Singapore is far too straight-laced. That is what Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, says about our nation. What does he know? He is some western guy who knows nothing about our system of Asian values. What gives him the right to make such statements?
Singaporeans are a pragmatic bunch in general, as Christopher Ng Wai Chung has written in his book. According to him, this pragmatic approach to life and career impedes our career success. I cannot help but agree with him. I have a friend whom, with his classmates, was offered a chance by Mediacorp to develop films that would be guaranteed broadcast on one of the national channels. He and his classmates turned down the offer when Mediacorp refused to pay them. These are film students I am talking about. For a bunch of local university students who have no credentials, being given a chance to showcase their work on national television is quite an honour. Who knows, a company might see their work, like it and hire the students. They are guaranteed a job after graduation, which is what many graduates dream of. I told my friend about his lose of opportunities in rejecting the offer. He replied that he is a very shallow person and want immediate gratification. For a local university student, he is not as stupid as I thought. To know and admit that oneself is shallow is quite admirable.
In Supergods: Our World in the Age of Superheroes (Random House), Grant Morrison recounted how he took up an offer to do a strip in his local newspaper, even though he was paid little and barely have enough to feed himself. But for him, that experience was worth it, as it allowed him to develop his storytelling ability in comics. Of course, some Singaporeans might like to point out that besides that story, Supergods also includes mad ramblings from Morrison.
I think Singaporeans have to be honest with themselves. If you do not have any credentials, how can you achieve a good pay? To be paid peanuts under such circumstances is in itself an honour. The important thing is not to concentrate on the market, the fame or the money, like what Alan Moore has constantly advised in interviews, but to develop abilities. But for Singaporeans, this is difficult for most. Some take the other road. I have had a chance to talk to Troy Chin last year. He said that he was prepared not to earn much when Resident Tourist went into print.
So there you have it. The Singapore environment is not suited to creative pursuits, unless the chance to earn is clear. Some will argue, “don’t you need money to survive?” I have a day job, and it comes with sufficient pay. Comics is a hobby in which I can afford not to earn money from. I know that not everyone gets this opportunity. Furthermore, I am not materialistic compared to most Singaporeans. I am a workaholic who enjoys thinking up new ideas. Now, what I need are people who share my vision and would like to work with me on a “revolutionary” comics project. I have no credentials, so no pay expected. By the way, I do not get paid for writing this blog.