As Samuel Johnson might have put it, “Sir, a Singaporean’s protesting against the government or performing oral sex is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”
The docile people of the Lion City are finally getting uppity. Last Saturday some 4,000 of them gathered to protest against their authoritarian rulers’ dreams of demographically re-engineering the city-state to enlarge its capacity for economic production. In plain English: cram in loads more foreigners of working age. As with Hong Kong, currently inundated with tourist-shoppers from over the border, the ruling mentality is that the little island’s prime purpose is not to be a home for its people, but to serve as the location of a GDP and a headcount that must be grown as ends in themselves.
Unlike in Hong Kong, protests in Singapore – like free speech – are at best tightly restricted. And the turnout in Hong Lim Park looks puny out of a population of 5.3 million. However, the organizer of Saturday’s event notes some interesting phenomena: the fading of the euphoria following the big day, and the way people upload photos and feelings onto the Internet. All instantly recognizable to anyone who was on Hong Kong’s half-million-strong July 1 march in 2003. Everyone attending such a gathering comes away with a buzz – a new awareness that you can push the government around. It’s addictive.
To their credit, the Singaporean authorities seem to at least half-accept that the future is one in which they serve the people, rather than the people serving some demented old visionary eugenicist’s crazed experiment in nation-building. They have been coming to terms with this for some time – why, it’s the 10th anniversary of the Great Bartop Dancing Revolution!
If Hong Kong is anything to go by, the Lion City’s elitist, self-selecting leadership has to face the fact that the demand for liberalization and accountability won’t proceed at a steady pace: it accelerates. On the government website today, the box at the top contains a rolling list of headlines (pre-dating the protest) eagerly assuring the public that the plans to accommodate a 6.9 million population are in their interests. Meanwhile, shoe-shining People’s Action Party members of parliament elected through a rigged polling system are desperately trying to explain to voters why they have voiced support for the plan. Unlike in Hong Kong, constitutional reform does not have to be aligned with a distant and paranoid Communist Party’s need to maintain absolute control. You just need to push the door hard enough.
One of the protestors on Saturday held a coyly naughty slogan about 6.9 being a kinky number. Which brings us incredibly elegantly to the oral sex side of Singapore’s great awakening. Yet another government official is being done for being fellated. This follows the city-state’s year of lust in 2012. There was a time when oral sex was illegal in Singapore (or, if memory of a court judgement serves, illegal unless participants went on to have procreative sex – it was back in the time when the city’s leaders took an almost masochistic pleasure in making themselves a global laughing stock). It seems this is no longer the case. But even so, you get the impression that they still have a few things to learn about this particular form of intimacy. I mean, you can do it without a government defence contract.