The “Gahmen Owes Me” Mentality…

Apparently Inch Chua, one of Singapore’s most talented young artists, has decided to leave Singapore because there is “minimal government support” to the (local) music industry (ie the Govt didn’t give her any money).

TOC reports Inch saying that “she has no other choice but to leave Singapore, (because) she has to constantly prove her worth and contributions to the nation.”

TOC adds that “in a previous interview with Channel NewsAsia, Inch said she had applied for various grants from several Government bodies like National Arts Council and Singapore international Foundation, but that they had not replied to her.”

Inch Chua is a full-time indie musician, a rarity in Singapore. She’s one of the four 四大天后, along with Sarah Cheng-De Winne, Ling Kai and Olivia Ong.

She’s quite talented actually.

But unfortunately, like most Singaporeans, she suffers from the Govt-dependency disease. She blames the Govt for not helping her, but she doesn’t see that it’s not the Govt’s job to help her, and she shouldn’t even be asking the Govt in the first place.

Let’s put it this way.

Did Nirvana have any help from the US govt, or even the California state govt? Did the Hongkong govt ever help Beyond? Did the Swedish govt ever help ABBA?

And going beyond music: Did the US govt ever give grants or funding to Microsoft, or Google or Facebook or Amazon or Yahoo?

I think the point is obvious. Most people in other parts of the world rely on themselves, not on their govts to make things happen.

Not only in music, theatre or art, but also in business, in sports, ie in almost every field of endeavour.

Only in Singapore do we find entrepreneurs bitching that the govt doesn’t give them grants, singers complaining the govt doesn’t give them funding, theatre companies ranting that NAC just cut their funding because it didn’t like their works criticising the Govt, and artists complaining that the Govt just yanked their subsidised rental studios.

Somehow a lot of Singaporeans think it is the Govt’s duty to help them in their personal endeavours.

How did Singaporeans end up like this?

This is the legacy of the PAP govt. LKY created a govt so powerful and so entwined in Singaporean’s lives that they now turn to it for everything.

Singaporeans want the govt to do everything, and they want to blame the govt for everything.

But in the process they’ve forgotten how to rely on themselves. More importantly, they’ve lost the attitude of self-reliance.

In other words, Singaporeans think that if I don’t succeed, it’s because the govt didn’t do enough to help me.

This is not the way for Singaporeans to move forward.

I believe Singaporeans want a freer, more open and more democratic society. For that to happen, the Govt has to become smaller and occupy less of Singaporeans’ lives.

This means Singaporeans have to take greater charge of their own lives, stop relying on the Govt, and start telling the Govt to butt out and stop sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong.

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About politicalwritings

Someone who sees beyond PAP and "opposition" in Singapore politics. To understand more please see the Top 10 link below.
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34 Responses to The “Gahmen Owes Me” Mentality…

  1. Trebuchet says:

    Amen! Amen! 🙂

  2. Loyalty is a 2 Way Street says:

    OK. Let’s start right away.
    1. Stop National Service so that I don’t owe Singapore a living.
    2. Return all my CPF money so that I don’t owe Singapore a living.

  3. WallyT says:

    Most artists have to leave their home town to tour and gain a larger audience.
    And since the region isn’t an English-speaking market, she’ll have to travel a little further to find one.

    Why doesn’t she talk about SG citizens? How have they responded to her work?

    I suspect the public response, while positive, may have been too weak financially to prove sufficient for backing the typical artist upgrades like MVs and self-funded concerts.

    Did she gripe about that?

    Of course not, it wouldn’t be cool to whack the public would it?

    The public would actual bite back.

    : )

  4. Fox says:

    Chua is an indie musician. That by itself makes it considerably more difficult for her to sustain herself financially. It is like becoming a monk – you can’t make much money from her vocation. She has to rely on external support. So, let’s not trivialize her difficulties. It is easy to talk about self-reliance when you are in an environment that is conducive to self-reliance. For example, had Chua been born in the US, the cost of traveling would have been much lower compared to Singapore. If she wanted to hone her music, she could work part time and stay in a cheap place. These are not options available to most people in Singapore.

    Take Eric Khoo for example, a really successful film maker. What if he was not member of the Khoo family? Could he have afforded to pursue his interest in film?

    • Thanks for comments. This pc is not only abt Inch Chua, but abt Singaporeans in general.

      Notwithstanding the above, I do not trivialise her problems. However, no one is forced to be an indie musician, or an artist, or a theatre actor, etc. And if one chooses such a vocation, then one will have to make ends meet or quit. There is no reason one shld ask the Govt for support, there is no reason one shld expect support from the Govt, and there is no reason one shld blame the Govt for lack of support.

      The pt of this whole pc is that Singaporeans shld break free of the govt.

      • Fox says:

        I was of course assuming that there is an increase in social welfare when Inch Chua takes the less well-travelled path as an independent musician. But the govt is NOT supposed to be around to make people less or more reliant. It is supposed to undertake policies that will maximize the social welfare of its people. It is only in Singapore that we think of the government as a moral principle enforcer to make people self-reliant.

    • Thanks for comments.

      Govt’s job is to provide security, law and order and essential public services at the lowest possible cost to the people, and to minimise their tax burden.

      Govt’s job is not abt self-reliance, it’s also not abt “urging” citizens to procreate for the sake of TFR, or a multitude of other things that this Govt seems to keep urging citizens, or to dabble in business or to interfere in citizens’ lives any more than absolutely necessary to deliver public services.

      Therefore it is for people themselves to wake up and realise where Govt should be and where it shld not, and tell the govt accordingly.

      As for your pt re petrochemical industry, etc, this was something for a young nation, but is not right for Singapore going forward. Centralised planning can only take us so far. The creative powers of free individuals cannot be matched by govt-appointed committees, no matter how many scholars are on them.

      You can be sure the US govt didn’t plan the Internet revolution. I’m not sure they even planned Silicon Valley.

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  6. JD Chua says:

    all hail this blog! applies to filmmakers too!

  7. henry says:

    It is difficult to break free from the government in Singapore.
    It is impossible, unless you also break your passport up.
    Why?
    If you want to pursue your own aspirations, there are few options.
    The Universities offer courses that are influenced by the Governement
    ( though it is claimed they repsond to industry’s needs and market demand)

    If you want to perform on the streets, you would need to get a permit from the Government
    If you want to collect money from good meaning people, you need permission
    Since the government imposes restrictions and rules, some idea and support should also be forth coming. Yet, this approach is seen as spineless and lack independence.

    Blame it on the past? yeah sure.. easy. But its the present that matters and if I had to seek permits to earn my living, I might as well seek support too.

    Its like my mum:

    Me: “can I watch TV?”
    Mum: “NO!”
    Me: “can I go to my friend’s ?”
    Mum: “NO!”
    Me: “Then can I read my Harry Potter book?”
    Mum: “NO!”
    Me: ” then what should I do?” ( seeking support, )
    Mum: ” you’re smart! find something else to do!”( losing a great opportunity to guide )

    And the only way is to run away from home and do my own thing.

  8. sadbuttrue says:

    Inch is no where near as talented as any of the other bands you listed above. Of course she needs Government help.

  9. exactly, everything also govt. Have any ever praise the govt for the help? oh no. How many have the govt helped? If so many local artist have made it big without the gahmeh, then so should this inch girl. With this attitude, she will not last long in any industry.

  10. The governments in countries such as Canada, Sweden and Australia have for many years implemented laws that protect their music industry (quotas on local music on radio, laws that promoters who bring in foreign bands must have a local band as a supporting act etc) and set up grants and sponsorships for musicians’ recordings as well as touring (locally and internationally).

    These governments also regularly sponsor national contingents of artistes to play at international music festivals and industry meet ups such as Austin Texas’ SXSW, Canada’s NXNE and New York’s CMJ’s Music Marathon. Also introduced were schemes to benefit and reward companies who support musicians – grants and tax benefits for recording studios, promoters, record labels etc.

    While initially greeted with the same predictable complaints (not enough talent in the local pool, waste of taxpayers money, not enough content, poor recording quality etc) – the results now are obvious. Each of these countries has a self-sustainable music industry, with plenty of exports to the international music scene – exports which have received critical and commercial success. Mainstream success story as a case in point – Canadian indie band Arcade Fire’s win at the Grammy awards earlier this year for Album Of The Year.

    In Singapore, the government really has not done much at all for the local music industry. Even in the region, Taiwan’s government has just implemented a really comprehensive grants program for local artistes. It is the only way to develop the music industry. We have virtually nothing now and we will keep having nothing until a decent infrastructure is put in place. Music and arts has long taken a backseat for other drivers of economic and business growth. I agree with Inch that our government can do more and should do more if we ever want a chance at putting Singapore music on the world map. It’s not a handout mentality – plenty of bands and promoters here have for years been independently trying to create music and get it out to a very limited audience. If you have any idea of the passion and talent we have within our homegrown music scene – that has somehow managed to get by, head barely above water, with not very much support from corporate or government entities – maybe you might be able to distinguish it from people crying for government intervention each time they don’t like something, and people asking for it legitimately in order to grow an industry that is really lagging behind, even in terms of our regional peers.

    • Thanks for insightful comments. Please look out for Part 2 of this pc soon.

      On “developing” an industry, I’m generally not in favour of govt “guidance”. We’ve seen too many examples where civil servants here tried to “develop” and “seed” their own pet industries, eg the design industry, the multimedia/animation industry, etc.

      • Fox says:

        The petrochemical industry was entirely seeded by the government. Jurong Island was reclaimed by the government. The entire MRT system was paid for by the government. Even existing carriages and infrastructure are owned by the government. I can go on and on.

        In general, some strategic industrial planning allows us to maximize the benefits of the free market.

  11. ben says:

    the question is not whether Singaporeans are willing to break free from the govt but whether the govt is willing to let Singaporeans go and occupy less in singaporeans lives… get the answer fr ur friendly MP today.

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  13. Ptu says:

    So you blame the government for the fact that Singaporeans blame the government? That’s hilarious.

  14. FactCheck says:

    In the interest of accuracy:

    “Did Nirvana have any help from the US govt, or even the California state govt?”

    – This seems to imply that Nirvana is from the state of California. They were from Washington State (Seattle area). It’s obviously not central to your argument, I’m just letting you know.

    “And going beyond music: Did the US govt ever give grants or funding to Microsoft, or Google or Facebook or Amazon or Yahoo?”

    – These internet companies profited immensely from the creation of the world wide web and networking research that was originally funded by the US Defense Department. Without that initial R&D money, these companies could not have succeeded. Government funding of private companies is more indirect in the US, but especially in the area of research, it is critical to the success of many private companies – including all of these listed above.

    Companies like Amazon also receive huge competitive advantages from the government by being exempt from sales tax, unlike many local businesses. So again, the US government is subsidizing their success, albeit not by direct grants.

    Basically, the overall point is that while the rhetoric of US businesspeople is “less government, I’ll do it on my own” – the US economy has always worked as a partnership between big business and the government. This was true for the infrastructure projects of the late 1800s and remains true today in areas as diverse as the auto industry, finance or public television stations.

    Of course, you may disagree with the government being involved in business this way, but lets not use a false comparison to establish the premise of your argument: that this happens “only in Singapore”; or “Most people in other parts of the world rely on themselves, not on their govts to make things happen.” That’s simply not true.

    • Thanks for correction. Yeah, Seattle, grunge city.

      I understand your pt on internet, but you know it was a defence research network for donkey years before they let the private sector in during the 90’s. There was no grand plan to start a very industry by building a piece of great infrastructure.

      As for sales tax exemption, mail order has been around the longest time.

  15. angry doc says:

    Hear, hear!

    “Who choose the govt? Who can tell the govt what it should or should not do?”

    Unfortunately none of the political parties that contested in our recent election campaigned on the platform of: elect us and we will leave you alone, so it looks like we won’t be seeing a small government anytime soon.

  16. Fox says:

    But angry doc went to a state-sponsored medical school and for the first few years of his career, worked in a state-subsidized industry. If not for the government, there wouldn’t be medical school or hospitals. Between 1993 and 2002, he had next to no foreign competition as a result of the tightening of schedule of recognized medical schools. Before entering medical school, he had to go through state-run JC, secondary and primary schools. He took medicine that was regulated by HSA, might have undergone surgery in which publicly collected blood was used, ate food that was checked by PPD, etc.

    There are always small governments around. I mean, Somalia is a small government paradise. There is no government. I’m sure it is a really pleasant place to live.

  17. brokendreams says:

    u cannot compare us with countries like the US.

    We have our money stuck in CPF. We have to compete with foreigners for jobs to help finance whatever passion we have outside our jobs. Basically, we have to pay for so many other things that people in the US dun have to pay for.

    Indie artistes there can easily buy a van for a couple hundreds to travel from concerts to concerts. They certainly dun have to pay for COE, ERP, and season parking. There are just too many places our money is going to that is NOT towards furthering our personal growth. The examples I’ve given are just the tip oif the ice berg.

    U seem like an intelligent person. I’m sure u can think of many other facets of our pathetic singaporean lives that is a liability to our personal dreams.

    She’s not the only one I tell u. Many others r leaving too.

    I’ll end off with this thought. LKY recently said that we just have to deal with the unequal job opportunities given to the foreigners. That being said, why should we even be loyal to a country that doesn’t have our interests as priority? I dunno about u but to me, this is akin to going home and have your neighbor sit in your favorite sofa (that u were supposed to have your rights to, since it’s your home) but you can’t get him to leave. Suck on that for a moment.

    • Thanks for comments. I detect your anger and frustration and while they are very real and painful, they are incidental to this piece. My view is that if you don’t like what’s happening, you should vote PAP out. In addition, you should go to your MPS session and tell your MP what you’re not happy with. In the US it is a tradition for people to write their senator or congressman with their grievances.

      While acknowledging your frustrations, I do not agree that CPF, COE or other such costs are valid reasons why people shld expect Govt to help them in their personal endeavours. For every complaint we have abt high COE or high costs of parking, other people could equally bring up high VAT, high sales tax, high personal income taxes, etc. In other words, everyone has their own problems to deal with, whatever the country. They are not valid reasons why Govt shld support people’s personal endeavours.

      Lastly, I do not think it is a bad thing for people to leave Singapore to pursue their dreams. See my other piece.

  18. Tan Ah Kow says:

    Why only pick on artists or the artistic world. The same arguments should also applies to:

    – GLCs who relies on the government to protect their profits.
    – MNCs for always sucking the government for this and that grants before they choose to relocate to Singapore.

    • 1. GLC’s– misconception.
      2. MNC’s– that’s a function of how badly Singapore wants them. Usually Singapotr wants to be a “hub” and want the companies to be here more than they want to be, hence the incentives.

      • Tan Ah Kow says:

        politicalwriting…

        Er on your reply to point 2…..

        Isn’t what the “Inch Chua”-type Singaporean actions no different from the MNCs?

        She and other Singaporeans of her ilk are simply saying to govt, hey I got this fantastic thing how badly do you want it? If you do, what are you going to give me. If not I just go where I am more wanted.

        So how come the “Inch Chua”s of this world is accused of “govt own me mentality”?

  19. Happy says:

    I’m a happy guy. I’m glad I downgraded myself out of NS. Hey at least I served as clerk in air-con office with plenty of young impressionable nubile female lance corporals and NUSAF. I’m glad I’ve structured my income such that I pay minimal income tax to gahmen. So yeah, I agree that gahmen doesn’t owe me anything.

  20. ronhceng@hotmail.com says:

    I think the support that artists are asking for is support of the interactional type. Not the financial kind ( though many would be happy ).
    There is an acute abscence of support from an emotional and interconnectedness kind.
    Such that many would feel that there is not administrative support either.

    Its also not exclusive to government. Society at large needs to support by being physically present
    and demonstrate appreciation from applause to payment.

    Unfortunately, applause is interactional justice and payment is distributive.. the 2 diverge in Singapore.

  21. Wei Hua says:

    Leaving Singapore is a way of “depending on herself and striking it out on her own” but I see your point about the complaints and over-reliance on the government and I think it is valid. But this particular example may not be the best one to raise the point, at least she is “doing something about it” instead of sitting there and waiting for help to arrive all her life, or even worse, give up music altogether…

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