Saturday, April 16, 2016

Have you heard "The Songs We Sang"?



We basked in the fame and glory of the regional musical achievements that Stephanie Sun and JJ Lin have brought to our little red dot, unaware of the success that was achieved at the expense of the anguish and despair of a generation of Chinese-educated.

Xinyao’s roots was unravelled by Eva Tang’s documentary “The Songs We Sang” and admittedly, I will never look at xinyao--a term used to define songs produced by Singapore youths, the same way ever again.

Paradoxically, xinyao was founded upon the closure of Nantah--the first and last Chinese university in Singapore that was initiated, established and funded entirely by our local Chinese community. People from all walks of lives from the Chinese community contributed to cause of Nantah.  

The closure of Nantah symbolized an extermination of the Chinese medium education and the beginning of the inevitable decline of the Chinese language, the Chinese culture and its identity. Yet, it was precisely the shrinking of space for the Chinese-ed that created an unforeseeable growth of Mandarin singing groups that would later grow to make a name for our little red dot in the regional music business.

Led by Nantah graduates, the frustration and anguish of being discriminated and the erosion of cultural identity in your own country were channelled into poetry singing and subsequently into a more colloquial form of campus singing groups among the Chinese-ed junior college students. It was the same collective and spontaneous effort from the ground to build Nantah that ignited the xinyao movement among the Chinese-ed community.

Campus xinyao flourished and grew out of campus when the first record company was set up, breathing new life into xinyao, bringing it to another level and setting the stage to take flight offshore with our locally-nurtured talents. The perseverance, the passion and the patriotism of the xinyao members and predecessors were rewarded with the inroads that our home-grown singers made in the music biz in the Greater Chinese community.

Amateurish but xinyao’s passion and sincerity touched those who heard them. A whole generation of Chinese-ed that was written off by history, scarred by the brutal language policy and yet transformed the negative events in their lives into positive notes and voices through the medium of xinyao. And those who heard them came forward with their helping hands. People from the media industry, government officials and audience out of their own accord played a part in their own capacity to promote xinyao along the way. Xinyao would never have made it without the support of the community.

Singapore’s official history has been well-documented from a top-down perspective. But xinyao refracted a part of our history of that generation, both the xinyao members and its supporters through grounds-up effort created the existence of xinyao. Xinyao came from the people and came from the hearts. It is the voices, the spirit of that generation that I believe are what Eva Tang is trying to capture in this documentary.

Paradoxically again, the generation of Chinese-ed deemed inferior to their English-educated compatriots, were also the ones who gained recognition overseas and became “talents” beyond our shores. The Chinese language which was denounced by the then government was the medium which our newer generation of English-ed xinyao singers such as Kit
Chan, Stephanie Sun and Tanya Chua have to borrow to break into the regional music scene. Liang Wern Fook’s “Sparrow with a twig” was banned from broadcasting for 23 years because part of the dialects in the song and yet, songs with other foreign languages are allowed to be aired freely. Such belittling of our own culture and people is indeed a paradox itself and uniquely Singapore.

After spending stacks of cash, F1 may have put our little red dot on the world map and we have added another Olympic medal in table tennis into our collection of vanity. But nothing beats a group of civilians who are entirely self-driven by pride, genuineness to have successfully placed our little red dot on the regional map. Because this is genuinely and uniquely Made In Singapore. It has to come from the heart.

And neither do I need to wait till National Day for the designated official patriotic song to flaunt my patriotism. I have already heard it in xinyao. From our own people, from our own voices and from our own hearts. And it is this that moves me. Even without the overseas recognition of xinyao, this is where our pride should be.

I was in time for the last screening of the documentary. And fortunately, I was in time for xinyao too.

听见了《我们唱着的歌》



孙燕姿、林俊杰让小红点在亚洲乐坛上绽放的光环,给岛民沾光不少。原来,这道光环是踩在一代人的文化身份尸体上凝聚而成的。岛国儿女引以为傲的乐坛成就,是以一代人的失落、卑微、悲痛所换取而来的。这份骄傲,该让我欢喜,还是悲愤?

以为是在讲述新谣史的本地纪录片《我们唱着的歌》,原来是要传送一代人的声音和精神,传颂岛国的故事,属于我们的过去。

新谣竟然根源于南大(南洋大学,而非新加坡南洋理工大学)。是当时语文政策下民间所做出的集体反射,后来演进为一场运动。同样来自民间力量而创办的南大被当时的政府关闭(官方称为合并)。被政府大肆标签为不达标、母族文化被排斥的南大毕业生化悲愤为诗乐,将诗歌谱曲演唱、自发地另辟传承华族文化香火的途经,进而带动了校园弹唱新谣。承接的人赋予新谣生命,新谣分子有组织地成立唱片公司培养新一代歌手(咦,这不是政府提倡的企业精神吗?),赋予新谣新的生命,闯入大中华圈的华语乐坛。

当时的新谣分子凭着真诚、莫名的骄傲,透过歌声、歌曲感动了周围的人,引来了具有良知的媒体人士、政府高官、市井小民凭着自己的能力推动本地音乐,新谣才能越走越稳。新谣后来所取得的成就,是集体的力量。身为华校生的前总统王鼎昌也为这股民间运动伸出援手。资深广播人林子惠回忆一名听众毅然舍弃$20奖金的机会,预测了明知道是不可能会上龙虎榜的新谣歌曲《邂逅》,就是要借空中的机会介绍这支歌曲,把它推向广大的群众。

每个人的能力,积水成河。他们的骄傲、真诚、信念,我们听到了吗?

那一代人,被历史巨轮碾过,却通过歌声、歌词、音符,把历史伤痕转为正能量,竟也在无心插柳的情形下,缔造了历史。以华语流行乐让小红点打入了区域歌坛,把我们的文化输出了国外。这一代人的历史,是官方或教科书制定以外,纯属民间集体力量写成的,幸得导演邓宝翠通过纪录片的形式,永久地保留下来。

是悲壮,还是悖论?

因为南大的关闭,歼灭整代人的文化身份,才成就了新谣。被英语政策否定价值、剥夺身份的那群人,努力地寻找自我价值和定位的过程中,却打破小红点的局限,闯入海外,成为他国的人才。在自家门被歧视的华语,却成为了打入区域乐坛的工具,红了后来的英校生歌手陈洁仪、孙燕姿、蔡健雅等。梁文福《麻雀衔竹枝》的创作,却因为歌曲内的方言而遭禁播整整23年,参杂其他外来语言的歌曲却能通行无阻。属于我们自己的东西、人才却被否定。是悖论。

集合了本土资源,由骄傲、真诚、自发性的推动,成功put Singapore on the regional map。比起花钱把别人的Formula 1移花接木地用来炫耀小红点存在价值或是直接进口乒乓球员换来奥运奖牌的做法,这才是货真价实的Made.In.Singapore.

发自于内心对小红点的骄傲所释放出来的力量,这才是让人动容的自豪。爱国歌,不必等到8月份才能听到。我在新谣歌曲中,已经听到了。

用新谣来祭奠小红点的华文文化,唱出了属于我们岛国的歌声,你听到了吗?

Friday, September 04, 2015

Gardens by the Bay cannot assuage our insecurities

I need no crystal ball to foresee that Hsien Loong will be planning for some huge vanity projects....again this GE year. He has a habit of using these building constructions as a means to portray his "vision".

Again and again. 

There was already the Marina Bay Sands, the Gardens by the Bay, the Marina and then Jewel, the High Speed Train (on-going still?) and now there is this plan to build 3X the size of current Marina Bay at Tanjong Pagar, The Greater Southern Waterfront (GSW).

It is all about building, building and more building. Building a nation is simply not about the buildings. A vision that is determined by the number and size of the vanity projects that he can pull together is only a construction plan, a vision of architectural landscape? But for a nation, for a home, for our homes, that does not suffice. 

There is no doubt of the aesthetic values of these constructions and everyone appreciates beauty, however, at the end of the day, what purpose does it serve for a peasant like me? These constructions are indeed useful for me to showcase the wealthy side of Singapore. To boast. But how many times a year do I need that for? Ultimately, it serves only to intensify the hollowness of my own vanity. And to put it into the current situation where the peasants are overwhelmed by a huge sense of insecurities, Hsien Loong's "vision" appears a little too empty and a total lack of a sense of proportion.

The hardtruth is, I can't rely on these pompous projects for my job security, retirement security, healthcare security and even transport security. 

On the contrary, cosmetics like the GSW that serve to beautify our landscape may very likely to increase living costs as it will boost the land value in and around the area in the form of higher rentals, housing prices and higher profit possibilities for some groups of people. 

So what is Hsien Loong really chasing after?

The well-being of the peasants? Or more playgrounds for a specific strata of the population?

Vision serves as the framework for all necessary policies and ideas to be put in place. Does not necessarily involve constructions at all. And my vision for a nation, must serve to better as many stratum of our society as possible. Not the other way round of using isolated constructions and scenic areas to fill up that vision. 

What does Hsien Loong seriously want? I can't see his SG100 vision or even SG75's amid these bricks and cement. For bricks and cements do not translate into the care, security and trust that make a home, that enrich your presence. He wants to make Singapore a special place. But all such doings of his only make Singapore dull and shallow.

Lastly, these mega plans will only furher impoverish the already shallow pockets that I have. 
 

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

With you, for you, for Singapore. PAP cares....

“I know with my heart that this is a Government that has staked everything on serving Singaporeans.” ---Sim Ann.


I must agree with Mdm Sim Ann right from the bottom of my heart. And this is a short list out of a long one to show examples of how PAP truly cares for the peasants of this country. 

1) Wage cut for you; pay rise for them
Good intention: Wage cuts cheapen your labour price so as to help you to stay competitive.


For the peasants and for Singapore,  in 1999, in response to the turmoil of Asia Financial Crisis (AFC), 10% reduction on CPF employer’s contribution. Before the reduction, employer and employee contribute 20% each to CPF.


The reduction rate was never restored to its 20% pre-AFC period until now --SIXTEEN years after AFC.


Between 1999 and 2014, Singapore’s GDP has grown from USD$85.71 billion to  USD$307.87 billion. How much more of our GDP does PAP want before they will restore our 1999 CPF rate?


For the aristocrats, for Singapore, PAP rewarded themselves in payrise twice in the years 2000 and 2006. In 2000, 12%-14% pay rise for ministers. The extent of pay rise was higher than peasants’ wage cut. They did not recover the full wage cuts that year.


In 2007, ministers saw 60% pay rise. It’s a 60% increase of an already huge salary, not a 60% of $1000. And still, CPF rate contribution for employees did not return to the 20% level.


Conclusion: PAP truly cares for the you……. by enhancing peasants' labour cheapness even though the CPF cuts affected many who were servicing their housing loan through their CPF funds. However, as long as the peasants work hard, they will be rich in their CPF. And all peasants have equal opportunities to be rich as Lim Swee Sway.


2) Minimum wage for PAP but not for you


Good intention: To spur lazy peasants, otherwise they will not work for the economy


For Singapore, minimum wage for peasants will wreck Singapore’s economy. Because peasants are just pawns for our economy, therefore their cost of labour should be kept to the minimum to reduce the impact for businesses, GLCs and MNCs.


For them, our ministers need a minimum wage before they are willing to sacrifice and step forward to serve our country. Minimum wage for ministers will also ensure good talents will step forward and lead the country. Without these highly-paid ministers, Singapore will collapse!


Vivian is the epitome of the quality of our ministers. In his world, no one will work for free. Only those who are either rich or corrupted do. Our ministers went through diligent checks, as stringent as our immigration bureau which allowed a talent such as Yang Yin to attain PR status with his fake degree to con a wealthy old lady in the most innovative way, therefore ministers are all proven to be people of quality and integrity. Our uncorrupted ministers are still far from  the level of wealthy yet to work for free. Therefore, peasants need to satisfy the ministers’ insatiable greed bank accounts so that one fine day, ministers will be rich enough to work for the nation for free.


Conclusion: PAP truly cares for you……. by enabling peasants like us to slug for third-world-country income in a first world costs of living. This is for the betterment for Singapore. Nation welfare precedes unimportant individuals. National reserves should not be raided to help individuals.


3) For you to pay for the social cost; for them to reap GDP


Good intention:  For Singapore, for them, peasants have to pay socials for the ills of GDP and PWP to appreciate the privilege of being the citizens. Free lunches are only reserved for 2nd grade talents from foreign countries. Because we must treat our guests with hospitality.


Social costs are not included in the calculation of GDP. Fortunately, otherwise it will pull down their sterling achievement and Hsien Loong might sob. 


The ills of population growth are borne by individual peasants. Growing crime rate and new forms of crime for our outstretched police force, depressed wages lead to hardships for families, increased tensions between cultures of different nationalities, increased possibilities of infectious diseases in a densely populated area, increased competition on limited resources causing stress and anxiety, increased responsibilities of our NS men who are paid a meagre allowance to demonstrate their duty towards our nation, increased job insecurity. But remember, all these are done for Singapore. It might be too profound for the peasants to understand.


For Singapore, the two casinos brought about job opportunities for the peasants and our foreign guests. If peasants insist to gamble away their money and allow casinos to break up their families, there is little PAP can do. Peasants can make their own choices. Either they commit suicide when they are heavily in debt, or they can choose not to. Broken families are not a concern for the PAP as it does nothing to beef up GDP figures. Trade offs for you and for Singapore.


Conclusion: PAP truly cares for you…... as it has already spent a fortune with the best intention on advertisements to educate peasants about the vices of gambling. It has done its best to protect local peasants from the ills of gambling. For Singapore, we should not burden our nation further.


4) Hospital Bed crunch for you
Good intention: To enable peasants to understand the hardship of a third world country in order to appreciate what PAP has done for Singapore. The peasants’ hide will become thicker after this.  


For Singapore, Khaw Boon Wan, the compassionate buddhist, deliberately maintain status quo for the number of hospital beds in Singapore despite growing and aging population during his time as the Minister for Health to help save costs. If the peasants are being warded at the corridor of the hospital, either they choose to fly out of the country to seek cheaper medical care elsewhere, or they can choose to die. It is cheaper for the latter.


Conclusion: PAP truly cares for the you...... by spurring the peasants to lead a healthy lifestyle. Either they fall sick, or they don’t fall sick. They can start collecting cardboards under the scorching sun. In this way, they can prevent sickness and then spend less on healthcare. If peasants fall sick, they must take note NOT TO FALL SICK AT THE SAME TIME. Otherwise, peasants will cause over-crowding at the government hospitals. Anyway, the PAP has ensured there is sufficient space along the hospital corridors and even went to the extent of setting up tents likened to a refugee camp, to accommodate paying peasants. The peasants must be grateful for PAP’s efforts because it is worse in the Sahara desert where there isn’t even a hospital in sight.


5) Hazey days at PSI 400 but no stop-work order for you


Good intention: So that working peasants can acclimatise to the haze and continue their healthy lifestyle through work.


Vivian and Shanmugam have already repeatedly told the peasants that there is nothing they can do about the natural disaster. We cannot go against the nature. If the winds decide to blow the haze towards a tiny, vulnerable, resourceless, defenceless country like Singapore, there is really nothing the PAP can do at all.


Since PAP cannot blow the haze away, it has to be pragmatic and take the opportunity to train its people to acclimatise to the hazards of the haze. Peasants should not shy away from work like the natural aristocrats who can stay in the comfort of their air-conditioned palaces. Otherwise, our economy will crumble to the grounds into bits and pieces and vanished into the thin air in puffs if PAP calls for work stop for 2 days. The entire country will come to a standstill and there will be no one to clean the estates for the natural aristocrats. For Singapore, peasants must inhale the haze.


Conclusion: PAP truly cares for you…... by being honest of the problems that the PAP are incapable and uninterested of solving. They will not seduce the peasants into the belief that PAP is an overpriced superhero who is reluctant to shield Singapore from all man-made and natural disasters. Haze is good as it will reduce visibility and therefore, the peasants will spot fewer rodents running amuck during this period.


6) Jobs for foreigners; underemployment for you


Good intention: Foreigners are our guests. It is ill-manners if peasants do not treat them with respect and lavish them with the best opportunities that Singapore has. Don’t let the emperor Xian Long Hsien Loong be fully ashamed by the peasants’ behaviour.


Foreigners will create jobs and learning opportunities for peasants! See, there are lots more local peasants driving taxis than 2 decades ago because of the presence of foreigners. Some taxi drivers come with degree qualifications too! Don’t you feel proud to be driven around by a graduate? Which third world country has that? For Singapore, peasants must do the country proud. Foreigners have also created more jobs for police, security guards, inspector for fake paper qualifications and cleaning jobs.


Some peasants, being lazy, who refused to take up lower rank jobs, deserved to be unemployed. It is not shameful at all to work as a maid for $500 salary. Look, some maids went home and bought land and set up business and became bosses. Such aspirations! Peasants should learn from foreigners. 

For Singapore, peasants must sacrifice some small inconveniences to better our country and strive for the best opportunities for the foreigners. So that Hsien Loong can boost about the generosity of Singapore. He will be proud! How well we treat foreigners, much better than the Aussies!


Conclusion: PAP truly cares for you……..by bring hordes of foreigners to spur the peasants. Otherwise, how do peasants compete globally? PAP has brought the entire globe to Singapore for the peasants without even stepping out of Singapore!


7) No CPF for them; can-see-cannot-touch-CPF for you


Good intention: To help idiotic peasants who cannot manage their own finances from squandering away their hard-earned money on mistresses, gigolos and casinos.


PAP has a responsibility in ensuring the peasants on how they should spend their retirement funds. Otherwise, Singapore will collapse! Where on earth can you find such caring political party. In the meantime, PAP can divert the CPF funds for overseas gambles investments to benefit the peasants. Hopefully there will be returns for such ventures. Which first world government will milk money out of peasants to help invest for them?


As a caring and responsible political party, PAP will consider extending the full withdrawal age for the peasants as the population is aging. Many peasants are living longer than they should. 

For Singapore, peasants should not burden the country. Withdrawal age at 80 might be a fair age for withdrawal. By then, the peasants will have attained sufficient maturity to spend their retirement funds wisely. They will be too weak to travel to Batam by then.


Conclusion: PAP truly cares for you……... Enough said. Because they are the PAP, they are honest with their words. When PAP said they care, they really care because they are the PAP. For the past 2 decades, PAP has never said that they care. So when they claimed that they care, that is the hard truth that peasants must accept with gratitude. 

8) Care about your money; not your health

Locking up peasants' CPF savings is  one of the difficult choices that PAP has made. Because PAP knows what is best for peasants. PAP does not ban the sale of cigarettes because as long as peasants keep themselves healthy, cigarettes do no harm. BUT CPF will harm peasants.



Conclusion: PAP truly cares for you……...and knows exactly how to care for you.

9) Breakeven for you in healthcare; blank cheques for them for vanity projects
Good intention: Peasants can't bankrupt our country with their healthcare costs; vanity projects can put Singapore on the world map to boost about the PAP.

PAP needs money to build or sponsor vanity projects/events like Gardens by the Bay, Heliz bridge, pretty ministry buildings, F1 which can't even breakeven by themselves. This will help put Singapore, not Singaporeans, on the world map. PAP can claim credit for that and boast explicitly about themselves, not Singaporeans. It will bring glory to the country too although the peasants can't use this glory to find good jobs, affordable healthcare or to assuage living costs.
 
Hsien Loong mentioned the need for Medishield Life to breakeven. Gardens by the Bay needs no breakeven. Speaking from the point of profit-making for healthcare shows his care for our peasants. Because taking care of our sick and elderly is not PAP's responsibility. It is the peasants' own responsibility. Therefore, this is to train the peasants to be self-reliable and avoid bankrupting the country.

Some people choose to be sick, to be struck with chronic sickness, to be born with health issues; the elderly should maintain healthy lifestyle by collecting more cardboards or choose to die off instead of burdening our healthcare system. 

We are such vulnerable country; resources are limited. After making heaps from our HDBs, ERPs, COEs from the peasants, healthcare must contribute to the national revenue. It is the honour of our senior citizens to build this nation but they cannot bankrupt the country. The country does not owe them anything. But the country owes the PAP for everything.

Conclusion: The PAP loves vanity, they build their self-esteem from these hardware. And because they care for the peasants, the peasants should share the cost of PAP's self esteem. 








After listing a few examples of PAP’s care, the peasants should be moved to tears. If they don’t, they got to reflect why they felt this way. Look, the PAP has turned Singapore into such wealthy nation, much much more successful than Sahara Desert. What more do you want? Anything more than this is simply greed and corruption! If peasants do not appreciate it nor want to contribute to Singapore, PAP will then be forced into getting foreigners to contribute.


For you, with you, for Singapore!


By the way, who does the “who” actually refer to? And “for Singapore” means for all the people in Singapore right?