I am a Singaporean woman in my late 20s. To date, I have closely followed x03 US Presidential Elections, x02 SG General Elections, and x01 SG Presidential Elections. This post is not about the Election results, but rather the differences in my experiences of consuming the electoral proceedings between the US and in Singapore. Although there are some similarities between the first world, developed, economically stable, culturally diverse, migrant populace, allied countries, these elements stand out to me: Continue reading Things a Singaporean appreciates about the US Presidential Elections.
I’ve just spent ten minutes waiting for a bus on campus in Singapore and overheard students say these things with respect to the election results:
1) “It’s not gonna affect us one la, the US is damn far away leh bro”
2) “Trump is racist but everybody is racist to some extent anyway, it’s quite normal”
3) “These things won’t come here one, we’re not so racist”
4) “He won’t dare to do anything to Singapore cos of trade”
5) “His business is quite good right, like he’s quite successful la so he has experience”
6) “I read on Facebook that Hillary is corrupt […] so I’ll never vote for her”
7) “Wah that was damn fun to watch, it’s like reality TV but real […] so entertaining”
Where to from here, as instructors who work with young people every day:
1) Be even more invested in engaging with students to see their worldview. Understanding and trying to speak their language is more important and effective than belittling students or shutting them down.
2) Probe students to critically assess their opinions, validate their sources of information, stimulate desire to develop critical thinking. Parochial media consumption breeds closedmindedness, but the media culture here has fostered unthinking passive uptake.
3) Teach and discuss Standpoint Theory and Cultural Relativism and Positioning and Interpellation in the classroom. Some students don’t think critically or practice empathy because they haven’t been taught how to, and we will equip them.
We encourage these conversations when we can. We do this in baby steps. We start tomorrow.
Many world leaders have issued official congratulations to the new president dude on social media, as has the Prime Minister of Singapore – a tiny country of 5 million that survives on trade and cannot afford to gamble on its bilateral ties with the US.
It brings me some comfort that one congratulatory post is garnering hundreds of measured comments from citizens, pleading with the PM to understand their panic while performing the acrobatics of diplomacy.
But it scares me beyond measure that a vast majority of these comments are concerns about Singapore’s economic future, the TPP, and the strength of the SGD, rather than the incoming president dude’s frightening disavowing of basic human rights and alarming disregard for humanity. And it’s hard to blame them for this has been 51 years of state hegemony by one incumbent party.
When a country has been conditioned and calibrated, through sticks and carrots, to privilege economic development over human rights, we end up producing highly educated, self-sufficient, goal-driven citizens who cannot empathize beyond their own bubble of need and comfort.
I always tell my students that despite the booksmarts they compete to pursue in our rigid education system, the auntie selling tissue paper on the street wouldn’t care much for Durkheim or Queer Theory or 3500 word essays. The onus is on us to break out of these bubbles, to relate to each other, to be level citizens, to empathize, to call out microaggressions, to visibilize systemic discrimination – to care and care enough to take action. And if you think there is nothing wrong with what’s happening now (also demonstrated by a very frightening lot of responses from some privileged folk), then educate yourselves and learn to seek information and knowledge outside of the state-controlled press.
Today, I am 28 years 7 months and 23 days old.
Today, my sister would have been 23 years 10 months and 23 days old.
Instead, she will always be 23 years 5 months and 5 days old.
Tonight, at a party, I met someone from my sister’s universe.
When a mutual friend interrupted our conversation, I introduced him as some one who had taught my sister, as some one who had known my sister. Some one else who overheard us asked how old my sister is; I said she would have been 24 this year.
And then I felt so ashamed of myself.
It is now 0017hrs and I am typing in this space while weeping like shit because I feel so full of sad. But I know I will be okay in the morning because I have a work meeting to get to, then I have to teach two classes, then I have to e-lecture, then I have to get a revise-and-resubmit in.
This means that I will weep like shit while purging all my sad now, then weep and toss and turn in bed for hours on end. But when the sun rises, I will get up from bed and wash up and dress up and head to work and kick butt and impress people in life and do my work day with maximum work ethic and maximum brain. Because this is what I do.
Days like this, I really take comfort in the fact that I know how to get the sad out of my body. I got really lucky figuring out what my coping mechanisms are early on in my teenage years. I know what I need to do and how to do the things that recalibrate my heart and head, so that I can get back on track with life and be a functional human person. But getting into this space and being articulate about it is quite the effort. Even though I try very hard not to come to here too often, some times my head needs to do what my heart needs for itself.
There must be hundreds of guides on the internet about grief and etiquette in digital spaces. This is not one of them. This is a rant to get all the bad feelings out of my body so that I can feel better inside and go to sleep. This is about how I am upset over some one who is deep-liking my old Facebook posts about my sister’s demise.