ST Nov 21, 2007
Rapping MDA officers cause mixed feelings over video
Innovative, funny or just silly? MDA's rap video is getting people talking
By Eddino Abdul Hadi
A FOUR-MINUTE video showing the head honchos of the Media Development Authority (MDA) rapping while selling its message to get Singapore creative and connected has got some media industry players tickled and others bewildered.
While some laud its effort to reach out, others say the video is forced and makes the civil servants look even a little silly.
Called the Senior Management Rap, it was featured in the MDA's interactive annual report 2006/7 released last month. The video is now available on the MDA website.
The report comes in a thumbdrive which includes its annual corporate review in video and an interactive showcase of MDA's services.
In a video attachment, CEO Christopher Chia, who is wearing a suit, is seen dancing and rapping to phrases like: 'They call me CEO, hear me out everyone.'
Deputy CEO Michael Yap goes one better. Dressed in hip-hop gear of sunglasses, cap tweaked backwards, 'bling' necklace and baggy clothes, his lines include 'experimentation is my cup of tea' ...
I have no mixed feelings about this. It sucks.
Here is a review by blogger Gabriel Seah - "Oh gods. My eyes. And ears."
I attribute this fiasco to the negative influence of the PAP's "let's be hip and happening" campaign. I was also reminded of Yawning Bread's essay on our hip-hopping PAP MPs at this year's Chingay parade:
Twelve members of parliament from the People's Action Party are going to do a 1-minute hip hop dance segment next February as part of the Chingay parade. These are 12 of the 13 born after 1965, the year that Singapore became independent [See addendum 1].
It's part of the party's attempt to ditch its stuffy, authoritarian image, and connect better with younger voters.
Most people I've spoken to about this have found themselves at a loss for words. They typically shake their heads, sigh and say something to the effect that it's all quite silly. The PAP's problem is really its own closed organisational culture, its unshakeable belief that only they know what's best for Singapore, and the way its policies grate on so many people. Image makeover,
people tend to say, doesn't address any of these problems ....
... However, what is more appalling to me, is not so much the hip hop, but that 12 of them will be doing it. Are we to believe that except for one [See addendum 1] all the members of parliament who were born post-1965 agreed that hip hop dancing down Orchard Road is a fantastic idea?
If we took a control sample of 13 ordinary citizens with matching demographic, professional and socio-economic profiles as these 13, and asked them if hip-hopping down the main shopping street is good for their image, what is the likelihood that we'd get a 12 of them saying "yes"?
I'd say, as likely as launching a paper aeroplane and expecting it to reach the moon.
Yet these 12 PAP MPs agreed. What does that tell you about what goes on within the PAP? It certainly suggests to me that at least some are doing it against their better judgement.
Yet, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said a number of times that he does not want yes-men in his party. He has said that PAP MPs are free to voice alternative, even dissenting opinions and that the party is big enough to accommodate them. This claim is usually made to buttress the argument that Singaporeans do not need to vote for opposition parties for alternative voices
to be heard.
Now we are witnesses to this strange scheme that 12 post-1965 MPs have signed on to, even though nearly everyone I've spoken with think it's a cockamamie idea. Did only one of the 13 post-1965 MPs demur? Did no one else think a dissenting thought? If they did, could they not find the courage to say, no, I won't participate?
It points exactly to something I have criticised again and again: Our political and bureaucratic culture is much too deferential to people in authority. Instead of dissenting, subordinates tend to go along with whatever whims higher-ups have. Enormous resources are thrown at all sorts of pet projects, efforts that ultimately go to waste, because these pet projects are ill-conceived, and seldom critically debated.
One can imagine some higher-up in the PAP directing the younger MPs to do something to "connect" with younger voters, and then musing that perhaps a bit of hip hop would do the trick. And pronto, the great majority fall into line. Yes, sir, it's a fantastic idea. Let's do it!
And so at Chingay, we may see their arms and legs moving to hip hop, but many of us will be able to discern that their brains are in lockstep, or goose-step perhaps. And that's why it's scary.