The bottom of the totem pole

A publication I’ve not heard of before, and they’ve written to me – a nice change from the endless pitching and often-never-hearing-back that is the life of a writer for hire. They’ve seen my work and they like it. They want me on board. But…

The position is unpaid. They’re new, or new-ish, and aren’t making a profit, you see. But they have passion, and goals, and plans.

I’m approaching my first year of full-time freelancing, and I’ve learnt that this happens often (or often enough). I’ve learnt that while some roles – doctors, corporate lawyers, bankers – are valued and well-compensated, other roles – like mine, and those of many of my friends in the arts and creative industries – are valued and barely compensated. There appears to be a belief that we who deal in words and lines and colours eat passion and conviction while others eat rice.

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The Contradictory City

As a journalist trying to explain my tiny hometown/state/country (yes, they are all “Singapore”) to foreigners who know little about the place, I’ve often been guilty of relying on certain devices. Chief among them is the one where you emphasise how rich or clean Singapore is, and then say, “BUT…” It’s quick and easy, a combination much loved by writers with word limits and deadlines.

The danger of using such tropes, though, is that one can sometimes go too far, painting a picture of Singapore with such broad strokes that the complexities and nuances of this bizarre young nation are completely erased.

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When oppressors feel oppressed

Singapore’s top court recently ruled that it was constitutional for a minority group to be singled out and criminalised. This ruling means that section 377A of the Penal Code will be retained, and that every sexually active gay man is a criminal yet to be arrested (because of some “Scout’s honour” promise that the law won’t be enforced).

It also means that discrimination against LGBTQ people remain enshrined in our legislation, legitimising a whole host of other homophobic policies and mindsets that flourish in aspects of life in Singapore.

Yet conservatives would have us believe that it is them who are the victims here.

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