Sunday 21 February 2016

Don't die for your country, make the other 'basket' die for his country

The Oscars are next Sunday.

Celebrities like Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee are boycotting the event to protest the absence of black nominees in the acting categories for the second year in a row. Hashtag Oscars so white.

The ceremony has been boycotted before.

In 1971, George C. Scott was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of real-life US General George Patton in the World War II movie, Patton.

Referring to the Oscar show, the actor said: “The whole thing is a goddamn meat parade. I don’t want any part of it.”

He refused to attend the ceremony, saying: “It is degrading to have actors in competition with each other.”

Forty-five years later, the ghost of Scott is probably smirking at the irony that the Oscars are now being boycotted for not having any non-Caucasian actors participate in the “degrading” competition.

But despite his no-show, Scott, who died in 1999, did win the Oscar for Patton, which also won six other Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

One of the movie’s iconic scenes is the opening where Scott as General Patton delivers a speech which starts:
“Now I want you to remember that no ‘basket’ ever won a war by dying for his country.

“You won it by making the other poor dumb ‘basket’ die for his country.”
As you may have noticed, I censored Patton’s speech a little. I used “basket” to replace another word which I’m not sure is allowed in a family newspaper. I think you know what that word is.

I was reminded of this Patton quote last week because of a viral video with the click-baity title, I Will Not Die For Singapore.

Hey, never mind dying. Will you even allow “unlimited changes” for Singapore?

The video is just over eight minutes long but seems to go on forever.

Thanks to the treacly soundtrack and former radio DJ Divian Nair’s soothing radio voice in the video, I’m using it to help me fall asleep at night.

The video starts with Nair bragging about being in America where a man asked him if he would die for his country. Nair said no.

At first I thought this was going to be another xenophobic online rant about abolishing national service because, you know, why should we die for all these foreigners living in Singapore?

But then Nair goes on to describe a scenario where you’re out with your family at Orchard and you see a man “trying too hard to fit in”.

At first I thought I was supposed to sympathise with this man because I could relate to the feeling of wanting to fit in. We’ve all been there.

But then Nair’s story takes a sudden turn as he continues:
“Your sense of suspicion and dread starts to grow as he very deliberately pulls his backpack to the front.

“He closes his eyes and before you can do anything, he screams out his intention and detonates himself.”

So I wasn’t supposed to sympathise with the man “trying too hard to fit in”.

Apparently, “trying too hard to fit in” is a euphemism for being a terrorist.

I must remember to never try too hard to fit in again.

Nair then goes on and on about the word “majulah” as if Singaporeans have never heard the word before. Isn’t it like half the title of our national anthem?

Coming back to the click-baity title of the video, he says:
“If the man were to ask me again, my answer would be this: ‘The only reason I will not die for Singapore is because I know it’s more important that I live for it.’”

I was kind of expecting Nair to quote Patton here and was kind of disappointed he didn’t.

But, hey, majulah.

Luckily, Lee Kin Mun as Mr Brown as Kim Huat as “Singapore #1 patriotic fan” appeared in a parody of Nair’s video.

In it, Kim Huat says:
“I was overseas the other day and someone asked me: ‘Kim Huat, will you die for your country?’

“I said: ‘Siao ah? Die for my country? My sergeant said you must make your enemy die for his country.’”
Patton would be so proud.


Also in the video, Kim Huat proposes a word to help unite the country — and it’s not “majulah”.

“Basket” is such a useful word.

Mr Brown deserves an Oscar.

- Published in The New Paper, 21 February 2016