Cannot

2012

‘Sticker Lady’ street artist arrested

2014

Town council asks seniors to remove chairs from ‘cosy corner’

Singapore libraries to destroy copies of gay penguin book (subsequently halted)

2016

Same-sex kiss cut from Singapore staging of Les Miserables

2017

‘Golden staircase’ no more as art student removes hotly debated project

SOTA student’s ‘impromptu’ art installation bearing former teachers’ names removed by school

How Singlish Kena Repressed Then Commodified

(These are a set of notes and fragments for an essay I intend to write about Singlish)

Let’s take a minute to go back to 1999. It seems like such a quaint time, on retrospect. The Euro was established. Bill Clinton was the POTUS, and Columbine shootings shocked the world, Napster and MSN Messenger make their debuts. ExxonMobil becomes the largest corporation in the world. Stanley Kubrick died. The cinemas brought us Fight Club, The Matrix and Austin Powers. And Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong chided Phua Chu Kang for being a bad influence on children.

Almost 20 years later, and wow, so much has changed.

Times have changed. Today, when you’re driving to the airport you see Huat and Lah on the signage.  Mcdonald’s has “makan” on Filet-o-Fish boxes.

DBS PayLah.

What happened? What’s changed?

The Government’s official stance on this hasn’t changed very much.

  • Smart-alecky t-shirts. KNNBCCB. Opened the floodgates. Eh sia la, uh uh siol.
  • Singaporeans realize you don’t have to be one or the other. We don’t need to pretend to be in love with Colonial…. We can be articulate AND ah lian, thank you very much.
  • There’s more to it than meets the eye, though. Why are Singaporeans sudenly so patriotic, so nationalist? I was just a child in the 90s, but it seemed like those were simpler, happier times. People seemed to smile more and laugh more, fight and bicker less. Maybe it’s just a media thing– we now get to see the worst (and best, though!) of ourselves repeatedly on our screens, over and over.
  • Foreigners. Foreign talent. Foreign trash. Ah tiongs. Banglas. Pinoys. There are times and places in Singapore where you can stand around and not hear a single word of English. (This happened to me while I was waiting for a friend at I think Aljunied MRT). And sometimes it happens on the train.

In 1999, the country’s late great statesman Lee Kuan Yew declared Singlish “a handicap we must not wish on Singaporeans.”
In 2016, poet and literary critic Gwee Li Sui wrote an article in the New York Times titled Do You Speak Singlish. He focused on the political aspects of Singlish – how phrases like “Mee Siam Mai Hum”, “ownself check ownself” and “flip flop like prata” become useful little fragments of  political resistance. A way for ordinary citizens to poke fun at the stern solemnity of bureaucratic government-speak.
You can’t make this up – The PM’s Press Secretary responded to the piece, saying that not everybody has a PhD like Gwee Li Sui, and can code-switch the way he does.
Not everyone has a Ph.D. in English Literature like Mr. Gwee, who can code-switch effortlessly between Singlish and standard English, and extol the virtues of Singlish in an op-ed written in polished standard English.
Why she so like that?
In 2016, McDonald’s tells us that “now everybody also can atas”.
I find “Now everyone can atas” to be fascinating, because it’s technically impossible. To be atas is to be high-class. It will never be possible for everybody to be high-class. The middle-class can mimic and emulate the high class (notice how the burgers and wedges are presented, mimicking the stylings of the countless brunch places that have popped up over the past few years), but it’s a moving goalpost. Fashion is always changing because high-class people are always disgusted to be associated with the middle-class.
Notice, for example, how JetStar has a Singlish page.
Corporate Singlish is a way of pandering to everyday Singaporeans. Notice that Singapore Airlines does not have a Singlish page, and it does not.
Singlish is and always will be a little uncouth, and that’s how we like it. It’s shorts and singlets and slippers. It’s eating with your hands and spitting out the bones on table.
A biologist named Lewis Thomas once made a fascinating observation that language is something that the entire human species collaboratively builds together. Singlish is a Singaporean effort. It resists repression by the Singapore Government.
“Most people do not have good english – you say it’s a bad influence on children, but is it not… there are 10k tv shows that have proper english and there’s one that’s accurate – are you saying that the way some people talk should not be reflected at all. You don’t talk in singlish at MPS? Comms is what works best not what looks best? Right?” – http://smong.net/2008/08/educating-phua-chu-kang-and-failing.html
Singapore doesn’t dominate world attention, but whenever it ets some, it has always been simultaneously fetishized and mocked by the rest of the world
I’ve often heard from Singaporeans how refreshing it is to hear Singlish in a foreign country – a little spicy taste of home.
MBS infinity pool
Michael Fay caning
https://www.gov.sg/news/content/the-straits-times—moe-no-penalty-for-using-singlish-appropriately  – we are a little afraid of having our own thing – this problem is something faced by the rest of the non-english-speaking world too, and it reveals that language is incredibly political, it’s a lot about social status, class, everything.
Singlish is out: http://web.archive.org/web/20000925130805/http://atimes.com/se-asia/AH28Ae05.html
The british council has a course https://www.britishcouncil.sg/english/courses-business/workshops/interpersonal-communication/singlish-english
Can you regulate language? Does it make sense to regulate language? How do other countries manage it? Accent gripes elsewhere?
It’s impossible to imagine Jack Kerouac’s On the Road in the language of the White House, for example. And nor would one want to wade through White House reports written in the fractious language of the Beats.
Statement t-shirts
 Further reading:

Status Symbols

Status in Singapore

  • connections
  • family office / wealth management / personal bankers
  • access to private jets, yachts
  • length of address
  • ownership of capital
  • inheritance
  • type of credit card
  • flying first class
  • elite alma maters
  • high % of degrees in the family
  • private/expensive childhood education
  • country club membership(s)
  • employing a full-time chauffeur
  • frequent coffee at fullerton / other hotels
  • regular patronship of plays, operas, art galleries
  • ownership of expensive watches, jewelry, suits & dresses
  • expensive car ownership
  • normalized overseas vacations
  • frequent fancy restaurant patronage
  • ‘parent scholarship’ (no bank loan post-graduation)
  • atas pursuits (ballet, violin, horses)
  • bottle service at clubs
  • expensive daily lunch salads / avoiding food courts
  • regular dental visits
  • plastic surgery
  • private/expensive hospitals
  • ‘weekend getaways’ to regional beach spots
  • frequent skydiving / scubadiving
  • willingness to buy overpriced pastries at Starbucks and leave them unfinished
  • diverse/detailed knowledge about food, wine, cheese, etc
  • $4.5 bus rides
  • accent & code-switching
  • exclusive gyms / branded exercise clothing
  • growing up english-speaking
  • having cable TV (?)
  • weekend brunches
  • cocktail bars
  • juice cleanse diets
  • personal grooming (hair, nails, wax)
  • https://www.facebook.com/visakan.veerasamy/posts/10153112473648915?pnref=story

The True Genius of skl0’s Master Plan

Disclaimer: I do not personally know skl0, and I cannot claim to know anything about her true motives. This is my personal interpretation of what I perceive her motivation to be.

Some of us sympathize with skl0. (Personally, I do! I like her, I like her work, and I like what she represents.) Some of us do not.

Some of us feel she should be put on a pedestal and shared.

Some feel she should be “cleaned up”, like Kumar or any of the other “approved” acts out there.

Others feel she should be locked up and jailed, and hell, might as well cane her also. (Never mind that we don’t cane people who don’t have scrotums.)

It doesn’t matter what happens. She wins.

Some people are saying, “Wah lau eh, stupid girl, let herself get caught. The stickers were fine, but why must she go and paint the road? Obviously she’ll get arrested, right?”

Have you considered the possibility that she might actually have wanted to get arrested? She wouldn’t have set out thinking “I want to go to jail,” of course.

She got away with the stickers, and went on to paint the roads- why? She’s clearly testing the market, pushing the boundaries. She wanted to see how much more she could get away with. If her road painting went undetected, I’m guessing she’d have moved on to something bigger.

Now, if they arrest her, she’s a martyr, her work is immortalized forever. Singapore is forced to do some introspective soul-searching.

For some Singaporeans, the idea of getting arrested is almost worse than death. It goes on “your record”. Suddenly, there are thousands of things you can’t do. It’s hard to get hired. You can’t run for elections. You are “marked”, “stained”. Why would anybody want to do that?

Getting arrested only really hurts you if you’re interested in being a part of the system. skl0 would prefer to make a living subverting it. She operates around the system. Think about it. If she started a fundraiser, how much could she raise? If she started a business, how well would it do? If she wrote a book, how well would it sell?

If they don’t arrest her, she gets away with doing what she pleases, and she makes people laugh and smile. Good enough, too.

She always wins. And I personally think we’re all better off for it, either way.

PS: This move is called the Xanatos Gambit, and it’s being used by Loki in The Avengers.