War of the Chuppies Hots Up By Nury Vittachi Hong Kong has hit back at the accusation that Singapore is a better place to live. A group of young performers called the Wokstarz has posted a music video on www.YouTube.com making the opposite argument. They are combating Singlish singer Katie Oh, whose music video can be seen here: http://mrjam.typepad.com/diary/2008/07/speak-fluent-si.html
The two videos are very different in character, but both show off their hometowns as attractive places, so this is a case where a row actually does a bit of good to both sides. The Hong Kong video looks much more sentimental and sincere than the self-mocking, ironic Singaporean one. But the sharp-eyed might notice a bit of cheek hidden in the lyrics. While the singers croon that Singapore is their "little bro" and "we will help him grow up" the sub-title writer has actually written "though he makes us throw up".
Sibling rivalry is breaking out all over. But not between kids; between countries behaving like kids.
The latest war of words is between Hong Kong and Singapore.
Neighbourly feuding has a long and illustrious history in Asia. It’s been a particularly popular pastime for South Asian siblings—India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The funny thing is that the rest of the world is convinced all the above are one country. If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me: “You’re from Sri Lanka—that’s part of India, right?” I would have two dollars.Maybe more.
Fortunately, those four nations have recently been expressing their hostility through cricket, a sport in which one needs every ounce of mental energy to deal with bizarre rules and terminology (one fielding position is called Silly Mid-On and you often hear suspicious, off-colour phrases such as “bowling a maiden over”).
Yet the squabbling South Asian family is a total love-fest compared to Taiwan and mainland China. At regular intervals, China releases a statement saying: “Taiwan is an integral part of the Motherland, always has been and always will be,” and then shows the depths of its filial love by raining ballistic missiles into its neighbour’s waters. The message is clear: “We are family: die, scum.”
Now all parents know that the closer kids are, the worse the in-fighting is. This is really true for Hong Kong and Singapore.
They’re not just sisters but identical twins. Both are city-states. Both have a colonial past and a Chuppie (Chinese yuppie) present. Both claim to be the busiest port in Asia. Both claim to have the best airport. Both have more smartphones than smart people. Both are pimples on the bottoms of larger countries.
The latest round of fighting broke out when a survey claimed Singapore citizens would be richer than Hong Kong’s. Hong Kong commentators sneered about the poverty of freedoms in Singapore.
In Internet chat rooms, one Hong Konger claimed Singapore was “one big, ugly housing estate” while another dubbed it “Stepfordpore”, a reference to a creepy story about a place populated by seemingly well-behaved zombies.
Singaporeans were outraged. The most creative response came from singers Katie Oh and Taz the Raz who wrote a song in Singlish mocking the fact that Hong Kong had failed to keep its colonial architecture: “Our old buildings are renewed, but theirs? Where got?!” The song was emailed around the Internet and inevitably ended up on YouTube (look up “Singapore vs Hong Kong” or click here). It comes with an invitation to respond, and horrified Hong Kongers have grabbed guitars to do so.
As someone who has lived in both cities, I feel it is my duty to do what I can to escalate this pointless, unnecessary, and highly enjoyable battle. I have access to studios and cameras and will be happy to help anyone with songs, videos, poems, jokes, et cetera to keep the level of debate suitably low.
Some people will accuse me of merely looking for a cheap way to generate copy to fill this column, and my reply to them is: Yeah? So?
Sibling rivalry is one of the drivers of self-improvement, psychologists say. So let’s all try and be a bit nastier to each other. Or in the Singlish words of Katie Oh: “Eskew me? Why you look at me lidat?”
Like many readers, I work in an office complex. This cluster of buildings is designed to serve 12,000 people. But I’m writing this all alone.
It’s a public holiday and everyone else is off work. But not me. No sir: how could the world cope without essential services such as medical care, air traffic control, law enforcement, and the provision of newspaper columns? (Don’t answer that.)
To save money on this low-traffic day, the building managers have taped a sign to the elevator: “Please consider using the stairs. You can Save Energy and Get Exercise.” Just in case I am not deeply moved by their rare use of the word “please”, they have thoughtfully turned the lift off to help me with my decision.
After puffing up the stairs to my office, I discover the air -conditioning has also been turned off and the room resembles the core of the sun, only 432 degrees hotter.
Actually, I don’t mind this. As a Sri Lankan, I am only happy when I am too hot.
I slave away on the paragraphs above until noon, and then go foraging for food.
Uh-oh. I quickly discover that every restaurant is closed. This is bad news. It means I have to get lunch from a convenience store. Convenience stores, for readers fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with them, are brightly lit hellholes selling food-like items at exorbitant prices to desperate, unwary people.
Unwisely, I purchase a food-like item and find there is no cooking time printed on it. Instead, it says: “Place in store microwave and press button eight.” This is because anyone idiotic enough to eat convenience store food is assumed, correctly, to lack the brainpower to be able to understand complex concepts such as the fact that “two minutes” means two of those minute things.
After two minutes, the oven beeps. I open the door and note that a blob of radioactive orange sauce has bubbled out from the container. I grab a tissue to try to mop it up.
This is a mistake because the orange liquid is 4,000 degrees Celcius. I end up screaming and leaping around the store with my fingers in my mouth, mumbling, “It’s all right, it’s all right,” a phrase which embarrassed, well-brought-up middle-class people say when they are not all right.
Shop staff, experienced at dealing with emergencies involving hazardous chemicals, wave me aside and don nuclear radiation suits to deal with the spill.
The leaky microwaved lunch box is placed in a plastic bag and handed to me. I take it back to my office/ sauna, where it raises the temperature from that of the sun to that of an exploding supernova. My plywood desk goes soft and all liquids, including my tears, evaporate instantly.
I strip to my boxer shorts to avoid heatstroke. At this point, the patrolling security guard peers through my office window and nods his head knowingly.
Why do I put up with these working conditions? I’ll tell you. Like virtually all other offices in big cities in Asia, my air-conditioning system has only two settings: “off” and “flash freeze”. I spend most of the week in freezing, sub-arctic conditions, rather like one of those cavemen they find in glaciers.
A SMALL BUT important event happened yesterday. Stock market counters ticked upwards slightly in China. What's the relevance of that? Well, the total value of shares in communist China ended up fractionally higher than the total value of shares in capitalist Hong Kong for the first time in history (at US$1.8 trillion).