Monday 17 February 2020

Hey, ministers, stop getting photographed watching other people doing actual work

Dear ministers,

How are you holding up?

You must have your hands full dealing with this Covid-19 thing. Just remember to wash them regularly with soap. Ha!

You should take care of yourselves too, and that’s why I want to offer one tiny suggestion if I may – for your own protection.

Stop having pictures taken of yourselves watching other people doing actual work.

Recently, Choa Chu Kang GRC MP and South West District Mayor Low Yen Ling posted pictures on Facebook of her watching workers cleaning an HDB lift and staircase railing.

I believe the mayor was just trying to reassure her constituents that she was personally making sure the place was properly sanitised after a confirmed case at the block, and also acknowledge the workers who are “working tirelessly to protect us”.

Unfortunately, like the Covid-19 virus, one of her photos went viral last week and for the wrong reasons.

Mr Brown shared the photo with a sarcastic comment: “I feel very reassured by the sheer number of bosses overseeing this cleaning exercise. The Eye Power will ensure the lifts are clean and free of #coronavirus.”

Someone else wrote: “I’d be more impressed if the MPs actually took a turn with the cleaning. To truly understand what the front-line staff deal with and what the citizens of the country deal with.”

I feel bad for Ms Low because she meant well. But she wasn’t the only one photographed using “eye power” since the outbreak.

I have seen pictures of ministers Masagos Zulkifli, Josephine Teo and Ng Chee Meng standing around and watching people clean stuff.

It’s not a good look.

The trend started last month with that epic photo of Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen watching hundreds of SAF servicemen pack masks for distribution.

The photo was posted on Reddit with just two words: “Eye power.”

In case you don’t know what that means, according to, “eye power” is “a phrase frequently used on someone who does not help, but simply stares as though he/she is rendering help through the power of his/her eyes”.

That is, what the ministers were doing in those photos.

I mean, I get it. You’re ministers. We can’t expect you to perform manual labour.

But if you spot a photographer, at least wayang a bit lah. Pick up a washcloth. Wipe something. If only for a few seconds. (Not that you need any advice on how to wayang.)

Or simply pose with people when they are not working.

Here’s an idea – maybe not have your picture taken at all.

That’s the surest way of protecting yourselves from becoming a meme like the Mayor of South West District.

- Published in The New Paper, 17 February 2020

EARLIER: 'I just cannot tahan this new virus from Wuhan': New rap for Phua Chu Kang?

Thursday 6 February 2020

Coronavirus: The witch hunt has begun

So this showed up in my Facebook feed:

And this is how it begins.

EARLIER: 'I just cannot tahan this new virus from Wuhan'

Monday 3 February 2020

Updating Phua Chu Kang’s Sar-Vivor Rap: 'I just cannot tahan this new virus from Wuhan'

“Some say ‘leh’, some say ‘lah’, Uncle Phua say time to fight Sars.”

How many remember those opening lines from the Sar-Vivor Rap by Gurmit Singh as Phua Chu Kang?

After the first case of the Wuhan coronavirus in Singapore was reported last month, I saw the 2003 music video reposted online.

What a blast from the past.

Someone commented: “This was randomly sung in school even after the crisis… no better morale-booster.”

Another wrote: “The last few awesome things from Mediacorp before everything went downhill.”

The video is also the starting point for a new local rap video called Kung Flu The Wuhan Virus Rap (ft. Lil Feez, Big J, Medium A), which dropped on Saturday.

Most memorable line: “Let’s kick Wuhan’s butt with some kung flu.”

Yes, it appears that everybody is Kung Flu Fighting.

The new video also cops this line from the old PCK video as a sort of homage: “Wash your hands whenever you can, wash with soap, then at least got hope.”

While Singaporeans are nostalgic for the Sar-Vivor Rap now, the initial reception for the video produced by the Ministry of Health, Health Promotion Board and Mediacorp was a bit mixed 17 years ago.

Someone even wrote to The Straits Times to complain:
“It leaves a bad aftertaste. While the intention is good, trivialising the Sars tragedy and making it sound like one big joke may not be wise. The lyrics of the rap are coarse and uncouth...

“Sars is a deadly disease which claimed many lives. For those who lost loved ones, I am sure The Sar-vivor Rap did not bring relief, comic or otherwise.”
A case of “too soon”?

While Sars killed 33 people in Singapore, the rap itself was also accused of murdering the English language.

One student wrote to The New Paper: “Sars can be an excuse for the poor economy. It can also be an excuse for paranoia in Singapore. But it cannot be the excuse for Singapore to condone Singlish on national television.”

As another put it: “It’s quite a disgrace. So much for the Speak Good English campaign.”

But others loved the rap by the popular if sometimes controversial sitcom character.

One teacher told TNP back then: “Singaporeans need to loosen up a bit. I don’t think he meant it in disrespect, but just to strike a chord among the majority.”

Personally, I thought the line “Sars is the virus that I just want to minus” was kind of genius.

Someone else said: “Singapore needs stuff like that. We have to get the message to really stupid people, and this seems to be the way to do it.”

I’m not sure about the “really stupid people” part, but I do agree the video helped get the message to certain segments of the populace.

That’s why I propose reviving the Sar-Vivor Rap for the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

Of course, it can’t be the Sar-Vivor Rap any more. I would call it the Corona-Vivor Rap.

I have also changed the lyrics to make it more current:

Some wear mask, some don’t wear
Uncle Phua say time to take care
Everybody, we have a part to play
To help fight this coronavirus today

Wash your hands with soap and water
Is better than using hand sanitiser
If you feel sick, wear a mask quickly
When you have a cough and your nose is runny

If you just came back from China, please
Wait 14 days, just take leave
Eh why you rush to catch that train
Don’t go to work, use your brain

Get the right info about the virus
Go to MOH website for the latest
Don’t anyhow share the message from grandma
Spread fake news, wait kena Pofma

Good hygiene when you travel
Help you to pass the checkpoint without trouble
Don’t eat raw and undercooked meat ever
Then you can be a corona-vivor

PCK say don’t play play
Or this coronavirus is here to stay
But we can fight this, you and me
Help fight it in our country

I just cannot tahan, this new virus from Wuhan,
be careful what you makan
Use your brain, use your brain, use your brain
Don’t start hoarding baby and I don’t mean maybe,
you must be steady
Just use your brain, use your brain, use your brain

I just checked Gurmit’s Facebook page. He too reposted the old video with the comment: “PCK Sars Rap. Should we have him do the Wuhan Rap?”

Stay tuned.

- Published in The New Paper, 3 February 2020