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RIP, JBJ October 12, 2008

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.
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So after passing Latin, i began reading up on everything which has happened in the ‘missing time’.  And it has come to pass that JBJ has moved on to a better place.  Yet another, one of the most flamboyant members of the old guard has passed on, and who is left in place?  Already this question should give you pause for thought.  And there has been a huge outpouring of condolence letters, mostly sincere, but also egoistical and insincere (i mean, the man is dead. Give him a break.)

JBJ was a person who was a good orator, and one who could stir up the crowds.  Unfortunately, that he was a good orator made him suitable for political machinations.  I don’t have to go through his trials and tribulations once again (i refer you to Farquhar on TOC for more details) but he was a person who took it upon himself to see that his ideal Singapore would be one governed by its citizens, and who fought to bring politics down from the clouds above which dissenters are always challenged to enter and down to a playing field which could be observed by the everyday man.  For this, he paid the price, time and time again.

These are things we can read up everywhere.  But what troubles me is that JBJ is rapidly becoming an icon.  An icon of freedom, an icon of a Singapore which it can never/not yet aspire to be.  But the thing is, icons tend to be forgotten.  Icons are going to be remembered in a romantic form, where things were always simpler, and there were such things as ideals to be attained.  Ideals which can never be attained today, but it was definitely nice to remember that once upon a time someone thought they could be attained.  So you think back and get back to your everyday life, which the Government has so-well planned, keeping you busy enough such that you don’t mind remaining stupid.

JBJ is an icon, and that can mean many things: as i commented in the TOC article, JBJ will be demonised in the next generation of school textbooks, or as long as Grand Master Lee remains alive, and his resilience will only make the threat JBJ seemed to pose to modern Singapore with all its amenities (but sadly without its soul) all the more bigger.  And for us, what will JBJ have fought for if nothing remains of his legacy but an icon, an ideal, a picture of days past?  As long as people are still caught up in getting rich/richer, no one is going to go the way JBJ did.  Everyone would rather want the status quo to be maintained, as long as Singapore is stable.  There is more unhappiness now since things aren’t looking so good.  But once things look up again – who is going to pay attention to who raised what again?  Who is going to stand up and say I Disagree?  Perhaps most people would, if they weren’t that busy.

I shall remember JBJ, the orator and politician, using these verses from Cicero’s Oratio in Catilinam, where Cicero denounces Catiline for a conspiracy against the state and people.  A translation is available after the post.  These are questions which should be asked, but never are:

Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra? quam diu etiam furor iste tuus nos eludet? quem ad finem sese effrenata iactabit audacia? Nihilne te nocturnum praesidium Palati, nihil urbis vigiliae, nihil timor populi, nihil concursus bonorum omnium, nihil hic munitissimus habendi senatus locus, nihil horum ora voltusque moverunt? Patere tua consilia non sentis, constrictam iam horum omnium scientia teneri coniurationem tuam non vides? (Oratio in Catilinam, I.1)

requiescat in pace.

*Now the translation:

How long, o Catiline, will you abuse our patience?  How long will this madness of yours elude us? To what end does your unbridled boldness toss itself about?  Does not the protection of the Palace at night, nor the guards of the city, nor the fear of the people, nor the meeting of the best [Senators], nor this place which is the safest for the convening of the Senate, nor the looks and expressions of these [gathered here], make the slightest impression on you?  Do you not know that your plans have been exposed, do you not see that your fouled conspiracy has been already kept in check by the wisdom of all who are present?

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