Sunday, March 14, 2010

S'pore should not become a Western wannabe: NMP

Mar 13, 2010
budget debate

By Cai Haoxiang

SINGAPOREANS appear to be obsessed with Western culture and Caucasian faces - at least, that is the view of Nominated MP Calvin Cheng.

In an impassioned speech yesterday, he urged the Government to grow Singapore's rich 'rojak' culture instead of letting it become another 'New York of the East'.

The 34-year-old, in a black Shanghai Tang shirt and dyed brown hair, gesticulated often as he spoke forcefully.

Mr Cheng did not mince his words as he criticised what he saw as some Singaporeans' obsession with Western television shows, movies, ideas and models, describing this as a 'puerile, colonial hang-up'.

[Oh gawd! Another anti-colonialist! Wong Hoong Hooi, you have a friend.]

This bias is apparent in advertisements here, he said, as he held up examples of department store ads which used 'Western faces to push their fashion retail', and a bank advertisement which used 'Caucasian models to urge Singaporeans to get a card they 'must have''.

He added: 'The vicious circle needs to be broken. Otherwise, Singapore will never be a first-class global city, but only a second-rate, wannabe-Western city.'

The Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts needs to be an 'influencer' of culture instead of just a regulator, he said.

It should set a cultural agenda for Singapore to create a way of life and culture that people can feel an emotional connection to, he added.

Singapore may be a young nation, but it has cultures that are hundreds or thousands of years old, he said. 'Since 1819, these cultures have interacted, together with European culture, to form a unique 'rojak' one cannot find anywhere else in the world...I truly believe there is enough richness, enough substance in what we already have inside us.'

[Still selling the "uniquely Singapore" tag? That's so yesterday. And so presumptuous. Penang, and Malacca can claim the same rojak of cultures. And what of this rojak? Put up a Chinese opera at the Esplanade and see how viable it is. Or a Wayang kulit.]

Responding, Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew said Singapore could be quietly confident in its position as a confluence between East and West, 'multicultural in makeup and cosmopolitan in outlook'.

Said Rear-Admiral (NS) Lui: 'As we take steps to strengthen our position as a global city, it is wise not to be too inward looking. Our doors are open; we welcome the rest of the world just as we hope our artists, designers, film-makers, models and others will be welcomed overseas.'

[In other words: whatev. Too western? Whatev, lah!]

Mr Cheng is chief executive of Lumina Looque International, which operates modelling agencies, lifestyle event firms and publications. Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday, he related how a client once called and asked if he could 'get a discount' for using an Asian model.

[So here's the reason for the inane speech.]

He clarified his views did not imply any xenophobia on his part. He merely wanted to address a psychological and cultural fixation he believed some Singaporeans may have.

To buttress his point that he was not anti-foreign, he cited the nationalities of women he has dated. They include Russian, Czech, South Korean, English, American and Singaporean.

[So you date your models? Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Fortunately, only an NMP.]

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