SIFA film withdrawn due to cut Molotov Cocktail scene

From ‘Singapore International Festival of Arts withdraws two films from Open event’, 18 June 15, article by Mayo Martin, Today

Organisers of the Singapore International Festival Of Arts’ (SIFA) pre-festival event The OPEN have withdrawn two films from its movie line-up after the Media Development Authority Singapore (MDA) said these required edits before it could be screened.

The films were Tony Manero by Chilean director Pablo Larrain and A German Youth by French film-maker Jean-Gabriel Periot.

…In a statement, organisers said they were informed yesterday (June 17) that both movies required a scene each to be cut due to sexual and mature content, respectively. Rather than screen a film with edits, the organisers have chosen to pull out both films “to respect the integrity of the directors’ vision and craft”.

The two scenes in question were a fellatio scene in Tony Manero and a scene featuring a video on how to make a Molotov cocktail in A German Youth. Both films had received an R21 rating on the condition that the scenes be edited.

…SIFA director Ong Keng Sen told TODAY: “The objection to the fellatio scene was that it was too graphic and extreme, but I told them it should be put into context on why people are behaving this way. It was about how violence and decadence has been imprinted in the human being.”

Meanwhile, A German Youth is a documentary that was shown at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. It traces the founding of the militant Red Army Faction and Baader-Meinhof Group.

Ong questioned the objection to the Molotov cocktail scene, citing how the information on making one is already available on the Internet. “I tried Googling how to make it and it’s all within the first four entries. We have to ask ourselves if these censorship guidelines are still applicable when all of these are available on the Internet,” he said.

Well, you can google ‘nude uncensored sex’ on the Internet and get exactly what you want but that doesn’t mean we should scrap censorship altogether, be it for mainstream movies or ‘niche’ festival films. Cutting out a blowjob scene is probably expected of MDA, but snipping a scene teaching you how to make a homemade bomb is strange given that we do allow films featuring ‘occasional recreational drug use’, as well as cinematic step-by-step manuals on how to design and operate improvised weapons of fiery destruction, nevermind if these actually work in real life.

This scene from Salt starring Angelina Jolie, for example, tells you how to escape from a room conveniently stocked with volatile chemicals and a fire extinguisher by assembling an instant flamethrower in less than a minute.

The one and only Macgyver can blow people up using a video camera and silly putty. The whole series, in fact, is about the man making weapons out of scraps.

Which suggests that it’s OK if you’re the good guy making an explosive out of baking soda, detergent and shoelaces, but not if you’re intending to use it in a riot against the Authority. If that’s the case, we should also censor films and TV featuring scenes of people smashing bottles in half and turning them into stabbing weapons. We already banned beer bottles in Tekka hawker centre for the exact same reason anyway.

In fact, in the fifties before we had videotapes not to mention Youtube, the ST even revealed an old-timey homemade bomb recipe in one of their riot reports: Petroleum jelly/trade rubber, petrol, cotton fuse. Today, you can experiment with DIY detonators using nothing but ingredients and accessories bought from Daiso. You could build a bomb in pyjamas over your kitchen sink without having to put on goggles, labcoat or safety boots. You don’t need an obscure film from a festival that few people care about to transform us into amateur terrorists overnight.

Other than cracking down on festival films glamourising bomb-making, terrorism, explicit sex and homosexuality, our censors also objected to themes that potentially threaten religious and racial order. In 2004, we banned ‘The Final Solution‘, an Indian documentary that was considered ‘inflammatory’ because it dealt with communal riots between Hindus and Muslims. Singapore’s very own ‘To Singapore With Love’ was a liability to national security. I’m not surprised no one has thought of making a film based on the true story of Mas Selamat’s escape. It would probably be banned as well because it puts a certain minister in a bad light, and teaches viewers how to slip out of a toilet and cross over to Malaysia amid tight security, without having to assemble a single Molotov cocktail while at it.

Then there were the weird ones. In 2008, we banned ‘Bakushi’, a Japanese film about rope bondage. 6 years later, we passed ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ without cuts on the big screen with an R(21) rating. Perhaps there is hope for fetish fans after all. Still, it’s ridiculously ironic how the cut Molotov cocktail scene is categorised here as ‘mature content’, when the censors obviously think adults are not mature enough to handle it, that people would suddenly become ‘self-radicalised’ after watching a foreign film, go raid liquor and hardware stores, then fly a private plane above the city and drop little homemade bombs causing death, destruction and chaos everywhere.

Future Music festival banned because of drugs

From ‘Future Music Festival Asia’s appeal for permit denied’, 7 March 2015, article in CNA

Future Music Festival Asia’s appeal for a permit has not been approved, the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Friday (Mar 6).  “The Minister for Home Affairs has carefully considered and turned down the appeal by Livescape Singapore to hold the Future Music Festival Asia 2015 in Singapore,” said MHA in a statement. It said the appeal was received on Mar 3, and the outcome was conveyed to organisers Livescape Singapore on Mar 6.

Livescape Singapore, which has sold about 15,000 of the 20,000 tickets available for the two-day festival, previously submitted applications for a public entertainment licence to the police in January and last month, but was rejected both times. Police cited “serious concerns” over potential drug abuse at the event.

…The festival, which had a three-year run in Kuala Lumpur, has been marred by drug problems. Concert organisers had to put a stop to the event on its third day last year, after six Malaysians died of drug overdose and another 16 people were hospitalised for drug-related reasons.

Several Singaporeans were also hospitalised after a suspected drug overdose. Two were later charged for drug offences in Kuala Lumpur.

In Parliament on Friday, Senior Minister of State Masagos Zulkifli said that the Government is “keeping an eye” on music events, over concerns of potential drug abuse at such festivals.

In 1970, Woodstock: THE MOVIE was banned in Singapore. No official reasons were given then, but for a nation that also banned Puff the Magic Dragon, it became clear that the censors deemed Woodstock as not only a vile gathering of unsavoury, promiscuous, slovenly hippie characters who strut around nude, but also as a rock bacchanalia promoting and glamourising drug use.

Then ‘electronic music’ in the form of techno/trance arrived on the scene, and the Ecstasy-fuelled ‘rave party’ was born. Not only was such head-bobbing monotonous music conducive to getting high or stoned, it also served as a mantric, vulgar call to arms for secret society hooligans, as depicted in Royston Tan’s ’15’.

We mananged to keep Zoukout in check though, thanks to an army of security officers, though that didn’t stop people from falling into the sea and drowning, or getting molested. In fact, the risk of getting drunk or groped, whether it’s a rave or a state-sponsored New Year countdown, is higher than you slipping into a psychedelic death trance after popping some fun pills.

Zoukout isn’t all that innocent as we might think. Some folks have called for a total ban on that as well, for promoting a hedonistic lifestyle, spreading STDs and encouraging people to have random sex on the beach. The Zouk management insisted that this was the work of a few black sheep, and we shouldn’t allow such ugly incidents to taint the image of Singapore as THE nightlife destination in all of South East Asia.

Not that drug abuse isn’t already happening anyway. If you can’t drop some ketamine or mephedrone at beach festivals, you can always do it in the clubs, or ‘house parties’, where you don’t have nosy bouncers or undercover cops poking into your business all the time. This isn’t the first time we’ve deemed music a threat to public order and civilization as we know it. We’ve pressed the mute button for Thaipusam festivals, for example.

If it’s not due to knee-jerk ‘serious concerns’ over drug use, we also have zero tolerance towards artistes promoting the ‘gay lifestyle’. In 2005, an Action for Aids charity concert Affect05 was banned because it featured a gay couple as lead singers. Some Christians were aghast that openly gay Adam Lambert was performing in Singapore. Taiwanese veteran Ah Mei was banned from performing ‘Rainbow’ at Gardens by the Bay. It appears that succumbing to toxic hallucinations from Avicii-induced euphoria is just as bad as having the idea drilled into your head that ‘gay is OK’.

Maybe we should ban the Laneway festival as well, for turning our clean and green Singapore into a hideous ‘garbage city‘. Not to mention K-pop boyband concerts, for inducing cult-like behaviour. How about F1 concerts? In 2013, mega superstar Rihanna was allegedly high on weed while lip-synching on stage. Think of the harm this would do to her teenage fans! It’s been a while since we’ve seen the ‘Stomp!’ troupe performing in Singapore. Maybe we secretly banned them because they encouraged people to pick up random trash cans and sticks off the street and raise a ruckus, fooling the police into thinking that a riot is happening. And finally Sentosa New Year countdown parties too, because we don’t want women to get gang-raped in full public view.

What we’ll have left is ‘good clean,  wholesome, drug-free fun’, like Air Supply or Kenny Rogers in concert, where you’ll be exposed to love ballads about the sun and the rain and not think about getting high on marijuana at all.

UPDATE 9 March 2015: FMFAsia is officially cancelled. You could say it won’t be coming our way anymore in the near..future.

MP Lam Pin Min accused of inciting enmity towards Hindus

From ‘Film-maker Martyn See makes police report against PAP MP Lam Pin Min’, 26 Feb 2015, article by Rachel Chang, ST

Film-maker Martyn See made a police report on Thursday against People’s Action Party (PAP) MP Lam Pin Min, whom he accused of making racially seditious comments. Dr Lam had posted on his Facebook page earlier this month about three Singaporean men who were arrested at Thaipusam celebrations on February 3 for various offences. These include disorderly conduct and voluntarily causing hurt to a police officer.

Linking to a blogpost that has since been deleted, Dr Lam wrote: “An example of how alcohol intoxication can cause rowdiness and public nuisance.” In his police report on Thursday, Mr See charged that these comments “distorted an allegation by the Police into a statement of fact”.

A police statement on the trio’s arrest said that “all three men were believed to have been drinking earlier as they smelt strongly of alcohol.” But, Mr See said, this has yet to be established by the authorities as fact and the three men have not yet been tried.

In saying that the three were intoxicated while participating in the holy festival of Thaipusam, Dr Lam incited enmity towards the Hindu community, he charged.

Mr See also complained in his police report that Dr Lam’s comments “caused ill-will and hostility between different races and communities. The responses on his Facebook page show overwhelming hostility to his remark. Yet, he has allowed his offending words to remain online”.

He added that Dr Lam breached the sub judice rule, as judicial proceedings in this case have yet to be completed.

I wonder if Martyn See was aware of what another prominent figure said about Indians on a bus, a man who once campaigned for President branding himself as the ‘voice of the people’, represented by a bizarre logo that really says ‘Someone needs a tight slap every time he opens his mouth’.

Tan Kin Lian’s ‘Mumbai’ remark pales in comparison, of course, to what another MP in the past used to say about Little India, that it was in ‘complete darkness because there were too many Indians around’.  You didn’t need to file a sedition charge against ex-MP Choo Wee Khiang then because he got jail time for corruption anyway.

One man who managed to get away with ‘hard truths’ even if they threatened to ‘incite enmity’ among the races was LKY himself, who had some controversial thoughts about Muslims and their dietary habits. Now in ICU and fighting for dear life, it appears that all is forgiven. God bless his hardy soul, and anyone who has the audacity to charge our ailing founding father of inflammatory hate-speech deserves to rot in hell for all eternity.

On Feb 11, the AGC issued a warning against anyone commenting publicly on the Thaipusam scuffle, that they take a ‘serious view’ of any remark calculated to interfere with the ‘integrity of the administration of justice’, while Lam posted his ‘inflammatory’ comment on Feb 4, latching on what the Police reportedly believed to be another kind of spirit lurking within the premises of the religious procession. It’s still online as we speak, and captured here for posterity. Maybe Lam was too busy distributing oranges to his ward folk over CNY, or his FB administrators were sleeping on the job, intoxicated by CNY junk food.

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In the last GE in 2011, a police report was filed against a PAP MP hopeful for allegedly campaigning on ‘Cooling Off Day’, with the following post:

OooOoooOooh! so that’s what REALLY happened? Wow. I think tears in Parliament is worse than ANYTHING ELSE!’

Tin Pei Lin’s defence for the breach of election rules? The ‘web administrator’ did it. OooOoooOooh so that’s what happened! Tin is still MP, by the way. The fate of her bimbo administrator remains unknown.

See’s police report is a shrewd test of the dictum ‘no one is above the law’, and with ordinary people getting successfully sued for defamation or arrested for sensationalising the Thaipusam incident, it’s interesting to see how someone in a position of power reacts, and the events that unfold, when the tables are finally turned. A very inauspicious year for Dr Lam then, ( born 1969, year of the rooster. According to Grand Master Tan Khoon Yong, the outlook for Lam’s sign is ‘gloomy’, his ‘judgement may be affected’ and ‘lawsuits are possible too’), who now has to stop unpacking his ang pows, get over the columbarium saga and explain away the alcohol comment invariably using the ‘Get Out of Jail’ word ‘context’. Hopefully some hapless social media manager doesn’t become the scapeGOAT this CNY.

Playing musical instruments banned during Thaipusam

From ‘Ban on playing music at Thaipusam aimed at ensuring peaceful procession:Iswaran’ 5 Feb 2015, article in ST

The ban on playing music at the annual Thaipusam procession was introduced because of past incidents of fights breaking out between competing groups which disrupted the procession, said Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran. The ban, which has been in place since 1973, also applies to all processions, and not just Thaipusam, Mr Iswaran told reporters.

Given that Thaipusam is the longest foot procession in Singapore which goes through major roads in the heart of the city, it is even more important to make sure that the procession is conducted in a peaceful manner, he added.

…His comments followed the arrest of three Singaporean men over a scuffle that broke out on Tuesday evening during the annual Thaipusam procession. Police said organisers had asked a group of people to stop playing traditional Indian drums as it was not allowed under the event’s police permit.

Following the incident, some have questioned the ban on musical instruments at the annual procession. Responding to this, Mr Iswaran said the authorities have in fact made special concessions for Thaipusam and a couple of other Hindu foot processions, pointing out that there is a ban on religious foot processions, which has been in force since 1964 following “some very bad episodes and experiences“.

Back in 1981, the police had a different explanation for the banning of music from religious foot processions, that it wasn’t so much the music itself that was disrupting the peace or inciting people to beat the hell out of each other like alcohol does, but that it moved people to DANCE all over the streets and block traffic in their spiritual ecstasy. The 1973 ban, of course, didn’t stop people from bringing on the bongos still, and things got ugly when the police tried to seize drums from participants in the 80s, with one cop suffering a black eye for performing his party-pooping duties.

‘Musical instruments’ back then included portable radios and cassette players, and I’m not sure if the police would swoop in to restore order and silence if devotees were playing ukeleles, harps or doing mass accapella instead. In 1984, there were Thaipusam near-fatalities after a fight and stabbing in Serangoon, music or no music. The ST did not mention if those involved ‘smelt of alcohol’. Nor did anyone consider the possible theory that maybe it’s not thumping music or dancing that’s responsible for a religious procession turning into a Little India riot. Maybe it’s, I dunno, dangerous WEAPONS perhaps? Instead of looking for parangs, the police are raiding boom boxes. If someone rolled in a grand piano, they may just gun the damn thing down before it hypnotises people into a murderous trance. It gives new meaning to the term ‘killer beats’.

The penalty for holding a parade without permit in honour of some deity’s birthday, Hindu or not, can earn you a $1000 fine, or up to 3 months jailtime back in 1989. The police won’t do anything, however, if you decide to hold a funeral bash, banging drums, gongs and cymbals included, for a deceased loved one. Best not to anger the spirit of a dead grandmother I suppose, compared to say Lord Muruga or the Monkey God.

It’s interesting how it’s only parades on foot that are illegal. What if I went around on top of a tooting bus cheering at the top of my lungs in a victory dance interfering in people’s business and getting them to wave at me? Wait, you mean this has actually happened before? With no police around to grab people’s loudhailers and telling truck drivers to STFU with their horning? The audacity!

F1 Grand Prix is not a $25 chicken rice race

From ‘Singapore GP not a $25-chicken-rice race: organisers’, 14 Sept 2014, article in CNA

The Singapore Grand Prix is meant to be a great experience and not a ‘$25-Chicken-Rice’ race, said the organisers of Formula One’s (F1) only night race, in response to a report that showed the city-state may not be the most affordable place to catch an F1 race.

Race organisers say Singaporeans consistently make up about 60 per cent of the over 80,000 race-goers each year. This applies to every price category – from the cheapest walkabout tickets to the Pit Grandstand.

“Over and above a sporting occasion, it is a huge social occasion now. Singaporeans like a good party,” said Mr Michael Roche, executive director of the Singapore GP. “I think this loyalty has grown among Singaporeans – they’ve become quite proud of the Singapore Grand Prix and they like it when the world is watching Singapore and the skyline.

“We don’t want to be a ‘$25-chicken-rice Grand Prix’. We want to be a great experience.”

But there is a price to be paid for the chance to experience F1’s only night race. Travel website TripAdvisor ranked the Singapore Grand Prix as the seventh most expensive, out of the 19 races worldwide. It said the price of catching the Sunday final race here is S$622.67. This includes the cost of the cheapest tickets at S$207.33, a meal and a night’s stay at a hotel near the track.

Roche’s analogy of a ‘$25 chicken rice dish’ is likely a snub at the famous house special at Meritus Mandarin’s Chatterbox, which now incidentally costs $27. Curiously enough, the ‘legendary’ chicken rice was created by a German chef back in 1971, who was inspired by the hawker version to create a premium dish, made from COBB 500 chickens, medium grain jasmine rice and homemade ginger and chilli sauces. I wonder what former executive chef Peter Gehrmann would think of the comparison, with Roche suggesting that $25 for a plate is overpriced, overrated when it seems like only top-grade ingredients went into its concoction. Chicken rice will never be ‘sexy’ or ‘glamorous’ like an F1 race no matter how you mark it up. And honestly, thank God it’s not.

While Chatterbox used to be a ‘coffee house’ in those days, today it’s a casual diner and its ‘award-winning’ chicken rice still wins the hearts of some locals who appreciate the generous servings of meat, describe the sauces as ‘sublime’ and the meal as an ‘annual pilgrimage’ (WHAT awards exactly, I wonder). Perhaps the Night Race is more of a $25 XO Chai Tau Quay instead? 20 years ago, Chatterbox charged their chicken rice at $16 per plate (Is $16 too high a price for chicken rice, 17 Aug 1995, ST), which is still cheaper than what you can get for a BURGER at F1 ($17) today.  In 2009, food stalls in the F1 zone were charging chicken rice and HOKKIEN MEE at $8, which was expected since the whole event was designed to milk the most out of rich people, though if I had to choose between a sub-par, measly $8 chicken rice and the Chatterbox dish, I’d rather splurge on the latter. According to Trip Advisor, we also sell the most expensive pint of beer in the history of F1 ($13.58), no thanks to our recent increase in sin taxes. Nobody seems to be overly concerned about a riot breaking out on the grandstands.

But look at the discrepancy between our minimum ticket price vs Malaysia just across the Causeway ($207.33 vs $39.12). The CNA article also didn’t mention that, according to the BBC, Singapore has the MOST EXPENSIVE 3-day ticket OF ALL (1,109 pounds) (2013). The second most expensive ticket in the world was from Brazil, at a distant 745 pounds per ticket. This year, for $42276.50 you could book a GREEN ROOM (Oops, you can’t now, it’s sold out!). What the F1 organisers are avoiding to explain really is WHY so expensive compared to the rest of the region (i.e Malaysia), even for a night race. It’s not that we have the most ardent racing fans so much as we have the greatest concentration of goddamn billionaires  (26) here.

Not to mention the other intangible costs of a night race on our environment, namely the excessive use of lighting. No, the F1 isn’t a $25 chicken rice dish. Ecologically speaking, it’s a $25 triple-decker Big Mac, sinful beyond redemption, greasy, artery-clogging, too much of which will eventually kill you. In the government’s eyes, it’s a billion-dollar baby.

Arts group at Night Festival wants you to kill stray cats

From ‘Kill stray cats’ flyer taken out of context’, 1 Sept 2014, article in CNA

Flyers reportedly urging people to “kill stray cats”, which earned the ire of animal welfare groups and online readers over the weekend, were revealed to be taken out of context, TODAY reports. It was part of a satirical performance-exhibition against evil acts by art collective Vertical Submarine, which was commissioned by the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) for the recently concluded Singapore Night Festival.

The art collective issued a statement on its Facebook page clarifying the flyer — of which an image of a sample circulated on social media on Sunday — was taken out of context and was part of a series of flyers highlighting other similarly evil actions as part of the piece Eville.

“The flyers were not distributed to the public for the purpose of advocacy but scattered as part of the performance. We do not advocate or condone the killing of stray cats. On the contrary, we are pleased that the issue of cat abuse is highlighted,” said the group’s statement.

…The flyer on stray cats explains how “charitable elderly lonely widows” spend a total of S$6.6m on cat food and supplies, which could be spent on themselves. These were signed by a so-called Red Herring Conservation Society. The term “red herring” is an idiom referring to something that distracts or misleads people from important issues.

In the statement, Vertical Submarine added: “As part of the Eville exhibition at the Singapore Night Festival, the flyers and other Eville exhibits explore the theme of evilness and depict several acts of evil happening in our society. Satirical didactics were used throughout the show with the intention to provoke reflection within the arch of the Eville exhibition. The flyers were one such device and this would have been clear if the exhibition had been viewed in its entirety, rather than looking at one flyer outside of its context.”

If the flyer had read ‘KILL ALL HUMANS’, it probably wouldn’t get as much attention, though that is just about the most evil thing anyone can do. ‘Satirical didactics’ is an excuse for something that wasn’t very ingenious or witty to begin with, and ended up slightly more serious than satirical, like a New Nation article about PM Lee unfriending his Indonesian counterpart on Facebook. No cats were harmed in the exhibition, of course. Though many butterflies had to die for someone else’s gruesome piece of taxidermal ‘art’ some years back.

Not sure why the Singapore Kindness Movement got involved in macabre performance art of all things, or maybe they just ran out of things to do after the departure of Singa the Lion (who also happens to be a member of the cat family). Cat abuse doesn’t need highlighting, really. We’ve read enough high-profile, grisly stories of how cats are mutilated, disembowelled or thrown 10 storeys off HDB blocks.  To hide an anti-abuse message that we’re used to experiencing on a sickeningly visceral level behind an obtuse ‘context’ isn’t helping matters at all. In fact, it even seems patronising. By resorting to headscratching ‘schlock’ tactics, the arts collective responsible did exactly what a ‘vertical submarine’ would do. Sink to a new low.

Here’s the reason why the joke isn’t funny anymore. In 1952, the government declared all out WAR on stray dogs and cats during the rabies frenzy, issuing ‘shoot to kill’ orders and screening ‘propaganda’ films to alert the public against this vermin scourge. In 2007, it was reported that the AVA kills 13,000 stray cats every year, replying to animal lovers that culling was a ‘necessary sin’. Some residents even complained to their Town Council that they were ‘afraid of cats’ and wanted them put away. If Eville intended to raise ‘awareness’ about unnecessary animal deaths, they should target the government agencies who are the real culprits behind this secret kitty genocide, rather than bring up ‘elderly lonely widows’ (or ‘crazy cat ladies’, which is also a case of lazy stereotyping).

So yes, we already know there are people killing strays out there. What’s really scary is that some are doing it as part of the job and they call the slaughter by a different name. Now let us all enjoy this clip of Maru jumping into random boxes.

Fewer flats flying National Flag on National Day

From ‘Why fewer flats seem to be flying the flag for National Day’, 7 Aug 2014, article by Joanne Seow and Yeo Sam Jo, ST

ENTIRE blocks of flats awash in red and white in the run-up to National Day? It is a less common sight these days. More than half of the 15 Members of Parliament and residents The Straits Times spoke to said they have noticed fewer flags on display in recent years. Changes in the work of grassroots groups and public housing designs are two of the reasons for the drop in the number of Singaporeans flying the national flag from their flats, they added.

Some residents’ committees (RCs) now prefer to hold community events instead of going door to door to give out flags. Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Zainal Sapari said some RCs in his GRC have stopped actively decorating housing blocks for National Day since two years ago.

“We feel it would be good if residents do it themselves so that it’s more heartfelt,” he said. He hopes that when residents realise fewer RCs are doing it, they will put the flags out themselves. Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng said a resident told him he did not hang a flag as he did not want to be the odd one out.

New flat design is a factor too, said Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Chia Shi-Lu. He said newer blocks in Queenstown do not have common corridors facing the outside, making it harder to display flags.

Public servant Rachel Lim, 29, said her family stopped putting up the flag when they moved from a road-facing block in Chai Chee to a point block in Sengkang West nine years ago.

“There is no common corridor and the block is inward facing,” she said. “Even if you display the flag, there is no audience.”

‘This is where I won’t be alone…’

Naked flats on National Day isn’t new at all. In 1989, the Kaki Bukit Zone 5 RC were forced to come up with a brilliant solution to spur Singaporeans into flying the flag over their HDB parapets loudly and proudly: LUCKY DRAW AND FREE FOOD. If you bought a flag from your RC, you stood a chance to win a radio, TV or a table fan. You were also invited to a buffet breakfast so that you could ‘mix around’ with fellow flag buyers. No such luck these days. Today it needs to be more ‘heartfelt’ without us wondering if they’ll be serving free N-day roti prata at the void deck so that I’ll be the first in line.

Even if you take the initiative to fly the flag without any form of shameless inducement or pressure from your RC, you may be criticised for not hanging it correctly, letting it flap in an unruly manner in the wind, or even get charged for displaying a faded or stained flag. So if you happen to be the ONLY one on your block showing off your patriotism, you’d better make sure the flag is in pristine condition and salute-worthy condition otherwise you’d put the whole block to shame.

When a block of flats festooned in red and white becomes an annual symbolic staple on the nation’s birthday, it naturally becomes a visual representation of how much love we have for the country, or a scoreboard of how well the PAP is doing. You can imagine the various MPs checking each others’ constituency colours out like students comparing test results. Our MND minister Khaw Boon Wan is particular proud of his Sembawang residents. CHECK THIS SHIT OUT, BITCHES!, this post seems to be saying.

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The government is partly to blame for setting the standard in the first place. With RCs doing the dirty work for us all this years, we never learned how to buy a flag or even hang it up ourselves, not to mention coordinate them in a single perfect file down the block. It’s like parents holding a massive birthday bash for their kid with clowns, magicians and firestarters in one year, and then ordering miserable McDelivery at home for the next. This year, nobody even bothered to compose a new birthday song. You’d think your folks love you less as you get older, when the truth is you can’t measure love by how festive every birthday gets. Think of N-Day as Singapore’s Valentine’s Day, and the display of flags as the gesture of giving an obligatory bunch of roses. Not giving one this year doesn’t mean I love her less. Conversely, putting one up for the past few years doesn’t mean I won’t migrate to goddamn Perth the next.

There are all sorts of personal excuses not to do so, of course, namely:

1. Don’t have the time
2. Lazy
3. I don’t want to stand out if I’m the only one
4. My flag is faded
5. Don’t know where to buy the flag
6. I already draped my car’s sideview mirror in flag
7. I was away on vacation
8. I forgot
9. The dog ate my flag

There are also those who try to explain the phenomenon by summoning the tired ‘too many foreigners’ argument, while some of us would only put up flags as a show of defiance on days other than N-day, like a certain ‘Gulam’ who hung a Palestine flag to ‘raise awareness’ about the Gaza situation. Or another Singaporean flying a China flag for some damn reason.

Flags on flats or not, this is still home, truly. Happy National Day, Singapore.