Do you hear the People

HLP
Photo credit : Wall Street Journal / Getty Images

I saw Les Misérables in 1987, mostly for the theatrics and of course for the music.

The 80s were fairly progressive years and I could not relate to the characters and the issues of the great divide between rich and poor, and of those in power and the working class. To me the show was simply entertainment, a nice night out.

It’s hard to imagine people being sentenced to hard labour for stealing bread and barricades formed against the ruling class. At that time, France was and still is romantic, charming, desirable, sophisticated, rich and beautiful.

Honestly, the world is so different from Victor Hugo’s depiction of 19th century France revolutionary period.

Or is it?

Fast forward. The song “Do you hear the People Sing” from the musical was blocked by China authorities in the past four days after it was sung at a previous anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Yesterday Singaporeans staged a protest against the government for the handling of our retirement funds. I looked at the photos, studied the expressions, listened to the speeches, felt the emotions, and began to hear the lyrics of “Do you hear the People Sing”.

Are we now experiencing 21st century peasantry? Have we become the angry men screaming for the right to be free from slavery to the ruling class?

Please no. Not here in my country that I love so much. But do I have a choice? I must have. Singapore is still my home.

Joan Yap

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