Sonny Liew’s recent triple award win at the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards has led to a resurgence of much-needed conversations on the topic of funding for the arts. An op-ed on the Straits Times by ex-Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng has propelled this discussion further, as many netizens from the corners of the web arise to disagree heatedly with him.
For one, I am very glad that Singaporeans are speaking up for the state funding of the arts. Indeed, the arts are extremely important. It is the embodiment of our shared cultural values as a country and the very essence of our national identity as a society. While I personally don’t watch many productions or plays that are funded by NAC (I much prefer American content like Game of Thrones and Westworld), a certain subset of the population obviously do consume these works. So who am I to say otherwise?
But while I pondered the necessity of government funding the arts, I came to a dreadful realisation.
Why shouldn’t dating be state-subsidised too? Just like art, love and romance permeate the social fabric of our society — and we want to keep them flourishing. When I stroll down Orchard Road on Friday evenings, I see happy couples, hand-in-hand with glistening eyes only for each other. When I look on Instagram, I am swept away by vivid imagery of my friends celebrating their lovey-dovey relationships, anniversaries, marriages and childbirths. Love is in the air!
But not for all of us. What a shame that hundreds of thousands of Singaporean men and women remain single, utterly deprived of the bliss and wonders of love and marriagehood! These unwedded and partnerless individuals are just as deserving of the loving embrace of a partner. This is not only a disgrace, but a grievous injustice!
To fix this disastrous status quo, here’s what I propose.
The government should fund, nay, must fund dating. Yes, I have given this a fair bit of thought. The state must play an active role in facilitating the coming-together for potential lovebirds. Without the planting of this initial seed, there can be no eventual blossoming.
Just like local artists deserve more funding and empathy from art consumers who may not be particularly interested in state-funded works, so too do singles deserve the empathy of attached and married Singaporeans i.e., those who have drank deeply from the well of love.
Just like how state funding will invigorate and breathe life into the arts industry to raise the lack of consumer demand, state funding will too raise the market demand of single Singaporeans in the arena of love.
Hear me out. Abolish the current half-assed Social Development Network dating services that we have. What we need is a full-fledged and dedicated statutory board that is run by the government. Call it the National Love Council (NLC). The sole purpose of this council will be to “to nurture the romantic relationships of peoples and make it an integral part of life in Singapore”.
As far as I can tell, Singaporeans are a materialistic bunch. This is good — we can work this to our advantage. NLC will vet and verify singles who are deeply in need of the TLC that they lack, with individual grants of $10,000 — $30,000, depending on how long they’ve been sexually inactive. With the use of these monies, singles can put their thriftiness aside and splurge on expensive restaurants and gifts for their dates. Alternatively, they can opt to take their grants in the form of vouchers to redeem at aesthetic surgery clinics or gym memberships.
With swelling wallets, attractive physiques and sharper noses (if they so choose), the market demand for these now-appealing singles will rise. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
But what about those singles who aren’t moved by monetary gifts, the ones who defy the rigid assumptions of homo economicus?
Have no fear — there’s nothing more funding cannot solve. All we have to do is dip just a little further into our tax coffers. NLC can set up and organise a series of programmes to train these singles. They will acquire the best dating coaches and pick-up artists from around the world and send these undesirable singles for dating classes with these professionals; literary and culture lectures, sex yoga classes, seminars on “How to Impress Your Date Intellectually”, you name it. How wonderful it all sounds — it almost makes me giddy with excitement to be single!
Most Singaporeans will find themselves in complete agreement with me, because I am such an awesome and brainy “current affairs writer” who is able to tackle every viral topic with an opinion that demonstrates nothing less than brilliance. But even I cannot appease everyone.
I already fully expect what some of these despicable naysayers will retort with. These dreary pessimists (you know, the kind who goes on and on about government having the conundrum of choosing what to fund) who have nothing but hatred in their heart for singles will undoubtedly complain about the unfairness of it all. I can already hear them, eagerly yearning to infect all of us with their gloom: “Why should married Singaporeans fund the dating of singles? Why should those of us who are attached pay out of our pockets for those who aren’t?”
To that I need only respond with a privilege-checking line of rhetorical questioning: Don’t you care about finding love for singles? Aren’t you concerned for their overwhelming loneliness? Will you be an uncultured barbarian, like those who oppose art funding because they don’t understand the value of arts to our society? Will you stoop to the level of these primitive philistines who have zero appreciation for the beauty of love?
The bottom line is this. I’m all for Singaporeans taking steps to improve themselves in the market of romance. Some of them join dating classes voluntarily. Some of them take on a gym membership. In short, some of them do try to improve themselves by their own merit. But let’s face it: We have a problem on our hands and the government needs to step in to help some of these poor suckers. Not all men is endowed with a chiseled jawline and the charisma like that of Benjamin Kheng from The Sam Willows. Not all women are graced with the natural beauty like that of Fann Wong and Zoe Tay.
Some of these Singaporeans are fast approaching 30 and time is of the essence. If the government doesn’t start taking action by funding and helping them, who the hell will?