‘Uniquely Singapore’ does not mean embracing all things uncritically
I FULLY support the decision of the Media Development Authority (MDA) not to grant a licence to organisers of the Complaints Choir Project.
This, despite the views of certain netizens that MDA should have allowed the public performance of this choir, since a version of this performance could be made available on the Internet.
Not all kinds of ‘arts and entertainment’ have artistic value. While it is true that an excessively heavy-handed approach towards censorship may stifle creativity and artistic expression, this does not mean that there should be no censorship or licensing at all.
Censorship has a legitimate purpose. We live in a community and we should be mindful of what may undermine the common good.
The Complaints Choir Project puts forward a version of common grouses in our society. Foreigners are involved in this project.
Lau Ai Ling and Lee Siew Peng, writers of the ST forum letters ‘Complaints choir penalised undeservedly’ (ST, Feb 1) and ‘Why squash singing bird amid renaissance drive?’ (ST, Feb 2) respectively, asserted that MDA’s decision undermines Singapore’s initiatives to become a ‘global’ and ‘renaissance and graciousness’ nation.
This reference to the term ‘cosmopolitan’ is a frequently misused and misunderstood refrain. Totally free ‘arts and entertainment’ does not necessarily advance our society’s interests, nor does it reflect an arts renaissance. Not all forms of expression are of value in terms of communication of ideas or even of artistic value.
‘Art’ is not defined exclusively through its ‘shock quality’; whether it is edifying is also a relevant consideration. Freedom of expression in all societies has limits and, to ascertain these limits, we need to examine the specific content of each expression and ascertain its artistic and social value. Firing cheap political shots in the name of ‘art’ or providing entertainment that titillates does not automatically qualify as creative and worthy ‘art’.
It is prudent to draw a line against certain initiatives involving foreigners who seek to impose their opinions and their own version of morality on our society. These foreigners leverage a small select group of disgruntled individuals who masquerade their grouses as views of the average Singaporean. Contrary to their misrepresentation, their values and opinions are not widely held and remain controversial even in their respective countries. We welcome foreign talent and perspectives only to the extent that our society’s interests are advanced.
Clearly, being ‘Uniquely Singapore’ does not mean embracing all things in an uncritical and unthinking fashion. One hopes that Singaporeans as a cosmopolitan people exposed to a wide range of ideas will preserve the discernment to consider what best serves the good of our society where we live and build our lives.
Christine Ang Cheng Moy (Ms)
Well written Ms Christine Ang! Get ready for an invitation to tea by the PAP!
Come on! Who is being uncritical and unthinking? Has Ms Ang even seen the lyrics of the Complaints Choir’s jingle? They are so benign it makes the police ban on it seem ludicrous.
“…this does not mean that there should be no censorship or licensing at all.”
I don’t think netizens are asking for no censorship at all. To make that assumption to counter criticism of the govt’s decision on the Complaints Choir is to cast a hyperbole.
“Firing cheap political shots in the name of ‘art’…does not automatically qualify as creative and worthy ‘art’.”
Spoken like a true minister in the making! But wait…that kind of accusation is supposed to be used only against opposition politicians, not a group of amateur singers which includes even civil servants.
“Totally free ‘arts and entertainment’ does not necessarily advance our society’s interests, nor does it reflect an arts renaissance. Not all forms of expression are of value in terms of communication of ideas or even of artistic value. It is prudent to draw a line against certain initiatives involving foreigners who seek to impose their opinions and their own version of morality on our society.”
I agree that free-for-all arts is not necessarily in Singapore’s interests — but where it concerns public morality, not in the context of the Complaints Choir, which is political expression. Ms Ang is conflating immoral expression with political expression — a common and convenient line of argument used by the governing elite to justify the continued restrictions protecting themselves from criticism.
Censorship is supposed to protect the weakest members of society (e.g., children), not the strongest (e.g., the political elite).