Who owns you?

I just watched *again* the documentary ‘The Corporation’ by Joel Bakan. Big mamma ChannelNewsAsia showed it in 4 parts – but alas, it is good to expose Singaporeans to such thought-provoking masterpieces as compared to locally-produced documentaries which are often cobbled together within a few weeks, at most – months.How the Singaporean producers are able to conduct their research within that short time, and then label the work as documentaries (some even go as far as saying it is a POV (Point-of-View) docus) baffles me. The best docus I’ve watched are made in years, mostly shot patiently and with hundreds of hours of research. Here in Singapore, I do understand that it is hard to find that luxury called Time to make such quality work. I just wish we are not so cocky as to call touch-n-go pieces of current affairs work as ‘documentaries’. If you think about it, this cockiness *right spelling?* comes from a huge sense of of ownership (Singapore’s TV industry is of course a monopoly).

Many may not realise that Ownership, if not checked and audited – will rear its ugly head called Control.When you are in control of the industry, you can define things the way you want them to be – an infotainment can be labelled as documentary, a news story can be labelled as a current affairs programme and the list goes on. Put that against Singapore’s backdrop of competitiveness, no one will really take the time (or have any) to reflect and make some noise about this shallowness. We are not known to be the kind of society who will question definitions, and I don’t think we will ever be. For the minority who do engage in such activities – they will be ridiculed.

For the above reasons, I cannot understand Singaporeans who complain, complain, complain about everything without thinking of a solution and the cause.They blame the government for all the high costs, the neighbours for all the noise, the police for all the crimes and the firemen for bushfires! How can you complain when you choose to disengage yourself from the evolution of something in the first place?! You choose to disown the process of defining, so do NOT complain when someone else define it for you.

Here’s a more micro example. My cousin owns an employment agency for foreign maids. Occasionally, she will have maids in transition who need to be housed for a few days before their next assignment. When her own home is full of maids (up to 4 at one time!), she will house them at our place.

Today, 2 such maids were at my place. One of them was crying – and when asked by my mum – we found out that her ex-employer terminated her contract within a few days and on top of that – refuses to let her take her bag of clothes home! The poor lady, a single mother of 4 from Indonesia and who is merely trying to make ends meet – now has nothing to wear except for a well-worn T-shirt and a pair of soft jeans she has on. You may ask why in the first place was her contract terminated suddenly – well, it is because she cut the chicken the wrong way and not according to what the employer asked her to. For that reason, the ex-employer take it upon herself to keep the poor maid’s bag of clothes as a ‘punishment’ for the mistake. Talk about definition, control and a warped sense of ownership!

I was speechless. Like most of you, my human instinct told me to execute damage control – so I ploughed through my closet and put together a bag of clothes that I can give her. A few T-shirts, pants, and several blouses. There was one particular T-shirt that I hesitated to put into the bag because it has sentimental value until, I reminded myself that it is only an act of giving when you give something you love, not something you don’t need. And so that T-shirt goes into the bag too.

Ownership and control is a lethal combination. The trouble with the human mind is – we tend to automatically shy away from intangible issues and not explore where within ourselves does a dangerous trait like this, lurks. Good for our soul? Why don’t YOU define that.


  1. oh uja kuuu
    i lurrrve Big Fat Mama, i was hooked on to my seats as I watched the documentaries on BBC just few days ago! Well researched, and interestingly unique!

    And to speak for the TV back home, I’m sad to say that when I was filming cultural show overseas, my EP has no idea and no research in his hand, he just made it up along the way. I feel that’s cheating the audience in a very cheap way. Of course, not ALL production companies are like that. Just the one who wants to make quick money.

    And yes, what is it with Singaporeans and their maids? Is it because they’ve felt mistreated by their bosses, families that they must take it on others?

  2. See ! See!! I know exactly what you mean too. I know some of the producers themselves wish the station is more realistic about program development and the time-needed. But alas, branding comes first – so documentaries will they be called!

    Your theory on maids is insightful = hmm.I think it is a displacement of power Singaporeans feel – so they will attack the easiest target they can. How sad of an urban society. Just look at the price we pay for modernisation.

  3. Have you heard of this fabulous new online tv station called rantauan.tv? They have some wonderful stuff and i hear the producers are quite professional as well. I think those programme makers must learn a thing or two from rantauan.tv…No money, no budget yet…

  4. Excuse me, whoowns this blog? Pasal lama tak update? Naktuition on how to update blogs? Call my number. First lesson free.

  5. Isshh…demanding pulak reader nie! Tak sempat nak update last weekend – insya’allah will cari ilham these next few days!

  6. kah kah kah..kena marah cikgu 😛 cikgu, uja selalu camtu, tak buat homework. cikgu..rantauan tv tu baguss eh cikgu?? saya cuukaaaaa

  7. pandai pun maknenek puji cikgu…macam ni lah cikgu suka! ni buat homework lambat – update blog pun lambat!

  8. cerite maid lagi. i occasionally help relatives of my maid to find employers in M’sia. last week one of Bi Tuti’s relative called and asked me to find her an employer. So i called my friend who runs a private school, since he called me last week looking for one. His statement makes me “tawar hati” – “kalau maid Indonesia tidur kat sekolah, kalau maid local tidur kat quarters guru” … what a double standard for no particular reason. boleh blah lah ! i’ll find another compassionate employer.

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