In Conversation–Catherine Lim and Marina Mahathir (2012)

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This post is about two years overdue, although the experience of the event is still fresh in my mind :)

I was involved with a couple of events during the 2012 Singapore Writers Festival.

At the time, I circled a number of programmes in my SWF booklet, since I wanted to attend as many of the events as I could.

One that I thoroughly enjoyed was a panel with Catherine Lim and Marina Mahathir. This despite the fact that I had largely been a politically indifferent and apathetic youth when I was growing up in Singapore.

This was the text which described the programme:

“Marina Mahathir in Conversation with Catherine Lim”
Sun 4 Nov | 2.30pm – 3.30pm

Two of our region’s leading writers and social commentators, sometimes controversial, always engaging, talk about what it means to use the written word to engage in civic society. How do they deal with naysayers and critics, and what keeps them awake at night?

These were their bios in the SWF 2012 booklet.

Marina Mahathir (Malaysia) | 2012 SWF Programme

Marina Mahathir writes a fortnightly column on social issues in an English-language Malaysia daily, is an avid blogger, is active on Facebook and Twitter, and is also a television and film producer. She writes and speaks regularly on human rights, particularly where it relates to gender issues, Islam and HIV/AIDS. One to walk the talk, Marina was president of the Malaysian AIDS Council from 1993 to 2005, and currently sits on the board of Sisters in Islam, which advocates justice and equality for Muslim women. She is the daughter of the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Mahathir Mohammad.

Catherine Lim (Singapore) | 2012 SWF Programme

Well-known and outspoken Singaporean author Catherine Lim has more than 20 titles to her credit — from short stories to novels, reflective prose and poetry, and satirical pieces. Her works deal largely with the East-West divide, Asian culture, women’s issues, and Singapore’s culture, history and politics. She has won national and regional book prizes and was conferred n honorary doctorate in literature by Murdoch University, Australia, and was made a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture and Information.

Here’s a photograph I took with each of these dynamic ladies at the end of the discussion. I don’t know how I managed to grab a pic as it was all done in a rush, but I’m glad I did!

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With Marina Mahathir at 2012 Singapore Writers’ Festival

catherine lim

With Catherine Lim at 2012 Singapore Writers’ Festival

I remember being very engaged by these two speakers when they first stepped into the room that day. My immediate impression (before each of them actually began to be “in conversation” with the other) was that they were both very smiley and energetic, with a good sense of style.

Both of these speakers were/are incredibly vibrant and passionate about politics, civic engagement, and the subject of human rights. Needless to say, it was a lively discussion. There were several quips that seemed to stray across OB “out of bounds” Markers, as evidenced by the entire audience gasping — or laughing — spontaneously.

The room was so packed that people were standing by the sides and the back of the room.

Halfway through the discussion, a middle-aged woman in the audience started to ramble when she asked a question (a mic was given to her — maybe this was during the QnA portion of the talk). She got increasingly aggressive with her tone and one of the questions she directed to the speakers was:

“Where were you academics when Singapore needed its academics/intellectuals to [speak up]?”

If I remember correctly, what she was saying was in reference to Operation Spectrum or Coldstore, neither of which I was aware of at the time due to my aforementioned woeful teenage political unawareness.

Catherine Lim was responding sincerely even as the woman interrupted her. The festival director informed the audience member in a calm but stern way that they were to “maintain the peace” (not in those exact words, but to that effect) which was a responsible and respectful way of handling the situation so as to prevent any chaotic or ugly outcome.

That incident made me feel quite nervous (I was wondering how the guest speakers on the panel would answer, with a full-house audience looking on). Part of me also felt surprised at how passionate people could be, which was a world of difference from a climate of political slumber where people are too indifferent or fearful to be involved in any way. I remember thinking that the incident would probably never be reported in The Straits Times (please feel free to correct me if there was indeed a mention of it in the local mainstream media).

Throughout the conversation, what was most evident was these ladies’ razor-sharp intelligence, combined with their poise, diplomacy, and lack of arrogance. The combination of these qualities made an inspiring and refreshing impression on me — along with many other members in the audience, I’m sure.

Maybe I felt compelled to attend the event due to my (at the time) latent interest in socio-political issues. I am thankful I had the chance to.

It was nice to see how crowded the room was. The full-house attendance challenged the notion that local Singaporeans are a perennially politically disengaged, apathetic lot.

Fifty Shades: Russ Linton / Cliff Burns / Nick Shamhart

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My article Beyond the Hype of Fifty Shades of Grey features the expert opinions of ten professionals who comment on the cultural implications of the series, and share their recommendations for quality sexual literature.

I received some VERY lengthy and passionate responses, which I have compiled here on my blog, divided into three different posts. I could only feature excerpts in the above article, due to space constraints. Here are the full responses of the guest contributors #8-10!

P.S. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 for the full replies of the other guests.

* * *

8. Russ Linton, speculative fiction writer and former FBI Investigative Specialist:

russ_linton

Hi Jess: Glad to have inspired you in your writing and I’m amazed that anyone ever found that comment of mine buried on Bransford’s high traffic blog. While I have much respect for any writer making it in this tough industry, I couldn’t fathom the Fifty Shades apologist responses. The book was poorly written. I won’t deny it was extremely successful, but to argue it was -not- poorly written was hard for me to understand.

I’m not sure I’m an expert on the subject. I am a writer and I read enough of Fifty Shades to know it was badly executed. I don’t regularly read erotica, however.

But, to answer your questions (may require a bit of editing):

Of course people deserve better. We deserve better books, film, television — all manner of stories which explore sexuality.

Mostly we deserve better quality in literature, especially from traditional publishing houses which continue to claim some sort of supremacy over self-published authors. If they want to maintain the illusion that they are the gatekeepers of that quality, they can’t then snatch up poorly written work and sell it solely based on the titillation factor. If they want to legitimize sexuality in writing, they should find a manuscript that isn’t an absolute train wreck and put their resources behind those authors – they do exist.

Fact remains, however, that erotica is firmly a self-publishing and indie publishing pursuit. As a society, we are much more willing to let mutilation, murder and blood letting of all kinds infiltrate our fiction than we are to allow people to explore their sexuality. Amazon has shown its contempt, along with many distributors, by tightening rules on erotica and at no point did traditional publishers come flying to the rescue. So the “better” stuff is out there if you want to look beyond the high-profile, traditional channels who have only opportunistically grabbed the spotlight of this genre.

I have to recommend the work of fellow critique partner, Jennifer August. I’d recommend any of her books as I’ve critiqued her prose and even learned from her detailed writing and plotting processes. She writes erotica, but at the same time, is concerned about the craft as much as she is the authenticity of the experiences which her characters share. Well-written, well plotted, character-driven smut of the best kind.

9. Cliff Burns, (outspoken) literary pioneer and founder of Black Dog Press:

cliff_burns

YES, men and women deserve better than Fifty Shades of Grey. Because the sexual act, regardless of your orientation, is a ballet, a perfectly breathed and measured poem. It is peerless brush technique and faultless meter and syntax. It reveals the paucity of talent in the Mona Lisa and makes a mockery of the Grand Canyon. It is NOT a tuneless, idiot orchestra, conducted by a tone deaf four year old. It deserves better than Crayola scratchings of sexual congress, stick figure intercourse. Cheap graffiti in a filthy toilet stall. Sexuality is our most fearless and pure expression as human beings. Fifty Shades reduces it to a mere bowel movement.

The hottest sex scene I can think of, at least on paper, is a torrid moment about forty or fifty pages into Terry Southern’s Blue Movie. There are also erotic poems like Yeats’ “Leda & the Swan” and verses of quiet yearning by Sappho. Long, sumptuous passages in D.H. Lawrence’ silly, pornographic “routines” scattered throughout the work of Wm. S. Burroughs. Henry Miller’s up close and personal couplings, genital lice and all. Something for all tastes.

* Cliff Burns’ thread on LibraryThing contains more suggestions for quality sexual literature.

10. Nick Shamhart, public speaker and contributing writer to Esquire and Vibe:

nick_shamhart

(1) On whether men and women deserve better than Fifty Shades of Grey:

Art is of course subjective. Personally I shudder to label a Bodice Ripper as art, but some people consider Robert Mapplethorpe to be an artist. It’s a matter of personal choice — the externalization of the internal.

That said, to tear apart the Fifty Shades trilogy would be unfair. The phenomenon that the books stirred about had little to do with the quality of story telling, the prose, or the presentation. What happened was that the populace brought it upon themselves. Worldwide reading trends are quite sad. Entertainment on demand fired a bullet pointblank into the floundering corpse that was the publishing industry. The statistics for the USA are nothing shy of terrifying. 58% of Americans will not read a book after high school. One in ten thousand Americans is an avid reader, meaning they read more than one book a month.

What happened with the Fifty Shades books was a direct result of those numbers. When people don’t read they have little to use as a basis of comparison. So, instead of E.L. James’ books being swept into the growing heap of erotica, with the likes of Steele, Collins, and other ladies that have been working that trade for decades, people took notice.

Social Media, and its fickle trends helped word spread about the books.

It was the same ecumenical ripple effect that Rowling’s Potter books had. They were fine for what they were, in that case fantasy for Fifty Shades erotica, but for true avid readers that could compare the books to a much broader and larger personal library they were nothing special.

That’s why children like simple, brightly colored toys. They are stimulating, and the child has no previous experience to say whether the toy is good or bad. Most of the staunch supporters of the Fifty Shades book that I have met read very few books annually. Half a dozen at best, so if they have read less than a hundred books in their lifetime. Who is to say what they are basing their love of Fifty Shades against?

Thoughts On Being A Socio-Political Blogger

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* Featured on The Real SG and TR Emeritus.

INTRODUCTION:
Thoughts On Being A Socio-Political Blogger

1. Background

My name is Jess and I’m 27. I was born in Singapore and spent the first two decades of my life there. I am a U.S. citizen as of 2012.

As a teenager in Singapore, I was politically indifferent and apathetic. I had a keen interest in history, but not even a passing interest in politics.

This was due to a pervasive climate of fear, caused by the PAP government’s history of undermining the independence of the press and judiciary, and silencing dissent.

I grew up with the impression that it was literally dangerous to have — let alone express in public — any critical political views.

This limitation on the freedom of expression led to a feeling of disempowerment, where I had little hope for any changes in a positive direction for the society I was part of.

2. Freedom of Expression

Expression

Milana Knezevic, a journalist working at Index on Censorship, explains the value of freedom of expression:

Why is access to freedom of expression important? Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. It also underpins most other rights and allows them to flourish. The right to speak your mind freely on important issues in society, access information and hold the powers that be to account, plays a vital role in the healthy development process of any society.

Index on Censorship adds:

Free speech creates the space for the exchange of ideas in the arts, literature, religion, academia, politics and science, and is essential for other rights such as freedom of conscience and freedom of assembly. Without this, individuals can’t make informed decisions and fully participate in society.

Freedom of expression can be abused when people take it to the extreme, to voice their opinion recklessly and irresponsibly. But this alone does not justify the opposite extreme where freedom of expression is suppressed.

It is “freedom of expression” that made me more informed about socio-political issues in a broader context.

3. Government Accountability

All government propaganda works the same way — by spreading information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, that promotes a particular political cause or point of view.

The biggest danger with biased reporting is the distortion of facts.

A Nation article published in 2014 provides an example of distortion via media misrepresentation — through a critical analysis of how mainstream press coverage has become less objective and less balanced over time.

Dr. Michael S. Rozeff adds that “a government shouldn’t cover up crimes and shouldn’t conceal [wrongful] exercises of power.”

Accountability ensures actions taken by a country’s public officials are subject to review, so that government initiatives meet their objectives and respond to the needs of the community.

4. Alternative vs. Mainstream Media

People are increasingly placing more trust in alternative media than in the scripted mainstream media.

Singaporeans are also beginning to turn more and more to the Internet for news and information, after decades of the PAP government having a dominant voice in Singapore’s mainstream media.

As former ISD director, Mr. Yoong Siew Wah, aptly summarizes:

“What the mainstream media, especially The Straits Times, dishes out to the public is what the government wants the public to read.”
(Singapore Recalcitrant, 2 May 2010)

5. Role of the Internet

The following paragraphs by Michael T. Snyder illustrate the role of the Internet:

“The Internet gives us an opportunity to impact the world that is unlike anything previous generations have ever had. Those in power have begun to recognize how powerful the Internet is, and so they have begun to crack down on it.

It is also important to keep in mind that the Internet allows us to watch them as well. The Internet is an incredible tool for exposing evil and corruption, and over the past decade we have seen many instances when average people on the Internet have broken major news stories that the mainstream media would not dare touch initially.

In the final analysis, the ability to wake people up and to literally change the world outweighs the risks of being watched. Don’t be afraid to stand up for the truth. It is better to do what is right and to be persecuted for it than to stand aside and do nothing.”
(10 Reasons Why)

6. Responsible Activism

Activism is defined as the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.

Tony Cartalucci writes that “the true power of the people comes [from] getting organized and getting active. . .not just [making demands of] the communities and nations we want to live in, but to cultivate the skills and institutions required to build them ourselves.”

@StopImperialism, an independent media outlet, is “anti-war, anti-imperialism, anti-oligarchy [and] pro-peace, pro-progress, pro-economic development.”

Informed Activism is not the same thing as Terrorism (the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims), or Anarchism (a belief that government and laws are completely unnecessary).

7. Conclusion

I started developing a keen interest in Singapore’s political history in 2014.

I continue having a big interest because it is my birth country, and because it is an ideal case study to observe socio-political forces. That these forces are contained in a concentrated manner in a geographically small country makes it easier to study, and to recognize “patterns” on a global scale.

That was how my own political interest and awareness began — with small steps.

With political apathy, the situation is vastly different, because it encourages a person to just “switch off,” not bother, and leave it to a few people to enact the changes, both locally and globally.

It’s in everyone’s interest to be educated politically and socially. After all, we’re already global citizens.

* * *

More Information:

About Freedom of Expression (by Index on Censorship)
Becoming a Global Citizen (by Global Citizens Initiative)
Distorting Russia (by The Nation, on distortion via media misrepresentation)
“Global Citizen” Graphic (by Shushant)

Singapore’s Education System – The Truth Behind The Myth

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* Featured on TR Emeritus, TRS, SG Daily, All SG Stuff, and The Insider.

1. INTRODUCTION

When I was growing up in Singapore — I migrated to the U.S. when I was twenty — what caused me a lot of grief was the education system.

I don’t have a vendetta against the schools I attended. Some teachers really cared about students, in a way which went beyond how the students were performing academically.

It is the education system itself which I don’t remember fondly.

I always feel disheartened with reports in the establishment media that paint a rosy picture of Singapore’s education system (like here, here, and here). Few of them give a comprehensive overview of the real effects of the system.

Such reports do not dilute the clear memory I have — through direct experience — of the disadvantages of the aforementioned system.

2. “YOU’RE THROWING AWAY YOUR FUTURE!”

singapore_education

// Photo by Caroline Chia/SPH

I did quite well throughout most of my years as a primary and secondary school student in Singapore (Katong Convent Primary School and St. Anthony’s Canossian Secondary School, respectively). I attended Temasek Polytechnic for 1.5 years (I was enrolled in mass communications).

I switched from the pure science stream to arts stream when I was in Secondary 3, by choice, because I preferred the arts curriculum and the subjects there.

I didn’t hate math or science — I just had a higher level of interest in history and literature instead of a triple science combination (physics/biology/ chemistry).

Some of my fellow schoolmates at the time were shocked beyond belief that I made that switch.

Schoolmate #1: “But you’re the smartest student in the whole level!” (I was the top student for two years.)

Schoolmate #2: “OH MY GOD. What are you doing? You’re throwing away your future!”

I just kept quiet at the time as I thought to myself:

Dudes, all I’m doing is switching from the pure science to arts stream BECAUSE I want to study subjects I’m actually interested in. How is this going to limit my future? If things are really so confined or restrictive, I can seek out other avenues later, even if it means checking things out in another country if the situation is so bad that I have to extricate myself from it entirely.

Turns out that I did end up removing myself from the situation entirely. Why? Because (many years later), I realize the value of being capable of independent thought, instead of having to conform to a system.

Now I don’t mean the exact opposite, where systems are completely useless because everybody should be “free” to do what they want (and that’s coming from somebody who’s a self-described author/artist/non-conformist).

But when there is a problem, or problems, with a system, then it is in everybody’s interest that those points be made clearly and factually.

3. THE REAL TRUTH OF THE SYSTEM’S ‘MANTRA’

The extreme “rote learning” method in Singapore forces students to score well for the exams by memorizing and regurgitating facts.

The only time I started to enjoy reading and writing Mandarin was once I was out of school — because, hey! Things were actually more interesting (songs, comics, films in Mandarin), as opposed to the memorization of words/characters/vocabulary without the slightest element of engagement or fun.

“Just memorize, get good grades, and you’re The Perfect Role Model Student.”

Never mind if you can’t think for yourself or have no interest in formulating your own opinions on what is right/wrong, on what you like/dislike, on what you really want to do or be in the future.

“Work hard, study hard, get a good job (in the following lucrative sectors: banking, law, medicine, engineering, accountancy) — and you’re set for life.”

THAT was the real mantra of the Singapore education system, when I was a student in it for 12 years straight.

Notice that it is elitist in principle (the narrowing down of certain sectors that are “better” than the rest — and “better” solely because they are the traditionally financially lucrative industries).

There’s no room for any creativity or anyone to pursue their passion if it falls outside of what is deemed to be “good.”

The real truth is that it’s not what’s necessarily good for you — it’s what’s good for the Singapore economy (with citizens having been referred to as actual economic “digits”).

4. STRESS, HOMEWORK, SUICIDE — AND MORE STRESS

I wasn’t ever miserable as a student to the point of suicide, though it has driven many others over that edge.

But I remember the dreariness of school holidays, which weren’t vacation time at all, due to the loads of homework designed to keep students “industrious.”

And if homework wasn’t enough, there were the tuition/supplementary lessons as well as extra-curricular activities which literally ate up any remaining free time I had.

Now that I think about it, I think the loads of homework were partly designed to keep me from having “free thoughts” about anything else apart from being a good student (refer to “the real mantra” in above section).

Kids and teenagers shouldn’t be growing up in a pressure-cooker environment that stifles their minds, on top of having their voices or opinions silenced and/or not valued.

Yes, there should be some limits. For example, if a student was expressing him/herself rudely, or being violently disruptive for the sake of being rebellious.

But in an education system that equates “stress” with “industriousness,” and anything that doesn’t neatly conform to it as “rebellious,” it’s easy to “feel like an outcast even if one is desperately trying to fit in” (I read that description off a friend’s blog ‘about me’ page when we were 17).

5. THE TURNING POINT FOR ME

I quit my polytechnic course halfway because I didn’t feel particularly motivated, inspired or engaged with the course material.

Now again, I was enrolled in a mass communications course.

I didn’t enroll in that course because I had aspirations to be a deejay or TV news anchor. I enrolled because I had an interest in media and society, and maybe journalism, since everybody in Singapore told me that that was the field I should look into because I liked to write (dismissing the fact that what I like to write is fiction!).

There were several things that eventually made me so dissatisfied and disillusioned, that withdrawing from the course (with no backup plan or ANY idea what I was going to do thereafter) was still a better option than completing it just because I had to.

I remember one instance very clearly during my first year there.

During a journalism class, the very nice/friendly lecturer said with a compliant smile:

“Guys, as we all know, this is Singapore [so there are just some things you can and cannot say in the media]…”

My classmates were cool, friendly, and smart.

But I remember how everybody just took what the lecturer said — with no protest, no questions, no nothing. It was a very uninspiring moment because I was secretly expecting more.

While I admit that I didn’t do or say anything at that point either (I was a very quiet, unhappy mass comm student), that was the moment which made my 16 or 17 year-old brain “wake up” to the fact that I really wasn’t happy, with my life, situation, everything, and that I had to do something about it instead of being crippled by indecision.

Instinctively, I just felt it was wrong that it was accepted practice that nobody could really “speak their mind” in my country of origin without any serious repercussions (these articles on Gopalan Nair, Nicole Seah, and the late Jeyaretnam show the kind of treatment that “the opposition” has to go through).

6. I’M A HUMAN BEING, NOT A ‘DIGIT’

As a student, what I really wanted to be educated on was how to be a happy, purposeful and productive HUMAN BEING (not a “digit” for the economy).

I wanted to study subjects I had a real interest in, in the hopes it would help me identify my potential areas of skill and expertise so that I could eventually make a living from doing something I enjoy.

What kind of message is the system giving, when generations grow up in a stressful environment where you’re separated into “elite” or “non-elite” schools, instead of being part of an environment that endeavors to identify and bring out the best in each student (not all of whom have solely academic talents!!).

The following paragraph from a perceptive article says it all:

“The views of some of Singapore’s ‘elite’ students are revealing and disturbing. . .While the education system can produce excellent engineers and scientists, can the same be said of raising potential leaders who are sensitive to society’s needs?”
(Seah Chiang Nee, The Star Malaysia)

To me, one of the primary purposes of education should be to enable students to become capable, global-minded citizens, who have some kind of mental/spiritual/emotional involvement with their chosen line of work because of the contributions they can make to society, big or small.

An education system which suppresses independent thought, discourages the act of questioning, and dismisses this thing called ‘passion’, is not going to produce ideal human beings.

Here are the things the system does promote the development of.

It fosters apathy. It fosters inarticulation (uh, ah, um, hmm). It fosters subordination to the system’s one and only goal.

It produces people who are afraid to think, unable to question, and uninspired to seek out the truth.

Perhaps most disastrously, it fosters the belief that any kind of change is impossible. Heck, even the thought of any kind of change is an unwelcome thing (think of all the trouble you’d get into!).

But change is possible (which is what really scares the ones who are most invested in not disrupting the status quo).

People are not being delusional when they say:

“Every single action we take, however small, does have an impact on change…if we have the means to contribute, like with writing skills, it would be a pity not to use it.”
(Gopalan Nair, Singapore Dissident)

7. CONCLUSION

I published this blog post because like many other people who express similar views, what I’m interested in is The Truth.

That is just one of my many interests I developed outside of the education system that has been the focal topic of this article.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to share their informed thoughts with others.

* * *

Websites With More Information:

(1) The Fascism of Singapore (by an Israeli Math PhD who studied in a Singapore university)

(2) Singapore Education Producing Timid, Robotic Minds (online political activist)

(3) The Educational System in Singapore (concise forum post on an overview of the system and what can be done to improve it)

(4) Singapore Schools Shaping Elitist Mindset (article by The Star)

(5) Observations on Elitism in Singapore (by a former teacher of an ‘elite’ secondary school, with a mention on how wealth can be a handicap)

(6) Why Do We Do This To Our Children? (on young students in Singapore committing suicide over examination stress)

(7) Celebrities leave Singapore because of kids’ education (The Online Citizen)

Post-Literate Society

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knock offs

[Pic from Obsolete Gamer]

I did a Google search for “fan fiction knock-offs” and came across the following post: Amazon’s Kindle Price Punking | Mike Cane’s Blog.

I noticed the following quote in the original post:

I don’t know where the hell real writers go from here.

And the following comment in the comments section:

“Real” writers, that is, professional, competent scribes with impeccable syntax and a proven devotion to the printed word, will cease to exist. We’re heading for a “post-literate” future…that’s what some of the wannabes out there are insisting when they’re taken to task for their juvenile, inept scribbling. Phooey on stuff like good spelling, graceful sentence structure and all that muck (they say). Fan fiction rules the day, knock-offs of popular franchises, erotic fantasies of non-penetrative sex with a vampire.

Welcome to the New Age, populated by morons with only a superficial knowledge of anything outside their favorite vanity mirror.

Followed by a later comment:

I find that “among illiterates” Canetti quotation particularly vicious, and bearing little relation to reality.

It’s the kind of thing a boot-licking intellectual would use to put down people who, for all their foibles, are generally more sincere.

Speaking for myself and “in my own experience” ONLY (throughout this blog post) — I think both sides of the spectrum hold true. ‘Both sides’ referring to those who care about good art, and those who don’t.

A post-literate society can be defined as a hypothetical society in which multimedia technology has advanced to the point where literacy, the ability to read or write, is no longer necessary or common.

I do think we have “progressed” to being a post-literate society, but I also think that art (like humanity) has the power/capacity to evolve.

I don’t think despair and aggravation alone are going to solve anything. I used to be quite cynical in the past, till I started making a conscious effort to put my ego aside to see what it is I really wanted — and would like to — accomplish with my life and work.

I’ve stopped fighting “the artist” in me (it’s something that’s always going to be there, no matter what). Life is never easy for an artist. But I’ve never wanted to die a penniless artist, so I continue to view the whole situation as an interesting challenge for me to “keep up” with society, while still staying true to my inner artist.

The literacy level of society may change. The technological aspects of society may be different across various eras. The popular fads change and are replaced by new disposable fads.

But I think the underlying aspects of humanity remain the same (i.e. everything that the 7 deadly sins and 7 virtues cover).

For the artist in me, I derive fulfillment from engaging something that matters to a person on a deeper level. I truly believe people have become tools of “consumerism,” which is a perspective which perhaps allows me to operate with both sensibility and compassion (I work well with opposing forces).

The wrong (superficiality) has become right (the norm). That doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for humanity (quite the contrary, in fact).

Literacy represents the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning from print. I think the real writers (those who write for some kind of purpose other than to make money) may have to shake off their attachment to the label of “real writer” so as to better be able to “infiltrate”/engage via a route/method that suits a post-literate climate. This way, the focus goes back to society on the whole (and what people hunger for on a deeper level — not on the level they’ve been made to believe “is right” as a result of the mass media + consumer capitalism).

Good art resonates with some innate truth. And it can’t, if the focus is on the artist’s ego, at the expense of a message that could be delivered to others. Yes, technicality and skill will always be important to an artist. But that shouldn’t be the sole area of focus, for the sake of being able to call oneself a “real writer/artist/etc.”

It takes talent to engage others, whether on a superficial or deeper level. I just happen to be more interested in the latter :) After all, bad art is forgotten by the viewer in the amount of time that it takes to look at something else.