Images from a trip to Shanghai in 2004.
The Unknown Citizen
(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)
He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.
W. H. Auden, 1907 - 1973
From Robert Manne's lecture on How We Became So Cruel to Asylum Seekers:
‘Recently an inmate on Nauru set himself on fire and died. Dutton argued in response that people self-immolate so they can get to Australia. It took 30 years of brutal behaviour for a remark like this to be possible and for Australians not to notice how truly remarkable was the Minister’s brutality.
Our current uniquely harsh anti-asylum seeker policy is grounded in the absolutist ambitions that can, in my view, best be explained by Australia’s long term migration history and its associated culture of control. It has become entrenched because of the force of bureaucratic inertia that has seen the system grow automatically while any interest in, or understanding of, the relation of means to ends has been lost. And it is presently maintained by an irrational but consensual mindset that has Canberra in its grip: the conviction that even one concession to human kindness will send a message to the people smugglers and bring the whole system crashing down.’
"The past is what you remember,
imagine you remember,
convince yourself you remember,
or pretend you remember."
Old Times, Harold Pinter
Adelaide, the place for a happy life?
"FOR years Lin Chen resisted his wife’s entreaties to move abroad. Then, when their daughter was born in 2012, he started thinking about her schooling. He realised he wanted a less stressful education than the one he and his wife endured in their climb to the middle classes, and he wanted to leave space for fun. “My wife and I suffered a lot,” he says. “I don’t want my daughter to suffer through all that.”
And so the Lin family will soon be off to Adelaide, Australia, part of the greatest and most consequential wave of emigration in modern Chinese history: middle-class Chinese seeking not better opportunities or political freedoms but a better quality of life."
A story of mine will be published in a new anthology, Eastern Heathens, edited by the talented Ng Yi Sheng and Amanda Lee Koe. The launch is on Saturday, 23 March 2013 at The Arts House, Singapore at 630pm.
See you there if you can make it.