15 September 2006

Bloggers Going Places

Bloggers seem to be really going places these days. I hear that 18-year-old blogger Gayle Goh is just back from Bangkok, where she and veteran social activist Alex Au (Yawning Bread) spoke at a forum organised by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance. What was I doing when I was her age? Polishing my army boots and singing the "A-for-Alpha, B-for-Bravo" song on Pulau Tekong. Bleah.

I just received an invitation to appear on the Channel U Talk Show, "Shoot" 《有话就说》,hosted by Desmond Koh and Quan YiFeng . You might have seen it on TV before - it's quite good. They usually film it live in some public place (like a coffeeshop or a shopping centre) - and anyone in the crowd can just come forward and pose questions to the speakers. So the show has quite a raw, authentic and spontaneous feel.

Their next episode is about the freedom of speech. They want to discuss PM Lee's National Day rally speech - the part about the government's plans to engage with the people via the Internet. I am supposed to talk about Mr Brown's case and share my views on how much room Singaporeans really have to express their views.

Unfortunately, I had to decline this invitation. My spoken Mandarin is not great and apart from embarrassing myself, I would be doing the show an injustice. And I happen to know that Yawning Bread's Mandarin is even worse than mine, haha. I did however nominate Loy Hui Chieh from Singapore Angle. He used to spout abundant amounts of 成语 and 俗语 on his old blog, so I presume he must be quite fluent in Mandarin.
Technorati: ; .


Lam Chun See said...

"What was I doing when I was her age? Polishing my army boots and singing the "A-for-Alpha, B-for-Bravo" song on Pulau Tekong. Bleah."

You were, to quote the Jack Nicholson character in A Few Good Men, "standing watch on the wall" so that people like Gayle Goh can pursue her studies in peasce.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

No, Cold Zero, I am not concerned about what *I* say on my blog, since I have control over that. But sometimes I am concerned about what *others* might say on *my* blog.

Anonymous said...

And I cannot resist throwing this at Lam Chun See, "And look at where and how Jack Nicolson's character turn out to be, someone who's bitter and with a huge ego.

Anonymous said...

I was 28 when I was on my first flight to study Masters in Perth. My son was more fortunate. He was 4 when he flew to Hongkong, and 5 when he played with snow on the slopes of Mt Fuji. Did I complain to my father? Nah..

Whispers from the heart said...

If his classmates are flying off to Hongkong at 4 (never mind that I did that at 28!), he will complain to me ...

I think old people tend to think in terms of our times, our life.

We forgot that we are not the main issue anymore. We had our times but the present belongs to someone else.

Parenting 101 for those who want to avoid generation gaps.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I'm not really following this. Lam Chun See is not my father, and neither is Gayle Goh.

Objectively speaking, I *am* probably doing better than my father in his day, and I *do* hope that my son does better than me in future.

Errrr, but I still don't get Henry's point.

Jimmy Mun said...

A Few Good Men was about a murder, and how the real murderer was taken down. Jack Nicholson's character was a human tragedy, the kind of monster one becomes when one is injected with enough fear, insecurity and mambo jumbo about duty/honour/country. The kind of monster who cannot tell right from wrong. The kind of monster who can justify any evil act as the means of survival in their warped and fearful world.

And this is perhaps the most horrible thing about living under authoritarian rule, be it the uniformed services or an totalitarian state: Since one feels so powerless to change the world, they change their own morals to allow themselves to be happy again.

It is perfect irony that the very setting of the movie, Guantanamo Bay, is the very place where the Americans turn their backs on the freedoms enshrined in their Constitution. The wall that once protect the free, is the same wall that is keeping freedom out.

Whispers from the heart said...

Mr Wang has been wrongly perceived as whining about doing his NS while others are having it better...

that's why several comments about NS popped up again!

We should be celebrating that our young could do more and that we have built a better environment enabling them to do more.

Naturally, they would also want and desire more, like freedom of speech and the right to be themselves.

Something the nanny state has to appreciate one day.

Huichieh said...

So you are the one. Well I am most humbled and thank you, but I had to turn them down. Conflict with other plans (to spend time with family). In any case, I'm not enthusiastic about going on TV--whether in English or in Mandarin.

Anonymous said...

good choice, doc. Going to Thailand speaking to Thais about non-violence and civil rights is one thing but speaking on tv and to singaporeans is quite another can of worms. I have not yet forgotten results of the communist conspiracy of the 80's.

i wonder where were all the 'pariots' and the 'i will defend my country' were then? Standing at walls I guess. After all 国家兴亡, 匹夫有责。

Anonymous said...

What is it about "standing watch on the walls" and "4 year olds flying to Hong Kong"?

Anonymous said...

Ref yr response to Cold Zero: u don't need to switch off your comment. You can opt to have the comment cleared by you ie moderated or rejected via email alert.

Anonymous said...

again - there is probably a bunch of guys who take their NS and *enjoyed* it like Mr Lam. I hated mine, but personally I still think it was neccessary evil. Like Mr Wang, I hope it reduces to one year instead of 2 and cut out all those stuff like packing NDP goodie bags, carrying IMF delegates' bags, and basically hanging out for tea break, coffee break etc....all these changes before my my 13 year old son goes in. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, Mr Alex Au practises unfair censorship on his blog by not publishing my comment and you recommended him to go on a talkshow about freedom of speech???

Mr Alex Au is pot calling the kettle black.

You should recommend Gayle to go on the show instead. She is a better example and her chinese is excellent!

Anonymous said...


What r u doing here ? What right do u have telling Mr. Wang what to do when u don't practise what u preach in the first place. BTW, why do u bother to post yr comment here when u have so much to say against our beloved Mr. Wang?

Anonymous said...

What do you mean I don't practise what I preach?

Are you talking about homosexuality?

You mean I can't offer comments? Are you Alex Au?

Anonymous said...

Text of Chee Soon Juan's podcast

My dear fellow Singaporeans,

This is the first time that I am addressing you on our podcast since the PAP banned podcasting during the elections in May. I cannot tell you how much of an honour it is to have you listen to this message, a message that has enormous importance to our future and the future of Singapore.

Our nation is at a crossroads and we, the citizens, have a decision to make. Go down one path and we will end up in a nightmare situation where the oppression makes us all live a life of lies and deception.

Go down the other and we have the opportunity of creating a society where we are free to question the government, one where we can demand transparency and accountability of those whom we elect to power, and one where we can don't have to live in fear of the PAP.

That opportunity will come this Saturday. I cannot tell you how crucial it is that you come down to the Speakers' Corner to join the rally and march.

I know that there are many of you realize the importance and the significance of this event. But I also know that many of you are afraid of getting into trouble with the PAP. It would be a lie to tell you that there is nothing to fear.

But I also need to tell you that if you allow fear to be your master, our nation will go down the path of social and political ruin which will ultimately lead to economic decline for all of us.

Remember, a strong and prosperous country is never built on a foundation of fearful citizens.

But I hear many of you say Singaporeans are not worth fighting for. They are selfish and apathetic and it's silly sacrificing for such an unappreciative lot.

Allow me to relate to you what some activists in other countries have said about their own peoples. Do you remember Benigno Aquino, the Philippines politician who was assassinated by Ferdinand Marcos?

His image now appears on the country's 500-peso note and beside it are the words "the Filipino is worth dying for". Many of his countrymen had told him that the Filipinos were not worth sacrificing for because they behaved so cravenly in the face of Marcos' bullying.

His colleague the late Senator Jose Diokno was so incensed by the lack of courage of the Philippine people to stand up to Marcos that he once remarked that his country was made up of Quote 49 million cowards and one sonofabitch!"

Similarly in Taiwan , an activist once scolded her fellow Taiwanese during the Kuomintang dictatorship Quote I would not encourage anyone to sacrifice for the 20 million Taiwanese who are so cowardly that whenever I see them I want to give them one big slap. Unquote

In 1997 when I attended a conference in Melbourne during a time when trouble was brewing in Indonesia, someone suggested that Indonesia could have its own People Power to get rid of Suharto. But an Indonesian scholar stood up and lamented that this could never happen in his country because, unlike the Filipinos, his fellow countrymen were too fearful to stand up to Suharto.

There are many more examples. In each case, people despaired over the weakness and lack of courage of their fellow citizens. Yet in every case, the people ultimately found the courage to say enough was enough and stood up to their oppressors.

How did this happen? It was always the few who felt compelled to do what was right and who would not look the other way when injustice was perpetrated that started the wheels of people power turning. Wasn't it Martin Luther King who said: "Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better."

Taiwan's Shih Ming-teh who struggled for democracy for his people and was imprisoned for nearly a quarter of a century by the KMT government said that Quote freedom fighters crawl along a narrow path, but in the end those who follow will broaden the path into a wide avenue. Unquote

It always starts with a few drops that will collect into a trickle. Before long that trickle will turn into a stream that will eventually become a raging torrent for freedom.

Don't despair. Instead believe. Have faith in our fellow Singaporeans, that like peoples elsewhere, our own will one stand up to the oppressors.

For now the few of us must take that first courageous step. Don't wait for the next guy to come forward for if everyone waits for everyone else, then we will forever be standing still.

Let me, for a moment, take my message to Lee Hsien Loong. Mr Prime Minister, if you are listening, you too have a momentous decision to make. Make the right one to bring freedom and justice to this country and history will commend you as a great leader. Make the wrong one and I guarantee you will face increased resistance. This is a fight you cannot win. A great leader is not just a strong one, but also a wise one. And wisdom is telling you that the time is come for Singapore to be free. I pray that you will exercise sound judgment and that wise counsel will prevail.

And to all my colleagues in the opposition, I would like to humbly urge everyone to come together to demand change. Only when we claim our right to exercise our freedom of peaceful assembly can we exert concerted pressure on the PAP to carry out reforms of the election process, the media and the legal system. When such reforms are in place, it will benefit the opposition as a whole.

And when the opposition benefits, Singaporeans can finally find their voice in parliament.

The only ticket out of this hole that we are in is to fight for our rights to peaceful public protests. With this fundamental tool in hand, we can compel the Government to make elections genuinely free and fair. Until then, we will all be forever condemned to running in circles.

We owe it to our fellow citizens to make the sacrifices and to suffer the pain before democracy can be won.

And so to all my fellow Singaporeans, I want to remind you that we are citizens of Singapore, not serfs. Citizens have rights. Let us stand up for our rights. Let our citizenship mean something. Let us respect the Government but let us not fear it, for only serfs fear their governments.

There comes a time when one refuses to be humiliated any longer, a time when she cannot tolerate the intimidation any more, a time when he refuses to continue to lie to himself and to his loved ones.

That time is now. I ask you to come and join my colleagues and I this Saturday because we are those men and women. We will gather at the Speakers' Corner in peace and humility but with an indomitable resolve to assemble and speak freely in our own country.

Whatever happens on Saturday we have already won. Why? Because we have become more aware of our right to freedom of peaceful assemble and begun to think more deeply about the concept and practice of civil disobedience.

Remember, it is not our bodies that have been crippled but our minds. If we can overcome our fear, our battle is won. The genie is out of the bottle and not even the PAP can put it back in.

You take that one step and I will take a hundred. I will be there standing shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm with you, holding high our heads and to show what it really means to stand up for Singapore.

They can sue me, they can jail me and they can take away everything I possess. But the one thing that they can never have is my obedience. As long as democracy is suppressed, as long as justice is mocked, I will not be silenced.

Join me and together let us make history. I'll see you on Saturday. Thank you and God bless.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the question of the difference between bloggers disabling comment and the government censoring commentary:

Unlike the estimable Mr Wang, I'm not a lawyer, but considering the Blogger TOS says Pyra does not claim ownership of the Content you place on your BlogSpot Site, I think it is fair to say the blog is owned by the blogger the way a person rents a house. They can decide whether anyone can walk into the house.

BUT if we consider the Government the people's representative, then it "rents" Singapore from the Singaporeans. Yes, it can ban foreign protestors. But its treatment of Singaporeans is kind of inverse.

(Like I said I'm not a lawyer so I'm sure someone can think of a counterpoint to this.)

If Singaporeans are "renting" Singapore from the Government (or maybe it is a Confucian parental-child style relationship) then the Government right.

So which way is it?

Regarding the comment:
"Mr Wang, Mr Alex Au practises unfair censorship on his blog by not publishing my comment and you recommended him to go on a talkshow about freedom of speech???

Mr Alex Au is pot calling the kettle black.

As said above the blogger has the right. whybegay does not allow comments on his blog too, but he has the technical right.

Nothing wrong *technically* with Straits Times not publishing what they don't want to publish.

Bloggers are journalists too. Everyone has a filter to present facts and opinions. But journalists who distort or ignore facts tend to lose respect.

However the closest analogy to Alex Au not publishing whybegay's comments is not the government, but whybegay's own blog. Both are not technically wrong, although personally I think both of them should allow even dissenting comments. Up to this point...with whybegay's comment, there is a subtle difference between them now. But if you can't see it then I can't tell you.

But there's a pretty big difference between journalists choosing what they want to say or report, and the actions of a government on its people.

Anonymous said...

Who says I don't offer comments? Have you even been to my blog to see the comments section there?

The comments section on my blog is only moderated to filter vulgarities from people like from "lady of the marsh" who told me to see the world and fuck off also kiddos who wanted me to recommend them sex toys. -_-"

Such comments are only meant for me and not for the readers, which makes them unconstructive so I removed them.

So I don't do unfair things like Mr Alex Au who did not allow my comment on his site to get through to his readers on his blog. My comment is not spam. Now that is an unfair shutting down of my alternative views to be heard by his readers.

Is my blog true when it said homosexuals are disconnected from other people?


le radical galoisien said...

They haven't shut down Channel U for its potentially irresponsible coverage of other views as a mainstream media outlet yet?

le radical galoisien said...

Flying off at an early age can potentially create a TCK (third-culture-kid) out of your child.

Anonymous said...

WHY are we quabbling about ourselves while our real foe is the party?!!

Stop arguing and lets focus!

Lam Chun See said...

All I was trying to say was that Mr Wang's statement was demeaning to the institution of National Service for which many Singaporeans have made sacrifices, some even paying with their lives.

I quoted the Jack Nicholson character simply because the Hollywood script writer has phrased what I wanted to say so succinctly. You can either agree or disagree with me. To start demonising the Nicholson character is totally irrelevant.

That's all this 'old foggy' has to say.

By the way, if you want the government to take us bloggers seriously, as what Mr Wang is trying so hard to do, perhaps you can begin by not resorting to name calling.

Anonymous said...

"demeaning to the institution of National Service"? Lets' be frank about this "institution". My brother was a Queen Scout and won all sorts of badges, till they ran out of badges. He signed on as regular because he loved soldiering and was trained in Israel as the batch bringing in the AVLB. But his career stopped at being Captain, as he had only a GCE O Level. Meanwhile desk type scholars zoomed to generalships (and subsequent CEos of GLCs). For this you want to lay down your life?

Anonymous said...

But his career stopped at being Captain, as he had only a GCE O Level. Meanwhile desk type scholars zoomed to generalships (and subsequent CEos of GLCs). For this you want to lay down your life?

Dear Jack,

That's the way the system in MINDEF/SAF is. They discriminate against diploma holders and below. Even an officer with a degree from some ulu university, as LONG as it is an university degree (they cannot differentiate between MIT and Uni of Uluness), will be given preferential promotion over "less paper-qualified" officers. That's quite sad, actually.

le radical galoisien said...

Don't you know, the desk-type scholars are the very model of a modern Major-General.

Anonymous said...

Yup, the desk-type scholars are the very model of a modern Major-General.

How else could they get information vegetable, animal, and mineral,

they know the rulers of Singapore, and quote party slogans historical

From LKY to LHL, in order categorical;

they are very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,

like reservist make-up pay equations, never simple and always quadratical,

About Rethinking NS they're teeming with a lot o’ news –

With many cheerful theories on hypothsis old and used.

Anonymous said...

loosen up a little, y'all?


le radical galoisien said...

Well, I didn't intend to be that creative, but lots of accord for that! ;D