Why are there so many Champagne (Panettone) Socialists in Singapore?

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and Bernie Sanders, US politicians and self-described Democrat Socialists, have in recent years been lampooned as Champagne Socialists. 

Among AOC’s sins include her fourteen-thousand dollar ensemble for a recent Vanity Fair cover, one merely borrowed for the shoot. (Did she dance in those Louboutins?) 

Bernie, meanwhile, triggered moralisers in 2016 when he bought his third home, this for some six-hundred-thousand dollars on Vermont’s Lake Champlain. Presumably the cantankerous grandpa should be living in a forest cabin, Unabomber style.

The label is as old and tired as it is persistent, over the years spawning countless others such as Gauche caviar and latte liberal. Despite its obvious inherent fallacy—supposedly only the poor have the moral right to fight for equality—it always elicits a sort of frenzied smugness among conservatives who are against greater redistribution. There are few more galvanising ripostes, more rewarding forms of “Got you!”, than the exposing of a political opponent’s apparent hypocrisy.

One wonders what those who brand their opponents “Champagne Socialist” really want. Would they rather the socialist forgo all trappings, and lead society through an agrarian Pol Pot-style revolution? Black pyjamas, sickles, onward to the countryside.

Perhaps the Champagne Socialist label is best viewed simply as a symptom of capitalism. As long as there is inequality, there will always be some further up the income ladder who are uncomfortable with the privilege of their class, with perceived injustices. Their attempts to promote greater social justice will, in turn, inevitably invite scorn. 

“…it forms an ugly paradox that applies only to the left,” writes Elizabeth Bruenig of The Washington Post. “If you care about material equality and you aren’t destitute, you’re a hypocrite; if you care about material equality and you are destitute, you’re never going to have a real shot at political engagement to begin with.”

Last week in Singapore Jamus Lim, a Workers’ Party (WP) member of parliament and chief advocate of a minimum wage, sparked outrage through a social media post about eating panettone this Christmas. 

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Forty-three

From Atalanta to Atlanta

In some strange way my birthday seems to have lasted five days, bookended by the Blues and the Reds going at each other.

I woke early on the fourth of November to watch Liverpool FC whip Atalanta FC five zero in a Champions League game, a sublime performance that made a good Italian team look like a schoolboy side.

Watching football these past few months has filled me with conflicting emotions. It’s great that sportspeople are giving us something to cheer about; yet the fact that they are going about their business while others around are entering lockdown seems somewhat strange, incongruous, unfair to all parties.

Liverpool played at Atalanta, in the Lombardy region of Italy, which is known by some as the “Wuhan of the West” and which is experiencing another uptick in cases. If something happened to the players or staff of either team, surely I, sitting safely at home with my muruku and IPA, would bear some tiny responsibility.

No matter. I jumped and screamed and tried to respond to happy birthday messages streaming in on WhatsApp. Great that in Europe the Reds have smashed the Blues, I told some buddies, and now a perfect day will be complete if in the US the Blues beat the Reds.

My objection, of course, is not to the Reds per se, but to the orange-haired buffoon whom they chose to represent and lead them.

And while I am not above acknowledging his ostensible successes—recalibrating relations with China?—I am also always, in every waking moment, with every turn of the newspaper, hyperconscious about the absolute toxicity and divisiveness and disregard for science and truth that has spread from The White House to the far reaches of this planet over these past four years. (I know some anti-vaxxers in Singapore who hang on his every word.)

I have read that nationalists in China have cheered the Trump Presidency for helping boost national consensus around foreign policy and their belief in their own political system. He has done more to discredit democracy, democratic processes, and democratic institutions than anybody else in recent memory. 

The level of idiocy that has infected autocrats in Asia is remarkable. I remember those moments after the 2016 elections. Many elites and PAP sycophants in Singapore peddled the “This is why democracy is bad” narrative. For them, democracy is only good when “the demos” agree with their choice, the choice that will protect their elite status and obscene salaries.

Sure enough, the following year Singapore was treated to a presidential election in which only one person in the entire country was deemed eligible to compete.

“Would you rather have Trump? Boris Johnson?” is the trademark retort of the unthinking PAP supporter, as if any critique of their political masters can be batted away with such asinine logic. 

No, sad to say, these worldly elites have not heard of Jacinda Ardern, Angela Merkel, Leo Varadkar, or any of the other impressive politicians Western democracies have produced in recent times.

Trump has been a bloody godsend for Asian autocrats; thank God he’s been fired. 

I felt a great sense of relief this afternoon, a long-awaited exhale into the cool November rain.

Only to realise that I’ve got to get ready for the next battle: the Reds of Liverpool against the Blues of Manchester City.

We go again.

Ageing, part I

This has probably been the first year in which I’ve really noticed my body slowing and taking longer to repair and heal. Three weeks ago when I visited Wild Wild Wet in Pasir Ris, I grabbed a blue float at the bottom of the slide, turned and started scampering towards the ladder. I made it about five metres before I slipped and fell, scraping my knee and foot. I jumped back up, putting on a brave face.

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