Representation

Representation is always difficult, and nowhere more so than on maps.

In constructing a map for a project, I spent – what I initially thought was – an inordinate amount of time on it. But I realised otherwise upon producing the final copy.

What I learnt about what took me so long was the exact thing holding me back from completing the task: Wanting to be perfect. I wanted to be as exact as possible so as to do justice to the geography.

At some point, it dawned on me that for the purpose of what I wanted to achieve, accuracy was still important – but faithfulness was not.

All I needed was an approximate model for people to get from Point A to Point B. Here, I had to strike a balance between what I wanted ideally and what people really needed.

If map-making is a metaphor for sharing one’s wisdom about finding one’s way in the world, then this route stands out: art, like life, entails having to be comfortable with making choices and accepting sacrifices.

Nevertheless, these trade-offs cannot be made unthinkingly; for example, there will be situations in which accuracy and faithfulness are equally important, and approximations will not suffice.

Also, while there is much value in putting in the hours to learn the intricacies and nuances of any craft, sometimes, it’s always better – and quicker – if you have a guide to show you the way.

I hope this map guides your path in the same way it will guide mine.

Satire in an age of fake news

Trump and the "very, very stupid people" (IMAGE: Tom Toles)
Trump and the “very, very stupid people” (IMAGE: Tom Toles)

As an aside, this Ministry of Chindian Affairs thing is a long-running joke between me and my friends.

The last time I posted about it was in 2014 – and in how things have changed since then.

I thought it was telling – and a bit sad, really – that today, I had to explicitly tag/indicate that this post was #satire.

I had a conversation a while back with a fellow writer about art, where we talked about the tension between accessibility and obscurity when it comes to writing.

We don’t have to be too obvious, she said. The reader should get what it is we want to say, without us trying too hard.

And if they don’t get it, so what? Their loss.

It’s a different age now.

It’s become compulsory to make clear that what is written is satirical, just to prevent keyboard warriors from coming up with trumped-up charges of “fake news”.

Perhaps the writing was on the wall in late 2016, after Trump got elected.

Back then, I noticed how The Borowitz Report’s slogan quietly changed from “The news, reshuffled” to “Not the news”.

Subsequently, the column name itself evolved from “The Borowitz Report” to “Satire from the Borowitz Report” sometime in 2017.

It’s sad when the assumption is that the reader will wilfully misinterpret what it is we are say, so all subtlety has to be forsaken.

And it doesn’t say much about the state of intelligence in society, as well as skills of critical thinking, media literacy and all that jazz.

Then again, maybe it might make for a more compelling reason for why learning literature should be compulsory.

Because if a child can’t even interpret irony, then how is she going to begin to figure out fake news?

Appointment of Ms Indranee Rajah as Special Advisor to the Ministry of Chindian Affairs

Wed, 25 Apr 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

APPOINTMENT OF MS INDRANEE RAJAH AS SPECIAL ADVISOR TO THE MINISTRY OF CHINDIAN AFFAIRS

  1. The Prime Minister’s Office announced yesterday that Ms Indranee Rajah has been promoted to full minister. She will be appointed Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for Education. She will also be appointed Second Minister for Law until 30 June 2018.
  2. The Ministry of Chindian Affairs approves of this and congratulates Ms Indranee on her promotion.
  3. The Ministry would also like to announce that Ms Indranee will be appointed as Special Advisor to the Ministry with effect from today.
  4. As Special Advisor, Ms Indranee will provide advice on the Ministry’s strategies to grow Chindian capabilities. Ms Indranee will also advise on the participation and engagement of Chindians in national fora and conversations.
  5. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the Ministry would like to announce a special, one-off holiday. This will take place immediately after Chindian New Year.
  6. As Diwali 2018 will fall on Tue, 6 Nov 2018, Chindian New Year will be celebrated on 1.5 days – from Wed, 27 Jun 2018 till noon on Thu, 28 Jun 2018.
  7. The special holiday will be celebrated from noon on Thu, 28 Jun 2018 till noon on Fri, 29 Jun 2018.
  8. Chindian Chap Goh Meh will be celebrated on Thu, 12 Jul 2018.

MINISTRY OF CHINDIAN AFFAIRS

(NOTE: This is satire.)