Are we not capable of rational thought?

I watched Singapore Rebel today. For those who are unfamilar with this film, here’s a short description from the Guardian Newspaper:

    “Martyn See’s short film focuses on Chee Soon Juan, a frequent government critic who was ordered to pay S$500,000 (£160,875) to Singapore’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, and former leader Goh Chok Tong for defamation during the 2001 elections.”

Singapore Rebel

I’m not here to comment about the contents of the film, though I have to say that I had a mild headache after watching it, due to the super shaky camera movements.

Why it was banned

    “Party political films are disallowed because they are an undesirable medium for political debate in Singapore,” the Ministry of Information’s communications director K. Bhavani said in an open letter published in the local Straits Times newspaper Saturday.

    “They can present political issues in a sensational manner, evoking emotional rather than rational reactions,” Bhavani said. “There remains ample opportunity for political parties and their supporters to express their opinions. (Ed: What ample opportunities are they referring to?)

When I first read this, I thought to myself. Hmm. Kinda makes sense. Then I took a step back, and realized that ‘no it doesn’t really make any sense’.

Politic films in the US

I’m sure everyone has heard of Michael Moore and his controversial documentaries. Does it ‘present political issues in a sensational manner‘? Definitely. Does it reach the extend of ‘evoking emotional rather than rationanal reactions‘?


Farenheit 9/11

There are definitely some who will take it at face value, succumbing to their emotions rather than logical thought. The majority however, will take it to the next level – a public debate. When Michael Moore released his documentary Farenheit 9/11, the chatter was all around town, all over the internet, and everyone was talking about it. Was what he said on it really true?

First off, I have to admit that I haven’t watched Farenheit 9/11. I’m not a fan of Michael Moore, cause having seen his previous two documentaries ‘Roger and Me‘ and ‘Bowling for Columbine‘, I don’t quite agree with his manipulation of information under the guise of presenting pure facts. But I do know that that apparently brought to light issues that americans were not aware of.

Transparency in any government is very important. If Michael Moore was making wrongful statements, the government has every right to publicly refute them. The victor will destroy the slanderer’s credibility. They call it ‘ethos’ in greek. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. If someone cries wolf once too many times, he is going to lose the trust of his audience, regardless of what he tries to do.

The important thing really is, that he is heard, and that we are allowed to make our own judgements base on that.

Immature Singapore?

For Singapore to ban ‘political films’, does it imply then that Singaporeans take everything at face value, and do not know how to tell right from wrong?

If this law, calling for the ban of political films, was presented 35 years ago, when perhaps Singaporeans were still not all educated, and where information was not so freely available like it is today, with the media, the internet and all that, I would say ‘good law’! Laws are meant to protect the people, and if people cannot make an informed judgement, perhaps its better that they aren’t exposed to something which might seemed one-sided.

But this is 2005. Information is so readily available today, that sometimes it’s a problem of having too much info, and not the lack of it. The nation’s educational level has risen tremendously, since the birth of this nation, and students are taught to argue logically in school. Or has the government failed to implement proper systems that would ensure the ability of it’s citizens to make informed decisions on their own?

With this law still present, it warrants a single question:

    Has the government’s efforts to create a more matured society failed, that such laws are stilll needed to protect it’s people?

Final words

After watching ‘Singapore Rebel’, I went online to search for chatter about the film. There I learnt about possible inaccuracies, due to the different interpretations of certain individuals.

After the ‘Jamie Han’ incident, I too went online to search for chatter. I had my own set of thoughts after reading the transcript. Somehow, I managed to obtain the actual video footage and I got to see the events unfold before my own eyes, and my judgement of things shifted.

You learn lessons when you do things like that. You learn that you can’t take everything at face value, and you learn of ways to fine-tune your decision making about situations.

The banning of any film kinda bugs me. I feel very strongly against censorship, because it’s stepping over the boundaries of the responsibilities of the government. It doesn’t help that it is my industry where these bans are being implemented.

I personally feel that the government should start trusting it’s citizens to think for themselves, instead of trying to shield them from everything they consider a ‘possible danger’. I don’t think its healthy to keep shielding it’s citizens, because today’s youths are tomorrow’s leaders. If we as youths cannot excercise our rationalities, when the time comes, we’ll end up allowing our emotions to take over, no fault to ours.

As they say with the ‘Speak Mandarin’ campaign: “Use it, or lose it.

Let us think for ourselves, or let us not think at all.

Oh and guess what? ‘Singapore Rebel‘ got shown in festivals globally. It’s being advertised as ‘The film the Singapore censorship board don’t want the people to see.‘ I swear if someone comes up to me, finds out I’m Singaporean and starts asking me ‘isn’t that the country where they banned Singapore Rebel, no freedom of speech eh?‘ I’ll …. I’ll … I’ll probably punch the person due to the lack of rational thought.

Related Chatter:
Singapore Rebel
Rebel & Heroism (A Review of Singapore Rebel) (May 10, 2005)
Rebel with a Cost (May 22, 2005)
Party Political Films – Leong Ching Just Doesn’t Get It by Mr Wang at Commentary Singapore (May 25, 2005)
Singabloodypore articles on Singapore Rebel
Asia Cases 2005
Singapore says politically motivated movies undesirable
Singapore Rebel (World Premiere) screens at the West Hollywood, Film Festival
(Ed: It actually screened in the Director’s Guild of America itself! That is one of their screening locations.)
A peek at unravished Singapore (Taiwan)
Singapore Rebel at the Human Rights Film Festival (New Zealand)

* I do not endorse nor bear any responsibility for any of the linked site listed above. Put on your thinking cap instead of leaving your brain by the door. 😛

8 Responses to “Are we not capable of rational thought?”

  1. Wang Zhen Says:

    Mr Wang is disappointed that you didn’t link to his post on this matter.

  2. jeffyen Says:

    With this law still present, it warrants a single question:
    Has the government’s efforts to create a more matured society failed, that such laws are stilll needed to protect it’s people?

    I would argue that such laws are not necessarily created to ‘protect its people’, but to protect the incumbent (not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that.) For e.g., in the Films Act, pt 40, the Act “shall not apply to any film sponsored by the Government…”

  3. John Lim Says:

    wow! you are finally back. nice to hear from you.

  4. Justina Says:

    Thanks 🙂

  5. Jessica Says:

    I like your views esp the one expressed here. I’m a teacher and I find myself often trudging thru your comments here -they trigger lots of thinking discussions for my lesson plans. It is my fond wish that my students grow up curious about the world around them. Pls keep writing! =)

  6. ivan Says:

    Actually after watching 911 and world police, and hearing feedback on it (from quite a number of nationalities), i kinda believe that people do somehow take it at face value especially if they are biased initially (ie. anti bush for the case of 911). Also i believe that to say that most Singaporeans would take such films at face value (to a certain extent) would not be too far from the truth.

    That said, i still believe that the above is insufficient rationale to bar people from thinking or to exercise thinking on their behalf.

  7. waikay Says:

    I feel one of the reasons for this is the way we were brought up and taught – in an asian culture probably. How many people actually question what their parents or techers say and go do some study to verify or debunk it?

    I believe that the youth of our nation should be taught not to take everything as the gospel truth. Teachers should encourage their students to form their own opinions from experiences of others and their own. In other words, more objective thinking.

    Hopefully tomorrow’s generation would be one who is able to discern and rationalise in their own independence.

  8. Nicholas Cooke Says:

    I came upon this chatter as I was looking for any answers to an interesting fact I came across whilst at university; that is that only 33% of people are capable of rational thought. This was told to me by a reliable source, a sociological lecturer; however I would like to qualify the parameters of this statement.

    At first this may seem to be a shocking statement but if you take into consideration the number of people too young or too old or in such poverty that their level of education is insufficient to allow them to be capable of rational thought then it may not be that surprising.

    If you know of any research in and around this area that can illuminate what was a fleeting statement in a long lecture I would be very grateful.

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