Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Idealism is Today, Apathy is Forever

My momma always said that if we were meant to think for ourselves, a government wouldn't exist to do the thinking for us.
She also said that if we were supposed to speak our mind, there wouldn't be so many different language and so many ridiculous slangs and accents and peculiar cultural expressions that made no sense to others from different cultures. She always said that if you didn't understand each other so often, then maybe we weren't meant to say anything in the first place. I asked my teacher about it one time and he said it sounded like Socratic silence. I checked what that meant with my momma and she said that if we were supposed to be learning from school, then why were we leaving it after taking an exam? After all, if it was that good, shouldn't we stay in school our whole life?
I asked my teacher about staying in school forever, and he said that was something called lifelong learning. When I told momma about it, she said lifelong learning sounded like some cheap attempt at earning money from people who thought they still needed to be in school (and momma said they didn't, obviously), and making them pay for things they wouldn't use and didn't need.
But my teacher said that we were all in school to make the world a better place, to learn and grow and contribute. He kept using the word 'contribute' the whole year long, and momma said it sounded like a seedy fund-raising attempt, for some new building for some bourgeois purpose like fine art or classical music or smarty-arty dramas which only rich people had the luxury to appreciate and blather on about.
So I took my teacher up on the whole 'make the world a better place' thing and I realised that it was about being idealistic - that it meant we hoped for (and worked really really hard for) a nicer, kinder, brighter society, one more civilized and more open to alternative points of view; one more embracing of different people, and one more discussive, consultative, and so on. I tended these ideas in my head and the swirled like shining objects, pieces of heaven, and the good life that would be if we fought for them.
I wrote letters and emails to my political leaders, urging them to change some of their policies - to be kinder to the aged, to implement something approaching welfarism (because we should be able to afford it), to allow freedom of speech during elections and not to censure blogging for any political discussion, to remember local talent and not let the foreign talent eat us alive, to remember the streaming system in the education ministry and how it fossilized strata in society and divided rather than united people, to never forget that an opposition voice was important and shouldn't be ignored, and to look carefully at offering people the upgrading of their homes as a carrot for re-electing the government. I put my heart and soul into all these things and spoke up all the time and did my best to rage rage against the system.
In the final analysis, all momma said was "my son my son, this is all pretty prose and big ideas that in the end mean nothing - your idealism is today, but apathy is forever... if you are apathetic you will survive, and if you stay out of the battle (choosing some, or really choosing none) you will live, and if you don't speak up you won't be noticed, and if you stay anonymous they won't accuse you of anything because you're slippery like a wraith- unknowable, unfathomable, non-existent and nowhere to be found - my son my son, this is the way that you will make it through this life - there is no use being pinned to an opinion that you will want to die for - there is no use being filled with all this youthful idealism when in the end, you know that older and wiser, years from now, you will look back on all of this and laugh at your silliness, mock your assumptions about the brittle ripple you are making in the big pond that is society - but it isn't a pond, my son, it is an ocean, and you are a bleeding-heart-pointlessly-vociferous teardrop in that ocean. Stop now. Idealism is Today, Apathy is Forever."

Saddened, I trudged to my room to survey all my hopes/dreams and blog entries about what I wanted to make happen. And I knew she was right.

And thusly I created this blog, a paean to apathy and not speaking your mind, and how it is a virtue to be nurtured and writ large across the fabric of the nation. I will keep writing, I will never stop, until all tongues are silenced, and all minds have quietened their inquiring, and all idealism has turned itself over to its impermanence and its inconsistencies, and died with the passing sickness of youth.

Apathy is forever.


Blogger John Riemann Soong said...

You're not really that cynical, are you? I assume this is a warning?

4:11 PM  
Blogger c7676 said...

Loved this. Great piece of writing, as much sharp as it is sad

7:39 PM  
Blogger Kiasu Su because cannot Sue said...

Thanks for your 'paean to apathy and not speaking your mind'. Forever? No, not even the power that is.

With what you wrote, there's hope yet!

10:34 PM  
Blogger kwayteowman said...

Please post your letters to the political leaders on your blog and share them with us. :-)

9:44 AM  
Blogger Lucine said...

Clever and eloquent.

But our ruling politicians' hearts are cast in stone.

11:46 PM  
Blogger tiki said...

It is all lies that they speak, they who profess to be so transparently rooted that they say 'mee siam mai hum'. Why does Straits Times say that SGeans have a lack of introspection, when there is your blog?

4:03 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...

Never give up!

8:37 PM  
Blogger gabe said...

the makers of ideology we won't be able to know, we can't imagine what it will be like, because we're all so different now, but when we are all the same, all bound by one overwhelmingly powerful common interest (even 9/11 can't touch this) we will all be the same and live ideologically.

8:50 PM  
Blogger math said...

I was here from your wikipedia profile.
I enjoyed your writing.
Your writing style is great.

4:46 AM  

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