Friday, April 22, 2005

"Me! Pick Me!"

Mc Dermott wrote in this blog posting that the Singapore blogosphere was infantile (as defined in wikipedia). In contrast, Mc Dermott cited Wannabe Lawyer and Singapore Commentator as mature blogs - presumably as blogging styles that he prefers over "infantile concerns or pulling silly faces".

I'd like to write this article to address two points that come to my mind after reading Mc Dermott's posting. These are points that Mc Dermott may or may not have implied - his posting isn't long enough and I'd be presumptious to presume too much. However, in stating his preference for a certain style when dealing with weighty issues, one might imply that he does not prefer toungue-in-cheek humour. Fair enough. I just ask that my readers consider these two points.

"The Name of the Rose" Argument


In Umberto Eco's novel "The Name of the Rose" (which I didn't read, I just watched the movie), Sean Connery was on the trail of a murderer with a terrible secret. The secret was a treatise authored by Aristotle on the value of humour.

In the climax of the movie, the murderer reveals his motivation for the murder. He wished for the treatise to remain concealed, as it undermines the foundation for religious obedience - authority.

My take is that a toungue-in-cheek approach to weighty Singaporean concerns is a lot more effective than a serious, weighty approach. It's all about approach. Using a serious, weighty approach virtually requires one takes on authority head on. In Singapore, that's a losing proposition. One will be sued, ignored and discredited, not necessarily in that order. Where's the effectiveness in that? Martyrdom? Even that doesn't work in Singapore.

Using humour, however, forces the authority to make a difficult choice - to either look foolish taking on the jester, to ignore the jester's message and grit their teeth at the grain of truth in the jests, or to laugh and be subverted.

Note: I'm not advancing an argument that effectiveness is a conscious consideration in choice of style. What we are seeing in the Singaporean Blogosphere may very well be Darwinian - the most effective bloggers occupying what is, in Singapore's blogosphere, the stablest ecological niche.

The "People vs Larry Flynt" Argument


Another famous movie quote, from the movie, "The People vs Larry Flynt".

"If you're going to treat me like a baby, I'm going to start acting like one." - Larry Flynt

This quote sums up a lot that's wrong with Singapore government policy. Some of the policies are -so- boneheaded and idiotic that the only response is to laugh or poke fun at the sheer absurdity of it all. The sheer all-pervasiveness of this bone-headedness drowns out concern for weighty issues - or Singapore bloggers just poke fun at it because it's so -easy-. Logical conclusion: refer to "The Name of the Rose" argument.


I believe that the Singapore blogosphere is a natural outgrowth of the socio-economic conditions in Singapore. I understand Mc Dermott's preference for a certain style, and even respect it. I know where my preferences lie.

Rock on, Singapore Bloggers!

Postscript: BigF**k's really well-written article here. Proof that first in time does not always prevail.

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MysteryTanLines said...

read this after reading your comment on McD's blog. I think you really hit the nail on the head in your observation on the humor response strategies to the situations singaporeans find themselves in. I am however curious as to why you would offer to take down your comments if McD was upset with them. What did you do wrong? I think if he really did get offended with your post then he would be infantile. I really dont see any potential problems. :)

Anthony said...

Hi mysterytanlines,

Call it Singapore conditioning - we self-censor every time an "authority figure" gets upset.

jeffyen said...

Darn! I think you've answered a question that I couldn't answer for a very long time...why Colin Goh hasn't been arrested yet. That's quite a good way of framing the issue...

Ivan Chew said...

Observation (in response the above comments on taking down comments): Maybe it's not so much "Singapore Conditioning" but a subtle & clever 'escape-route'. :)

I agree with Anthony that "...the Singaporean Blogosphere may very well be Darwinian...". I suspect the SG Blogs today is very different from those found 2 or 3 years ago. And we're seeing more coherent posts.

Can't help but note this statement about "boneheaded and idiotic" policies. Like Anthony, I have to qualify that it would be presumptious of me to read too much into this. So... I'm thinking it's such words that we might want to leave out, if we want the other party to be open to what we're saying. They might not listen to us anyway, but using those words usually will raise hackles. I work for a govt. agency, but make this comment as a Singaporean and from experience with angry customers (not defending anyone here).

J Schnorng said...

Wah, looks like I'm behind the times, man - I replied to McD's post as soon as I read it, but you were already a step ahead.

Props, and I quoted you.


P.S. I'm not intellectuar or anything like that, hor! Don't go thinking silly things!

Anthony said...

Ivan - darn. You got me. -furiously scribbles alternate escape route-

Re Boneheaded and thoughtless Policies - I've seen some good ones, but the government policies of late seem to be a bit lacking in forethought. I'm sure you must have seen my experiences with the IRAS portal.

Nevertheless, point taken on use of imflammatory language.

J schrong - be my guest!

YC said...

Drat, and here I was thinking it was more of an alter-ego thing i.e. we are too serious in real life, therefore we are not in blog.

Back to the drawing board...

BTW, great blog. Looks like I'm the first to blogline you. ;)

Anthony said...

YC - you might not be too far off. The whole CZ incident may very well just that.

And thanks for the blogline! You sure it's not the chiobu who I know that would disown me given half the chance? :D

YC said...

I'm not sure. I'm better with faces though. Post her picture! ;)

Anthony said...

-Their- pictures. Scroll down a bit. :D

Gloria said...

Wow, I went to Wannabe lawyer to take a look, and I agree with you (and also Big Fuck whose entry I've just read). I'm an overseas singaporean law student myself and the last thing i wanna do when I read a singapore blog is more 'intellectual' stuff! Bloggers don't have anything to prove to anyone... Besides, it's not true that there's no political commentary in MrBrown (not sure about xiaxue though). it sticks in your mind more because it's funny. And you;re right, sometimes government policies are so absurd that the easiest thing you can do is laugh.

Anthony said...

Hey arrghrandom...

Nice of you to drop by. Back to studying for your exams? :D

I'm not a big fan of xiaxue's, honestly. However, I saw a blog posting that defended Xiaxue's admirably - it's biased and personal, but it remains commentary on political issues nonetheless.

And make no mistake, I like Wannabe Lawyer's website. I just can't take it in large doses once I left law school.

dks said...

it's certainly an issue of preference, and mcdonalds is certainly entitled to his.

while i agree that sugar-coating issues with humour can be an effective in encouraging non-threathening discourse, there is always the fear that humour itself becomes the message.

but ignore me. i don't know what i'm saying anyway. whee! words!

Anthony said...

I don't necessarily see anything bad about the humour being the message, really. :D