I started the year with something which could have been regarded as inauspicious. Just days before Chinese New Year, I went for surgery to correct my bunions. You an read the details (and I do mean details) of my journey here. It was not a particularly painful experience (albeit a little inconvenient) and I was already walking the very next day. Complete recovery however, took a little longer than expected. My feet still swelled after exertion up to 5 months post op. I will post my “anniversary” pictures when the time comes.
It may not concern the majority of my peers and even those who are concerned may not see it as a serious issue, but I could predict the huge menace of POFMA even as it was discussed and hotly debated in early 2019. As usual, those who argue against POFMA have been conveniently labelled and accused of favouring fake news and how freedom of speech can be abused. I’m against POFMA, but I’m also against news that mislead and misinform. This position and this while still valuing freedom of speech seem too complex or paradoxical for the all-or-none folks to grasp. Interestingly, many of these simplistic morons are actually our academics.
Then, came the issue of abolishing streaming which has been called a “sacred cow”. Why abolish it now and will things get better for the weaker students as a result? I blogged about all the bullshit here and what really divides us.
Next, the issue of low birth rate, delayed retirement and all the faulty assumptions about low birth rate (but high population growth) often left unchallenged. As usual, Singaporeans don’t think too much. They’re too busy on their hamster wheels and that includes out academics and intellectuals. Only semi-retired and undistinguished uncles like me have time to ponder and blog this.
POFMA came into force in April 2019. It’s a sad day for Singapore and the saddest part is, nobody is crying. Neither will I cry for a bunch of ideological slaves. June brought massive, unprecedented protests to Hong Kong which started out peaceful but quickly turned violent after the police used an “appropriate amount of force” on the protestors. Frankly, I was a little surprised. My curiosity aroused, I would soon become so preoccupied with the struggle in Hong Kong.
Truth be told, I’ve always had the impression that Hong Kongers are even more apathetic and mercenary than Singaporeans. The events in Hong Kong proved me wrong. These folks have soul, spirit, conscience and ideals. They stand firm on principles and values they hold dear to their hearts. They would fight if their pride and dignity have been trampled on even if they have to face injury and death. It’s the kind of pride and dignity that I had longed to see when Singaporeans are oppressed and bullied by the powers that be. Seeing it in Hong Kong really touched my heart.
The internet was abuzz with discussions and regrettably, the Chinese world is full of economic animals and political vegetables. Courageous protesters have been summarily and simplistically branded as rioters (simply because some of them have turned violent) or mercenaries working for foreign powers (the 50-cent “army” work from behind keyboards for crying out loud) or “brainwashed” youngsters behaving recklessly and irresponsibly. Under similar situations, the pundits would have surrendered – which is none of our business, but most mind-boggling are those who mock the Hong Kong people’s desire for freedom from the comfort of their own ideological cages. That may be the “smart” thing to do when oppressors can swallow you whole and spit you out, but for people with more spine than them, the guiding principle is 宁为玉碎，不为瓦全. Is it so difficult to understand and appreciate?
Nothing promotes the reputation of communism better than a wealthy and technologically advanced China. Interestingly, many people actually credit China’s success to the CCP. The argument is faulty. Let’s say you have a cancer. The malignant cells turn you into a shadow of your former self. From the brink of death, the tumour suddenly turns benign. You slowly regain your health. You eat well, you exercise, you give talks about your miraculous recovery. From a dying person, you not only survived, you grew much stronger and wealthier than you ever were. Would you thank the tumour for your achievements? Would you leave the benign tumour alone? I would remove it in case it starts misbehaving again. So do these muddle-headed folks really understand this regime that is assumed to have lifted China out of poverty?
China was practically ruined by the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. China survived because of contributions from overseas Chinese people. The country prospered because of the industrious nature of the Chinese people coupled with the WTO and the opportunity for corrupt officials (who were supposed to be Marxists) to benefit from the people’s blood, sweat and ingenuity. How big a role did the regime play? Do they know as well and see as much as the protesters in Hong Kong do?
After the withdrawal of the extradition bill in Hong Kong, came the landslide victory in the District Council elections. Yes, our local experts got it all wrong (again). The usual “experts” continued to mock those fighting for democracy for Hong Kong. Given the benefit of hindsight, they have forgotten that it was China that gave Hong Kong democracy and it’s going back on a promise because things have not been turning out as expected after the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Economic animals and political vegetables they are, but make no mistake Singaporeans are also capable of assertiveness. On 26 July 2019, uncles and aunties from all walks of life flocked to Huawei stores island-wide, believing that they could get their hands on a Y6 Pro 2019 phone for only $54. Hey, it’s only one small demand, not five big ones. I blogged about it here.
August is the month for my annual “pilgrimage” to the mountains of Indonesia. The NDP (National Day Pendaki) was at it again, slightly over 6 months post-op. Gunung Lawu was a test for my new feet and though I had a swollen toe after the climb, the successful mission already proved what I needed to know. There will be more adventures in the pipeline now that my feet can fit well into regular trekking boots.
Not long after my return from Indonesia, Singaporeans tuned in to the National Day Rally for tips on how to go with the official flow and hopefully catch a few nuggets while bowing low. PM Lee estimated that about $100 billion would be needed for Singapore to protect itself from rising sea levels in the upcoming decades (time to invest in marine engineering?) and he outlined some possible measures that Singapore could adopt to mitigate the effects of climate change. A nice distraction from our economic woes?
Then, there’s the brown face debacle which is really not a very big issue. Our minorities may be worrying or complaining about the wrong thing. What is the real threat to our racial harmony? I blogged about it here.
Over one year after I blogged this, PMDs are finally and suddenly banned. I did not blog about the ban partly because I support it. I’m a regular park user and I can see how these devices endanger the lives of seniors and children. I’ve hardly seen anyone using these devices responsibly and the statistics support my observations. People have been injured. Lives have been lost. While the livelihood of those delivering food may be affected (affected, not destroyed), how would you choose between public safety and slower food delivery and lower income for delivery riders? Every profession is regulated. We can’t just complain that certain regulations lower our income and demand that these regulations be removed.
As we approach the end of the year, we see POFMA being put to “good” use – just as I have expected, much to the surprise of some who have argued in its favour. Yao mo gao chor ah? You mean you didn’t see this coming?
Finally, I’d like to talk about a very depressing book that I have just read. It’s Bullets and Opium by Liao Yiwu. It features the lives of the “unsung heroes” of Tiananmen and what happened to them because of their failure to escape. After “Tiananmen elites” like Wang Dan, Wuer Kaixi and Chai Ling escaped to the West and became instant celebrities, they granted exclusive interviews. They published books and articles detailing their knowledge of the saga from their “command centre”. They made money.
But the whole movement was bigger and longer than what its leaders had envisaged. After the massacre, the “thugs” who were really just ordinary people who were so disgusted with what the soldiers had done that they found ways to enter the blocked square to throw bricks at them. Armoured vehicles that had crushed demonstrators were also set on fire. These were just simple and impulsive youngsters with their conscience seared by the hot iron of callous dictatorship. They knew no other way to placate the souls of the fallen heroes, an estimated 3,000 of them. The more eloquent ones composed poems and recited them at their work units. They too were not spared.
Those who vented their anger on the authorities were rounded up and treated like violent criminals. The first few batches that were processed were summarily executed. They were the lucky ones. They died with the belief that China would be transformed under pressure from the people into a more democratic and humane society. The author was first imprisoned for 4 years. After his release, he interviewed other survivors of Tiananmen. Apart from the horrors in prison, they shared a common experience with the drastically transformed society outside the prison walls.
They were released into a society that had either totally forgotten them or failed to recognise their sacrifices and contribution to the movement. In fact the movement was apparently dead and buried. Nobody seemed to have taken over from them. A few of their lucky comrades who had escaped punishment had struck it rich (as nightclub owners and fake goods peddlers) and completely denied any involvement in the protests whereas those imprisoned ended up as janitors upon their release.
For these folks, the biggest nightmare was not prison. It was the ghastly discovery of how the new China has sucked all the ideology out of the people. The glaring truth is that the fallen had died in vain. They had suffered in prison (many entered as teens and emerged as middle-aged folks) for nothing. Everybody they met just cared about his own personal wealth. Even Liao’s minder (a policeman) advised him to conduct some illegal business in order to get back on track quickly with the rest of prosperous and progressive Chinese society. Yes, they were economic animals, political and moral vegetables.
The author’s movements were monitored, the police knew what he was doing and raided his home regularly to confiscate his materials. Liao decided that he had to escape. He travelled to Guangxi, crossed undetected into Vietnam and made it to Europe. He now lives in Germany where he continue to present Tiananmen from the perspective of the “thugs”.
And here is Sichuan’s Liao Yiwu 廖亦武 himself. Does the following video prick your conscience? Sadly, for too many people I know, it doesn’t. What is left but for karma to set things right?
Then I saw Dr Chee Soon Juan wax lyrical about elderly cardboard collectors in Singapore. Is he really that naive? The root of the problem does not lie with the government. It lies with the people. Dr Chee said that the sight of these struggling folks should “tear at our conscience”. No it doesn’t. Just as in China, the people only care about their own person wealth. They care about whether all the low hanging fruits are still ripe for the picking. They care about whether there are still ways for them to get ahead of others (like those who are struggling). If you have nothing to offer the selfish majority, you have nothing. They are economic animals, political and moral vegetables. Therefore I sometimes wonder, do we deserve our writers and poets?
So let’s welcome 2020 together. May it be a year of karmic consequences. Let the show begin. Happy new year.