I’m gonna studiously avoid the Tharmania all around—read Singapore This Week for our take on Singapore’s likely next president, as well as a new opposition alliance, Singapore’s “train otakus”, the end of horse racing, a horrid stand-up comedy performance in New York City, and much more.
Today, we have two first-time writers for Jom, Pradeep Krishnan and Nick Fang. In “The awkwardness of ‘resilience’ in Singapore’s political discourse”, Pradeep examines the way “resilience”—the word, the concept, the supposed intrinsic characteristic of Singaporeans—has been instrumentalised since independence. He regards resilience as the counterpoint to vulnerability.
“Point being, language can perform violence. It is constitutive in its ability to activate and foreclose certain feelings, ideas, and courses of action. It is very much bound up with our experience and understanding of the world. Its effects can be pernicious, and it’s important to interrogate its use in political circles.
With ‘resilience’, we should ask: what are its effects, what does it obscure, and whose agenda and version of reality does it promote?”
Pradeep is doing his PhD at the University of St. Gallen, where he studies political psychology and public attitudes towards experts in Europe. He explained his work to me as looking into “how to incorporate expert opinion in policy without sacrificing democratic legitimacy.” Given the strange rejection of expert authority we’ve seen in the past decade—something encouraged by Trumpians, Brexiters and others—it’s a terribly important area of research.
Pradeep’s exploration of the nexus of language and power is accompanied by intriguing visual work by Diva Agar, who forces us, in a dark, satirical way, to confront the paralysing repetition of resilience in Singapore. That politician looks really creepy…
While Pradeep is relatively new to Singaporean journalism, Nick Fang is a lao jiao, a familiar face and commentator on CNA and other channels. We’re also really happy that he’s Jom’s sports editor.
Some people have asked why we have a sports editor. After we launched, sports was one of three areas, along with the environment and food, in which we wanted specialised editors to help develop our expertise. We are eager to raise the bar for sports journalism in Singapore, not just because good sports writing can be a literary delight—one of David Foster Wallace’s finest pieces was on Roger Federer—but also because it helps foster community and belonging.
“We can also do our part by getting to know the stories and personalities behind the medals, and to support our hometown heroes and local teams or clubs in various leagues and sports,” says Nick, a former national fencer, in “Chom Reap Lear Cambodia, Bonjour Paris”. He uses a recap of the recent South-east Asian games as an entry point to assess the potential for Singapore to become “a true sporting nation”.
A few other people have asked why we recruited Nick Fang. It may seem like an indelicate question to those unversed in the ideological inclinations of our Jomrades. It’s worth addressing it head on. While everybody else on our team page is certifiably non-establishment, Nick is perceived by some to be much closer to the state. It could be because he’s a former nominated member of parliament (NMP) or because he’s a former correspondent for The Straits Times.
Still, it’s a question that puzzles me. Why would Jom want to hire only from a narrow segment? When we started Jom, indeed, one of my worries was that we’d lack intellectual diversity. Some of my best conversations over the past few years have been with Nick, whether on the business side of running a media business or Singapore politics. We disagree on a fair number of things, especially military conscription and national service (I’m quite dovish). That’s not just fine, but useful and important for a media company. I always learn a lot from Nick and appreciate the candour in our conversations, and the mutual respect we have for each other’s positions.
And so, with that, we’re all really excited that Nick has finally—finally!—published his first piece for Jom.
If you've enjoyed our newsletters, please scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up to receive them direct in your inbox.