I never quite understood why people whose blogposts got picked up in the whirlwind of the internet almost always went straight to writing a second one relating to the first, but now I do. Because when you wake up on a Monday morning, stumble out of bed late for your first class again, and you notice that your phone has gone crazy with alerts overnight: the first thing you do is freak the fuck out about anything you’ve written ever.
Clearly the lesson to be learnt here is that exciting things happen when I’m in bed.
Anyway. Thank you for reading, and sharing, and doing that thing you guys do on the Book of Face. Thank you also, somewhat, for agreeing — I did not set out to represent anyone other than myself, but I am glad that, at the very least, I do not appear to be misrepresenting the bulk of you. It’s very personally validating, I’ll say.
There are still important qualifications to make though. So maybe hang in there for a bit more?
I am not defending LKY or anyone else. I do not deny that Singapore is racialised or militarised.
There is an excellent, excellent rebuttal by Koh Choon Hwee at The Political Tadpole that deals more explicitly with the half-truths in Sleeper’s article and touches on our own problems with racism & xenophobia. On a more general level this commentary by Wong Pei Chi, Farhan M Idris, Desiree Lim & Nadzirah Samsudin for TODAYonline is a wonderful look into our specific breed of discrimination: our “tolerance” falling short of acceptance.
The problem that I did intend to highlight, first of all, was Sleeper’s sloppy “scholarship.” (By the way, this wasn’t a partisan school thing: I know I mentioned that I’m at the LSE in the original post, but that was really just to parallel the structure of Sleeper’s title. A surprising number of responses I got were along the lines of “YaLe SuX!!1!” & I have to say, quite simply, that while it amuses me, your school rivalries have little relevance in my life.) This comic in White-chans’ Diary (thanks, @cloudywind!) rather aptly sums up the gist of Sleeper’s “argument.”
Secondly and more importantly, I wanted to point out that Sleeper’s comparisons between Israel & Singapore — particularly in the context of a real actual conflict in which real actual people are dying — were misleading and very, very deeply flawed. Of course I don’t believe that he honestly thinks Singapore’s to blame for the conflict, that was probably more journalistic spin than anything else. But to suggest that the racism (or xenophobia) & militarism in Singapore is anywhere near the same scale as that in the Arab-Israeli conflict: that was unfair, baseless, and most of all, it was irresponsible. It was insulting to everyone involved and distracted from a very distressing issue.
Again: this is a real actual conflict in which real actual people are dying. Bringing your personal grudge against a country (that was tangentially related to the issue) into it was a very, very petty thing to do.
[Edit: I probably misinterpreted what the commenter said here, assuming “Iron Dome” to refer to Sleeper’s “iron cages” rather than the Israeli weapon. My original point still stands though — just maybe not this example.]
Most of all, independent of this particular article/issue/whatever, I wrote that first blogpost — and it is a personal blogpost, not an article! — because I am very, very tired of condescending neocolonialist sentiment masquerading as progressive, liberal discourse. I am tired of being described as living in a “dictatorship,” I am tired of being talked about like an anomaly to be dealt with. I am tired of HuffPo contributors deciding for me what my problems are.
I am tired of my identity and experience being erased for the sake of your elitist ideologues.
I’d like to call attention to the fact that the vast majority of you reading this are here because you already agree with what I have to say. And that’s okay, sometimes it’s hard to find that in real life and that’s what the internet is for.
But the real problem here isn’t Jim Sleeper or his article. It’s that people always forget, when they’re on their soapboxes preaching about democracy or liberal education or whatever else, that they’re talking about people. I am one of those people, and so are you — and I’m glad we had the chance to have this discussion, and I hope there will be many more to come. I hope that this doesn’t just become another impassioned, blind defence of our country against the White Man based on nationalistic sentiment and instead becomes a point from which we can open up further debates on discrimination, militarism, education, and whatever else that we feel we need to talk about. Because if we don’t, someone else is always going to do the talking for us.
And with that, I’m getting off my soapbox and going back to being a person now.