice and democracy when you learn to respect the different views and perspectives of your other, fellow Singaporeans.

    Comment by Joseph Tan — August 7, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

  2. First of all, Mr Joseph, I’d like to offer you an official greeting. I’ve always believed in being as polite as possible and saying hello before calling someone a fascist.

    Second of all, I want you to read my post once more, carefully this time, and point out exactly where I began my “personal attack” on Miss Bharwani. Don’t tell me “I said ‘almost personal attack’”, because there is no almost when you’re accusing someone of something like that. Nothing in my post even remotely suggests a personal attack on Miss Bharwani.

    Third, I want you to do your research. I didn’t say anything about anyone being more “in tune with Singapore and its culture, for better or worse”. It doesn’t matter if foreigners, PRs, tourists or expats are more in tune with my country then our locals are. What matters is that they have not lived under complete and genuine citizenship. “Can she really comprehend what it means to be Singaporean?” Sure, she can enjoy the food. She can use all the lahs, lors and lehs she wants. She can leave a packet of tissue paper on a table to reserve it. She can join a long queue even though she doesn’t know what it’s for. But the fact is, we are still worlds apart. Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear enough the first time round. I never said Miss Bharwani was less Singaporean than any of us. I merely stated that she has not lived under the same conditions as us, which technically is not wrong. Remember, PR is not citizenship. It is merely residential status.

    Fourth, your claims of a personal attack on Miss Bharwani are only being presented because of your personal relationship with her. I don’t blame you. If anyone spoke of someone I knew in a manner that suggested he/she was “unintelligent and ignorant”, I would say something myself. But believe me, I have no intention of insulting your friend. I trust that she is a good journalist, and a good person, and she certainly will be a good citizen to Singapore. But I will not apologise for anything because when you finally put your emotions back into your pocket and think objectively, you will realize that I have done nothing wrong.

    Fifth, I believe you when you say your views are similar to mine. You seem like a rather intelligent fellow. And I admire your courage, standing up for your friend like that. But people like you, my friend, are the reason our journalism scene is so unattractive. What you have to understand, Mr. Tan, is that there are the good guys, the 90%, the ones who defend the country and the people, the ones who extinguish the flame before it burns down the forest. And then there’s the 10%, the people like me, the bad guys, the ones who provide controversy, the ones who provide drama, the ones who start the fire in the first place. Do we like being bad guys? Only sometimes. People like me are doing the journalism scene here a big favour. We are providing an alternate view, the view that too many Singaporeans are too afraid, or too ignorant to have.

    Am I being disrespectful to the views of others? No, I am not. Not completely at least. If I were to be completely disrespectful, I would not even consider them because to me, they would all be bullshit. But I acknowledge their existence, I debate them, and then I dismiss them, and that for me is showing respect. Perhaps your definition of showing respect is leaving them alone, saying stuff like “I don’t think so but your idea is good”. I’m sorry Joseph, but that is hypocrisy.

    “You, sir, are as much a fascist as the people you claim to decry in your blog”. The major difference is when I “impose” my views, they are still what they are. Views. Everyone is still afforded options. So no, i don’t really qualify to be called a fascist.

    Sixth, yes, you would never have my kind of temerity. In fact, 90% of our literate population, like you, would never have this kind of temerity. This is where the 10% steps in. Do you honestly think our country would be better without us? We all have our role to play in society. This is ours. But of course, and remember this, nobody ever talks about the 10%.

    Finally, to conclude, justice does not begin at home. It begins in the court of law. Parents can teach us what right or wrong is, but if the court says otherwise, you’re still screwed. Before you launch into another tirade, this is me respecting your views. Acknowledge, debate, and dismiss.

    Make no mistake, Joseph, I trust that your friend Miss Bharwani has her own views about our nation that has not been expressed in her writing. But you need to know this, if no one ever opposes to the views of others, if no one ever dismisses, if no one ever TRIES to impose, there will be no growth.

    Comment by theinkhorn — August 8, 2009 @ 12:53 am

  3. Hi Alvin,

    I thank you for reading and having an opinion about the comment I wrote.

    Unfortunately, you make some assumptions about me that are downright erroneous. It also reflects the fact that you have not been following my writing for the past few years and hence know very little about me and my Singaporean connection.

    I’d like to have a discussion with you but unfortunately while you have very strong opinions which you express on your blog, you do it under the guise of your first name. (If Alvin is indeed your first name). So it is a bit difficult to take your views seriously.

    If you want to state your opinions and make assumptions about journalists and their work and lives, they would appreciate it if you write in to the paper and state your full name as well.

    As you can see I have stated my full name and my email address so feel free to send me an email if you have more strong opinions to put out on this.

    Comment by Veena Bharwani — August 9, 2009 @ 10:16 pm

  4. Hello Miss Bharwani.

    I too would like to thank you for reading and having an opinion about my opinion.

    Now, and this is the second time i’m saying this in the space of 2 days, no one is saying anything about your Singaporean connection. I’m not saying you’re less Singaporean than anyone. In fact, i don’t think there’s anyone less Singaporean than me. Refer to comment number 2, third paragraph, third last line. I’m sorry you feel offended but the fact is, you shouldn’t because it’s nothing offensive. Sure, i admit i know very little, almost nothing about you. But it doesn’t matter, because i know the differences between residential status and citizenship. And thats what all this is about. NOT how Singaporean you are.

    You’re obviously annoyed, upset and trying to shut me up. The thing is, playing the lack of credibility card is not going to do it. It mustn’t have been that hard to take me seriously, considering how much distress this is causing you. And i would appreciate you not turning our discussion and my disagreement with your views into “disdain for journalists”. The only assumption you have a problem with is one i never even made.

    Finally, no i won’t be emailing you. Until you and your friends get my point in your heads, I don’t believe we have anything to talk about in private. Anything you wish to say, you can say here. Don’t worry, i will approve every comment because, well, its just really really entertaining for me.

    Comment by theinkhorn — August 10, 2009 @ 2:15 am


RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: