I had a dream once - it's gone now but it was there. I dreamt that I would one day do something, something that mattered, and change the lives of those around me. It is gone now; how am I supposed to change anything? All the great stories have been told; all the greatest speeches have been delivered - there seems to be absolutely nothing that wants changing.
I dreamt of entering politics, and giving rousing speeches to masses of thousands. Occasionally, for vanity's sake, I would imagine them chanting my name or some delightfully witty yet meaningful slogan I had come up with. Yet that dream has gone, and all I am left with is a feeling that I will never be as important as I wanted to be.
I didn't want power for the sake of being powerful; I didn't want control for the sake of controlling; what I wanted was to be remembered by doing something that people would want to remember me as having done. It was crushed by a number of things, but I suppose much of it centered around the fact that there seems to be no country that I would want to enter politics into.
I am a third culture kid, that in itself poses its own difficulty should I ever want to enter the political arena. Simply put, where on this earth would I enter politics in? I cannot identify with the British or Australians - I seem to have nothing in common with them aside from my passports. So where does that leave me with? Where else could I possibly enter politics?
I have lived in Singapore my entire life, yet I will remain an outsider for the rest of it. They cannot identify with me just as I cannot identify with them - but I want to help them, for some odd reason I am struck with a desire to change their lives for the better. I fear that they wouldn't vote for me even if they could, and they never would be able to. The reason for this is one man, Lee Kuan Yew.
You will often find his name alongside something along the lines of "...dominating the politics..." "...reshaping the island..." "...absolute mastery..." and whatnot. Never believe that that is meant in any other way then it is written, Singapore island is dominated by this man and his family - there is no way that anyone else will ever be remotely successful in politics in this island so long as he and his family lives.
This is the point when I tell you what has caused me to dredge up this old, tired, dull dream of mine - aside from my desire to bemoan my lack of any ability that could ever have me succeed in politics in the first place. So I will tell you. I had a celebrity encounter today, not the first celebrity encounter I have had, but one which was slightely different. The problem with encountering Singaporean celebrities is that usually, no-one really cares whether they meet them or not - few celebrities here actually possess any actual talent whatsoever.
Today I met a man whose name is Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, more commonly referred to as JB Jeyaretnam. I plan to write the node occasionally, having had his name on my homenode for quite some time now. Today I met him, and personally I think the circumstances of this meeting were somewhat bizarre. But let me first tell you a bit more about exactly why JB Jeyaretnam could be considered important in the first place, to me at least.
Skipping over the finer details of his life (after all this is a daylog and not a node devoted to him) JB Jeyaretnam was the first, and only, man who was ever at all successful in opposing Lee Kuan Yew in the local political arena. A brilliant young lawyer in Singapore, he had what is referred to as "his stunning political breakthrough" at Anson in 1981...
I bet you are all scratching your heads now, or at least you should be. Sing-noders should be thinking: "stunning political breakthrough? The only stunning political breakthrough was made by Lee Kuan Yew, and he made sure it stayed that way" - or at least that is what I thought. As for the rest of you, I bet you are thinking something along the lines of "he must have done something big in that election if it could be referred to as 'stunning.'" Jeyaretnam successfully opposed the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), and Lee swore for revenge, over a single seat in parliament.
It was the first time in nearly twenty years when anyone had successfully contested a single seat of parliament against Lee Kuan Yew and his People's Action Party. A few years later, he had an even more stunning victory - he and his party won a thumping total of two seats in parliament, out of a total of 77.
Does anyone else think that things in Singapore must be a little crazy if there is such a big deal over one party successfully winning 2 seats in parliament? They are crazy, but in a very orderly manner - losing your mind would probably have you fined for littering, as well as have you picking up other people's minds from the streets wearing a bib saying "I am a litterer." (I kid you not, bibs exist for litterers.)
So let me give you a little more information about what happened to Jeyaretnam after his victory. The Singapore government demonstrated to the rest of the world exactly how to operate a dictatorship within the framework of a democracy. Jeyaretnam was crushed by defamation suits, then bankrupted and finally expelled from parliament. If that weren't enough, he was also denied the right to practice law. That, my international friends, is "Asian democracy."
So that is the man I met today, once a prominent lawyer turned politician, now a man who stands, aged 78, on the side of the road trying to sell copies of his books to people who walk past. Those are the circumstances under which I found this man today - I saw him and I was shocked. I had heard that this is what he was reduced to, but I had never thought that I would ever see him - let alone a mere week after I had first heard about him and his story!
It was both heartbreakingly sad and incredibly inspiring at the same time. This man represents everything which I had once wanted to be - someone who tried to make a difference. That is what would happen to me if I ever tried to cross Lee's family. Jeyaretnam seemed so incredibly proud, despite the fact that nobody even spared him a second glance; despite the fact that he once had nearly everything he could have wanted and it was taken away from one man.
Do not think for a moment that it wasn't taken away from him for any other reason than the fact that he crossed Lee. He entered politics because he did not like the direction Lee was taking Singapore - especially what he was doing to the legal system. Did you know that Singapore is probably the only "first-world" countries that does not have a trial by jury? Lee Kuan Yew removed that, and made sure that the judges in Singapore are loyal to the PAP.
So that is my celebrity story. I don't know if you could even call it a celebrity story - even in Singapore the man is practically a nobody. I shook the man's hand, and told him that I admired him for everything that he had tried to do and everything he stood for, bought a copy of his book, and had it signed for me. That was it - I just walked off and left him standing there, and the only trace of the entire encounter is the signature he left in my book. Oh, and the fact that the man with a great big camera got a great big closeup of my face...
And that, my dear friends, is the story of why my dream will never be fulfilled.
Oh, and because this as well as my previous works on Singaporean society and politics are enough to have me arrested and detained indefinitely, I will now state that I promise I will never let it be fulfilled.