A reporter asked the introduced candidates what we thought of the PAP introducing their candidates in coffeeshops and other heartland venues while WP was doing this at the party HQ. Dylan and Choong Yong answered, but before I could, an AFP reporter abruptly interjected with a question he thought was more important, and Redzwan and I didn’t answer the question.
No matter, but the question left me thinking. My answer would have been, with a bit of extra hindsight time, “So what? I live in heartland spaces every day; I get introduced as a candidate at the HQ because it is a special event. My normal reality is the heartland, the heartland is not a special event for me. My life is the heartland, the heartland is not my symbolic gesture.”
So this is what I did after the press conference. Choong Yong generously gave me a lift back and went to the coffee shop across from my HDB block to work. I went back, said hello to my neighbour who was doing some DIY work in the corridor, changed to tee-shirt and berms, played a game of Zingo! with my son, and shared what happened with the wife. My mum was on her way back from work, and I know my son would want to do gardening with grandma to maintain the potted plants outside, so I took the chance to head to the bank at Nex mall to get a cashier’s order for the election deposit.
Along the way at the void deck I said hello and spoke briefly to the “guardian angel” uncle who sits at the stone table in the mornings and evenings to watch the crowds. At the traffic lights, two schoolboys were playing catching around me, and I glared at one of them because he almost crashed into me with his cup of soft drink. In Nex, I politely declined promoters trying to sell me something and negotiated some kan cheong aunties at the escalators. Got my cashier’s order, and while walking back through the bus interchange I saw my phone notifications had went crazy due to the buzz about my candidate introduction on social media.
But the irony is no one recognised me in the heartland, because I fade into it with my unclely tee-shirt and berms. And there is nothing special about the heartland, just the banality of everyday life which we cherish for its persistence. I rarely take selfies but I thought I should just do one to register a moment. It would have been extremely uncomfortable for me if I was introduced as a candidate at the coffeeshop or some other heartland spaces, because it would be symbolic tokenism that appropriates our living space for my own political profit.