Totally Defensive – Totally Defenseless Tuesday, 24 February 2009, 3:19 am | 1,217 views *In the previous article “TotalMessage 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2009View Source
Totally Defensive – Totally Defenseless
Tuesday, 24 February 2009, 3:19 am | 1,217 views
In the previous article “Total Defense – (Total Control)”, KJ posited that Singapore’s doctrine of Total Defense is as much about the defense of Singapore, as it is about state indoctrination for social control. This article continues where it left off, and in collaboration with blogger Molly Meek, they attempt a further deconstruction of the rhetoric of Total Defense.
By KJ and Molly Meek
Discursive Impossibilities, Overdetermined Failures
It seems to be a sign of successful hegemony when our reactions to the unknown – the Other – dance in tandem with that very behavior prescribed by state-mandated ideology. In the Singaporean context, this would refer to the stubborn and permanent state of vulnerability and its citizens’ subjecthood, the erasure of their individuality, and the outright rejection of the in(de)finite possibilities of the Other (the impossibility of war, for example).
We are vulnerable, and we must continue to be vulnerable. So that we can continue to defend ourselves.
And so it seems that when we come to confront the issue of defense, ‘defensive’ is the stance we strike. When state ideology become naturalized in society and internalized in ourselves, but for some reason is questioned, or punctured, and our cognitive dissonance is jogged, our automatic response is: be defensive by taking offense.
This swiftness and passion with which we take offense, hint at a perceived importance of that something which must be defended. It could also be a front from which we hide the absence of a clear idea or object that needs to be defended.
What will Singaporeans defend?It seems, foremost, the ideology of defense itself.
1297, from O.Fr. defens, from L. defensum “thing protected or forbidden,” from neut. pp. of defendere “ward off, protect” (see defend). First used 1935 as a euphemism for “national military resources.” (Online Etymology Dictionary)
According to conventional wisdom, you are called upon to defend when you are attacked (though it is not necessarily always the right response). You expect to be called upon at any time too, and hence you have to maintain vigilance. And these ideological compulsions of vigilance and defense have rendered themselves irrefutable except to those of us who reject the ideology upon which these convictions are built.
We could start off by considering which actions might be classified as ‘defense’. In the most extreme cases (or rather, in what has become understood as the most extreme cases), one fights physically, takes up arms and inflicts harm upon someone else who has been defined as an enemy. The English novelist Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion provides a deceptively simple definition of ‘enemy’:
“Henri, What is enemy?”
“Someone who is not on your side.”
In this definition, it is worth reflecting upon how the conception of ‘enemy’ is fluid, but can be misguided, manipulated, or monopolized by those in power, with dire consequences for those without power. The ideology of ‘enemy’ regardless of who/what it inhabits on the other hand, is static as well as irrefutable.
In other cases, we might imagine the enemy as an entity that is always a potential, even if it doesn’t yet physically exist. (But as long as someone is not on your side… whichever side you might happen to be…). This entity’s potentiality consequently enhances its irrefutability. Thus, we try to always be ready for the extreme actions, i.e. force and violence, by equipping ourselves with the resources to draw our swords.
Yet, this does not tell us what the difference between defense and, for instance, fighting is (which can be a synecdoche or perhaps a representation of other acts of defense). In addition, we not only have to know what we are fighting for, but we also have to believe in the cause of our fight, and be made to see its relevance to ourselves.
In other words, when it comes to defense (whether in Singapore or elsewhere), indoctrination and ideology inevitably occupy a prominent position, often under the guise of nationalism. A soldier (again, this can be a synecdoche) will fight for the ruler if he can be made to believe that the act benefits the country, and that good done for the country is for the good of those he loves, and so his actions ultimately benefit himself.
Consider this: in the same novel The Passion, the protagonist Henri, a French peasant boy, joins the army and fights for France only because of his (inexplicable) love for Napoleon. This specter of Napoleon as king (and desire), of course, can be a metaphor for that which we form the basis for our allegiance, love, and defense. How else might Napoleon as the king and nation embodied, decree that he be loved and followed, other than to make sure that his vision appears to everyone as if it is their very own?
Thus egotism and self-centeredness become recoded into the notion of self-sacrifice. This displaces the self from the original rhetoric because when one sacrifices for someone else, or something, ‘someone else’ takes centrality rather than the sacrificial self as it originally was intended, since it does not make sense that we sacrifice ourselves for ourselves: I fight for myself (ultimately). But, I sacrifice for my nation (vaingloriously). It becomes a noble sacrifice, as ego and vanity become irresistible. The faces at the center of this discourse of defense keep rotating, until there is but a blurred defacement of the defender-subject, as well as the object of defense.
The supremacy of the defense rhetoric confers upon the individual a privileged place as an individual, only to then commodify every individual it encounters. But first, reification has to take place. Total Defense is a process of reification. It reifies state vulnerability and the perpetual need for its defense, and in the process exalting this ideology to a status of untouchability, like a body that has acquired immunity to what it calls ‘diseases’ (the enemies). And when Total Defense is instituted primarily as a form of political control, the reification of Total Defense as ideology commodifies it for mass consumption by individual citizens. Hence, the call: ‘What will you defend?’, when really, it is not about you.
Who does not know that there are various facets of defense? For instance, if you do not have enough money to feed the soldiers, there will not be an army to fight for you. Calling it ‘economic defense’ does not elevate it above the banal. Defense is constructed as an ideological factory that reduces the ostensible object of protection (‘Singapore’, including the citizens) into tidbits for mass consumption, which then becomes a loop of self-consumption. As our Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean suggests to the young ones: How about defending your favorite toy?
(Die defending your favorite toy?)
Defense becomes not about protecting Singapore, much less about defending its citizens. It becomes, rather, that Singapore and its citizens are about defense.
Hence: Are you defending a nation of which you are a part, or are you being used by a territory/group to which you are a tool, to defend itself?
Are you defending the nation, or are you being used by the nation to defend it?
When reification is entrenched, the ideology of defense becomes immutable, irrefutable, and irrationality commences.
‘What will you defend?’ is a question that privileges objects and mechanizes people.
When defense is total, so is reification.
Protected Territories, Protracted Defenses
Over at the Total Defense website, Total Defense is defined:
Total Defence about [sic.] the different things that we can do everyday in every sector of our society to strengthen our resilience as a nation. When we take National Service seriously, participate in civil emergency exercises, upgrade our skills, build strong bonds with different races and religions, and feel the pride of being Singaporean, we contribute to Total Defence. [Even without intending to?]
It sounds so persuasive that it can be seen as nonsense. The message is a fairly simple one: everything you do can be related to defense, which is why it is described as ‘total’. Of course, the relation can be a positive contribution, or an undermining of defense. But there doesn’t seem to be much sense here: I upgrade my skills and POOF! I have participated in the economic defense of Singapore. One can perceive one’s actions this way, of course. (The next time you are called up for reservist, tell them you have to upgrade your skills, or perhaps to make friends with your neighbor of a different race to foster social defense, to defend Singapore.) Surely the armed forces cannot prevent you from defending Singapore?
But it is important to note here that even the given definition of Total Defense involves a process of reification, where every single action of a citizen is tied to the defense of Singapore. This is intrusive, for it ties the individual irrevocably to the state, so much so that it is impossible to imagine anything truly individual. This is one aspect of its totalitarianism.
Total Defense consequently portrays the state as defending itself against what is actually its biggest potential threat – the people who could radically reconfigure the definitions and objectives, if not the very entity, of Total Defense. Simply put, should Total Defense be of utmost importance as the state’s ostensible defense against external enemies, then arguably, an even bigger threat would be the ones who can refute, reject, or alter the functions of Total Defense.
And who else might these people be in this instance, but the Singaporean citizenry?
If Total Defense is a tool for socio-political control, then citizens’ willing (but unwitting) consumption of Total Defense’ rhetoric and reification will invariably serve to strengthen and intensify state power over citizens. Thus, Total Defense renders the citizens totally defenseless against itself, against its originators – the state.
Even though the notion of defense externalizes threats, the concept is self-sufficient, as threats can be purely imagined (and imagined for), even if they are not always manifested physically. But this compels one to trespass into the defensum, i.e. the forbidden territory that would trigger defenses, if not defensiveness, where accusations meet defenses, counter-accusations and counter-defenses, where sacrifices precede war, and where silence groans as cacophony, where there is neither dialogue nor truce, but conflict-orchestrated peace-keeping, and where it is necessary to read subversion as madness without denigration. To read subversion as against mandatory paradigms of proof.
What will you defend? (Yes, I will.) No, what? (But why?)
* * *
There are truths, there are truths institutionalized, and there are truths disqualified. Disqualification:
graduates refusing to retrain and sell fried chestnuts in the market could be seen as undermining Economic Defence, and decrying governmental social engineering in the form of HDB racial quotas could be seen as injurious to Social Defence. (Excerpt of ex-Wikipedia Article on Total Defense of which a trace is detectable at the talk page; the main article is questioned, but does not suffer the same fate)
Something happens when satire, which may be more truthful than what is allowed to exist, is expected to conform to encyclopedic standards of truth. You cannot make your point in any other style or form; you cannot make your point with deliberate ambiguity or ambivalence. Play by the rules or go to another site.
Perhaps Singapore is a kind of Wikipedic space. There is little to stop unrecognized forms from cropping up, but the entire Wikipedized community would appear to censor, to disqualify.
But which other site is there?
How could you defend yourself?
(Sorry, Wikipedia, you were merely a metaphor. A mere metaphor.)
Accusations and Defenses, Nonsense taking Offenses
Of self-reflexive apologia, inevitable schizophrenia, and a parodic table in the spirit of temporal efficiency and intellectual rationality, apparently offering irreverent interpolations and rupture within structure.
(And of course, presented for the leisurely self-indulgence of our dear readers.)
Neutral Judge: I generally do not disagree with Objective Reviewer. But I don’t think the masses are all brainwashed. If everyone is brainwashed, then KJ would not have been able to make such a claim in the first place. The people on the ground have eyes to see for themselves. People like KJ are unable to convince others of their ideas, with his pseudo-intellectualisms which most people would find inaccessible. [molly: but you have accessed him, haven't you? otherwise, how would you know that he is being pseudo-intellectual?] With the better educated who are able to deal with the density of his words to reveal the dismal lack of substance in them, his ideas have no purchase because they are essentially hollow. Of course, no one can stop KJ from expressing himself, but what Singapore needs is not self-indulgent people like KJ, but those who are able to arouse people from their slumber and excite changes. [molly: so, it all goes back to what “Singapore” needs, not what KJ is! Poor KJ!][KJ: Err! Neutral judge’s judgements, rather than being neutral, are contradictory and value-laden! Neutral Judge certainly judges more than he neutralizes!] Objective Reviewer: You are not being fair, KJ. You accord far too much to propaganda, as if Singapore is a conspiracy hub. As a government critic, you need to express balanced [molly: that depends on the sort of scales you use . . .] and well-substantiated views, not polemical senselessness. You have to work within the system. Play by the rules, even if you think they are unfair. It is counter-effective embarking on semi-fictive critique when you are dealing with real issues in the real world.By saying No to defense, you are effectively undermining the nation for the sake of undermining the government and you are not going to get much support. [molly: how does one gain support from those who do not even know they are supporting one's adversaries?] Such radical discourse will alienate the masses. No doubt, you might say that the masses have already been brainwashed by the dominant ideology, but you need to appeal to their sensibility before you can bring about change. Third Party: Molly, it is very rude and disruptive [molly: aha! that's the word!] of you to invade Neutral Judge’s and Objective Reviewer’s comments with those frivolous interpolations of yours. Such issues bring out the worst in you, showing that you simply fail to be constructive and engage others especially when the need arises. Go away, we don’t need people like that.Look at Neutral Judge and Objective Critic. Their comments are valid, well-reasoned and lucid, exemplary critique that Singapore needs and lacks. Unlike the many netizens who churn out nonsense, their writing is structured and make sense.KJ, you spout nonsense compulsively. If you know nothing about defense, do your research before you meander and ramble on and on. Stop bringing shame to the blogosphere. If you feel that your point has not gotten across [molly: maybe it is impossible for the point to get across other than by means of a desperate provocation because it is beyond the parameters of sanctioned intelligibility.], it’s your fault for failing to be lucid. KJ: I don’t belong here |you are here, face it|, but the question is not “Will you defend”, which could also be a rhetorical question, so the question preempts and has defended itself against the possibility of a deliberate, subversive “No.” We can, of course, answer “Nothing”. But that would mean we would not defend ourselves, not even against the rhetorical violence |what’s that?| inflicted on us. This would be a self-contradictory reply. If we answer “Myself”. We would be acknowledging ourselves as the objective/objectified functional “what” in the question.“What will you defend?” Is “will” possibly an ambiguous indicator of the future, allowing for a constant deferment of the acts of defense which indefinitely prolongs the moment of projection of potential threats?|The story is seductive, but it fails the test of truth. You are making things up.|The person answering does not even have to articulate “I”. The question is “what” and the answer could simply be the object. The “I will” of the answer might present a semblance of agency, but it is ultimately redundant.The question is also notably not “What will we defend”? even as the word “we” would have generated a rhetoric of togetherness. Every individual exists as a target. By virtue of the existence of a question being asked, there has to be an “I” in some form—the speaking “I” of power. The questioning “I” is an unspoken but stable “I” that can be reproduced for every addressee whereas the redundant answering “I” exists only as a rhetorical complement to the absolute “I” of power. The self of “I will defend [insert right answer]” is only legitimate insofar as it is a product of the absolute self of Power personified. We, answerers of the question, can only be a self via the proxy of power. There is sovereign power and there are subjugated subjects. -DELETED-[Moderator: That's not constructive, Molly.]
[KJ: I thought we were tasked to be deconstructive?]
KJ: I’m ashamed of my perpetual gibberish and myself. I don’t know what came over me. I think Molly drugged me. I can’t even make sense of what I wrote.[Derrida: You shouldn’t. Like me, you’re dead.][molly: stop it jacques. not everyone has the right to rise from their graves when they sense something is wrong. please, return to where you died!]
RH: MY ACQUAINTANCE, MR DAVID DUCLOS, A FORMER POLICE INSPECTOR, AND HIS LAWYER FRIEND, EYEWITNESSED LEE KUAN YEW RIGGING THE 1997 CHENG SAN GRC ELECTION. READ MORE AT MY BLOG ENTITLED "I CAME, I SAW, I SOLVED IT" :
[ALSO AT THE ABOVE BLOG, LIE KUAN YEW's LIES, CORRUPTION, WRONGFUL JAILING, TORTURE AND BEATING TO DEATH OF INNOCENT POLITICAL PRISONERS LIKE MR CHAN HOCK HUA]
READ ALSO MARTYN SEE's INTERVIEW WITH ME AT:
FOR QUICK, IRREVERENT REASONS WHY LIE KY DESERVES A NOBEL:
MY ARCHIVE OF WORKS AT: