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I am Singaporean XXIII – Désenchantée April 17, 2007

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. I.

That’s French for disillusioned.

So in the not-so-distant past, kitana and ben have closed shop. I don’t know why, but kitana mentioned disillusionment in the aftermath of the ministers’ pay raise. And it’s a pity, because i really enjoyed reading their blogs. There’s also something about most people’s reactions to, say, political content on your blog:

Be careful…you never know what can happen to you…i just want you to be safe…just accept it – there’s nothing we can do to change things…nothing we can do anyway because they’re not going to change…i’m really worried for you…just give it up and be satisfied with what you have, et cetera.

Personally, i think i blog about political issues because while i am, ad usum delphini, dissatisfied with the developments in Singapore, i still do care for my country. Others have tried and given up when the disillusionment finally reached them. It’s not to say that i’m not disillusioned, but as Martin Luther King put it: i have a dream. But as Nelly Furtado puts it, all good things come to an end. (Get the version with Rea Garvey. The Chris Martin one sucks.)

And at the same time, praises of the new Budget/pay raise/policy are being sung in Parliament, letters which appear to be overly critical of the pay raise have been surruptitiously omitted from the States Times Forum, whereas today someone said that our Ministers deserve a pat on the back and the pay raise. Or letters saying which should leave the pay raise hubbub behind and move on to other more pragmatic issues. Maybe the PAP has fully succeeded at this – breeding the pragmatic mindset in the population so that there will be some unhappiness over downright dastardly unpopular policies because there are always more pragmatic issues to mull over instead of the ideological ones.

The philosophy faculty at NUS is known to be almost hopeless. The Arts, or subjects which encourage reflection, are carefully modified and adjusted for ‘relevance’ – i heard all they teach in Politikwissenschaft is how Singapore is such a wonderful success story (correct me if i’m wrong because tat says that there’s a lot of bitching) and how history is mainly south-east Asian (what happened to ancient history, the Middle Ages and other periods of development? Thus, i’m sorry, but i don’t consider it a history degree. I’d say it’s Social Studies, not to offend anyone.) So maybe reflection and comparisons to other cases are restricted.

Maybe there’s a reason why we’re so disillusioned and apathetic. Singapore is, in a sense, a victim of its own success. With education comes the knowledge and perception of the self and the role the self plays in society as a whole – unfortunately, the average self in Singapore isn’t very much an individual but perhaps more like a subject to the powers that be – a statistic, a gear in a working machine, a peon, a peasant. The glossing over of everything, the brainwashing potential of education only compounds things further. To prevent us from feeling too hurt by this uncomfortable discovery, emotionally we become at first disillusioned and then apathetic. After all, we’re all just pawns – our fates are not ours, and if we’re not useful to society anymore we can juat be dead (does anyone remember who said that? Because i do.)

The fact that many of the ministers waltz into Parliament unchallenged, not having to prove their mettle, and sometimes a random publicity fuck-up which shows just how out-of-touch they are with the people they were supposed to serve, (like Elitism, Increasing Taxation And Then Their Own Paychecks, Making An Unpopular Budget Sound Like the Cure to AIDS, yadda) which reflects the complacency in their minds, further compounds the problem. An overwhelming majority of the population, yours truly included, are not elites. And no, vertical movement within the society is something which is still impossible to most. Is it any wonder that we’re apathetic?

People go, ‘they’re going ahead with it anyway,’ ‘nothing we can do about it,’ ‘they have the power. Gahmen doesn’t care about us.’ Is this true? Personally i think although transparency has improved, the high-handedness of it hasn’t. The elite will continue to be elite because of their financial resources and kids in top schools (even if they may not be worthy of being there – pull string la.) while the average person has to go for self-improvement and may (surprise, surprise!) get retrenched anyway. So how are the elite ever going to get in contact with us, the people? They don’t see things with our eyes and believe, no, are convinced that what they are doing is for the best. And whose ‘best’ is this here? Mistakes are given almost zilch publicity. How’s Shin Corp for a reminder? Anyone heard anything about it? Oh well. Once in a while, a pay raise and a pat on the back is in order too. Too bad that most of us can’t be bothered to pat them on the back.

Look. You, dear politicians, can continue to paint a rosy happy picture of life in Singapore, where everything seems to be perfect (especially if you’re an ang mor, male, filthy rich so you can get a SPG) when it actually isn’t. Disillusionment is everywhere. No one believes in ideology and ideals and moolah is the talk of the day, all day. Or the insignificant things in life. People vote for the Party during GE because they’re going to win anyway. And i don’t want to jeopardise my job. Social responsibility is not all that high (and that includes voting according to your conscience, not your job concerns) And all along, they want is to be less apathetic!

I’m sorry. You can’t have your cake and eat it.



1. Kailuo - April 17, 2007


I’m a friend of Sam’s and surfed onto your blog.

I’m actually a philosophy major at NUS… uh.. care to elaborate on why you say the department’s known to be hopeless? Is it because we concentrate too much on analytic philosophy, or something?

2. guojun - April 17, 2007

I should have done more research eh. No, it was groundless because it was based on people’s views. But, since you feel that the concentration is too much on formal logic (analytical philosophy), philosophy of language and scientific theory, then maybe you are missing out on something.

Note that i said ‘known’ to be. Should i say ‘rumoured to be’? Oh well. I’m sorry if you are offended.

3. guojun - April 17, 2007

I mean, it’s really up to your own perception. My perception of what i’ve been told is that it’s not very good at all and perhaps your syllabus is like adjusted for ‘relevance’ – do you happen to do philosophy of the State? It’s under practical philosophy/ethics.

Moreover, it seems that the KI syllabus (which is essentially philosophy) at JC also focusses on logic, science, math and scientific theory. So what happened to the other big areas like metaphysics and ethics? But glad that you are a philo major. How large is the ave intake for major students?

4. Kailuo - April 18, 2007


Hey Guojun, I’m not offended at all. Thanks for the prompt reply. I just wanted to know why people would think so, and whether it’s a widespread belief or something.. 🙂

Hmm. Well 1) yea I do feel we do loads more analytic philosophy (ie. language, logic, mind and action, etc etc) as opposed to continental. (Derrida, Hegel, Heidegger etc etc) Yup so in a sense it’s not too balanced. How bout you in Trier?

2) Uhm there ARE political philosophy modules, and ethics modules. But don’t worry! We didn’t study anything about the politics of OUR state, haha. It was more about justice, welfare states, Rawls, Hart, etc etc.. not at all focused on any one country’s politics. (Maybe the fact that most lecturers AREN’T Singaporeans is the reason) But I do see your worry if there had been the case. As for ethics, it’s more of applied ethics and metaethics, too. No one country studied in depth.

3) In my year (4th) there are… only…. 7 others!!! Gosh. But tis good that there seem to be more and more people opting to major in philosophy in the 2nd and 3rd years.. at a 50% increase maybe. Smirks. Which isn’t so much. But yea, Singaporeans are a *roll eyes* practical lot.

Yup that’s all. I do enjoy reading ur blog now and then. Have fun in Germany and treasure your years there! 🙂

5. guojun - April 18, 2007

Haha…yah, then maybe it’s quite a pity ba. I’m doing philosophy of religion, language (Wittgenstein), semantics and arithmetics (logic) and one more seminar in ethics. Trier is well quite good because despite the small number of students there is a very wide selection of seminars and lectures to attend…net result is that the seminar groups are smaller but then we get more attention and well…have to think more lah.

Haha…yeah…i wonder if your focus on formal analytical philosophy is actually based on some pragmatic consideration by the university. Oh, well. and i have a sneaky suspicion that if you studied the politics of our state you’d be one very unhappy citizen indeed 😀

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