The art of saying ‘No’

It is laughable that college students in Singapore need a course on modes of dissent and activism, which includes a workshop on designing protest signs, among other activities. Laughable, but here we are, a country so impoverished in political imagination and initiative that we need such instruction. But when we remember that in Singapore law one person makes up an illegal assembly and one Facebook share may draw a lawsuit from the Prime Minister, then the cancelation of the course by Yale-NUS is no laughing matter.

Award-winning playright Alfian Sa’at developed the course to help students “think about dissent in Singapore.” New Yorkers may remember Alfian as a featured writer at our Singapore Literature Festival in 2016. He is also one of Singapore Unbound’s honorary advisors. The course at Yale-NUS would have enabled students to meet local activists such as New Naratif Editor-in-Chief Kirsten Han and to watch vital documentary films such as Jason Soo’s “1987: Untracing the Conspiracy” about the government’s detention without trial of activists and social workers. According to the President of Yale-NUS, the course was canceled because it would have advanced “partisan political interests” but there was no explanation about whose political interests have been served by the course cancelation.

The response from the mothership has been swift. A few days after the cancelation, Yale University President Peter Salovey expressed his “serious concern” in a public statement. He wrote, “In founding and working with our Singaporean colleagues on Yale-NUS, Yale has insisted on the values of academic freedom and open inquiry…. Any action that might threaten these values is of serious concern, and we at Yale need to gain a better understanding of this decision,” he added. He has asked Yale-NUS’ founding president Pericles Lewis to “conduct fact-finding” in order to determine “an appropriate response.”

We need to hold Yale to its word. Whether you are a Singaporean or not, if you are an academic, writer, artist, or anyone who is concerned with freedom of thought and expression, please consider writing to President Peter Salovey to express your dismay about the curtailment of intellectual liberty in Yale’s satellite campus and to ask for action. You can write him here.

The issue, as we understand it and as Alfian puts it, is of general importance. Explaining his thinking for his course, he wrote, “For me, the idea of dissent is a simple one. It is the art of saying no. Not just saying no to the state but also to certain ideologies, practices, ways of thinking and doing. If we cannot make space and listen to the person that says no, then democracy dies. It’s that fundamental.”

Singapore Unbound/Gaudy Boy will be tabling again at the Brooklyn Book Fest this Sunday. Come by Table 311 and pick up a copy of Ricco Siasoco’s exciting collection of stories THE FOLEY ARTIST.

 

Jee Leong Koh

 

 

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11 Responses to “The art of saying ‘No’”

  • patriot of TUMASIK:

    YOU are NOT allowed to “THINK”…they will ‘think’ for you…even though they have Sand & Shit between their EARS!!!

    YALE???… Skull & Bones with the OWL as an Icon to be Worshipped???

    What is the Biff… you invited the Dynasty into your Club so be HAPPY or he will RETURN from the Dead to Stand By his Idiotic SON!!!

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  • oxygen:

    OPPRESSION MEANS I BASH THE SH*T AND THE LIVING DAYLIGHT OUT OF YOUR LIFE, I won’t let you cry out for mercy.

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  • Left to australia:

    YALE IS WASTING TIME and itr sown image BY SETTING UP CAMPUS IN SINGAPORE.

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  • stephentan:

    Alfian is very right in saying indirectly spore graduates do not know how to express dissentment even they know that government unpopular policies will jolly well affect them in good time. Sad to say, our educational system only know how to churn out a bunch of dead wood graduates who cannot become thinkers but only followers and end up as third class citizens as the government continue to bring in foreign talent to take their lunches away. Up till now, many local citizens do not understand the rational and motives for the present government to make these imported foreign talent to new citizens to vote for pap perptuality rule to lord over its own citizens. If only these local citizens can wake up and come to realise that voting for pap means being screwed left,right,top and bottom with no end end in sight from day one with their unpopular policies. Mightbe it is high time for Alfian to step up and join PSP which is a credible Opposition to bring forth his ideas on how to make Spore a better place for Singaporeans.

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  • TruBlu:

    can the author kindly write article on THE ART OF SAYING ,’ YES WE CAN! ‘?

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  • Harder Truths:

    A good point. Saying ‘NO’ does not mean a person is a law-breaker. The person is disagreeing with something against his/her beliefs or opinions.

    However that is what $G locals are taught from pappy kindergartens to university – you are a terrorist if you oppose the all-knowing all-wise all-powerful POO-BAH.

    I do not put any weight on these kids trying to play politics – it’s like watching a blind man explaining colours. Let them practice saying NO before they try to tell people who have lived in the 50′s and 60′s what it means.

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  • PAP.GUARANTEE.WIN.GE2019/20:

    Singaporeans DO NOT need a course on modes of dissent and activism.

    Singaporeans beware.

    Do not be canon fodder for opposition politicians.

    Do you not realize that no opposition politicians ask their own children to stand in the frontline to protest ?

    Look at Hong Kong.
    All the pro-democracy politicians/leaders send their children away to UK.

    Why did they not ask their own children to charge at the frontline ?

    Look at the shameless 3rd class singer Denis Ho.
    She has Canadian passport and she is instigating the protestors knowing she is safe as anytime she can run road to Canada.

    News from 港人講地:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JV_pWmwt7pI

    So, Singaporeans, Do not be canon fodder for opposition politicians.

    What can opposition do for you except talk cock sing song to make you song only but no real action ?

    Vote PAP. Vote for 9% GST. Vote for more FT to solve SG falling birthrate.

    Vote PAP and huat, huat, huat ah.

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  • 70% sheep truly daft:

    some local 70% sheep parents very proud own child in local Yale, the nus type.

    so ffffing sheep brain.

    education is not about books. it is about the environment. after all one can read the same books whether in HDB rental unit or in nus or in Yale.

    it is the rubbing of shoulders with the true blue Yale folks that grows the mind. not the fake branding of nus Yale.

    do note. as long as local Yale does not operate like it is in true blue Yale fashion as Yale operates in New Haven, USA, then, it is a ffffing waste of time and S$ to attend local Yale.

    go for the real one. don’t be conned by fake nus Yale. it is 3rd hand imitation at its best.

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  • Daemons of Dissension:

    “In the construction of a country, it is not the practical workers, but it is the idealists and planners that are difficult to find… Class war is not the cause of social progress; it is a Disease developed in the course of social progress. The cause of the disease is the people’s Inability to Subsist, and the result of the disease is war… Only powerful people have Liberty… Of the People, by the People, for the People… The Whole World is One Family.”

    - Dr. Sun Yat Sen

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  • #06-195 PAP Snatch Sniffers:

    Honestly, is Yale aware of Singapore’s “culture” before doing tie up with NUS?

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  • PAP.GUARANTEE.FLOP.GE2019/20:

    You’re truly funny. 70% already canon fodder for PAP. So do you need to exhort on every article?

    Keep sniffing PAP’s buttocks.

    PAP.GUARANTEE.WIN.GE2019/20:
    Singaporeans DO NOT need a course on modes of dissent and activism.

    Singaporeans beware.

    Do not be canon fodder for opposition politicians.

    Do you not realize that no opposition politicians ask their own children to stand in the frontline to protest ?

    Look at Hong Kong.
    All the pro-democracy politicians/leaders send their children away to UK.

    Why did they not ask their own children to charge at the frontline ?

    Look at the shameless 3rd class singer Denis Ho.
    She has Canadian passport and she is instigating the protestors knowing she is safe as anytime she can run road to Canada.

    News from 港人講地:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JV_pWmwt7pI

    So, Singaporeans, Do not be canon fodder for opposition politicians.

    What can opposition do for you except talk cock sing song to make you song only but no real action ?

    Vote PAP. Vote for 9% GST. Vote for more FT to solve SG falling birthrate.

    Vote PAP and huat, huat, huat ah.

    GD Star Rating
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