Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Mutated World

I was recently in a movie marathon and watched three movies back to back namely “Body of Lies”, “Eagle Eye” and “Saw V”. My ratings in a nutshell out of 10 are 7/8/5 respectively.

But how the movies fared in the eyes of this critic is not the topic today. If you are an avid movie-goer like I am, you will notice that many movies nowadays revolve around the topic of terrorism and war. The concept of terrorism has been around for ages but it did not hit me (as well as a huge part of the world) till 9/11.

It was during my 6-month student exchange programme at University of New South Wales in Sydney when 9/11 happened. I was one of the few who had personal TVs in their hostel rooms. I think I was watching “The Simpsons” or some other early evening show when my goggle-boxical fix was interrupted by a special news bulletin. At first I felt a little strange and could not really believe my eyes as the scenes on TV were even more spectacular than a disaster movie. Then more and more people crammed into my room to watch as the events unfolded (2nd plane crash, 1st, 2nd tower collapse, etc). Slowly the gravity of the situation kicked in. My eyes stayed glued to the TV till the wee hours of the night and for weeks after that the news was my favourite TV show as it was filled with exciting 9/11 reports and the American war on terrorism.

I visited Ground Zero several times when I was working in New Jersey a few years after 9/11 and it did not do much for me then. It greeted me with a very touristy feeling and despite the crowds, the site gave me nothing other than coldness. Now 7 years have flown by and the world’s obsession of 9/11 has ebbed. I always feel that the true measure of when the world has gotten over a tragic international event is when Hollywood is allowed to make money out of it. And it has -- in buckets.

“Body of Lies” and “Eagle Eye” both played on terrorism albeit with a different type of enemy. I have also since 9/11 watched a lot of documentaries about 9/11 conspiracies and how companies profit from war with all of these shows lined with potent anti-Bush sentiments. Now that his terror regime is close to being over, the world can hopefully breathe a sigh of relief. Only when we cut out the fuel to a fire can it be put out totally and only then can lives affected by terrorism really start on their roads to normalcy.

Before you start to think of me as a political person, let me stop you because I am not but I did get stirred up by the media (a very powerful agent not to be underestimated) when I was living in the States during the 2004 election season. I even stayed through the night to watch the election coverage on TV which of course culminated in extremely disappointing results. Perhaps it was because for the first time, there was actual election competition that I could see with my own eyes and not only the show they call “election” put up by the Singapore media for its citizens.

This is one of the most insidious long-lasting side-effects of living in Singapore. It lulls you into thinking that everything is all right. The media is full of rosy nation-building reports on Singapore’s GDP growth, the new train line, some stupid campaigns and what have you. All reports of anything bad (eg. fatalities during army training, reasons for Mas Selamat’s escape, one of the most severe investment flops a.k.a. Suzhou Industrial Park, etc) are censored (I know this because I have friends working in the news office). The only bad reports that choke the TV screens and airwaves are from other countries (wars, famines, executions, terrorism, diseases, etc). The scary thing is that people living in Singapore do not realize this at all until they have moved out and seen the world. Maybe ignorance is bliss but I always want full knowledge and demand full disclosure because that is what I expect other people to want and demand from me as well. I can go on and on with this but I will reserve my salvos for a future post in which I will show you a video detailing the lies the Singapore government has fed its people over the years.

As you all know, I write my own songs and they are usually of boring themes like love and love and love (well you get the picture). But living in the States had created a heightened sense of anti-apathy towards world events and politics that finally had a chance to flourish out of the darkness of the Singapore sun. It was then when I started to write songs of a different nature. Songs about the world, gay activism, religion – things that basically will not sell in the market (well at least the Asian market) unless you are as famous as Elton John (or Jay Chou). I surprised myself at how well I could articulate thoughts and experiences that could not be further from my life of comfort and familiarity. Perhaps I am a natural-born artist (haha) but rather it was because I finally broke free of the chains wrapped around my brain that many Singaporeans drag along in their heads. Now that I am living out of Singapore permanently (and not just one and a half years like I was in the States), who knows how much of an activist will take control of me in the coming years. All I know is that I would rather this than suffocating in the mirky depths of we-are-number-one-in-the-world-and-we-do-not-need-to-improve-or-entertain-any-suggestions-or-advice hubris I was living in before.

Enough bitching from me for the day. Now I would like to share with you a song (in the form of a DIY-MTV, along with its lyrics and English translation) I wrote after the terrorist siege of School Number One in the town of Beslan in the Russian Federation when a group of armed rebels, demanding an end to the Second Chechen War, took more than 1,100 people (including some 777 children) hostage on 1st September 2004 for three days. The siege ended in heavy gunfire when Russian security forces stormed the building using tanks and heavy weapons. The tragic event ultimately killed at least 334 hostages, including 186 children with hundreds more wounded or reported missing.

Would I have written such a song if I were living in Singapore then? Most likely not. I am proud of this song because it showed me that I could still feel for others so different from myself, that I am not an apathetical zombie unaware of how hopelessly one could be incarcerated by his comfort zone.

So are you a zombie?



[变了样的世界]

午后的秋千听不见笑声
食堂里空无一人
那年幼的脸看不到天真
脑袋里头好多疑问

灰姑娘的舞会到了凌晨
之后又有什么会发生
老师你为什么会哭呢
在我旁边的又是什么人

童年的双眼不该看见变了样的世界
用战争换取和平究竟要流多少血
恐怖主义般匪夷所思他们怎能了解
赢了这一回难道就能输得少一些

童年的双眼不该看见变了样的世界
用战争换取和平究竟要流多少血
恐怖主义般匪夷所思他们怎能了解
赢了这一回难道就能输得少一些

惊逢了梦魇终於是清晨
小小的心灵余悸犹存
在这世界里长大成人
今夜你又怎能睡得安稳

童年的双眼不该看见变了样的世界
用战争换取和平究竟要流多少血
恐怖主义般匪夷所思他们怎能了解
赢了这一回难道就能输得少一些




[A Mutated World]

The afternoon swings hear no laughter
There is not a single soul in the cafeteria
Innocence is lost on the young faces
As questions fill their heads

What happens after midnight at Cinderella’s ball?
Why are you crying teacher?
Who is this person beside me?

The eyes of childhood should never see this mutated world
How much blood must be spilt in order to trade war with peace?
How can they understand the complex concept of terrorism?
Do you think you will lose less than what you win this round?

The eyes of childhood should never see this mutated world
How much blood must be spilt in order to trade war with peace?
How can they understand the complex concept of terrorism?
Do you think you will lose less than what you win this round?

After the encounter of nightmare finally comes dawn
But fear still lingers in their tiny hearts
They are growing up in this world
How can you sleep at ease tonight?

The eyes of childhood should never see this mutated world
How much blood must be spilt in order to trade war with peace?
How can they understand the complex concept of terrorism?
Do you think you will lose less than what you win this round?



10 comments:

Roy Tan said...

Hi Kim,
This is a great video!
Did you play the piano yourself and make the video as well?
I didn't know you had those skills.
It's really impressive.
I haven't visited your blog for some time and am quite pleasantly surprised at all the new updates.
Bye for now.

Kim said...

Thanks Roy!

My friend played the piano and we recorded it at another friend's recording studio. The video was montaged from a documentary about the terrorist attack. I thought the whole thing was quite well done too!

How is your Pride Parade coming along and how is life?? Miss you and the rest so much!

Kim

Roy Tan said...

Hi Kim,
The organisation of the pride parade has all but been taken over by real professionals, experienced at organising huge events.
Now, I'm only a bystander.
Thanks for helping to publicise it in a previous blog post.
Watch out for the event, which will be a novel concept, sometime early next year.
Cheers.

Kim said...

I guess I will be hearing all about it on SigNel soon -- now it is all very hush-hush. Just curious though... how novel can it get being that it is in conservative, repressive, restrictive (and boring) Singapore. Also, the very fact that it is the first event of its kind is already novel enough. Do the organisers need to try this hard? That being said, I still wish that I could attend the event.

Liqing said...

didi, was the songs recorded before you left Aust? do you need to pay royalty for using the youtube videos? Can you send me the yao lan song? i think i like that the most... can cry after hearing it. take care! da jie

Kim said...

Yes, they were recorded long before I left.

I don't think there are copyright issues with YouTube -- if there is, the video can't be downloaded. But I am not totally sure. I did not use the original documentary but someone else's montage of various scenes in the documentary so he will be the first one to get into trouble if there is an issue.

As for Yao Lan, I will send you the mp3 but there is no MTV for it (yet). I might also put that song on my blog after I've made an MTV for it as I like it a lot too. I remembered Lee Wei Song commented that it was good too but there should be more hook by repeating the same tune for the 2nd chorus verse.

I didn't know that the song invokes such strong emotions in you. Why do you think that is so?

Didi

Anonymous said...

Kimmy,

U received my email reply last week?

ML

Kim said...

No leh. What is wrong with the email systems that we are using? First you did not receive the emails sent to your Red Cross account (I sent twice).

And now I think although you have received the same email sent to your Hotmail, I did not receive your reply!!!

URGH!!~

Kim said...

Wait...

I think I received it. I just forgot to check carefully...

Will respond to it dear.

Anonymous said...

why not:)