Then, The Envelope Pushed Back

Then, The Envelope Pushed Back

With the Knockout, in our own juvenile, idiotic way, we wanted to push the envelope of comedy in this country. But then the envelope pushed back. Things got to a point where people who have supported us, people who work hard to make what we do come to life, were put in a position where things could get deeply unpleasant for them. And that’s a problem. We can live with abuse, hate, anger, fury, rage, ignorance, bigotry and perhaps even bullying. But we don’t want anybody to get hurt because of us. And we do mean anybody.

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There was much furore over the AIB Knockout roast. From an outsider perspective, especially when observed within the lens of Asia, it is nothing more than just a little tempest in a teapot, because Asian cultures are very diverse even on a regional scale. Despite this, we can still observe the similarities across nations especially in how a situation deemed offensive to the general public is handled. As much as many Singaporeans will object to the comparison between an island city-state versus a federation of states founded on democracy, the AIB roast is localised enough (i.e. Mumbai, the financial of India, just like how Singapore is to South-East Asia) to warrant a discussion on out-of-bound markers and moral policing.

Out-of-bound markers is especially omnipresent in Asian societies. There’s certain lines that one implicitly can never cross - race, religion, and even the criticism of a respected figure. In this respect freedom of speech in these society is merely a myth, where the anarchic element is often considered absolutely unacceptable. Although not mutually exclusive, many tend to believe in the “with great power come great responsibility” reasoning for free speech, which in itself tend to be a paradox.

I think that the human condition has yet to catch up with the wide-ranging world view that the information age offers. We tend to maintain our perspectives and views in a Newtonian way - for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This dualistic way of viewing the world is problematic, because it makes us validate why we should upkeep our ignorance of any alternative views altogether. Perhaps we simply don’t want to get hurt.

If there are any instruments used in establishing out-of-bound markers, moral policing is amongst them. It is a means by which I think we use to protect ourselves from being hurt, very much in the same vein as group immunization against a disease. Collective resistance against a particular opinion or idea, however, is completely different in the realms of science and society. Evidence supporting censorship of an artwork tends to come from a central instituition and their panel of experts, which may not be entirely reflective of the wide spectrum of public opinion.

The establishment and the instituition it is respobsible for must recognize that it is not up to themselves to determine what should be done for the greater good of society. Doing so is to succumb to a Vicorian-esque style of maintaining culture, which we have since wish to disengage from as culture is something not performed just because it receives the blessing of the state. Culture is free - keeping it under the reins of censorship will always backfire.