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Better kneel in the stadium than riot in the streets

Call it indoctrination if you like but I was brought up to stand at attention whenever the national anthem was played. School children in Singapore start their day with a flag raising ceremony, which involves singing the national anthem and saying the national pledge. This was, for the better part of my early life, normal.

While Singapore remains the only country, I’ve lived in where the national anthem and the flag is a big part of your daily life (rituals like saying a national pledge or singing a national anthem were part of my school life in Spain, Germany or the UK), It was drilled into my head that the right reaction to the playing of any national anthem is to stand in attention.

So, I grew up in a system where the national anthem was something sacred. Reacting a certain way to the national anthem is something that is simply understood. Whenever you hear the national anthem in a public event, you simply cease everything and stand at attention.

So, how does someone who has been conditioned to act in a certain way towards a national anthem react when you read about the news of athletes who “take a knee” out of political protest. This was something that was first made famous by the former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who wanted to protest racism and police brutality. Mr. Kaepernick found his protest gaining a lot of publicity thanks to the former President, Donald Trump, who demanded that all any football player taking a knee be fired. As with anything involving Mr. Trump, the debate grew passionate.

What started in America has since moved to the “Old World,” where we had players from the England Squad taking a knee during the playing of “God Save the Queen.” Ironically, the British showed that anything American politicians could do, the British ones could do with a bit more panache. Instead of having a fat old white man make threats against a group of young and fit black men, we had Priti Patel, the home secretary and daughter of migrants dismiss another group of native-born black men as being “gesture politics.” More of taking a knee can be found at: [LINK]

While I’ve not been to the US or the UK for nearly two decades, I often wonder what would happen if something similar were to happen in Singapore. How would I, as a national service completed, Singaporean Chinese man feel if I saw our national soccer team, which made up mainly of Malay and Tamils “take a knee” upon the playing of “Majullah Singapura” to protest the treatment of ethnic minorities.

I am aware that based on the way things are at the moment, this is an implausible scenario. While we do have “racist vibes” in Singapore as does any other country, our race relations are pretty good and the government has conditioned us to automatically see any form of protest as something that will disrupt our cherished social order. In Singapore, we’ll grouse online but nobody will think of going onto the streets or doing anything that might embarrass the powers that be on the international stage. Most of us do not wish to end up paying fines or going to jail.

As this scenario is implausible, its worth imagining and using it to question ourselves. The sad is truth is that while I may not like Donald Trump or Boris Johnson’ s positions on this, my initial reactions to seeing a group of Singaporean soccer players take a knee during the national anthem is likely to be the same. From where I stand, racism in Singapore, between native born Singaporeans is limited to crude to jibes. Sure, our soccer players don’t make the millions that the athletes in the West make, but they’re not doing badly. Let’s also not forget that most people in Singapore have a roof over their head and no matter how small, there is some form of social assistance, which is something that cannot be said for many parts of the region.

So, yes, I can understand taking to cyberspace to vent. I’d find it hard to take that step to not do the “normal” thing on the international stage. “Disrespecting” the national anthem is not just an embarrassment to the government – it’s an embarrassment to me as an individual Singaporean.

Yet, feeling that way should that implausible scenario take place, is actually wrong. While I do have my grouses about life in Singapore, life is not bad and it could always be worse. Sure, I may not have built much of a “corporate career” but I will never be unable to make a living in my own country as long as I stay relatively healthy. I belong to the majority and nobody is going to question me too hard on certain things. If I enjoy a windfall and upgrade my government subsidized home, nobody is going question my right to be there. The assumption is I must have worked hard because I’m a Chinese Western Educated graduate working in a profession – I must be OK.

Colin Kaepernick taking a knee (Photo: Getty)

What applies to me, may not necessarily apply to my friends from ethnic minorities. What may seem OK for me, may not be for them. Sure, racial relations in Singapore are, as things stand, pretty good but we do need to keeping testing if our experiences are necessarily shared. When we see people protest, we can’t dismiss them as people who don’t know how good they have it.

Take Colin Kaepernick’s case as an example. Sure, Mr. Kaepernick is not living the life that his “Black Brother’s” live in Harlem. However, what he’s protesting against predated him. Let’s remember when a black man was beaten by the cops and sued, an all-white jury acquitted the cops despite seeing the obvious evidence of their guilt. Mr. Kaepernick took many years to protest the way black people are treated by the powers that be many years after the Rodney King riots. He was dismissed as an unpatriotic, ungrateful brat who didn’t know what was good for him. Several months later, the entire country erupted in the “Black Lives Matter” protest.

Perhaps they may not have had to take to the streets if he was listened to (Photo: SCMP)

 

In England, we had black players taking a knee. They were booed by the fans and the home secretary and Prime Minister defended the guys booing them. If you believe the Prime Minister and Home Secretary, Black British people shouldn’t complain and racism doesn’t exist. Well, despite helping the English squad to one their most successful outings in 50 years, the black guys ended up being the targets of racist abuse. The Financial Times (hardly a left leaning, do-gooder paper) reports that contrary to what Mr. Johnson and Ms. Patel would think, racial inequality in England has worsened. The report can be read at: [LINK]

Ms. Patel is now scrambling after being proven so dreadfully wrong. She says that racist abuse is wrong and the players are rightfully giving her the proverbial middle finger as can be seen from the following report: [LINK]

Thankfully leadership in the UK is not limited to Downing Street. Mr. Southgate has shown himself to be a leader and taken responsibility for failures on the pitch and defended his players as can be seen from the following vide: [LINK]

Is he a future Prime Minister? It may not be a bad idea?

Life as it seems can be comfortable. However, what we experience may not be so for other people. When they protest, we have to find out if there’s something that’s driving them to do things so publicly. Dealing with an issue when its just athletes taking a knee during the national anthem on national TV is a lot easier than dealing with masses on the streets and ugly behavior being made globally famous.

 

Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.

 

 

yyy
READER COMMENTS BELOW

7 Responses to “Better kneel in the stadium than riot in the streets”

  • Kneel? My Ass!:

    I’ll do it the Singapore way.
    Slap the palm against the left clenched fist @ the 69% (Tang Li also?)
    and recite KNNBCCB KNNBCCB to you ALL!!!

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  • do it within one's home:

    //Better kneel in the stadium than riot in the streets//

    aiyoh. the better class (well paid athletes ???) will do it politely lar and after that they will continue to be better and well paid lar ???

    whereas the lesser peasants will do their more colorful acts (not kneeling lar ??) in the street lar ???

    will mass kneeling by lesser peasants work on those elites (& and their enforcement partners ???) OR the latter group will find way (laughing away at the same time ??) to remove these kneeling protestors (since peasants are more ‘docile’ and can only ‘kneel’ ???) ??

    and besides in sinkie land one-man kneeling may get one arrested for not getting official permission first lar ??? in sinkie land, better do it within one’s home where no one knows lar ?????

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  • Temusik Patriot:

    A flag is just a piece of cloth n the anthem is just a lyric with a tune…WTF!!! An unborn baby is life n it is SNUFFED by a Bastard with no spiritual father but the Devil is his Lord through his ABORTION Act of 1974…1,000,000+++ was snuffed in the name of Elitism for the Bastard

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  • Friend of Ministers:

    Don’t need to ask. Every post must trumpet that he is friend of ministers and ambassadors. phui!

    Kneel? My Ass!:
    I’ll do it the Singapore way.
    Slap the palm against the left clenched fist @ the 69% (Tang Li also?)
    and recite KNNBCCB KNNBCCB to you ALL!!!

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Kneel? My Ass!:

    Friends to their ding-dongs, maybe. That’s why must read between the lines what he wrote.

    Friend of Ministers:
    Don’t need to ask. Every post must trumpet that he is friend of ministers and ambassadors. phui!

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  • Kneel? My Ass!:

    Stupid like Tang Li. Tell that to Mandela who kneeled for 27 years. Analogy by idiots.

    PAP mandate strong:
    Better kneel in the stadium than riot in the streets.

    Yes, look at South Africa.

    GD Star Rating
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