Shanghaied to Singapore

The Boy and I didn’t really choose Singapore. It would be whimsical to suggest it chose us. I guess J’s company ended up choosing it for us.

We had our hearts set on China, but a job offer that had only half made it to the table was discretely withdrawn. We tried to get there by other means, but without being bilingual it’s quite a closed market.

Then S’pore came up, and after a bit of consultation we figured what the hell. It’ll get us out of the UK, there’s great diving, we have friends in the region and we can practice our Mandarin (and Singlish, lah).

But what of moving to a dictatorship?

Is a migrant with choice obliged to vote with his feet, and if so what issues are being voted on? I’ve already asked myself this about China, but I’m still not sure how I feel.

There are some places I wouldn’t go – I hear the service has really gone down hill in the Sheraton Harare.

But on the flip side, I once met an activist who urged tourists to keep going to Burma (despite the prison sentences) because once a country successfully closes its doors, the people within are well and truly fucked.

Singapore is VERY strict. A lot of it sounds like school rules: no chewing gum, no smoking behind the bike sheds, no kissing girls; but I think it’s a bit worse than being back in the convent.

It has a two party government system wherein it’s impossible for the opposition to ever win, and according to Amnesty, the highest per capita execution rate in the world.

But the people who aren’t hanged aren’t fucked. There is fully-funded social security, subsidized housing, and at the bizarre end of the spectrum, Asia’s largest gay pride festival was born in Singapore, despite homosexuality still being illegal (although the government shut it down after five years).

I don’t feel too worried about the personal, day-to-day impact that living in a highly-restricted society will have on my life.

I won’t be able to take drugs or have public sex, but to be fair, neither of these activities is a right afforded to me in the UK either – I have just become rather louche about breaking the law.

And I’m sure that if there are a few expats around interested in a discrete three-in-a-bed sex romp shocker, J and I will find them.

But that doesn’t change the fact that anyone with more than a certain amount of cannabis on them (about half a kilo, I think) is automatically hanged. Trafficking is assumed, therefore there’s no need for a trial.

Similarly, for lesser amounts, the death penalty is likely unless the accused can produce evidence disproving intent to supply.

Gulp. Innocent until proven otherwise (beyond reasonable, natch) is one of the bits of the UK legal system I really, really like.


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