Everyone has an opinion. Your mom probably has a thing to say about your hairstyle; the taxi uncle that ferried you to work this morning rants about government policies; a stranger has a personal story in relation to today’s current events. Even the man who says that he has no opinion to weigh in… that’s an opinion.
We want to foster dialogue and hope that, while it may be difficult to hear a view that is contrary to your own, we hope that our sessions can inform, and ultimately lead to a place of understanding. There are no winners or losers in a dialogue, only a joint process of making sense of one another.
By Rishi Budhrani
I just got off the phone with a client for a potential stand-up comedy segment in a youth convention. The brief was to address topics of race and religion in an open and provocative manner, as a trigger activity to allow some 150 youths to discuss. This is a very rare form of disruptive censorship where we take the exact opposite theory of censorship in order to have an open and candid discourse about sensitive issues. The censorship that usually occurs is to safeguard racial, religious or political sentiments, or inconveniences at some point, but is it necessary?
There are certain areas where there is no question. For example, most would probably agree that you shouldn't show hardcore pornography to a five-year-old. The problem is when the definition is unclear and the situation presented not quite black and white. Case in point–Ken Kwek’s Sex.Violence.FamilyValues. I never watched it precisely because of the ban, but I read that it supposedly portrayed Indian people as drunken wife-beaters. To my understanding, it was initially cleared, but subsequently banned after receiving some complaints.
The essential problem with censorship is that the responsibility to take offence on behalf an entire community or dictate what they should be able to consume, is put on a select few. Sometimes we don't even get an opportunity to even make up our own minds about it. In Singapore specifically, politics is a huge area of question especially when it comes to film. Tan Pin Pin's To Singapore, With Love didn't get any kind of screening because IMDA deemed it unfit for viewing, citing falsehood and other claims. Say it were untrue statements. Isn’t the audience mature enough to discern? Obviously in the mind of authorities, we are not.
There is this sense of ‘watching this will undermine your view of the government, so you best not’. Sounds a little lopsided right? If you have trust in the government, lived in this country for over 20 years, a one-hour documentary on ex-political detainees shouldn't even matter. It should be a chance to have a candid discussion, but instead it becomes a topic of contention. Coming from a Communications background, and as a stand-up comedian, I might not be the full representative of the layman. Still, I highly doubt there are people who will completely reject watching an alternative viewpoint on history. Or perhaps there are.
Censorship is necessary, but the process of setting guidelines could be more consultative and representative of what people on the ground want. It is difficult because not everyone shares the same views, but we're an educated society that is capable of making mature decisions despite consuming alternate forms of information. Hopefully we can get there at some point, but right now I don't think we're very much there yet.
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Read: What does improviser Prescott Gaylord have to say on freedom of speech?
Read: What does corporate comms professional Alisa Chopard have to say about censorship?
This article was originally published in the May issue of Esquire Singapore.