Sunday, October 29, 2006

A First

I’ve always wondered what it was like to be amidst a demonstration. You know, the scenes on TV you see of disenchanted youth burning flags and effigies, as a protests against a particular situation. For us Singaporeans, it is just ridiculous; or rather it is something quite beyond the scope of our comprehension. We’ll rather just get on with our lives and just whine about it until the next thing comes about. I mean, it’s not that there are no merits in this. Investors love us because they know it is not in our culture to hold demonstrations or strikes that will affect their business. Hence, we’ve got an investment friendly environment and people are willing to invest in us. Well, that’s at least what they say and I’ll patronize their version of how the world comes around until I can think of something more ridiculous.

Anyway, that was then, when I was back home. Over here, I pretty much made up my mind I was gonna find out for myself some aspects of living which would never be possible to attain in Singapore. So when I received a broche spreading the word about an Anti-War protest, I knew immediately that this was one of things I wanted to experience for myself. Idealism has bounded me with the knowledge that a demonstration is far more than just a bunch of disenchanted souls gathering for a common cause, it is at it’s best, the expression of one’s democratic freedoms. Anyway, that is just idealism talking. The real me was just in it out of curiosity and fun & games.

So, I got a few people together, made plans and agreed to meet up for the protests. It is an Anti-War protests and I admit I do not share the sentiments of the protestors. I think that the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was a mistake, but withdrawing from Iraq or Afghanistan now would be a catastrophe. IT would just diminish the international standing of the United States & its allies and lead to the creation of fundamentalist regimes in both Iraq and Afghanistan. However, as I stated last paragraph, it was not the war that I was concerned with here, but the freedom to express oneself.

So the few of us gathered at Waterfront and being virginal protestors were initially hesitant to join in the crowd. Not knowing what exactly to expect, I was kinda afraid that the situation would get out of hand like what we’ve seen on TV. However, our Ecuadorian friend, who is a seasoned protestor by now (having been involved in his fair share of protests back home) assured us that the situation was fine and everything is gonna be alright. So, in we went to join the crowd.

How can you do without it these days - an effigy of President Bush, this time as the grim ripper

It was not quite what I expected when I got down there. It was a small crowd of about 300-400 people holding banners and signboards, singing and chanting Anti-Bush, Anti-Harper denunciations. They were a multitude of people from all segments of society present – New Democratic Party, UBC New Democrats, BC Labor Union and other mostly leftist groups. One could see that these people were out there to vent their disenchantment for all to see, and they were ready to take their course to the extend of blocking off roads; getting honked at by not so amused drivers; even to be ridiculed by their fellow Canadians – such was their resolve. However, if it ever shown, it was shown in the Canadian way – which is epitomized by a slow leisurely stroll down downtown’s main streets on a nice cool Saturday afternoon. Yes, we did walk down Robson St (think equivalent Orchid Road and some of the protestors were chorusing into a particular anthem which would have not been taken lightly in Singapore). So the march started and it carried on. It was chaotic, of course when you have a few hundred people converging at a particular area. I bet it gets chaotic too during the Great Singapore Sale. However, people while psyched up and eager to make their voices heard, preserved their civility and walked on the stipulated route which was sealed off by Vancouver Police without any trouble.

During the march, I was fascinated by the array of signs hoisted by the various protestors. There was a ‘Viva la Hugo Chavez’ (Long Live Hugo Chavez). For all you folks who didn’t know, Hugo Chavez is the President of Venezuela, and during the recent UN General Assembly called President Bush – ‘The Devil’. I was really tempted to go up to that individual and ask him didn’t he think it contradictory exalting Chavez against the character of Bush; when Chavez himself is guilty of repressing the opposition movement in his country. Well, I think political correctness got the better of me and I decided that I could just figure the answer out for myself – he’ll probably accuse American propaganda for the bad rep on Hugo Chavez. However, kudos to Chavez, he is in history, one of the few who survived an American sponsored coup.

The thing about being in a protest march is that things begin to get political. I was by mid way point engaged in a conversation with the Ecuadorian friend, I spoke earlier about. Since everyone was fascinated about the Chavez poster, we talked about the resurgence of the left in South America. My Latino friend, to summarize, basically states two problems with South America – poverty and corruption. Those two factors just spiral downwards and transcend into the very reaches of government and society. He stated that he is resigned that the situation would stay as it is, regardless of whoever is in power. However, as the left constantly represents change, especially to the majority of the people who are living below the poverty line, the left represented the best hope for them to have their lives turn around. I then asked him since the process wasn’t functioning, what in his mind is the best way to change the lives of the people in South America. He just shrugged his shoulders.

It wasn’t before long, actually it was round about 1 hour, when we finally reached the Art Gallery where a slew of speeches were suppose to take place. Somehow or rather by this time, all of us were feeling kinda tired after that long walk and one could see that the majority, amongst the group of us, were beginning to swing in the way of getting da hell out of here and finding some place to eat instead. I wanted to listen to at least the first few speakers, however, I guess I had to give in to a craving appetite and the whinces of my peers. So, just like how it started, our little adventure come to an end, albeit abruptly.

All is not lost though. While I did not feel the ‘resurgence within my soul’ as some activist would have infused within him or herself, I did today understand something about, in all oddness, life itself. I guess all of us, being the emotional and unpredictable beings that we all are, need an avenue or medium or vent out frustrations and discontentment once in a while. Even though these protests had no impact whatsoever in changing the mindsets of world leaders or even their fellow citizens, it did give those partaking of it a sense of control over their situation, that they were doing something about a situation they are against. Yes, the freedom to express oneself does bring about change when change is needed, a much larger turn out would have brought about a more vocal standpoint and politicians might have listened – the system functions in itself. Even though it is far from perfect, but this is democracy, which reflects the will of the majority.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Pondering on home

It’s been a while since I updated my blog. In fact, I think it is kinda redundant now and no one actually bothers to read it. (I think..) Anyway, I’m almost half way through the semester and the results are beginning to trickle in, albeit with heightened anticipation. Afterall, I don’t think I’ve recovered from A-Levelgate just as yet. Why? I guess it is the same reason which spurred me on to be so garang during national service – the fear that I’ll be never good enough. For all you geniuses out there, yes, I look to you with envy and for all the muggers out there, I wish I could possess some of that determination. Unfortunately, I stand neither, but possessing me. An individual trying to craft a niche for myself within the strata of society.

And seriously, that isn’t my ideal sort of life.

While everyone in Singapore, including myself, was hogged up by the excesses of Wee Shu Min, another piece of news hit the headlines. Ah Hao, the individual who was found guilty of murdering 5 year old Huang Na, was bound for the gallows after his pleas for Presidential Clemency was rejected. I read the news on Channelnewsasia with a sigh of nonchalance. Afterall, we execute than highest number of people per capita in the world, so another individual to the gallows isn’t such a big thing.

So, I went on reading about what the forums had to say about Wee Shu Min and apparently her father, the Senior Wee, is somehow involved in the whole saga now. (Looks like it’s playing up to be our own little Watergate) However, I felt kinda strange. Somehow, the previous news of Ah Hao just couldn’t get out of my head. It just didn’t follow. In fact, I was troubled with the way I took the Ah Hao piece of news so trivially and instead found amusement in some melodrama.

So, I clicked back to the Channelnewsasia article and read it through. Apparently, Ah Hao had a strong case for an appeal, and in fact, the appeal process took longer than the usual 3 months which made his lawyer hopeful that the appeal was successful. I was getting really curious, so I did a google seach on Ah Hao and more information surfaced. Ah Hao, the verdict of his guilt was upheld by a 2-1 decision by the Court of Appeals. Apparently, one of the Justices recognized that there was a possibility that Ah Hao’s actions did not directly lead to the death of Huang Na. Doubts began to creep into my mind.

While the high minded side of me was telling myself that the judiciary functions as a majority in this instance, the other side of me was regressing this thought. I mean, shouldn’t we be absolutely certain that Ah Hao killed Huang Na before we even entertain the notion of executing him? Furthermore, what justifies that the judiciary in demanding ‘an eye for an eye’? No, what is the function of judiciary? To mete our punishment fitting the crime? Or to reform individuals from their criminal past? I guess at this moment, I do not possess the ability to produce an absolute answer on this. Sure, I can generate an answer for my narcissistic pleasure, but I’ll just make a complete fool of myself at the end of the day. Rather, I just wish that Ah Hao wouldn’t have to die, another mother losing her child and a child losing her father. All in the name of justice.

However, there was something I realized. I think that sometimes we just take things for granted. What I mean is that we take things too much of face value and would rather keep it that way. If ever anyone complains why Singapore is the Singapore we know, I think the answer lies simply in that we have failed to question and act upon answers, even if we did.