Thursday, November 08, 2007

With great freedom

'With great powers come great responsibilities', so Spiderman's uncle advised Peter Parker when he discovered his special spidery abilities. For the last few weeks, we have also heard from people citing 'freedom' and 'rights' as important reasons for supporting the repeal of Section 377A of Singapore's Penal Code - the 'anti-homosexual' statute that has stood since the British, Singapore's former colonial masters, first penned it.

But events of past the week or so again shows the truth of the words 'with great freedoms come great responsibilities'. Apparently some in the 'anti-377A' camp know only of freedom but not responsibility.

First, poet Alfian Saat found it civil and right to hurl abuse at Prof Thio Li-ann for her anti-gay speech in Parliament. This 'poet' found it proper to use such words as 'f**k' and 'piss in your grave' in chastising the Prof for her speech. I have never read Alfian Saad's works. After this, I probably won't be bothered to.

Yesterday, Today (pun unintended) reported that the same Prof has reported to the Police a threat she had received in the mail. To quote Today:

"...the contents of this letter was hateful enough...the words 'hate', 'hatred' and 'hurt' were repeated no less than 10 times..."

It is clear that someone is very serious about the 'freedom' part that all 377A repealers cited for their cause, which without prejudice, includes the freedom to hurl abuse and threaten bodily harm. I shudder to think what Singapore society will become if they had succeeded in their cause of repealing the act. Yes, gay supporters such as NMP Siew Kum Hong and Dr Stuart Koe are condemning this attack. I only hope they now realise the worms, that will surely metamorphose into something more terrifying, they almost released had they succeeded in their cause. You really have no control over extreme elements, if one considers Mr Alfian Saat as one, unless you curb their freedoms in order to maintain civil behaviour.

There is no true freedom without responsibility.


George said...

I not taking sides as far as the issue of the repeal is concerned as I really have no indepth understanding of what being gay is REALLY like.

Suffice to say, as an outsider I get the feeling that it is much more than the contentious overt act which basically seems to be comfounding and even clouding the heart of the matter, so to speak.

I ask myself, have society been willing to at least open up and allow a proper and rational airing of the issue? Sadly, I must say it has not. Has there been a fair hearing? Is parliament the place for it? Your guess is as good as mine! NMP Siew had tried to put across the issue from another angle, the angle of equal rights under the constitution.

On the other hand, it is apparent that there has been a lot of condemnation and hand-wringing self-righteous criticism about gays and what their ultimate agenda will be. Unfortunately, TLA's speech in parliament could have been less emotive and more rational and still get its points across. But, unfortunately, she had seen it fit to use phrases that ridiculed gays and as it transpired had played to the 'gallery' in that august chamber as it was reported that the MPs did thumped the hand rest of their seat(?)when she finished. Scenes of Romans at a gladiatorial event at the Colosseum urging the Roman emperor on to signal his fate of the fallen gladiator. Parliament which decides on and passes the laws for the country should not descend to such a state.

Xtrocious said...

Just a minor point...

The email from Alfan was made before her speech in Parliament.

Epilogos said...

That sequencing of events is interesting. I am sure I understood the media reports correctly. That, or the media has reported incorrectly.

Now which is it?

Epilogos said...

Hey George,

Thanks for your comments. Many people do not feel they know enough to venture an opinion either way. I can understand that.

But I do think that opportunities inside and out of Parliament have been given to both side to put out a free and fair hearing. The subsequent debate which is still raging on the Internet is further proof of it. The government is not restricting these exchanges, except when it degrades into criminal intimidation, as has happened.

Sadly, it is these criminal acts that will stop the debate dead in its tracks. People might now feel that since the police is in the picture, they'd now better beware of what is said.

I wonder who, really, is stopping the debate?

Anonymous said...

of course, the funny thing was that the letter was circulated to the mass media, and the reporter informed Dr Thio. Why was the letter sent to the media? To further tar the pro - repeal camp? Things are not as straightforward as it seems I think....

George said...


My sense is that most heterosexuals are not conversant nor interested enough to dwell into it.

The difficulties ahead for gays here are trememdous. How can gays get themselves accepted is a major challenge. But I think expecting the same level of 'development' in western societies to be replicated here virtually overnight is quite unrealistic, given the sort of culture,societies, lead time and extent of exposure to gay issues in the west as compared to here. So, patience must be a virtue. The need for commitment goes without saying.

Personally, as suggesions, I have two at this point:

1. activists may find it useful to organise themselves into groups to look after their interests and also to find out more about gay communities in the region. Thailand is a case in point. You may also want to consider opening and maintaining formal links with gay communities in the region and the world. Find out what's relevant to the local context. Find out about their respective experiences. But I do not underestimate the challenge you will face in your attempt to register such an organisation with the govt. But push the envelope you must to get anywhere. you will in fact be asking the govt to make a stand.

2. start a publication on and for gays. You can examine every legitimate issue under the sun therein. Features can include highlighting/spotlighting prominent gays in the country. Overtime, this can and may help further the understanding of gay issues and help the community come out of the closet in a gradual way. Mainstream discussion and recognition is only possible when people are help to know more, put at ease and have received gradual exposure over time.

Will this help?

Epilogos said...

I think without our prompting, the gay community in Singapore should already have sought and got links with gay people here as well as overseas. Indeed they are getting more vocal. When once it was a shameful thing (I remember people referred to gays as 'ah gua' - a derogative term - many years ago when I was still young and innocent), it has gained a certain acceptability in Singapore society in concert with the place's metropolitan mix today.

Publication for gays? See