By Toh Hsien Min
"Cattle prods and the IMF. I trust I can rely on your vote." - Radiohead.
It's that dreadful time again. The ruling party has been in power for a while now, and already everybody knows what to expect. More than the same old mudslinging, it's now almost a matter of course for the battle for political power to involve media manipulation, barefaced gerrymandering, voter intimidation, ballot-stuffing, deceased voters and other forms of electoral fraud. There's almost nothing anyone can do about it, as the courts are controlled by the ruling party, while the opposition, driven by ideals of democracy, appear to always throw in the towel rather than continue to fight on such an unlevel playing field, so voter apathy continues to rise. But enough about the 2006 US Senate and House elections.
Aside from my occasional railing against the evil empire of the USA, QLRS isn't a political space, so it's not the right venue to speak of the coming General Election in Singapore; but even if it were, I can't say that I have any more interest in proceedings than most of my generation. It's not because politics doesn't interest me, but because my political leanings are unrepresented in Singapore, and as so much of the art of politics is to pick your battles, it's much better to save one's energies on office politics, where at least what you choose can make a difference.
Or appear to. I guess our practical countrymen are arguably all built that way, to varying degrees, but as far as politics, in the loose form of calculated jostling for power, extends into any arena in life it creates much deadweight loss. As an example, one of the societies I belong to has enough in the way of internal intrigue to fill a soap opera. There's been a splinter group, the threat of secession, even, if one traces it back far enough, an expensive lawsuit (wondering where I've heard that before). All of it diverts enough energy from the main purpose of the society, yet I'm sure plaintiff and defendant each felt they were doing the rational thing. I can't say things have actually got better for issues having been aired. So I wouldn't be surprised if political apathy isn't much of a concern for our government. At least it doesn't get in the way of running the country.
Well, work is getting in the way of some of my interests, which are also jostling messily with one another. (Alas, the exit polls have pool as the winner at the moment, although it really should be my studies.) Still, QLRS has become a bit like going to the polls: when it's the time you just go - which is the discipline of the quarterly format. Not that this issue hasn't presented its own unique challenges. For poetry, I felt that there were very few obvious choices this time round, and yet I had a longer shortlist than usual, so I'd to print it out and read them to make the selection. Kai Chai's found another rich seam of short stories, and Rui has chosen an essay on (appropriately enough) the tragedy of the democratic state and another provocative essay that bemoans the state of poetry in Singapore. Our criticism this issue is on Malaysian writer Shirley Lim and Philippine poet Sid Gómez Hildawa (who also contributes a poem). Then Richard Lord's theatre reviews and Cyril Wong's Acid Tongue rounds out the issue. Happy reading.QLRS Vol. 5 No. 3 Apr 2006
Politics is tiresome stuff. Discuss.