Does Rachel Zeng not exist without TOC?

I read, with a ‘tch!’, that a local writer, and determined campaigner against the death penalty, had written a report on the background and campaign against the state-sanctioned strangulation of Yong Vui Kong for The Online Citizen, but which could not be found at her site. In this, may be detected the message, ‘you are nothing without the Organisation, and the Organisation is nothing without mass attention.’

Now isn't this formula one of the significant contributors to that which the 'opposition' constantly battles against? And in this case, why Yong Vui Kong faces the death penalty, and why it might very well go ahead because in the war for prominence between organisations, it is the party in power that is miles ahead? But if we were to take this prominence and give it to the humble individual, would the Yong Vui Kong tragedy be an issue today? In this, Rachel Zeng, Yong Vui Kong, the TOC, and the masses lying prostrate at the feet of prominence, are all a symbiotic part of The Problem. (this article is not meant to disparage Rachel's efforts, which are certainly laudable, but is meant to highlight an issue that, if it had been resolved a long while ago, might see Vui Kong serving a '5 to 10' instead of facing the death penalty)

I often wondered why Singaporean writers/bloggers don’t appreciate the essential fact that the generic idea of a phenomenon is either strengthened or compromised by specific instances. So the ‘significance of the individual’, for instance, is the ‘generic idea’ in this context. The degree to which we fill this generic reservoir will determine the degree to which it is able to irrigate subsidiary experiences. If we devalue the individual, by writing for TOC and not having a copy of it on our own site for instance, or if we rely on TOC’s monopolisation of the attention of a fascistically-produced mass to get the word out, we are simultaneously devaluing the significance of the individual as opposed to the Organisation at a generic level. The continuation of the death penalty, homophobia, racism, the stuttered and skewed progress of democracy, amongst a multitude of others, are some of the consequences as these rely on the generic devaluation of the individual for its strength.

So long as organisations such as the TOC can hold sway over the masses, democracy will never be fully realised. It is a paradoxical situation actually. Whilst the TOC, amongst others, may serve as a rallying point for the meeting of minds, it can serve to engender a celebrity-worshipping mentality that leads to the people gathered at its feet for insight, to simultaneously discount the potential of others gathered there to be its source. And given that people have been reared within a status quo that promotes the worship of the few, this tendency will certainly be amplified even amongst the 'opposition'. Not only does this amount to a huge loss of insight, it also stifles its production amongst the masses. When they do finally get democracy, it will be a severely diminished one that will be confused for much as people would have been simultaneously underdeveloped to confuse their knees for their feet. It is in this that the legacy of the relatively anti-democratic parties they believe they are opposing is continued. Let’s not forget that the one of the significant reasons why singapore’s democratic status is severely compromised is that it thrives on the devaluation of the significance of the individual and the complementary collective mutual empathy. People rally around organisations and are mindlessly mindful of their pronouncements. In that, the ability to individually appreciate reason in itself is compromised. How does the oppositional sector differ, pray tell?

Rachel Zeng is a writer who cannot be accused of trivialising or focusing on the trivial. But when one looks at the number of comments she receives, even when her article of the day might be more insightful than something published by the TOC, the comments section still provides much space for the free flight of tumbleweed. What ought to have transpired is that given TOC's already undue prominence, an excerpt of Rachel Zeng's article could have been provided and a link to her site. In this, the TOC's monopolisation of the idea of 'insight' is undone and it becomes not only a purveyor of insight, but a validator of it when it exists without. As this is not the case, for people to seriously consider her viewpoint, she has to have it transfigured in the supposedly hallowed glow of the prominence of TOC, lest it is left to languish in the oblivion of the twilight of her perceived insignificance. All these fascist democrats really ought to sit down and think seriously about how such a state of affairs is contributing to the problems they are encumbered with.

This article will not provide a link to Rachel Zeng’s article on the TOC. Not because it is not insightful or worthy of more than a cursory perusal – which it certainly is – but because in doing so, a2ed will be guilty of reinforcing the flawed notion that insight is determined by prominence and not deserving of prominence in itself wherever it is to be found. And most importantly, I find it extremely discomforting that that might comprise one of the sinews threading the noose that Yong Vui Kong faces. It is easier to suggest a solution than to not be a part of the problem.




  1. Hi Ed,

    Just thought I should make some clarifications here. :)

    The article(s) I have contributed to TOC lately have been rushed in the middle of the night because there wasn't time to wait for morning to come. Those article were normally up only after I went to bed (due to the need for editing), so sometimes I have totally forgotten about posting a link to them on my blog. TOC has never stopped me or anyone else for the matter for reproducing the reports on personal blogs. The issue on prominence has never been on our minds though and TOC is working closely with the campaigners on equal par.

    Anyway I am not part of the team behind TOC, although I have been contributing quite abit lately.

    As for comments, I never reject any comments on my blog except for spams. Sometimes people who read my blog writes to me personally via email.

    To me, my blog is just a place for me to express my humble opinions (plus other stuff of course) and to share them with people who are interested to read and discuss.

    Don't get me wrong, this is just a clarification here so that misunderstandings will not come to occur in future.

    (Pardon me for my disorganised writing here... once again, I am doing it in the middle of the night! :p )

  2. Hi Rachel,

    Firstly apologies for the late response as i've been occupied elsewhere. Most of my articles published here are actually 'scheduled' postings effectuated in the past and is not illustrative of my valuing my regular publishing over prompt response to 'comments'.

    Thanks for your response. The problem with prominence-worship in singapore - a corollary of, amongst others, a fascist state of affairs that has gone on for some time - is most pervasive. I am all for prominence being associated with insight but not the inverse. But I'm sure you understand my view as I've said quite a bit on it in the past.

    That said, the above article is not really a critique of yourself, but of prominence-worship and its negative impact on the perspectival progress amongst bloggers. Your work, however, is most insightful and your approach heartening. And i even present you as a 'role model' in my personal interactions with others. I want to be unequivocal on that :)

    Keep up the great work Rachel,


  3. Hi Ed,

    I understand where you are coming from and am in agreement with you that prominence worship holds a major problem in most organised groups in Singapore.

    Sadly though, many fail to recognise the flaws in such a phenomenon, especially here in Singapore. I don't know if it is accurate but I think this is happening thanks to the establishment of capitalism (rich over poor) and authoritarian governments (in the local context, PAP and their monopoly of power).

    My earlier response was just to clarify that some of my articles written for TOC were not on my blog (esp the ones about Yong Vui Kong) because I was forgetful about putting the links to them on my blog. Felt the need to do so because there are some readers who might just read the headlines and forget about the need to understand the content and might come to misunderstand that TOC might have a policy of not allowing their contributors to reproduce articles on their personal blogs.

    I am personally aware that you are supportive of what I am doing on my humble blog. It is really motivating for me to see that! Thanks for the encouragement, hopefully I can continue to maintain it well.

    Hehee as for 'role model', I am just a humble blogger... there is still much to learn from so many others! :D

    You keep up the good work too Ed and once again, thank you for the encouragement there.

  4. Hi Rachel,

    I don't usually say it, given the local oppositional bias toward capitalism, as opposed to Socialism, but you are certainly right about capitalism engendering prominence-worship. I wouldn't say that it is entirely capitalism's fault though, as there are exacerbating factors such as culture, monoculturalism, amongst others, that further reinforce it at various levels. (that is why I'm more pro-Chou dynasty/Indian/British and anti-Qin)

    I do however understand that you too are a victim of local circumstance. I doubt that your insightful article would be as well read if it wasn't placed on TOC. That's most unfortunate of course - given that you are one of the few who write incisively and insightfully on it. I hope that over time, people might realise that the true source of insight can never be any 'think tank' be it the elite produced by the civil service examinations in ancient China, 'modern' singapore, the TOC, temasek review, etc, but the people whom will always outnumber them in IQ. But this will not be as true so long as people 'look upwards' as opposed to sidewards.

    I acknowledge TOC is doing well in not disallowing bloggers' articles from being republished on their own sites. And i also have to give them credit for putting up excerpts of bloggers' postings and providing links. They deserve credit for that of course.

    Thanks for your response Rachel :)



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