who are the finest citizens of Singapore? Answer: No doubt about it, they
are the editors of our national press.
has a horror story," Kelvin Tong said in his column, In Transit,
about Singaporeans lack of civility (The Straits Times, Feb 4, 2003).
His editor(s) had used the following as a blurb for his story: "Singaporeans
need to realise its time they start being nice to one another again
if they want to be able to tide over these hard (economic) times together."
(So what, less need for courtesy once hard times are over?) Tong urged
our dear fellow citizens to practise courtesy 'cos its "for
free, so let us splurge" (what a flaw in argument, Singaporeans cant
be fooled that something can be free!). Of course we know what hes
talking about the pedestrian rudeness of our people. His editor(s),
however, believe in describing it in a more civil way: "Stop
being sullen, Singapore" was the headline for Tongs
essay. How sullenly put! Im sure no one cushions blows better than
our editors of the national press. (I wouldnt call it just their
job, when its more a case of shelf life!). They are, surely, the
finest specimens of nation-propping Singaporeans.
are also getting in on the act: "PSA to lay off staff in bid to stay
competitive" (a headline on Straits Times front-page). I guess
the truth is when NGOs lay off staff, theyre simply in the
red. PSA, too, hasnt lost sight of the big prop.
On that matter,
there was this Insight piece in The Straits Times on Feb 22, 2003 written
by Paul Jacob. The headline for it went: "We sayang you too, Dr.
Mahathir." In the article, Jacob likened the Malaysian Prime Ministers
jibes at Singapore to "street entertainers of old who could spin
a good yarn." Not that we remember what those entertainers are like
since theyve long disappeared from the face of our urban-development
Singapore. (I mean, Ive heard it said that if you, yourself, dare
spin a derogatory yarn about our city-state for all to hear in the Chinatown
coffee-shops, some commonly-dressed blokes will come round with
a cautionary word and some ID-checking.)
pointed out that these "street entertainers of old" are the sort "telling
that will make the crowd forget their daily hardships, distract
them from the state of their countrys economy, for that brief time
at least." Funny he should demean such tactics 'cos I thought theyre
precisely stuff that nation-building is made of. He also added, not un-ironically,
"Ive also heard that in those places, you cant get away
easily with slagging off their leaders." Yeah, we should know.
the finger-lickingly delicious thrust of the Insight piece: "Mr.
Goh Chok Tong is one of the best-loved, if not the most liked, politicians
here." (I should hope so, otherwise, why is he our leader? But, of
course, thats not the point for exemplary citizens lickingly
good show of support.) "Mr.Goh himself mentioned that grassroots
leaders said Singaporeans should do something. Boycott Malaysia perhaps.
But its a measure of the man and his office that he didnt
say, Lets do it!," Jacob declared. Thats
precisely the point of Jacobs role in all of this, isnt it?
But in this
case, his over-zealousness received a "strategic" slap in the face
for how can we ever allow such undiplomatic views to be uttered quite
so shamelessly on our oh-so-diplomatic shores? Hence, the put-down from
our PMs Press Secretary the following day in The Straits Times:
"I refer to the article by Mr. Paul Jacob yesterday. The article
was in poor taste. It is an example of the type of articles that the media,
on both sides of the causeway, should avoid. Whatever others may say about
us, it is better to reply in a dignified manner and set the record straight
by stating the facts." (And when it comes to the facts in Singapore,
whos to argue?)
But no worries,
Jacob, we see your well-intentioned, institutional-service as something
rather noble in these parts, albeit a little too enthused. Im sure
our PM knows it too, just that protocol calls for the right measures from
the man, you understand.
pushed pen comes to Jacobs shove, Im sure our master recognises
him as a shining example of sheer hardcore nationalistic rant. And thats
all that matters. But I bet Jacob already knows that. Just gotta work
that bit harder to move from Insight (in the Home section of the paper)
to the Comment/Analysis in the main paper, dear chum. (Shelf life, darling,
shelf life!). X'Ho
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