Walking Towards the Truth of Singapore

Dear Reader,

Every day, the world seems to be collapsing a little more. Death and destruction rule our screens, and this haunts my every day, though when I look outside my windows all remains still, sunny, sterile. What Cherian George calls an air-conditioned nation I call Omelas; this is a city that succeeds precisely because it crushes the underclass and ravages land from other nations. 
While this letter is by no means an essay to get into the metaphor of Singapore as Omelas, I do want to consider what it means to walk away. There are many Singaporeans who literally leave (if not for greener, then freer pastures). And then there are few Singaporeans who can continue to live here, doing what they can to ensure the metaphorical child does not suffer, to the best of their abilities. 
I walk away from Omelas because I can’t walk away from Singapore. It’s my love for this country and its people that begs me to do more, to pay attention, to try and try again. Here, walking away from Omelas means walking towards the truth of this city: its poor, its artists, its students, its dissenters, its queers. I don’t know how to be indifferent, to let things continue as they are. Not when I can still do something about it; not when there are people to care for. I have to believe that it’s the little acts that make a difference, because maybe with enough ripples we can make a wave that might one day rock a boat. 
Ethos’ upcoming book that I’ve written a chapter for, We Are Not the Enemy: The Practice of Advocacy in Singapore, is a collection of people who believe similarly. For whatever reason, we’ve chosen to put countless hours into the act of ‘walking away’: of protecting the marginalised, of telling uncomfortable truths, of fighting for the rights of others, of being witness, of refusing the shiny success that Singapore insists comes at the subjugation of others. It’s surreal to be included in their company, because they are the real builders of Singapore. It’s work that goes unrecognised and unappreciated, and I’m very thankful that this book serves as an archive and a reminder. 
In a city that is constantly evolving, constantly shedding the old and outmoded, this archive is all the more necessary. We are hurtling towards progress at the speed of losing everything that is important. But I don’t think we’re doomed if we learn from the people in this anthology. If nothing else, they give me hope. In these pages there is a promise of just how incredible Singapore can be. 
(If I want to be honest—I don’t always believe that. More often than not, this city fills me with despair and frustration and rage. But it’s the little acts, the little symbols of hope, that tide me through. I’d like to see this book as one such symbol. After all, we are choosing to remember, to guide, to love, to try. We can’t always succumb to hopelessness—so why not celebrate this book with us?) 
Kindly, lovingly, trustingly,

(Irie Aman is a creative and community builder. They were the Editor-in-Chief of The Local Rebel, Singapore's first intersectional feminist magazine. Once a year, they organise Solidarithrift, a thrift market for mutual aid. Currently, Irie hosts dink, an open mic night for all mediums and artists, and leads QUASA, a Queer Muslim collective.)


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