Sunday 20 July 2014

Germany had Nazis, we have... NLB?


That was the one-word headline for The New Paper report about Germany rolling over Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup semi-final over a week ago.

I almost felt sorry for Germans despite their victory.

It has been almost 70 years since the end of World War II and we are still referencing a military tactic Nazi Germany used during the war.

That’s barely a hop, skip and a panzer division from evoking Hitler again. Tanks for the memories, Fräulein.

And evoking Hitler is something you don’t want to do or you may be forced to apologise like Malaysian politician Bung Mokhtar Radin did. That’s the guy who tweeted “WELL DONE.. BRAVO... LONG LIVE HITLER” after Germany’s semi-final blitzkrieg.

Everyone knows who Hitler is. I don’t even have to mention his first name. He’s like Shakira. One name is enough.

But I wonder how many non-World War II history buffs really know what a “blitzkrieg” is, apart from it sounding German.

If I put a bayonet to your head and force you to name things associated with Germany, maybe you’ll come up with Oktoberfest and a few car brands.

But the first thing that comes to mind will always be Nazis. And no amount of beer and fahrvergnügen can wash that away. By the way, I don’t recommend mixing those two together.

Like Germany, Singapore has a similar image problem. Both are perceived to be cold and efficient.

At least they have Oktoberfest. What do we have? ZoukOut? Not any more if Zouk closes down.

But Singapore is famous for really just two things – caning people and banning chewing gum. (Sorry, Merlion.)

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the caning of Michael Fay.

It has been two decades since Singapore made international news by giving the US teen four strokes of the rattan for spray-painting a few cars and other offences, but the rep stuck.

Even Weird Al Yankovic, who just released a new album and a bunch of viral videos last week, dedicated a whole verse to the incident complete with caning sound effect in a song called Headline News back in 1994.

There’s a new music video called Singapore & Malaysia by Asian-American comedy duo Fung Bros where our country is introduced as “In Singapore, caning is a widely used legal form of punishment” and someone sings, “Heard they can’t chew gum.”

The rest of the video is mostly about food and plays like an extended commercial for Ayam brand.

Like the video, we like to tell people that chewing gum is not actually banned in Singapore, although the import of chewing gum is (with certain exceptions), but such nuance is usually lost on the rest of the world.

We may not be Nazi nazis, but we’re nazis against graffiti and chewing gum.

But lately, Singapore has also become well-known for other things after making international news at least three different times in the last two weeks.

First was the anti-gambling ad where the kid’s dad clairvoyantly bet the kid’s savings on the eventual winner of the World Cup.

Then came the National Library Board (NLB) saying it will pulp withdrawn copies of the gay penguins children’s book And Tango Makes Three.

And finally, news of the Media Development Authority banning the gay wedding Archie comic book last week makes three.

So in the eyes of the world, we’re no longer just nazis against graffiti and chewing gum. We’re also nazis against publications with gay stuff who happen to have an awkward penchant for predicting World Cup winners in our anti-gambling ads.

I was a little upset that a panel called Humour Is Serious Business at the Central Public Library was cancelled last Sunday after the participating writers pulled out in protest of NLB removing the books.

Why wasn’t I invited to be on the panel? I was very available.

Do you see the prominent orange word in all caps at the top left corner of this page you’re reading?

What does it say? That’s right – “HUMOUR”.

So I think I’m more than qualified to be on a panel called Humour Is Serious Business.

I’m going to boycott NLB just for not inviting me.

No, on second thought, I’m going to borrow a random book from the library, return it a day late and to top it off, not pay the 15-cent fine. That’ll teach ’em.

I’m sorry if it may appear like I’m going all nazi on the library, but my feelings have been hurt and you just can’t unring the gay wedding bells.

So what if NLB has now said it won’t destroy the books and will reinstate them in the adult section?

All the world will remember is, there goes Singapore again, banning more shit.

Last Tango In Paris was banned. And Tango Makes Three was withdrawn. Is Tango & Cash next?

(That’s the 80s movie where Sylvester Stallone wears glasses to look smart.)

We’re just gay for banning stuff.

Let’s say against all odds and reality, Singapore makes it to the World Cup in four years and beats Brazil 10-0, what do you think the headlines in foreign newspapers would be?

How about “Singapore ban Brazil from goal”?

Or maybe just one word.


- Published in The New Paper, 20 July 2014