The article is probably best-known for being the first appearance of the phrase “Disneyland with the death penalty”. But even sixteen years later, it still rings true. Try this on for size: 1993 or 2009?
The local papers, including one curiously denatured tabloid, New Paper, are essentially organs of the state, instruments of only the most desirable propagation. This ceaseless boosterism, in the service of order, health, prosperity, and the Singaporean way, quickly induces a species of low-key Orwellian dread. (The feeling that Big Brother is coming at you from behind a happy face does nothing to alleviate this.) It would be possible, certainly, to live in Singapore and remain largely in touch with what was happening elsewhere. Only certain tonalities would be muted, or tuned out entirely, if possible. . . .
Although the bit on page 2 about the editor of the Business Times being arrested for revealing state secrets – Singapore’s economic growth rate! – is, thankfully, in the past.
But perhaps I’m overly pessimistic here. I often am; it goes with the territory. (Though what could be more frightening, out here at the deep end of the 20th century, than a genuinely optimistic science fiction writer?) Perhaps Singapore’s destiny will be to become nothing more than a smug, neo-Swiss enclave of order and prosperity, amid a sea of unthinkable…weirdness.