Getting into this box is what's best for both of us. During your time in the box, you will learn so much, and yet experience so little. It's a wild ride, my friend, one well worth the time spent...and let's face it, you don't have much to do these days anyway.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Singaporean Social Campaign Campaign.

Yes, rest of the world. We Singaporeans are so pathetic our government needs to tell us HOW TO GO TO THE GODDAMN TOILET.

The social campaign has been the go-to social engineering tool for the Singaporean government since it began getting its mucky hands in the business. A grand history of four decades of prodding and poking by people who know better than ourselves what's good for us, and that we should follow their wisdom because damn, did you really imagine we should be allowed to go our own way and make our own mistakes?

I can see where the government is coming from - sometimes. Most of us Singaporeans can be pretty stupid, after all - like everyone else in the world. And yet it says something about both us and the government that even the tiniest things in our lives must be controlled by the state.

But people are blank slates waiting to be written upon! Biology doesn't matter! People don't matter! We can turn anyone into anything we want, so long as the proper pressures are applied, and don't dare to tell us what we can or can't do! Everyone is a cog in a machine that can be replaced by another cog!
This is how you crush a language.

Perhaps the greatest and most successful Singaporean social campaign was the Speak Mandarin Campaign, launched in 1979. Prior to this, the local ethnic Chinese who'd emigrated to South-East Asia spoke the dialect from their locality, and those who spoke the same dialect tended to cluster amongst themselves into their own little communities.

That apparently did not sit well with the government, so they set about convincing us to drop those damned dialects. Why? Well, my private suspicion comes from the fact that most of the old Malay and Indian enclaves were also broken up - not so much by force, but by allocating public housing in accordance with the demographic ratio of the ethnic groups.

Well, it goddamn worked. I'm not too clear on the mechanics, save that government control of the schools and the stopping of teaching of dialects in classrooms had a good part to play in it, but it worked. For some reason, parents were all convinced to stop teaching their kids dialects. Within the short span of thirty-odd years, Chinese dialects have all but been crushed in Singapore. What remains is largely the province of the elderly, clan associations, and the working classes. Hokkien in particular, has come to be associated with gangsterism, an attitude that's prevalent in the armed forces (at least, from my experience in them). No one speaks Chinese dialects in public anymore, while just across the Causeway in Malaysia people are still yattering away in Teochew and Hakka as if nothing had happened.

30 years to crush a whole host of dialects and wipe them from a populace. Less than a generation. Part of the campaign's success was in that we Singaporeans were all so complicit in it and so trusting of authority that we went along with them like sheep to a's interesting how the Singaporean government is defending its mother tongue programmes in schools ("but we need to preserve the culture, and out mother tongues are key to that!") against the very same arguments it used to justify the crushing of the Chinese dialects back in the day.

It's hilarious.

But what it's also led to is the rise of a more cynical and distrusting younger generation that's just a little quicker to do the double-take as opposed to their parents. I remember the general sentiment when I was in school that National Education was "just propoganda", and that everyone was doing it because they had to and just wanted it out of the way as quickly as possible.

 Kids, state-planned economies don't work, what made you think state-planned demographics was a good idea?

When I look at the state of my generation of Singaporeans, we're becoming more and more inured to the constant government exhortations to do this, do that. We've lost that crazy-minded reverence and subservience (at least, inwardly) our parents had for the state, and younger people are starting to grumble in the recesses of Singaporean websites. Sure, the ideas they come up with might be batshit insane (hey, let's have the same level of welfare spending as Norway despite the fact that they have oodles of oil and we don't! That's one thing the government got right, at least - you don't work, you don't eat), but at least they're not taking anything put on the social campaign posters as gospel. Hell, I wonder how many people actually notice the damned things these days, let alone think on the message they carry.

Of course, the response to this is a doubling down on the message. Our government has to teach us how to go to the toilet, how not to spit, how to return our trays at food courts, how to be polite, how to create an inclusive society...

And you see, some people have described Singapore as a benevolent dictatorship. By the looks of the west, you folks there seem to want to follow us in these shoes (especially when it comes to the government telling you what you can and can't do), coupled with a whole lot of welfare spending and debt, which we don't have. Oh, and there's no guarantee that your dictatorship will be benevolent. Our government holds back on using the Internal Security Act for detainment without charge or trial; I wonder if yours will be so reluctant with the NDAA.

We all follow. We all want instruction and comfort. It's easier than taking a risk and thinking for yourself, after all.

I'm just waiting in my box and watching.

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