NTUC cigarette vending machine reminds smokers of cigarettes

From ‘Cigarette dispenser an ad in itself’, 28 Mar 16, ST Forum

(Liu I-Chun): In having a cigarette machine, it seems FairPrice is disingenuous in fulfilling the letter of the law but not the spirit, and dressing it up as a productivity improvement (“Tobacco display ban: FairPrice pilots opaque dispenser“; March 17).

The mere presence of these prominent dispenser machines, sans branding notwithstanding, reminds people of cigarette availability. After all, advertising is, in essence, association, implication and conditioning.

Under Article 13 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, it is recommended that vending machines be banned “because they constitute, by their very presence, a means of advertising and promotion”

FairPrice says that it “supports the Government’s efforts in protecting the health of Singaporeans”. If this is so, the proper thing to do would be to stop selling cigarettes at all FairPrice outlets and convenience stores, like what the CVS drugstore chain in the United States did in 2014 (“US chain to end tobacco sale”; Feb 6, 2014).

Unfortunately, FairPrice’s latest venture suggests that it has no intention of giving up this easy money-spinner, which runs counter to its corporate philosophy of doing good for the community.

FairPrice should adhere to WHO guidelines by not using tobacco vending machines and scale down tobacco sales.

NTUC is willing to take shark’s fin off the shelves but can’t let go of sin-tax generating cigarettes, hiding the goods behind a drab looking machine and making it tedious for smokers to obtain their fix. The reason behind banning shark’s fin was that the organisation was committed to being ‘socially responsible’. If a supermarket were truly ‘socially responsible’, it wouldn’t just stop selling tobacco products, but alcohol, snacks and carbonated drinks as well.

In other words, a supermarket with a moral compass would go bankrupt, and NTUC, by setting itself as an exemplar in ethical consumption, has put itself in a quandary with the cigarette dispenser program. It’s like placing the candy jar on a higher shelf to discourage a kid from grabbing it. It only makes the object more desirable to the addict. By making cigarettes slightly less accessible, it also encourages the smoker to purchase more packs from the machine so that he can skip the hassle the next time round. So, how ‘socially responsible’ is NTUC when it spends money on cigarette dispensing technology, and then allows the media to run a story that practically says ‘Cigarettes for sale!’ all over it?

In any case, I suspect even banning tobacco from supermarkets wouldn’t deter the hardcore smoker. We may have banned cigarette ads since 1973 but that didn’t stop the industry from seducing their clients through subliminal cues. Malboro’s disposable lighter ads, with their epic Magnificant Seven soundtrack, were banned from all cinemas in 1984. In 1986, ‘travel’ ads by the likes of Peter Stuyvesant were scrutinised by the Ministry for alluding to smoking. Thankfully, we haven’t resorted to censoring movies featuring lead actors puffing away in style.

Scare tactics with disgusting pictures of charred lungs on cigarette packs didn’t work. Neither did the public service ads featuring victims of lung cancer talking through an eviscerated windpipe. Nevermind cancer, deformed babies or infertility, people continue to puff anyway, and simply keeping visual cues away from them is inadequate to curb nicotine cravings. You don’t need a cigarette vending machine to remind people of cigarettes. A familiar smell, a particular place, a random memory of a specific event or person may all trigger the urge to smoke, whether it’s the decorative alpine vistas that look no different from a Ricola herbal candy box, or the piss and vomit-filled back valley of the club where you had your virgin smoke.

Some countries have in fact banned cigarette vending machines altogether, England and  Malaysia included. And here we are introducing it to the world like it’s some breakthrough in retail automation. NTUC, if you care for the smokers in Singapore as much as you care for sharks swimming in the oceans thousands of miles away, do the ‘socially responsible’ thing and cease sale altogether. If you don’t want the investment to go to waste, simply substitute by stocking it with another vice product. Alcohol, R21 DVDs, maybe even chewing gum perhaps?

I Love Children campaign is ‘scaremongering’

From ‘Fertility ads give birth to controversy’, 5 Feb 2016, article by Tan Weizhen, ST

A voluntary welfare group advocating early parenthood has defended an advertising campaign featuring four controversial cartoons.

The ads – which show sperm and eggs in situations such as rowing together in a boat or playing darts – were placed in train stations by I Love Children (ILC) this week, with slogans like “Even the best marksman could miss the target” and “Women are born with a finite number of eggs”.

The group hopes they will encourage people to conceive earlier while they are more fertile, but they have been criticised by some members of the public for being distasteful and insensitive.

Women’s rights group the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) has called the campaign “scaremongering“, saying it might have an emotional impact on women who might be infertile or who have had miscarriages.

i-love-children-ad-10-data

It’s not just married folks without children who’ll be irked by the naggy tone of the ads. Even those with curious kids who’ve seen the ad will have trouble explaining to them what a sperm is and where it comes from, before they start asking you whether those two happy creatures are new Pokemons.

Like all evangelical fertility campaigns, I Love Children only presents a one-sided rosy picture of childbearing, and with it being launched in perfect timing with CNY, it’ll only add more fuel to the fire for those having to face the traditional interrogation by pesky relatives during visiting. This sudden urgency to bump up baby stats is a far cry from the ‘anti-natalist’ movement in the 70’s, where you’re advised to ‘take your time’ before settling down. If you ‘take your time’ these days, you’ll get parents giving you dirty looks assuming you’re a ‘children-hater’. You can ‘take your time’ to choose the right primary school, the right career, the right house, but when it comes to babies, it’s ‘WTF are you waiting for already!’

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 6.29.00 AM

From ‘Fertility and the Family:An overview of Pro-natalist Population Policies in Singapore’ Theresa Wong, Branda S.A Yeoh

To be fair, it’s hard to come up with a fertility campaign with the right nuance. Some mild threatening is needed for it to be effective. Like ‘Children – Life would be empty without them’. This would make sense in the 90’s. Today, if you don’t have children of your own, there’s always Netflix and line dancing to fill the gaping void in your otherwise lonely, miserable existence.

In 2013, some NTU students came up with a ‘Singaporean Fairytale’, which featured ‘negative stereotypes’ in the form of a Golden Goose laying eggs, with the terrifying warning that your ‘egg making device may become rusty and old’. Again, the usual scare tactics of that timebomb ticking away in your oven. Time to put a bun in it!

In 2012, Mentos created ‘National Night’, urging you to ‘perform your civic duty’, and tapping your partner’s body like an ‘EZ-link card’. Cringeworthy, but for different reasons.

ILC, you don’t need to tell me what I already know. Jubilee Babies, SG50 baby bonuses, enhanced parental benefits. We already have agents out there, intentionally or unintentionally, promoting procreation for free ALL THE TIME. Not just the Government, parents and kaypoh aunties, but every father mother son who’s ever posted a montage of their bundle of flippin’ joy on Facebook. I’m reminded of putting my sperm to good use everytime I send a Whatsapp message to a friend with his baby as his icon.  If I see a baby dressed like Obi Wan Kenobi, I get the urge to impregnate the nearest womb I see. When I see a mini-series about families with 8 kids it gives me a newfound passion for harem-making.

So there’s no need for pro-lifers to hire graphic designers to draw cartoon sperm and ova rowing a boat, doing pole vaults or doing the Lambada to give us the warm, tingly  ‘AWWWWW..SO CUTE..LET’S HAVE SEX NOW’ moment. In fact, these ads do the exact opposite. Like a badgering aunty telling you so-and-so just had a fourth kid and still got that promotion at work. It saps the romance right out of any form of sexual intercourse, oral, vaginal or otherwise. Unless you people are telling me ‘Screw romance and do it like they do on the Discovery Channel!’

In short, money wasted, which could have been put to better use helping people struggling with kids so badly they resort to giving them up for adoption, accidental teenage mums thinking of throwing their neonates down the rubbish chute, or going into some fund for assisted reproduction for desperate couples. If you Love Children so much, help children that are living NOW, not play bedroom Peeping Tom, matchmaker, and midwife.

This is all we need.

GrabTaxi’s sexist ‘Love Boobs?’ campaign

From ‘Grabtaxi apologise for ‘insensitive’ breast cancer awareness campaign’, 8 Oct 2015, article by Xabryna Kek, CNA

Car-hailing app GrabTaxi has issued an apology on Thursday (Oct 8), following backlash over its breast cancer awareness campaign. Since the launch of the #GrabitBeatit campaign, GrabTaxi customers have received app notifications with the message “LOVE BOOBS? So does cancer.” The slogan has also been plastered on cars running the GrabCar services.

Some netizens did not take kindly to the tagline. “It’s unfortunate that your Breast Cancer campaign is communicated in a sexist way that objectifies women,” Twitter user Faizal Hamssin wrote.

Boob, I mean book, a GrabTaxi cab now!

Boob, I mean book, a GrabTaxi cab now! (pic:Sunday Times, 11 oct 15)

The hashtag for the campaign reads #GrabItBeatIt, which sounds like the jingle for a bongo drumset than breast cancer. An SMU Associate Professor of Marketing lashed out at the use of the word ‘boobs’ (Grabtaxi’s cheeky campaign on cancer awareness backfires, 11 Oct 15, Sunday Times), as if  changing the slogan to ‘love BREASTS’ would make much of a difference. Besides, the ‘breast’ pun is already taken, by a famous fast food burger chain with a history of ‘objectifying’ parts of the female anatomy.

We love your buns too

In 2012, The Singapore Cancer Society launched the cringeworthy ‘Treasure the Breast Things in Life’ campaign, so GrabTaxi isn’t the only one capitalising on our affection for ‘breasty’ things. ‘Breast’ puns are a tad overused. Cue ‘derogatory’ terms instead.

I guess ‘LOVE B(.)(.)BS?’ is deemed offensive to some women because it’s the kind of porny clickbait that is designed to draw horny men. If there’s anything wrong with the ad it’s that the target audience (males) seems questionable, as most females who chance upon a ‘love boobs?’ ad is likely to dismiss it as one of those spam links to online sex shops selling dodgy bust-enhancement creams. It should also be more inclusive, since breast cancer affects men too, and renamed as ‘LOVE BOOBS AND MOOBS?’, though I’m sure a lot more people love the former than the latter.

As for the physical act of ‘grabbing’, there is, in fact, some grabbing involved when it comes to breast cancer screening, whether it’s done gently via self-examination in the mirror, or by a mammogram that literally clamps your tits together like a medieval torture rack used by misogynistic zealots to force confessions out of women accused of witchcraft. If you’re disturbed (or worse, tickled) by the phrase ‘Beat It’, it just means you’ve descended too far into the darkest realms of S&M.

There’s no shame in admitting that the vast majority of guys love breasts. It’s a shame, however, that people who accuse such ads of being sexist and ‘insensitive’ ignore all the dick jokes done at our expense and other campaigns that mock the male anatomy, like this ‘Clean Your Balls’ ad for example. Making fun of testicles – now THAT’S really hitting below the belt.

Like breast cancer, testicular cancer is no joke of course. But if you had a ‘Love Balls?’ campaign instead, I doubt social media would go all ‘tits-up’ over GrabTaxi’s ad. Somehow ‘Loving boobs’ is offensive, but ‘Playing with balls’ is hilarious. No wonder Ikea never considered raising a meatball charity event to draw our attention to the scourge of testicular cancer. Yes, cancer loves your balls too. Cancer is a sneaky bi-pervert, goddamit!

Allow me jog your mammary-I mean- memory: Some years back, we had a ‘Lift Your Skirt’ campaign for cervical cancer, which had some folks shaking their heads all the way home after spotting the ads at bus stops, because they can’t imagine anything beyond the message than a call for women to expose their panties to men. Naughtiness seems to be the norm if you want Singaporeans to, well, keep abreast of killer diseases. Whatever works to grab your attention, I say, whether it affects the health of your boob, your cervix or your dangling balls.

Then there’s this fun way of raising funds for AIDS in Japan especially for people who ‘love boobs’. I suppose the reason why people don’t complain that this ‘objectifies women’ is because the recipients of the groping work as sex objects for a living.

Well, thanks to GrabTaxi, I’m forced to interpret the lyrics to the Black Eyed Peas’ ‘My Humps (my lovely lady lumps)’ in a totally different light. Slogan theme song, anyone?

PAP posters displayed next to Taoist altar

From ‘Mini PAP posters taken down after queries from SDP:ELD’, 5 Sept 2015, article by Koh Swee Fang Valerie in Today

A day after Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan cried foul over miniature posters promoting the People’s Action Party’s team for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC being plastered around Ghim Moh Market and Food Centre, the posters have been taken down.

In response to queries from TODAY, the ELD said that it understands these posters had been put up by the merchant association in the area.

“The association has since taken the posters down,” said an ELD spokesperson. “ELD would like to remind everyone, including candidates and members of the public, that the display of election posters and banners must abide by the rules set out in the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations.”

During an election, the Returning Officer authorises candidates and their election agents to display election posters and banners for campaigning. “No person shall display or cause to be displayed in any public place during the campaign period any poster or banner without the authorisation of the Returning Officer,” added the spokesperson.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Dr Chee said that his team – which is also contesting Holland-Bukit Timah GRC – had alerted the ELD to these miniature posters, after coming across them on a walkabout at the food centre.

“We… saw miniature posters of the PAP Holland-Bukit Timah team pasted all over the food centre – even at an Taoist altar,” he said. “The SDP team is also campaigning for every vote but, please, let’s have some decency and not paste our photos where people worship.”

Eat, Pray, Vote

There is a specific list of places where you’re not allowed to stick posters in the Election Handbook. These include on an ERP gantry, traffic sign boards and stalls within a hawker centre. Not in this list are places of worship, between the grills of your front gate, or behind public toilet cubicle doors so you can ruminate on your party of choice while taking a shit.

So technically, millionaire pastor Kong Hee and his ilk could flash PM Lee’s face all over the megachurch premises without committing an actual offence. You could be queuing up at the ATM and have a group of MPs on a poster smiling at you by the side while you withdraw your cash from the machine. You could be buying groceries and have someone covertly slipping a mini handout into your bags at the cashier. You could be out jogging on a windy day and one of these discarded flyers could be blown smack into your face. The PAP, as our PM Lee promised, will be ‘For you, With you’. Every single day. Everywhere. Like an overprotective girlfriend who refuses to leave you alone.

Some posters are already stuck on traffic signs as we speak, and the police should really clamp down on these as they pose quite a distraction to motorists. Imagine cruising along the streets and seeing one of the Opposition’s placards asking hard questions about government investments and CPF, or getting awestruck by our PM’s warm glowing face everywhere you turn.  That may be enough to prevent you from checking your blind spot, or spotting an old auntie pushing cardboard against the red light. I wonder if any of the PAP’s posters were placed on U-TURN signs, though.

It’s ironic that as an anchor minister with the Environment portfolio, the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC team leader would endorse such indulgent paper consumption, as if the SG50 flags and paraphernalia still flying about weren’t enough. ‘Poster wars’ between political parties and random vandals have led to the ‘disfigurement’ of the city ever since 1955, where lamp posts, trees and even longkangs (culverts) are not spared from party propaganda.  Up till today, we have people messing up banners or stealing them as collectibles. Maybe we should be thankful to these thieves for relieving us of a serious eyesore. Or maybe it’s the ghost of Yusok, I mean Yusof, Ishak at work.

As for the Holland ward, I saw with my own eyes Vivian Balakrishnan and gang’s faces stuck on the wall between stalls while ordering food at Ghim Moh Temp Hawker centre some days back. Which means PAP has, indirectly, already flouted one of the election guidelines set up by the ELD, merchant association or not. While fashioning PAP candidates as deities next to a religious shrine comes across as a show of disrespect (though not illegal), that didn’t stop contestants from physically entering places of worship during their walkabouts during the last election. Politics and religion shouldn’t mix, of course. That includes holding rallies in conjunction with getais. Neither should politics be mixed with basic necessities like Lunch or Dinner.

Pappy washing powder video is a political film

From ‘MDA reminds parties to not contravene Films Act ahead of General Election’, 17 Aug 15, article by Faris Mokhtar, CNA

The Media Development Authority (MDA) on Monday (Aug 17) said it will not be taking action against the Opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) for releasing a political film, which contravenes the Films Act.

The SDP uploaded two videos as part of its online campaign for the coming General Election. One focused on the local education system, suggesting that the system is stressful and has affected students’ well-being.

The other video is a tongue-in-cheek commercial featuring a made-up washing detergent brand called “Pappy White“. It shows a woman putting clothes printed with words like “transparency” and “democracy” into a washing machine. MDA has classified the video as a political film.

However, the authority said it will not be taking action against the SDP, noting that this is the first such incident. MDA added that parties may not have been fully aware of what is contained in the Films Act.

The authority reminded parties and candidates that they need to ensure that their political films do not contravene the Films Act. MDA also said it will not hesitate to enforce the law should they continue to publish such films.

The Films Act bans the making, import, distribution or screening of “party political films”. However, some films which meet certain criteria can be exempted. These include factual documentaries and manifestos of political parties produced by or on behalf of a political party.

The first ever political film to be shown to public is likely to be 1959’s ‘newsreel’ about PAP electioneering. Opposition parties complained that this was biased towards only one party. Ironically, the same ruling party that came up with the ban decades later could themselves have been breaching the said regulations when they first started out.

SDP’s Pappy washing powder creation has an unlikely connection with Forrest Gump. In 1998, BG George Yeo, then head of the Ministry of Information and the Arts, passed an Amendment which disallowed the distribution and exhibition of ‘political films’. He was convinced that opposition parties had sufficient avenues to disseminate their views. Fellow ‘pappie’ Jacob (Yaacob?) Ibrahim was concerned about the ‘danger’ of digital technology creating false images, as depicted in the movie ‘Forrest Gump’ when Tom Hanks’ titular hero was morphed into a scene with JFK.

Which means you can forget about recreating LKY’s CG clone for a future film after all those actors worthy enough to portray him have died.

Today, our dear George is lauded as PAP’s Internet ‘maverick’, and the Films Act has since been ‘clarified’ to exclude certain types of content from the ban. For example, a film that is a live recording of any event (performance, assembly etc) which does not depict the event, person or situation in a ‘DRAMATIC’ way. An classic example of how this apparent ‘relaxation’ of legislation took effect was the decision to unban Martyn See’s ‘Singapore Rebel’. From the video on Youtube, you see scenes of Chee Soon Juan mobbed to fever pitch by the police and bystanders rabble-rousing. Nope, not the least ‘dramatic’ at all. Another of See’s films, Speakers Cornered, also features CSJ, but was passed uncut with an NC-16 rating because the MDA decrees that you need ‘maturity to discern the intent and message of the film’. No such luck for Tan Pin Pin’s ‘To Singapore With Love’. All the maturity in the world can’t offer you a glimpse of the banned, allegedly manipulative documentary.

Even without ‘dramatic elements’ or ‘animation’, an unedited video of someone telling his life story would still fall afoul of the censors if it ‘undermines public confidence in the Government’, as what happened to another Martyn See work starring ‘ex-leftist’ Lim Hock Siew. Vague terms like ‘dramatic’ or ‘factual’ have no place in the Law when the Authority, or its ‘independent panels’, have the wherewithal to decide what is ‘non-partisan’ and what is ‘political’ regardless of what the Act says. Undermining public confidence in the PAP is exactly what the Pappy washing powder implies, though the MDA failed to point this out as a ‘political’ element for some reason.

We’re so used to Mediacorp ‘current affairs’ programmes featuring Cabinet ministers, such as 2005’s ‘Up Close’, that we forget that these too may potentially breach the Films Act. And there are so many other ‘films’ out there with hidden political ‘agendas’ that get off scot-free. Like a cringeworthy, totally non-partisan Young PAP recruitment video about ‘re-igniting a passion for servant leadership’, which was spared because it did not have ‘animation or dramatic elements’. Others that inevitably fall out of MDA’s radar, including those with song, dance and animation, include:

  1. A homemade tribute video on the PAP’s 60th annivesary, with a soundtrack that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tarantino Western. Pappy Unchained?

2. A Steven Lim monologue urging you to vote PAP. Which the PAP may decide to ban for an entirely different reason.

3. This Taiwanese animation on Chee Soon Juan getting jailed.

4. This multimedia presentation that climaxes with a PAP logo next to a thumbs up. With cool retro 8-bit music.

5. This ‘Friday parody of how wonderful Election Day is.

6. Mr Brown parody on our ‘One Party’ leadership.

Which goes to show how archaic our laws are when it comes to catching up with new media. MDA’s ticking off aside, the Pappy video remains online as we speak, and in the meantime, if you need some legal ‘political’ entertainment, there’s this:

Overeasy sexy buns ad banned for showing butts

From ‘Eatery’s cheeky ad removed’, 23 July 2015, article by Jessica Lim, ST

A cheeky advertisement that raised eyebrows has been removed, after the eatery that put it up was ordered to do so by the advertising watchdog here.

The large billboard ad, featuring three scantily clad women exposing their buttocks, was put up by OverEasy Orchard, an eatery that is taking over the space occupied formerly by Wendy’s at Liat Towers. Beside the image was the tagline: “Seriously sexy buns. Two are better than one. Smack that. Aug 2015.”

The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) ordered the eatery to remove the ad as it was deemed indecent and in breach of the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP), an ASAS spokesman told The Straits Times in response to queries.

…When contacted, lifestyle company The Lo & Behold Group, which runs OverEasy and other restaurants, said that the ad was meant “to celebrate the female form” and that it intended to showcase OverEasy’s “characteristic cheekiness and irreverence”.

“The Lo & Behold Group apologises for how our advertisement might have made women feel,” said a spokesman for the group.

She added that the marketing for OverEasy, including the ad’s design, was done by an all-woman team. “To us, it is about women feeling sexy and confident in their own skins.” She said the phrase “lo & behold” has long been used colloquially to introduce something distinctive and impactful.

…Madam Raja Lachimi, 55, a housewife who has an 18-year-old daughter, said that such advertisements were “embarrassing” and “objectify women”.

She said: “That’s one reason I don’t take my daughter to Orchard Road. There are unsavoury locations there such as Orchard Towers and there are advertisements like the one at OverEasy.”

“I don’t think my daughter is ready for such ugly sights. I am happy they took it down,” she added.

ASAS decided to butt in and take it down

In 2010, Overeasy ran a ‘Fill My Cups‘ promo offering free booze to women based on the size of their breasts. 5 years on, they’re still in business despite complaints of ‘objectifying women’, proof that sex does bring in the booty, so to speak.

Lo and Behold is also the group behind ‘Extra Virgin Pizza’, which features ads like this:

All in the spirit of naughtiness then. ‘Lo and Behold’ is more an anachronistic expression than a ‘colloqualism’ as described, used most emphatically by medieval knights who managed to unlock chastity belts of damsels in distress. Looks like the group has all the erogenous zones of a lady covered in their campaigns.

It’s a shame that an 18 year old can’t even go shopping with her friends in town because she may stumble into sexy ads, be it the giant torso of Abercrombie and Fitch, or the simulacrum of a vagina by the Ministry of Waxing. Truth is, tits and ass are all over the heartlands as well, from semi-nude lingerie ads to Burger King ads that hint at fellatio. Did I also mention that she was EIGHTEEN?

The explanation about ‘women feeling confident about themselves’ is rubbish, considering the ad is all butt and nothing else. ‘Confidence’ is for sanitary pads and underarm whitening sticks, not light snacks. Subtlety is not Overeasy’s forte, and they’re downright shameless about it, even suggesting BDSM with the phrase ‘Smack That’. It’s crass, unimaginative and a sign that the marketing folks, whatever gender they belong to, have hit rock bottom when it comes to ideas for innuendo. A short skirt revealing a hint of undies is far more provocative than in-your-face buttocks, though the authorities may ban that too in case it increases the rate of people taking upskirt videos.

LKY’s name and image not allowed in commercial merchandise

From ‘New law on Mr Lee Kuan Yew ‘not aimed at artists or creative work”, 31 may 2015, article by Walter Sim, ST

A new law to safeguard the name and image of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew from commercial profit is not aimed at restricting artistic or creative work, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said yesterday.

Such work could include paintings, books, movies, photographs or performances that make use of Mr Lee’s name or image, a ministry spokesman said in response to queries from The Sunday Times.

“Such works may be sold for private gain, but they are different from merchandised products for the mass market. Hence they will not be covered under the proposed law,” the spokesman said.

“The specific intent of the proposed law is to prevent Mr Lee’s image or name from being used in commercial merchandise. Examples are things like chocolate boxes, souvenir coins or medallions and office stationery,” she added.

‘Commercial merchandise’ would also include perishables like a Breadtalk bun in tribute to the man. Though borne out of good intentions with a charity aspect to it, negative reactions from the public swiftly killed the product. Which leads me to wonder, with such strong emotions displayed by Singaporeans in response to any form of exploitation of LKY’s name and image, is there even a need for a half-baked posthumous law where submissions are on a ‘case-by-case’ basis? You would have to set up an entire section within the ministry just to evaluate whether people can put LKY’s face on a manga comic, a doggie bowl, a video game, a lego set or a goddamn key chain.

Then there’s the question of what differentiates ‘commercial merchandise’ from those exempted for ‘artistic’ or ‘creative’ reasons if profit is to be made either way. If the garage that gave away the Alex Yam-designed ‘black ribbon’ car decals had instead sold them at 50 cents each in honour of SG50, would that be breaching the new law? Even if they did distribute the stickers for free, business may have surged after the gesture and earn the wrath of critics scoffing such tribute acts as ‘publicity stunts’ to generate revenue indirectly. If something of a ‘commemorative’ nature like a ‘souvenir coin’ is not allowed under the proposed legislation, what about those planned special edition $10 and $50 notes featuring LKY on them?

I was once in a cafe which showcased a series of LKY’s books as ‘browsing material’, possibly to draw reverent customers who are either too cheapstake to buy the books themselves, or have no idea how libraries work. So it’s hard to tell if someone is genuinely in awe of the man, or using some typical business cunning to reap profits out of his death, even if none of the actual merchandise that they’re selling has anything to do with LKY, or politics for that matter. It’s like a bar owner promoting a ‘Michael Jackson’ night and playing nothing but MJ albums on his stereo on the singer’s death anniversary, without necessarily giving his cocktails and salad entrees cheesy names like ‘Thriller’ or ‘Dill the World’.

There’s also the issue of whether I can only depict the man in a favourable light. If I were a performance artist mimicking our Dear Leader, but instead of all-white shirt and pants I’m dressed in a dragon emperor’s robe, would I be hauled up by the Police for doing injustice to Him even if I’m not earning a single cent from my act? Chances are someone would run up and slap me in the face before the police even get to hunt me down for blasphemy. I bet you won’t see LKY drinking, smoking or swearing in the upcoming movie and musical, though I’m sure in real life he wasn’t immune from such vices. The man eats, shits and breathes like everyone else.  Except that if you do portray him doing any of these things, you’ll likely get crucified on the spot, or worse,  ‘Amos-Yeed’. It would also probably be illegal for you do post memes like these, even if the short and sweet content below speaks volumes about how some people are messing about with our dead leader’s name.

Instead of curbing the unnecessary deification of LKY, this impending law may very well make the man more of an ubermensch than he already is and feed into this hysterical personality cult that he was so dead set against. He was protected by security officers and Gurkhas nearly all his life. Today we propose to shield the man with wishy-washy state laws, because there’s no dead person greater who deserves our veneration, not first President Yusof Ishak, Sir Stamford Raffles, comedian Victor Khoo, nor legendary getai Beng Ah Nan.  Leave Him in peace already.

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