Monday, December 20, 2004

RIP Grace Chow II.

I very much hope today was a slow news day.

The Straits Times ran a half-page feature on Grace Chow today. On the front cover of the Singapore "Home" section, complete with an (imho) uncomplimentary photo which was obviously very dated. For those not familiar with The Straits Times layout for the deadtree version, the "Home" section is the cover for the second section of the newspaper.

The byline was by Sharon De Castro. The name was not on my mental list of individuals who I scrupulously choose not to read for my mental health. Ignorance about the ruling party's propaganda is very much preferred to indignation - and raising the blood pressure - over biased uncritical fawning by sycophants who give journalism a bad name.

So I read the article in full. The article was factual and fair, and told me nothing I did not already know. Even if I were to nitpick, the only issue I could raise is the description of her as "computer programmer". What is it with Singapore culture that just has to assign economic values to individuals (even implicitly) based on what they do to earn a living? Why "computer programmer Grace Chow"? But I digress...

It has been almost 2 weeks since Grace Chow passed away. Why now? Has it been a slow news day?
"Read excerpts of Grace Chow's online diary and about the growing popularity of blogs in Digital Life tomorrow."

I very much hope this whole human-interest article is just a teaser to lead people into the Digital Life section of tomorrow's newsprint. And not some perverted attempt to do more nation building indoctrination.

Am I being too suspicious of the local press? Or do my previous experiences teach me to expect some "nation building" spin even to the most touching of human interest stories? (ref. the Huang Na incident).


A Pain in the Neck arrived this afternoon from BookSurge Australia. Just finished reading it a few minutes ago.

It is a good read. Sarcastic with wiseass humor, sharp witty takes on the Singapore and Dutch societies and lifestyles, and honestly touching as she explores her impending death.

I do not like the book. It makes me uncomfortable. (No, not the Chinese cultural taboo of discussing death. But the parts where she writes of Singapore.)

Grace Chow writes honestly and plainly. With no pretentiousness that stereotypes would associate with the higher educated in as esoteric a field as Philosophy. And amazingly, she writes with no sense bitterness or self-pity which you would expect from somebody stuck down with a fatal illness in their prime.

And her comments on Singapore life and Singapore politics cut straight to the core. As she brutally dissects what is wrong with Singapore, one emotional side of me wants to protest "No, wait, it is not like that at all..." and the rational side of me realizes that I cannot construct a strong counter-argument to her criticisms.

Even the convenient defense dismissing foreigners as those that do not really understand Singapore and our unique circumstances does not work in this case. Grace Chow was one of us. She grew up here. She knew what she was writing about. And the truth - coming from a dead person - does make an apathetic Singapore like me want to squirm in denial.


Blogger Desire said...

Hey, got your comment on my blog.

I read the entry and i yes i do agree with what the writer says. That most people do not mix with other races - i used to be like that myself.

Mostly i feel that people do not have enough respect for others and are not taught that we are all different and we should learn about the differences. I know many people - Chinese, Malay, Indian, whatever who feel uncomfortable around ppl of other races - it's cause there is a segregation, just that no one wants to admit it.

I have been dating a Chinese guy for the past 4 months and the racial bashing i've had to tolerate from his friends is sometimes overwhelming.

But, it is suffice to say that not everyone is an ignorant fool who is unaccepting. There are others, who wish to open up to a world thats different, and get out of their little box.

We're not the same, we're different, but thats what makes us interesting.

December 22, 2004 11:19 AM  
Blogger C said...

Grace Chow got a mention in the ST huh? I've not had a look through the interactive yet, though i'm pretty sure i don't want to.

But i do want to read A Pain in the Neck though. Aside from blogs and various bits of informal dialogue i've not actually come across much published Singapore bashing from a Singaporean. One that is done without overly emotive reliance and strives to be fair in its critique is definitely worth a look.

December 22, 2004 5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there. I read with interest your blog. Stumbled upon it yesterday after I was googling Grace Chow. I am a displaced Singaporean in Australia for the last 10 years. Your emigrating comments stir my soul. If u find yourself arriving in Australia, can contact me if u like : Find out more about me at livejournal/users/elinwee, although I am really an amateur blogger yet

December 23, 2004 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks mate. Have removed information, didnt realise it- amateur blogger! Elin

December 23, 2004 1:10 PM  
Blogger Singapore Calamari said...

In Response to C :

I do not think Grace intended to bash Singapore.
From what I have read so far (halfway through the book), she is just merely putting what she feels growing up in Singapore.

Of course, not everyone agrees with her, or how she said it. I think she is merely documenting her life, factually and from her point of view.

No one should say she is right or wrong. Just merely agree or disagree, cos we each have our own pair of eyes.

Singapore and politics is merely 10% of her writings. So it is not the main point of the book.

December 25, 2004 1:45 PM  

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