Well, I may only have an inkling about who she is, but she does seem to have hordes of fans out there judging from the concern, the worry and even the horror expressed on social media. Those who kiss the ground she’s walked on probably think that the world is going to end. She certainly had some people’s attention and wham comes the punchline. No, she’s not actually retiring. It’s all a publicity stunt. She’s promoting some insurance/financial plan. Gimmicky? Yes. Fair enough? I think so. But not her hordes of fans who felt cheated of their feelings and so predictably, words like “role model”, “honesty”, “social responsibility” started pouring out from the riders of moral high horses. Frankly, I doubt this debacle would ever have occurred if these riders hadn’t let their horses do all the thinking.
Commercials, headlines in both respectable publications and tabloids do the same thing. They grab your attention with something unlikely or impossible. Then, once they’ve gotten your attention, they bring their point across. Very often, we are led into an anticlimax. We get such “teasers” all the time. So why didn’t Rebecca Lim’s fans just wave their hand and say “chay” like the rest of us? It makes me wonder if this has more to do with Rebecca Lim’s alleged “dishonesty” or the lack of exposure to social realities on the part of her concerned fans and others who pay a lot of attention to public figures and concerned about having nothing to say about them. As deemed proper by the hostile critics, Rebecca Lim has apologised. I don’t see the necessity. On my part, I don’t give a hoot. If I do, I might as well complain about every “misleading” advertisement out there.
Chinese New Year 2016 is just over and at a gathering of the elders (which included a video chat session with relatives in China), a sensitive topic was broached. I won’t go into the details of that discussion, but suffice to say that the taboo of not talking about death during Chinese New Year was completely broken.
All this reminded me of an acquaintance I once made while travelling in China. He was Japanese and he was so fascinated with Chinese culture that he enrolled in a university in Beijing to study Chinese history and culture. Enthusiasm and intelligence gave him an edge. He spoke fluent Mandarin and probably knew more about Chinese history than the average Chinese. Whispering to me over a campfire one night, he said that he was completely unaware of the Nanjing massacre that claimed the lives of 300,000 Chinese people in December 1937 before he came to China. After being introduced to this dark chapter in Chinese history, he was shocked and felt very sorry for the victims. But the thing that puzzled him was, why did almost every Chinese person ask him for his opinion on the massacre when they found out that he was Japanese?
He vowed that regardless of whether he was on Chinese soil, he would have stood against such a invasion by his country. In his time, he would vote against it or go out on the streets to protest. But he could do nothing about history. His apology would be meaningless as the people who committed the atrocities were as alien to him as those who live on Mars. Was he supposed to feel remorseful for what he did not do? Or did he have the right to apologise on behalf of people whose mentality he could not even relate to?
To me, there are no permanent bad guys or victims out there. Every generation may suffer or enjoy a very different fate. The Jews once played victims. They have now reversed the role – a situation predicted by the late Isaac Asimov and was the reason he did not support the cause for Israel in 1948. Indeed, the people I saw throwing pebbles at leashed monkeys to make them perform, slipping rotten peaches into a pile I’d selected, overcharging me for bus rides, elbowing me in queues and trying every imaginable scam on me could have been related to the victims of Nanjing. With or without the preconception of his murderous forefathers, I felt a lot safer not only in this Japanese man’s company but also in Japan.
Whether a country apologises publicly for what its people did in the past is not as important as what its current generation is likely to do. The urbanity of today’s Japanese people (which must be a world apart from the kenpeitai) and their ability to reason, discuss and debate without stabbing their fingers into the same page in the history book is more reassuring than any public apology. On the other hand, the behaviour of the former victims vis-a-vis the “9 dash line” is a sign of clear and present danger.
© Chan Joon Yee