Sunday 6 June 2010

20 years ago, Americans protested a war. Yesterday, Singaporeans protested paying too much to watch World Cup

The year was 1990. New Kids On The Block was like the biggest thing on the planet. The World Cup was held in Italy.

I was studying in the US and working at a liberal college newspaper.

It was an exciting time and not just because of NKOTB and the World Cup. (Actually, living in America, I was barely aware the World Cup was going on.)


Iraq invaded Kuwait and “The Mother Of All Battles” was brewing in the Persian Gulf.

Finally! Twenty years after Vietnam, Gen Xers got our own war to protest.

“You going to the demonstration?” became the default greeting around campus.

It was the hippest, hottest party in town and everyone was invited. No cover charge. I heard it was a great way to meet chicks – liberal chicks.

But I gave it a miss. I had no dog in that fight. American soldiers were being put in harm’s way for Operation Desert Shield, not Singaporean.

Besides, it was fall and too cold for protesting.

And here we are now in 2010, two decades later.

Glee is like the biggest thing on the planet. The World Cup starts in South Africa next week. I’m back in Singapore and working at a tabloid newspaper.

It is a frustrating time because I’m still waiting for the Glee episode dedicated to songs by New Kids On The Block but it doesn’t seem to be happening.

Also, SingTel’s upstart mio TV went after StarHub’s viewers and “The Mother Of All Telco Battles” is underway.

Only a few months after the English Premiere League TV rights bidding war, a bunch of disgruntled football fans went to Speakers’ Corner yesterday to demonstrate against the high subscription prices the telcos are charging for their World Cup coverage.

“Did you subscribe?” became the default greeting between football fans.

Of all the injustices in the world, these Singaporeans have decided that paying over $50 to watch the World Cup is where they must draw the line and make a stand.

Of course, I gave it a miss. I have no dog in that fight. I’m content to watch the free matches on MediaCorp and read about the rest in The New Paper.

Besides, it was in the afternoon and too hot for protesting.

If they were protesting something really important, like say, the return of the awful garlic chilli sauce at McDonald’s, then you would’ve seen me yesterday at Speakers’ Corner with the biggest picket sign.

Instead, I was at home amusing myself by watching a YouTube video of the Coca-Cola anthem for this year’s World Cup called Wavin’ Flag.

Actually, I didn’t care much for the song. I just thought the name of the singer was hilarious – K’naan.

Which pretty much expressed how yesterday’s World Cup protesters felt about the telcos.

Fight the power, man. Peace.

- Published in The New Paper, 6 June 2010