This is kinda hot

Now that the excitement of the General Elections has died down, the current hot topic in Singapore is, well…the heat. Literally. I remembered that during the campaigning period of the GE, nearly everyone that I met (friends and strangers alike) would have an opinion about the elections; now, nearly everyone I meet talks about the sweltering, scorching weather. In fact, I found it quite hilarious that in a radio advertisement for the upcoming RSAF Open House, the deejay actually made it a point to stress the fact (three times, no less) that there would be air-conditioned halls at the Open House — just in case people choose not to visit due to the oppressive heat!

Speaking of air-conditioning, I am re-reading a book which comprises a selection of essays by Cherian George, entitled “Singapore: The Air-Conditioned Nation”. In the Introduction, the writer points out an interesting story. When the Wall Street Journal asked several 20th century luminaries to pick the most influential invention of the millennium, Lee Kuan Yew named the air-conditioner. “The humble air-conditioner has changed the lives of people in the tropical regions,” he said. “Before air-con, mental concentration and with it the quality of work deteriorated as the day got hotter and more humid…Historically, advanced civilizations have flourished in the cooler climates.”

While few historians would agree with his choice (compared with such major inventions as the printing press, the automobile, the computer, the steam engine, the aeroplane, and the Internet), what is captivating to the writer is not what it reveals about the air-conditioner and the millennium, but rather what Lee Kuan Yew’s choice tells us about the Singapore he has created. For there are few metaphors that more evocatively crystallize the essence of Singapore politics: that of comfort and control. Now, least I give any more nuggets away, I would highly recommend reading this fascinating book! =)

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~ by irwin on May 25, 2011.

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