Alfian Sa’at: The Voice (Nanyang Edition) Debacle A Lesson In The (Lack Of) Equality

Yes, I am tired of stuff like The Voice (Nanyang Edition) cropping up time and again, I am tired of some Chinese people who saw nothing wrong with it, of them seeing no problem when Chineseness is squarely equated with Singapore when it is just one square in the giant patchwork that is Singapore culture, I am tired of them mentioning Shila Amzah any chance they get as if that settles the debate, I am tired of the fact that they don’t see that it’s not just a matter of learning Mandarin to join the contest but that I’m not considered significant enough for the show to be marketed to someone like me, I am tired of having to remind others that I exist too, that my language is not the same as yours, that if I want to choose to learn your language it will be out of my own free will and not because I have to succumb to a monolingual environment that you have shaped in your image, whether out of thoughtlessness or convenience or a demonstration of majoritarian might…

But I am aware that this fatigue will interfere with my own openness to other cultures, to my curiosity about the beauty and the wisdom contained within them, that I must never close myself to the other even when the other wears the garments of an oppressor, that I will continue to catch the offerings at the Huayi Festival and the M1 Chinese Theatre Festival even if I don’t see a reciprocal gesture of those catching Pesta Raya or the Kalaa Utsavam programmes, that I must always be conscious that in any multicultural society there is a relationship between language and power, that there are those who believe to speak another’s language is to submit to their rule and power (and this is the pathology of the vernacular school system in Malaysia), that however difficult it is to de-link language and power one has to do it because it will otherwise trap your ways of thinking, that there is no such thing as a superior or inferior culture, as there is no superior or inferior language, that though there are dominant languages they do not exist to dominate and though there are minority languages their fate is not to be subordinate, that however foreign a language might be one must always keep faith that it contains the word for ‘patience’, or ‘forgiveness’, or the very concept at the heart of this: ‘equality’.


Source: Alfian Sa’at

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