Chaos is based on Star Wars, an American film that spans across generations of movie viewers. So it is not surprising that it is dominated by American and European writers, with a few outsiders like Nessa from Middle East and some Australians around. As for me, I am based in a tiny asian country called Singapore. You probably have heard of it because of the Trump Kim nuclear summit, or because you have watched Crazy Rich Asians (I have yet to watched it, but I heard my country is filmed beautifully).
My post is not really about countries though. I have no interest in discussing about country politics or how culture is like in other places, simply because I find it easiest to view things from my own point of view. All humans are designed to view the world from our own view. So things happen in front of us, behind us, because of us and so on. We are wired to think to that we are the center of the universe, the center of importance. That is the default mode, the easy mode which everyone can adopt as we go on with our lives. It takes someone who learns how to think to take a step back and realise that the world is not about yourself. David Foster Wallace has explained the concept better than anyone I have known in his commencement speech called "This is Water".
But I digress.
The point I want to make is this. This is a blog, not a political speech, not a religious preach and certainly not trying to ask people to agree with me. You don't. All I ask is if you bother to read what I am writing, try and view things from my lens for a moment and not to impose your views.
Now onto the more interesting part.
I was born to parents who had never been to college or university and could speak English with broken grammar. That meant when I was born until I left primary school, my environment was mostly based around my parents' chinese culture. The news on the TV was automatically tuned to chinese. Songs played on the radio were in Mandarin. My idols growing up were all from Hong Kong, whose names that most of the writers probably never heard of. My English during my growing up years was, expectedly, bad. Thankfully, the classes in primary school were taught in English, which provided me some sort of anchoring point to learn about this language.
Did my country have English programs and English influence? Of course. Plenty, since the British were our colonial masters until the 1960s. So you can bet your life that the laws in my country are based on British laws, the English that we learnt in school teach us to spell colour instead of color and there are many American and British pop culture stuff going on. But they were not things that my parents were interested in. I remembered I was the one who wanted to watch the Lion King and Jurassic Park, simply because I learnt English better than them.
Moving onto secondary school, things changed. I entered into the oldest secondary school in the country, the school with more than 200 years of history and was founded by the British themselves. Things changed drastically. All my life, I communicated with my friends in school using Chinese. Suddenly I met with school mates who spoke English at home, listened to Backstreet Boys and read English newspapers.
I factor this period of my life as my greatest influence in learning and writing English. Suddenly I was listening to Britney Spears, Eminem and Ricky Martin. I was watching the coolest stuff that my parents were not interested in. This was the nineties to the 2000s, where Hong Kong was handed over to China. There was a slow shift in the Chinese and Cantonese pop culture. Hong Kong movies suddenly seemed less dark, less grim, more political. The Hong Kong film industry was catering their arts to mainland China viewers. But what about me? I loved the rough edges of Hong Kong cinema, the gambling scenes, the brutal Triad and underworld action. They were slowly disappearing.
So my attention naturally shifted to the west who had edgy stuff.
The Matrix. Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter. No one talked about whitewashing then. To me, I was just enjoying whatever that came along my way. I also fell in love with Japanese rock bands then. Japan still had a lot of cultural influence in that era. Korean was still trying to stop mimicking their neighbour and establish something. By the time I finished junior college, I was speaking in English most of my time. I hardly read chinese newspapers, simply because I was reading English like a blaze. I typed words quickly in English because the keyboard was designed for English and latin based languages. Typing chinese was a pain because I needed to spell them using the romanisation system introduced by China, something which I never liked because it was foreign. It is like asking you to pronounce English words using a different set of characters and writing each word individually. There was no handwriting system which which would have make things easier if I really wanted to write in Chinese.
So I never bothered. Society in my country was changing. The parents who brought me up were aging. The younger generation was more exposed to the concept of bilingualism. By the time I reached university, my new friends all thought I spoke English at home due to my preference for it. I started to realise that my secondary school was the exception. I had entered into a school for the elite in the country, had an educational system that was customised to teach the future leaders of my country.
In short, I had brushed hands with the top and learnt something, but I was not joining the top. I could not. The top students were freaks who represented the school in sports and won medals, became team captains or perfects and scored ten As. Some of them were driven to school by their own personal chauffeurs. I was the average who spent more time studying and still earned less As.
At the very least I gained the capability to think. I am always going to be thankful for that.
As I grew up, I realised that the standard chinese language that I had learnt was merely something created by new age thinkers during the 1900s. The chinese language is unique in such a way that there is a standardised writing system, thanks to the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang who lived in 200 BC. However the chinese from each region had developed their own dialects to read the same writing. Even now, you can write the words down and everyone in China understand you, but don't expect them to speak or pronounce the words like you do.
What does this all mean? It meant all the Hong Kong movies I watched in the past were dubbed from Cantonese to standard chinese. Cantonese was a dialect of the chinese language. If I had to watch the movie in its originality, I had to rewatch them in Cantonese. That meant some of the old songs I had listened to as well actually had a Cantonese version or were originally sang in Japanese.
What a mess.
To illustrate my point, I will share one of my favourite songs that I used to think was sang in standard Chinese. But no, I was totally wrong. There are at least five versions of the song with five different sets of lyrics.
The original was sang by Masahiko Kondō and the song title is "The Song of Sunset".
Now listen to the two cantonese versions. Yes, there are two versions with different lyrics. The first one is more popular, because the lyrics are easier and the tune is lighter. The second one shares the same song title as the original and probably shares the same spirit in its lyrics as well. My personal favourite.
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We have the version in standard chinese, the version which I originally listened to. I thought it was great until I heard the cantonese ones.
Finally, we have the version in Taiwanese, or Hokkien, another branch of chinese dialect which I never knew until today.
So what's the point of my post? Well, there are a few.
  • Wanting to write something not related to Star Wars but my life which is a melting pot
  • Let you know that culture is not static and is changing. To even define one "homogenous" culture like chinese is difficult
  • Change can be good, just like how a song can be performed better by another artist
  • We are always wrong about the truth. The truth is more complex, even for just a song
  • Introduce some songs which ain't English
Now that I have tricked you into reading my whole post, my job is done :D