Sunday, December 25, 2005

Postcolonial Hangover

While Karan's been traipsing in India (for lack of a better term), I've been at Club Med (Bintan), in the course of which I met some really cool Taiwanese. See, this is all the more interesting because not only do I hail from, uh, a tiny piece of mucus *shakes fist angrily at chen shui bian*, I am also comprised of mucus in my entirety, a.k.a, a mucus sac *shakes fist angrily at the Arbiter*. Except the cranial regions, which are apparently forged of the finest candy (four candy cane shards craft one candy cane brain! Haha Guildwars!), and of course, the quintessential ingredient, turtle droppings. Yep. *shakes fist angrily at uh..yeah.*

So, anyway, these people speak unsullied chinese of the first degree, which would put the most "chinky" among us to shame, most probably including the scholars. Which is no surprise at all, since it is, after all their primary language. What really tickles my tiny mucus-tendrils this time is that, contrary to what Russell Peters would have us believe, their "Thirty Five Fifty's!" are enuncianted in flawless english with an impeccable American accent. Perfectly, and with a crazy vocabulary to boot. Yes, there was a guy called Anthony among them, and no, they didnt pronounce his name in that "EH-PUH! (apple) CAN-DEE!(candy)" cantonese accent we so love.

Well yeah granted, they are, after all, from Xsin Chu American school. This, however, also means that they dont even TAKE chinese in school! Which led to a couple of them claiming that their Chinese "really really sucked". Painful, for me. Oh, did i mention they also spoke fluent french? (Uh. thinks of excuse). Oh God.

Also, turns out we have something really similar to them! See, this is me learning something new and getting GGed (uh, Good Gamed!) by my sister again.

Me: "Hey, do you guys speak dialect?"

Taiwanese guy: "Uh, a little taiwanese."

Me:"Oo, taiwanese."

Taiwanese guy: "Yeah! Like uh, Le Jia Ba Buey?"

Me: "Yes, i have eaten, hahaha!"

Taiwanese guy: "HAHA cool you understand!"

Me: "Yeah, seems like Taiwanese and Hokkien have the same etymological roots!"

*Returns home from Clubmed*

Me (To sister):"Hey, did you know that Taiwanese and Hokkien have some words in common?"

Sister, who just returned from a one month stay in taiwan: "Uh. By the way, Taiwanese IS Hokkien." *Unnerving I-honestly-cannot-believe-you-have-motor-skills glare*

Haha. Pwnt.

So, back on track. See, this whole linguistics thing also happens to tickle my Singaporean-mucus-tendrils *shakes fist angrily at chen shui bian*. I've always felt that the reason why us as Singaporeans never managed to master either language, at least without sacrificing the other to a large extent, was because somehow or another our brains would just explode because of some cosmic constant that impedes multilingualism. But these people are living proof that that's not true! And as a Singaporean, that makes me feel awfully insecure. I dont know.

But the thing is: it's disturbing, the whole accent issue. What really peturbed me about the people I met is that they actually had this whole self-doubt thing, where they went up to me and asked "Hey, do I have a Chinese accent? Because we sound really Chinese to the Americans *cue frustrated grimace*", in that really, really, REALLY, scary, American accent they had. To which, in my state of...catatonic terror (*loses 2d6 moves*), I replied casually "Uh, you guys sound absolutely American to me!".

They responded estatically, with a "Thank you!" and a *pleased smile* , as though I just said that they could all make a living like Kate Moss (refusing to get out of bed for less than 10 grand) or that Taiwanese street snacks rocked (which they do, by the way. except for the chicken) . Hey, and I thought ACSians were bananas! Then i guess they're..uh. Dragonfruits! Dont ask why. The nail in the coffin was when they asked me, genuinely, if Singaporeans spoke in a British accent. Like, 'op of the 'morning to you, guv'nor. S'ry! S'rsly! haha nah thats not British. But the point of my telling you this whole story is:

Haha, Red Tanks shoot better than Green Tanks. But i'm not Waasley :) that vampiric bugger has done this to me no less than FOUR times in the past week! Man I'm dumb. anyway, the REAL point is:

Well see, I think we take Postcolonialism for granted. I, like the Artbiter, do not appreciate Naipaul. Or at least the two novels I've read, anyway, his first two pieces (mystic masseur/miguel street). Honestly, I think his work deserves as much literary merit as Amber Brown Is Not A Crayon, both of which should be placed under the "Will Seriously Dement Your Kid" segment of the Children's section, right next to Calvin and Hobbes. The thing you have to keep in mind when reading Naipaul is this: he pioneered the whole genre of postcolonialism. The way he flourishes his native Trinidadian colloquial English (uh, Tringlish?), would put the whole "Who Owns Singlish?!" debate to shame. He manages to come to terms with his identity; he derides, not worships, the cultural convert as a traitor to his notion of self. He doesn't have to alternate between EITHER an American accent OR a British one! For that alone, this guy deserves a nobel prize. He pioneered a genre that was unspeakably radical in that 1950s world of his, with the shambled remains of an empire and a rising commonwealth. His work defined the terms and mindset by which the peoples of nations, just like ours, acted, spoke, and lived.

So think about it: How many of our movies are just about "The Asian Condition?". Eric Khoo: he's hardly the best film maker in the world. So why does he get critical acclaim? Because he portrays things as they are, he's fine with Singaporeans speaking as they do. That Thai guy who made a sixteen hour long movie: well, apart from showing you how life in Thailand is a tiresome nightmare where you really, really, want to pee but Just Cant Go, is he really scoring points on anything other than novelty? The novelty of someone, from an *shock* Asian *shock* country, being able to come up with his own version of English and claim its as legit as anyone else's? Even now, to so many people, the notion of something this "alternative" is revered. Which is why I think that the main reason why half of us were falling asleep in lit class this year is because its ALREADY established ground. To us, its like: "Move On Already! take out a gun or take off your shirt! do Something!". We've never lived in a community like Achebe's, nor Naipaul's, nor spent our lives in an American school, trying to adapt to their traditions and way of life. We simply, simply, cannot understand. Its a fundamental mismatch of wavelength.

To us: postcolonialism is history, it's passe. We're post-post-colonialists. We're fine with ourselves. We're proud to be Singaporean; not the stupid caramalized good-english-clean-roads version we're Taught, but the hawker-food-eating, lah-leh-ing, ah-beng-bashing tropical dwellers that we Are! More importantly, we take it as a given.

And that, my friends and dear readers, is why we're Anglo-Chinese. And oh yes. ( Independent ) .

By the way, Merry..uh..Boxing Day!
$#@!*% Nova took Christmas! Even despite the time zone difference!

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