In Search of A Place Called Home – A Study on the Philosophy of NDP

August 1, 2008

 8-8-08 Article: Can The Crescent and Stars Really Mean The Good Life? – A Study in the National Search for the Meaning of Life.

 

Lamentations about the NDP every year always seem to have a familiar ring about them. Don’t get me wrong I’ve even taken the trouble to sun out the flag earlier than usual (that should sort out those pesky commissars knocking on my door). In all fairness NDP, has to be one of those nice events in the social calendar; sugary, cosy insiderism that all of us can relate too while picking the dead skin off our big toe and munching on bak khua as we watch our nation oozing before us at roughly the speed of a motorized wheelchair, like saving the whales or spending time teaching Oran Utan’s sign language, it’s really about the happy social narrative of how we once confronted evil and managed to cross through rivers of fire with our Bata slippers.

 

But after a while it gets vaguely annoying. Sooner of later, it’s bound to happen even to the best of us, the search for deeper meaning gnaws at us; what’s all this cloying uplift about? What does it really mean – the whole idea of home? Is it really that important in the digital age? Is the idea of home leeching away? 

 

Look I am not for one moment saying the idea of home is incapable of ennobling us or even spurring us on to greater heights; Yes, I am sure, it does like poetry, primroses and parks; only of late, I’ve been questioning the whole idea of home.

 

I mean if the whole idea of home was such a badge of honor; then finest people on earth would all aspire to be home makers, a contention for which the evidence is, alas, mostly on the other side. On the contrary, as the erudite ranks of the Sisters of Perpetual Hesitation (SPH) have proven time and again the age of the emancipated man slapping feminist regularly turns its nose on the value of the home.

 

Judging from the way the sisterhood have astudiously elevated the art of wordsmithing to the upper reaches of the Kamasutra 7/24  work week preoccupation and sex in the city – this is where I rather be than any where else, the role of the homemaker is really deemed, cold fish, limp, menial, ball and chain.

 

That could well account for why I feel these days the idea of this is home is increasingly getting fuzzier; wispy even around the edges. The concept of home these days is really seen as the poor cousin of have-no-choice-but-to-stay- and-lump-it-out option; it even has a Sengkang Sally heartlander whiff about it; when compared to the sheen and polish of the upward and mobile cosmopolitans who would presumably plumb for anywhere else other than boring boh pian (no choice) home.

 

That can only mean as we barrel inexorably into the digital and globalized age; the idea of the permanence one ascribes to the idea of home decays and even fritters away; no one cannot deny that is what we see so much of obliquely these days; scholars who break bonds, people who choose to migrate to greener pastures; stayers and quitters; and I imagine this scene will be played out with increasing sharpness as we barrel further into the globalized age. Each circle doesn’t unite us as much as it draws us further away from the idea of home as a unifying linchpin.

 

All this can only leech our spatial awareness of where home really is; heightening our already profound sense of estrangement and narrowing the aperture of our understanding further.

 

In this increasingly homogenized social landscape painted by the digital age – my feel is the idea of home needs to be able to transcend the saccharine narrative of the Singapore Story, it has to be able to rise above the caricature of adventurers climbing up a soggy inflated Everest; bulimic Merlions who vomit colorful water; recycling elevator comatose inducing music.

 

There has to be something more to the whole idea of home. It cannot just be like a Cheshire cat with a winning smile and nothing else.

 

Hence the search for meaning….

 

I don’t deny for one moment most of us do genuinely harbor a strong and abiding respect for the idea of home. We wouldn’t be humans if we didn’t – the idea that we are tied to our community and that we even have an obligation to nourish those ties by completing the circle of life.

 

Only let’s not delude ourselves that we ever once possessed the cultural gravitas that the Jews have when they wax lyrical about Bais Hamkdash. Or when mainland Chinese programmers in Silicon Valley speak teary eyed about the whole idea of jin-yi-huan-xiang.

 

I am reminded here, not only do most Singaporeans lack the overabundance of culture one associates with Europeans, Americans or even our Asean counterparts, but for the vast majority, the idea of home is really a kaleidoscope of the God of small; and this surfaces whenever a fellow Singaporean chances on another in a foreign land; after dispensing with the small talk; the conversation ultimately turns to the very serious business of food. It goes something like this:

“BTW, do you happen to have any Maggi noodles with you? I’ve run out!”

 

Yes, never mind that the French would have asked for a well cellared bottle of Bordeaux. The Russians would probably settle for Sevruga Caviar, Koreans Kimchi even our Northern cousins seem to better us in this regard.

 

I am sure they will have the decency to kick up a fuss about whether we can spare them a dollop of belachan and a tube of durian paste; but alas our most precious national heritage, the seat of all our identity, the linchpin that unites the bonds is the humble two minute chemically flavored instant Maggi noodle.

 

That’s telling; as I suspect it reveals what we still don’t possess – that we haven’t really labored the raison detre from the womb of nationhood?

 

Here there’s an almost unmistakable “Akan Datang” quality about how we choose to square off our notions of serendipity with the idea of who we are and where we are actually heading as a people. And somewhere in pot noodle, I am sure the idea of home is simmering happily away.

 

This attitude towards the idea of home may read like a indictment, but it isn’t as much as it remains a source of real and genuine pride; as it encapsulate much of our attitude about the whole idea of home; most nations are weighed down by the millstone of history; the Jews nurse their diasporas like prayer beads; the Muslims in the Middle East, mull no end about the “Intifada,” the Europeans about the Renaissance, but for us wisely or naively, we don’t seem to suffer from any of these affectations and mental baggage’s – less I am reminded is more – the best is yet to come.

 

There’s nothing wrong with this idea of regarding home as a kaleidoscope of the small; and even revelling in the idea of trivia; small conversations; small dreams;  small relationships. small partnership, small hopes and even small beginning which may hopefully lead to bigger things is really what home is all about.

 

Rather like the ubiquitous Maggi Mee that most of us can relate too it provides the much needed sense of scale that’s missing to make sense of this whole idea of home: a hot respite that warms the cockles of our heart in the ceaseless grind; the ordinariness in way we account for our responsibilities to ourselves and those around us by sharing the last packet of Maggi mee along with the little slices of the small everyday; the one’s who we met in the void deck; the conversations with store keepers; the ceaseless imploring with car coupon aunties; the grist of sharing the mill with my buddies.

 

Somewhere in this endless litany snugly hidden in the God of small; you can say this is a place where you may or may not wish to belong too, a place where you may or may not wish to even fight for ; a place that you may or may not even wish to build on to pursue your dreams. But even you cannot deny. This is where all the one hundred million things which makes you who you are today, yesterday and tommorrow all adds up to make perfect sense and there in the palm of your hands lies the promise of redemption of a place called home.

 

Indeed, in the lonely winters of our lives, we can draw strength from this oasis called home, and in the waning sunset years, when all others memories have been crushed by time, “home” will still hold out a candle to guide us safely back.

 

It would be foolhardy for any of us to deny this yearning as anything other than a profound human condition that nourishes us all; ants cannot make this connection. As humans, we can. And so this “spirit” of a place once called home; whether it exist as faded memories, familiar smells and clips of sweet reposes in one corner of our hearts; can con’t to teach us many things about who we are? And set the direction to where we are going?

 

There is wisdom here my friends; rightly pursued even on this microscopic scale far removed from the big politics, big brass bands, big pyrotechnics, big rallies and the big machine of mass assimilation; rightly ordered and rightly reasoned, home even one as small as ours can edify, teach and illuminate.

 

May I wish you and your family and friends happy home coming in the land where the God of the small resides firmly in the palm of your hands. And to those who seek for a place called home, may I welcome you with open arms. God bless you all.

 

Darkness 2006

 

 

[Commentary by the FILB on the article:

There are at least 6 versions of this heart rendering piece which once won a melancholy claim with many readers posted in ASICS and APICS.

It was written directly after the planet of the brotherhood D’ni sustained a surprise attack which coincided with the NDP in 2006 in a virtual by a force that outnumbered them by over 5,000 to 1.

 

In the frantic race to escape their besieged planet; seven sleeper ships (giant transports) were hurriedly launched, each named after the kinship of each tribe. Only one of these sleeper ships made it through the blockade, the Wallachia. The others perished.

There’s a painful conversation recorded by their Chronicler in the Book of Ages (the historical record of the brotherhood); when the captain of the surviving ship was asked by the rest of survivors what had happened to the rest, the skipper tries to avoid admitting what he knows but finally breaks down and announces, “I am it.”

Note the present tense declaration. In a single sentence the skipper of the Wallachia, seems to have captured many of the deepest sentiments that course through the ranks of the brotherhood.

 

To paraphrase, I am all there’s left of our history. There’s nothing left. Here the survivors were not merely individuals, they were elevated to the ranks living and breathing symbols of identity and culture becoming even as the author describes, “something more to the idea of home…”

 

This is the first recorded instance when we find that brotherhood assumes a nomadic spirit. Previously they seemed more like interplanetry settlers; no doubt in this essay, Darkness has capitalized on the singularity of what this skipper once expressed which had such a profound hold on the psyche of his tride; he even juxtaposes it unto the broader canvass of what it means to be a citizen along with the whole idea of nationalism and patriotism.

 

As a historian, it’s interesting how the author elevates the status of the humble Maggi Mee to comical heights of greatest. But it begs the deeper question; why?  I would like to believe this is just chupazh, but I know it isn’t.

 

One thing about this article is it contains reams and reams of preparatory notes which was previously never ever made public before; here a detailed study reveals, the author is wrestling with the realization history has proven time and again, that the idea of home plays a pivotal role in the well being and survival of a horde and even holds the key to the redemption of its people. Time and again he crosses out and returns to the question; where is home; this happens at least 29 times, and in one thread he shares his personal sentiments with Harphoon; “how do I tell my tribe to remain hopeful? When even I have no hope? Where is home?”

 

Somewhere amid this struggle to reconcile himself with the magnitude of the lost and the need to regain his footing, the author settles for the symbol of the Maggi instant noodle. It’s a good metaphor as most can relate to it, easily cooked and consumed, it’s an ever green favourite with NS men and housewife’s alike – the ultimate symbol of the “make do” spirit. What’s even more remarkable is how he manages to glorify the vulgar to a pedigree that even allows his horde to draw strenght from the nexus between home, scarcity and duty.

He seems almost to be telling them, “I do not have all the answers” – “we have nothing now! But never mind, this is as good as any a place to begin” – “it will be difficult from this point onwards, but let us count our blessings, all is not lost” –  “don’t fret; the best is yet to come. We will make do with the Akan Datang spirit.”

 

The mention of “Akan Datang,” is poignant then as it is today; when we reflects on the meaning of what it means to be a citizen as NDP approaches. These days with uncertainty of rising cost, cut throat global competition and a less than clear outlook on the future; many have grown despondent about the idea of home; as the author rightly contends then and now much of the symbolism we attach to home has lost it meaning; but in the caricature of equating nationalism with the packet of instant noodles; what the author seems to be saying is; the beauty of who we are or where we are going lies before us and not in our wake like the Europeans or Americans; in one single masterful stroke, he has thrown the yoke of defeat and shame that has befallen his tribe into the fire; by changing the optic from past and present to the hopeful future.

 

 

Much of who were are or where will be will be written in the “Akan Datang,” spirit, it lies somewhere over the brow of the hill; here tacking on the metaphor of the Maggi mee, he introduces the notion of the God of the small, the fractional minutiae of life and here one  suddenly realizes what is after all the sum total of culture and identity doesn’t reside in the traditional iconology of what we usually associate with big picture of nationalism, rather it resides in the simple and everyday litany of life.

The author seems to be saying forget our great buildings that were burnt to a cinder; forget even our planet; these things are transient, what we carry in our hearts and minds is what remains valuable and will even save us.

 

At the heart of the message, the author seems to be even declaring, we are a hunted people, so get used to it, this is as good as it will ever get; it doesn’t get better than this. But if we stick together and hunker it out by carrying our entire history in our hearts and minds that will be all we need to discover a place called home – the message is brutal and stark.

 

Exactly, one year after the surprise invasion of their lands; the brotherhood launched a surprise attack on the Aryanians; again the rallying cry would be for an elusive place called home.  It would mark the most tumulous period in their history, known as the age of blood, iron and sweat. Y2K. This article has been painfully reconstituted by the FILB – The Brotherhood Press 2008

 

2 Responses to “In Search of A Place Called Home – A Study on the Philosophy of NDP”

  1. patriot said

    Yi jin huan xiang- xiang he zai? Return home with glory, where is home?

    When the Nation Makers fail to mate blissfully with their citizens, nationhood is but a word in the dictionary.

    patriot.

  2. […] Aug 08 – Just Stuff: In Search of A Place Called Home – A Study on the Philosophy of NDP – Insane Polygons: The Hotel In The Jungle – My Singapore News: 43 years of Independence! – No […]

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