Read this recently.
In 2000, the Minister for Information and the Arts said that the maintenance of social peace was an artistic social responsibility. A theatre director responded to demand that as an artist, citizen, father, son and "as a person who sees himself having a future in this country" the right to be irresponsible since an artist cannot work unless that right is given.
Another arts practitioner, aware of the realities of state funding, responded bleakly that "It's not so easy to say, "Im an artist, I just want to do what I want", because you're an artist in Singapore, you know?"
(taken from Koh Tai Ann's Editorial for the special issue of Moving Worlds on Singapore arts/culture)
All these reminds me of the impotency of political cartooning in Singapore today. The tension is still there, but most of them are saying they are only political cartoonists in Singapore.
15 years ago, I was told this is Asian consensus, this is how we do things in Asia. We don't embarrass our leaders. Any critique, make them behind closed doors.
So what Pao Kun said remains the true: we can laugh at other countries' leaders, but we don't dare to laugh at our own. Because they are doing such a great job, they are exceptional? Better not to say the Emperor is naked...
Troy Chin just won the Young Artist Award for comics. Let's see how that'd play out.
Moving Worlds Vol 10, No 1 (2010): Reviewing Singapore is available at Books Actually