Free Amos? Overstepping the boundaries of Team Singapore
Hudd, S, Free Amos? Overstepping the boundaries of Team Singapore, Understanding Asian Youth in the "Asian Century": Nationalism, Internationalism, and Materialism, December 2015, Jakarta, Indonesia, pp. 1. (2015) [Conference Extract]
The 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence, celebrated in a year-long Golden Jubilee series of events and exhibitions in 2015, has been a significant moment for Singaporeans to reflect on the achievements of their young nation, encouraging, and generating, a surge of nationalist sentiment. In looking back to the ‘Pioneer Generation’, however, anxieties about whether Singaporean youth are strong enough to ‘pick up the baton’ and ensure the ongoing survival of the nation have also been revisited. The death of Lee Kuan Yew in March 2015 was a symbol of this liminal point between past struggles to survive and a future without his leadership, and his passing further concentrated local nationalism.
The national narrative of transformation ‘from third world to first’ has been accompanied by strong state-controls on the media and on opinions and behaviour considered disruptive to social harmony. Just four days after Lee’s death, 16-year old Amos Yee uploaded a YouTube video, ‘Lee Kuan Yew is finally dead!’, drawing attention to these tensions. In this time of national mourning, Yee was jubilant that LKY had died, likened him to Jesus who he described as similarly power-hungry and malicious, and uploaded a cartoon of Lee copulating with Margaret Thatcher. His arrest, subsequent court appearances and remand in detention was variously cheered by many Singaporeans, deplored by others, and criticised by Western media as a violation of free speech. It highlighted the risks in violating the Out of Bounds markers which set limits on socially acceptable subjects and views; the underlying strength of a nationalism which can otherwise be obscured in a consumer society celebrating success; and the lingering neo-imperialist attitudes of Western countries. This paper explores these issues of youthful protest within the complicated nationalism of an affluent, but controlled, society.
Singapore, freedom of speech, Amos Yee; political asylum