Saturday, November 26, 2011

Political Jokes

"A political joke is often the only weapon available to those who live under a totalitarian regime," the author was quoting from the first ever book of Communist jokes by emigre Yevgeny Andreevich. To test his hypothesis that jokes brought down the Communist system, Ben Lewis went beyond literature survey and ventured into countries like Romania for proof. That's where a spelling mistake with the name of Nicolae Ceau┼čescu - a minor alteration to "Nicolai", and the word means small penis in Romania - could send you to jail. And that's no joke.

The problem with grim jokes is that the laughter is time limited, and then you realise it's suddenly not so funny after all. That's when the Bee Gees lyrics go, "Oh, if I'd only seen that the joke was on me." Some of the anekdoty (Russian for jokes) could have been written in our context.

Take the current scheme of things when motoring will get so expensive that only millionaires can afford to drive down the NSE which wipes Rochor Center off the map of Singapore:
"Have you noticed that at every petrol station there is now a doctor and a policeman on duty? The doctor gives first aid to those who faint when they see the price, and the policeman interrogates the ones who fill up about where they got the money from." (page 169)

It's no help when clowns can still get into parliament through the outrage of the GRC system. Even the phony Tan who promised to speak for the people won't tell the truth about the national reserves because he swears by the OSA:
"A factory worker is sentenced to 15 years in prison for calling the secretary of the local party an idiot. After the sentence is read out, the lawyer protests that the penal code calls for only a maximum of 5 years for insults of this kind.
The judge corrects him: 'We didn't sentence the defendant for offending the secretary, but for divulging a state secret.' " (page 73)

But laughter grinds to a halt when each time the thin-skinned screams 'sedition' and files a police report when he could have simply turned the other cheek:
"A dissident arrives at a remote village, to which he has been exiled.
Everywhere seems deserted, but as he gets towards the centre of town he notices an overpowering horrible smell. In the main square he comes across a big crowd of people standing quietly in a lake of sewage coming up to their chins. Suddenly he falls in. He starts flailing his arms and shouting in disgust. 'Yuk! I cannot stand this! How can you people just stand here not doing anything?'
They reply, 'Shut up and keep still, you are making waves.' "(page 240)

And yet they wonder why people are still complaining:
"A dissident walks out of his house, It's starting to rain. He looks up and says in indignation: 'They always do just what they want'.
The next day when the dissident walks out the sun is shining brightly. He looks up and says in indignation, 'Of course. For this they find the money.' " (page 234)

In the penultimate of his 312 page volume, the author concludes that through joke telling, people inside the Communist regimes, including the leadership, admitted that Communism was "laughably" wrong. The jokes brought down Communism, in that the sense that they were intrinsic to the critique of Communism, shared eventually by the leadership and citizens, which led to its fall. But what has this got to do with us, excepting the fact the MIW still call each other "comrades"? Ah, that's where the definitive anekdot comes in:
"What is the definition of Capitalism?
The exploitation of man by man.
And what is the definition of Communism?
The exact opposite" (page 60)

4 comments:

  1. Appalled Singaporean11/26/2011 4:49 PM

    A true story, which makes it more tragic than sad.

    A Singapore leader (the tall one, not the old one) was trying to act wise in front of a Chinese leader. He yakked away, trying to pass on his "words of wisdom", even though he got his facts wrong and displayed a poor understanding of the Chinese system.

    The Chinese leader listened politely to his monologue, without even attempting to point out his mistakes. (The other Chinese officials were either falling asleep or trying to stifle a laugh at the tall one's attempts to be a statesman.)

    The Singapore civil servants? No one dared to point out the mistakes made by the "leader". Even the "sacred" notes of meeting were subsequently amended to ensure that the leader appears as wise as ever in the "official records".

    Together with our compliant local media, that's how some people in Singapore remained enamoured by the "wisdom" of our leaders, who could even advise their foreign counterparts.

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  2. This book shall be banned on the red dot. MIWs are believing they are similar to the PRC. In fact, red dot governance system is very much similar to the communist system. For example, state owned or controlled business. Sometime, we do not understand why we are against communism too. I am confused.

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  3. The PAP reminds me of a quote by Upton Sinclair.

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

    None of the PAP members will dare to speak the truth to power as they know that their cushy lifestyle is beholden to them pleasing the boss. As long as this mentality holds, the party will continue on its own path of decline.

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  4. Our PM recently reminded his Ministers & MPs that they are 'servants' while equally not too long ago, one of our oldest but highly paid 'servant' even dared to threaten the Aljunied 'masters' that they will have to repent for the next few years if they ever dared to choose to vote for the opposion.

    Yet our police has never dared to invite this particular old and expired 'servant' to assist in their investigation for having the venacity to threaten voters ?

    Isn't this PM servant-master relationship a hypocrisy & a joke by itself ?

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