Remember when your Facebook newsfeed was nothing but inspirational quotes, Christmas wishes, cat videos and Nelson Mandela tributes? It was a bright, bonny time. A mere one month later and my newsfeed was chock-a-block with Anton Casey and Steph Micayle (real name Stephanie Koh), two previous unknowns who became household names overnight in Singapore.
The first, still in the running to becoming Singapore’s Most Hated Foreigner, posted obnoxious comments about Singaporeans on public transport, despite being married to one and living here for more than 10 years. On top of his general tosser-ness, he made the mistake of being foreign, unapologetically wealthy and having a beauty queen for a wife. The second, a spurned reality TV contestant slash budding singer declared in an interview that she’s “not proud to be Singaporean.”
Twitter and Facebook feeds were rife with strongly-worded responses to these two. The sentiments “Singaporeans are submissive, not creative and unhappy” and “public transport is for poor people” had everyone up in arms, and eager to weigh in. People posted knee-jerk reactions, and then other people posted knee-jerk reactions to the knee-jerk reactions. It was a chiropractor’s dream.
DON’T LIKE IT? THEN LEAVE, LOR!
There were some measured, well-expressed responses and one or two hilarious quips from my friends back home, both local and foreign. But those were few. More common were the hateful, over the top vitriolic personal attacks on Koh & Casey (namely Stephanie’s hair, accent, and attractiveness/talent-level, and Anton’s ethnicity, choice of wife, income level.)
But the one thing everyone said to both Koh and Casey? The one quip that got the most clicks? “Well if you don’t like it here, then why don’t you just leave!”
That’s right. If you have any issue or complaint about our country, you should just GET OUT.
Er…really? It just seems we’re a teensy bit sensitive. Why else would we react so badly to a little criticism? So an arrogant man thinks he’s better than the rest of us because he drives a sportscar. He is what many expats in Singapore would call a twat. Or another ‘W’ word, that rhymes with banker. Why does his opinion about our world-class trains rile us so? Who cares if he calls us poor? He’s just a small-minded sod.
And this 20-something ingenue, who is clearly just gagging for attention and YouTube followers. Who gives a toss if she ain’t proud to be Singaporean? Her little spiel came in the wake of being kicked out of a Kpop singing competition and reeked of sour grapes and bad sportsmanship. Losing serious street cred after
flunking out of being eliminated from a Kpop singing competition – that’s what she’s really not proud of.
The wave of vitriol directed at Casey and Koh tells me three things.
- Our discontent about the rising cost of living, overcrowding, and nouveau riche influx is being misdirected at any easy target (including rioting construction workers). What we should be doing is voicing out protests with our vote at the next elections, writing to our MPs, or chanelling it into our art.
- This new wave of nationalism sweeping Gen X and Y Singaporeans is a fragile, flailing thing too insecure to bear even one detractor.
- We’re new to freedom of speech. And we don’t quite get how it works.
While we’re learning to get over our fear of censorship and social media has pumped us full of confidence in saying how we feel, we are still learning that freedom of expression is a two-way street. Any fool out there can say what they want with one click. Yes, even me. We are a young nation, and freedom of the press and self-expression are relatively new concepts. But this lynch-mobbing anyone whose opinion we disagree with – it sounds a lot like censorship.
I happen to believe, despite having moved away, that my country is flawed, but friggin kickass.(If you don’t believe me, read this) But that doesn’t mean that anyone who doesn’t agree needs to be shipped off. They are entitled to their opinion just as I am.
FOREIGNER BASHING IS NOT COOL
This one girl’s rant and that one dude’s comments don’t make me less proud to be Singaporean. But the ensuing furore of nastiness, bigotry and xenophobia does. And The Real Singapore, who broke the Casey story, playing to a nation’s insecurities and frustrations to garner more clicks – that’s a little upsetting, I gotta say.
Because to the rest of the world it looks like Singapore is a nation of petty, insecure foreigner-haters. And that makes me sad because I don’t think it’s an accurate representation of the country I grew up in, and love.
My response to TRS, Casey, Koh and the lynch mob:
- The Real Singapore‘s sensationalising the issue served to play to the lowest common denominator,
inciting hate, anti-foreigner sentiment and xenophobia. And that is not on.
- Anton Casey‘s comments, even if intended as a joke, were in very poor taste and lack class. Besides which I think you’ll find public transport smells better in Singapore than many other places!
- Stephanie Koh, many talented home-grown artists and musicians are blazing a trail with original content in Singapore right now. Google them. (EDIT: And if you’re too lazy, I took the liberty of finding some for you here, here and here. Oh and some jazz here.
And to all Singaporeans, myself included, please think before posting. It would be great if we’d be slower to throw the first stone. Especially if we live in glass houses. I am proud to have been born in one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse countries in the world. The peace we’ve enjoyed all this time is a direct result of mutual respect and tolerance. Let’s not screw it up with a thoughtlesss click.
EDIT 10th Feb ’14: Steph Micayle was a finalist in KPOP Star Hunt 3. To be fair she didn’t flunk out, she was eliminated. Error corrected.