Claiming My Neighbours

David Archuleta recently became relevant again in the eyes of the internet. He has been doing many shows here and there but nothing explosive that made the internet go crazy. I’ve always liked and respected that about David, that he chose out of this “Spotlight” to do his own thing.

A girl in a hijab posted a funny video of her lipsyncing to David Archuleta’s Crush (a song I hadn’t heard since Manila live). David retweeted it. It was 7 am for me, I was excited, happy, and thought the girl looked like a Malaysian internet celebrity. These young ones do a lot of silly things on the internet these days, you know? I don’t keep up.

So as always, as what I always did, where I can be, I tweeted to David that the girl’s from Malaysia and he should come back. The girl replied she’s from Singapore. I said whoops, okay, no matter. David should go back to Singapore too.  I thought that was the end, but nope. People kept retweeting it and replying saying I’m a Malaysian who is claiming a Singaporean to be theirs, and that “Malaysians don’t do that” and “Malaysian is becoming like Indonesian” etc. At first I was like, meh. Then it kept coming.

Picture in 2012, the last time most of us in South East Asia saw David live was in 2011/2012 before he went on a two-year Mormon missionary trip in Chile. I had the opportunity to fly to Manila in October 2017 to see him again after five years.

I was born in Singapore, I went to Singapore schools, have more Singaporean friends than I do in Malaysia. I’ve lived in Indonesia, have Indonesian ancestral roots, and have developed more meaningful friendships in Indonesia than I have in Malaysia, so I feel it’s unfair they’re being generalised as “claimers”. To me, if the girl was from Malaysia, I’m happy. If she’s from Singapore, I’m happy. If she’s from anywhere in the world, I’m happy David noticed her.

In fact, the very thing I told David when I met him in Manila in October was, mentioning specifically these three countries, that he is still loved here. When people want to make it a war on countries based on a tweet, I feel that it’s off. I know it’s just a scroll-by-and-like-or-comment-thing. But I also know you’d bring this in your heads to carry around and someday use it again. It’s off the whole message of peace between countries that I believe in and the love and joy David wanted to share with the world. I identify as from Singapore, from Malaysia, from Indonesia, from Thailand, from Pakistan, from India, from wherever. “Where Are You From” is a question I’ve never really been able to answer. It truly never mattered to me and I never thought it did to anybody, until I saw these tweets.

Then I realised something: these people don’t know all this. And that they reacted according to this sense of patriotism, and I Am Better Than You-ness. The instant reactions people give on the internet shouldn’t affect me at all. Go and make more friends, really. Talk to people outside your circle.

Yesterday while waiting for my mom in my car, I looked at my whole stretch of neighbours. Another neighbour had just installed tall automated gates and his fences were thick and you can’t see through. The next house has the sound of a crying baby; I didn’t even know she was pregnant. My immediate neighbour was pregnant, almost due, but suddenly she came back with a flat stomach, no babies, but weekends of never being home. If I bumped into my neighbours outside, I wouldn’t know what they looked like. If someone died in the house, I wouldn’t know at all. They all worked office hours. A house is just a place to sleep. No friendliness. No smiles. Long faces only.

The gravity and the sadness of this situation, of the fact that I don’t even know who my neighbours are, somehow brings it back to this topic of “claim”. Everybody wants to claim something to be theirs without realising that nothing is ever theirs.

When you know that nothing is yours, it leaves you with an openness and humbleness to accept new things. When you feel you own something, you feel the need to protect it and in many ways this protection is selfish.

I claim that I don’t own anything.

Meanwhile, check out David’s Archuleta’s new album Postcards in The Sky. Here’s a lyric that I like:

Throw your words into the world
What you feel, and you’ll be heard

– Postcards in The Sky


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