Monday, December 20, 2010

Ars Singapura

Singapore is hypermodernity in a few hundred square kilometres. Hyper-efficient, hyper-clean, hyper-sped. A friend said to wait ‘til I see what crawls underneath. I said I do not need to see to know. Money sloughs off every gleaming building, every zipping luxury vehicle, every tinker of laughter at the night spots. But the ostentatiousness is relatively restrained. It is matter-of-fact, tasteful, very Chinese. Professor O says they are renovating the faculty for the nth time because they need to keep workers employed to stimulate the real economy, versus the fictitious one, ‘money laundering.’ I said they must call it something else. I had a mental picture of the city-state sitting in a bathtub of its plastic notes, sudsy, with rainbow-coloured bubbles on top even as grimy particles accumulate below the surface of the South China Sea.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Diasporic Filipinos

Stumbled on this essay. Some interesting propositions. An excerpt:

Firstly, the problem with the diaspora as an imagined community is that, unlike the traditional nation-state, the diasporic population often fails to constitute a viable body politic; more than just difficulty in imagining itself as possessing real political power, the Filipino diaspora also has a historical susceptibility to marginalization, either in the home country or the adopted one. This sense of liminality often creates dangerous slippages. The Flor Contemplacion episode is one such instance. Here, the Philippines’s attempts to secure mercy on one of its citizens (a domestic helper), accused of murder and sentenced to death, in Singapore in the mid-1990’s offers the grossest example of the discrepancy between the home country’s ability to extend ancillary support to its migrant population(s) and the material reality of dislocation that puts the OFW subject beyond the tentacles of the State. Similarly, the reports of employer abuse, sexual harassment, and discrimination puts the OFW in a curious, and dangerous, position — one in which the State is both responsible and helpless.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wikileaks - leaking power in the 21st century?

Power in the olden days was constituted by those who had the ability to muster means to make people comply to their wishes. The ability to hold life and death in one's hands, i.e. military might, was power. The acquisition of military power, in turn, meant being able to organise society in ways so as to extract economic surplus to fund war machines, which can then be deployed to engage in wars of expansion and the amassing of more wealth to fortify power-holders.

Naked displays of power are still apparent today. However, overt displays of violence and coercive force are now frowned upon, unless you are the preponderant hegemon (the United States). It is perhaps no accident that Julian Assange and the entire motive force animating Wikileaks have targetted the US in their 'exposes'. The 'US' is not so much a territorial entity here as an ideational construct representing who and how power is wielded in the world. Since entities such as Wikileaks cannot contest the 'US' in terms of the old definition of power, they find ways to diminish newer ways in which power is exercised today.