JULY 4 — I used to pity and even support him.
Amos Yee, the kid with the silver tongue and brass balls, taking on the might of the PAP. In his video attacking Lee Kuan Yew (and subsequent posts on Singapore), Yee proved himself a symptom of Lion-Land.
He rages against everything the island state worships: reverence for the political leadership, materialism, corporatism, noodles with tomato sauce and even the National Day song. For his reckless assaults on Singaporean ideology, he was jailed and Amos became famous.
Unfortunately, since his first jail-term (he may have another one coming up), Yee has transformed himself from a creative and articulate activist for political freedom to — ugh! — a narcissistic anarchist with a huge chip on his shoulder and an even bigger stick up his arse.
While his views on Singapore’s socio-political tyranny remain worthy of discussion, his yappin’ on other issues — especially his mockery of religion — contains more than a whiff of the psychotic.
I mean, c’mon, the best writers on religious issues try to present their views with rigour, lucidity and maybe even a touch of humour. Amos? He eats and shags a holy book. How classy.
“If children consent to sex, it’s fine? If you disagree, you’re a fascist.”
Lately, it’s clear that Yee is aiming for nothing more than shock value. Last week, in a series of tweets, Yee defended the practise of child pornography. Sex with children, so Yee claims, is acceptable if a key condition is met: The child demonstrated consent. He also said that to deny the child sexual pleasure that he or she sought for amounts to fascism.
Holy weed-smokin’ gobbledygooker, Batman! Is it the air? We better bail outta here, or we’ll go poppy-cocking, too!
I’d like to rehearse some of the straight-forward problems with his perspective, before getting to my main point in this piece.
As anybody with even an IQ of minus-200 will know, a child’s consent to anything (let alone sex) is not the be-all and end-all for deciding if s/he should have the thing.
Ask any responsible parent. Children can “consent” to anything from eating two tons of ice cream to setting off firebombs in the kitchen to using their siblings as trampolines. Doesn’t at all mean we should let them.
Yee knows this, of course, but his love for attention won’t stop him from declaring that if I stop my child from hurling toys from the apartment balcony down to the road, I’m really no different from Saddam Hussein. I must be a bad fascist father.
Yee, fashionably, doesn’t think that protecting children is a priority. He says that children need to “go out, make bad decisions and learn.” Ergo, we should let a six-year old have sex with a 60-year-old if they both want to.
That’s a great way for the six-year-old to learn about the dangers of random sexual intercourse, the pain of relationships, blahblahblah.
By that same logic, why don’t we allow kids to jump out of cars in the middle of the highway the moment they say they wish to; surely losing a limb or two is an effective way to learn about the dangers of not being careful on the road.
One wonders if Yee isn’t even a little glad that his folks didn’t let him play with full-grown alligators when he was barely learning to run?
And Yee calls himself a genius on Twitter every three seconds.
Free speech the culprit
When we’re done shaking our heads, let’s try to pinpoint a culprit-factor which has led an obviously bright Singaporean teenager to talk such horse-s*** (and be so proud of it).
The candidates which spring to mind are a) Singaporean society with all its elitism and repression, b) the Web and all the opportunity for self-absorption it enables, c) Yee himself (obviously), d) Yee’s upbringing, and not forgetting and, who knows, Singaporean food?
But I’m gonna go with what I think is the biggest BS-contributing element here: Free speech without skin in the game.
Yee belongs to that annoying but ineradicable school of thought which believes that (literally) anybody has the right to say (literally) anything they want, all under the guise of freedom of speech. Unfortunately, they absolutely couldn’t give a jot about the consequences of what they say.
If people like Yee decide one morning to curse their mothers and tell them to slit their own throats (just for the bleedin’ fun of it), that’s fine — free speech mah.
If they feel like walking up to a stranger on the street and insult that person’s religion, sexuality and ethnic background while simultaneously peeing in their direction, it’s also — according to the Yee logic — perfectly okay.
It’s free speech and nobody is being physically hurt. And why not, since it may be “beneficial” for that person to “experience the persecution of minorities”? Hey, we may be “awakening” a potential social activist by our insults! Good on us!
This is the same mindset which justifies publicly abusing a world religion like Islam. Oh, this world religion is problematic so let me tear some pages off its holy book and rub my genitalia against it — that ought to help the world, right? And even if it doesn’t, no worries, it’s free speech (and lots of YouTube hits).
Amos & The Mufti
Of course, we Malaysians have similar problems, too. A good recent example is the now infamous kafir harbi statement from the Pahang Mufti Abdul Rahman Osman. Abdul Rahman is seemingly indifferent to the social and political effects of his statements.
For instance, if a group of Muslim youths beat up a non-Muslim and use the kafir harbi statement as justification, would Abdul Rahman be willing to help the victim? Yeah, right. Can Tau Foo Fah read?
For Yee and Abdul Rahman, if people get hurt or if unrest is created, they don’t care.
How peculiar that, in such cases, Yee shows the exact kind of behaviour as those he condemns for expressing hardline/extremist religious views. One hides behind his computer in his apartment, another hides behind his so-called religious rights.
Both Yee’s and Abdul Rahman’s “exercise” of free speech suffer from a lack of skin in the game. To have skin in the game is to a) care about the negative effects of your words and/or be willing to help in case things go south and b) have some experience in the topic at hand. In a word, to have skin in the game is to take some risk for what you say or do.
Yee isn’t a father nor an early childhood education teacher nor someone who has anything to do with caring for young children — this de facto disqualifies him from making unsolicited and controversial claims on child pornography (see Note 1).
Both Yee and Abdul Rahman, expectedly, are very defiant over what they said. They refuse to retract their words, insisting on “standing by” what they said. Again, this shows a very disproportionate emphasis on their right to say whatever they want, but a total disrespect for the right of would-be victims to be protected from the effects of their remarks.
It’s like, I have the right to start a fire but screw you if you get burned — I’m not lifting a finger to help.
To that famous phrase, “I disapprove of what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”, let’s add, “But you better say things responsibly or please shut the heck up.”
Get skin in the game before we speak (I say this to myself, most of all). Failing that? We could end up sounding like a total dumb ass.
Note 1: If Yee had said kiddie porn is wrong, no problem. You don’t need skin in the game to say something uncontroversial or to promote safety and caution. For example, only a bicycling expert who’s been coaching you can urge you to ride faster and more dangerously; but anyone should have the right to encourage you to be careful and slow down.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.