Where you come from plays a big part in how far you go. A person born of wealth will be given more opportunities, more open doors, than a person born of poverty. Though whether or not you are a better person after crossing the threshold is a different story.
Despite Singapore being high on media consumption and penetration (Heh heh, penetration), and double of the global rate in social media use, we are one of the few first world countries where coming out as an ‘artist’ is a uphill battle.
When talking about Singapore authors, there is a distinct image that comes to mind. Stories of kampong (village) life and dreamy school days. Very rarely do Singapore authors take a crack at more international genres on a large scale. High fantasy. Thriller. Heavy fiction. Those are hard to come by.
And the art scene as a whole, though outwardly supportive, is inwardly scrutinized. Until you have ‘succeeded’ or ‘made it big’, you are generally considered and failure and am wasting your time. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been told that there’s no art scene in Singapore, and there’s no future here as a writer. And these are said by my own friends and family.
Speaking of which, growing up in Singapore is unique in that we are still a young country, and our founding generation still walks amongst us today. But because of our cultural background being steeped in history, we often can progress in aspects of life. Parents are still encouraging their children to become doctors, lawyers, or bankers. To make big money. Arts are often laughed at.
Even my own father thinks that what I’m doing is not a worthwhile endeavour, despite having planned to only delve seriously into writing for this one year. He’s tried to get me jobs in the financial districts and influential bosses, all of which I’ve declined. My mother isn’t English literate, so she can’t read my stories, and my sister just doesn’t read my stories, so family support is lacking.
Now, back to the beginning, remember when I said Singapore social media consumption is amongst the highest in the world? You might think that being so means I get a lot of shares on Facebook and such. But that is simply not the case.
There is a culture in Singapore of piracy. Torrented games and shows are common, and black boxes are also available. I have quite a relax view on media piracy, and I don’t put DRMs on my eBooks, but the problem I have with the ones happening in Singapore are that they are more common in wealthy families, the binge market. And when those who can afford it don’t pay for their media, what happens then?
Singapore is a weird country. We have a cycle of professional misery where to study, you need experience. To have experience, you need to work. To work, you need to have a degree. In the art field, you are doing art only if you succeed. But to succeed, you need to do art. Forget about climbing the ladder. With this cycle, it’s hard to even get on without selling your soul.
So for people around the world whose World Press Freedom Index is above #153 out of #180, do try to take your blessings. Cause I can guarantee you, you have a much better chance of getting into ‘the biz’ with all your morality intact than I do.