Sticker Lady teaches us to step out of our comfort zones, to think and to laugh

Written by Ng E-Jay
08 June 2012

Earlier this week, Ms Samantha Lo, founder of the online magazine RCGNTN, was investigated by the police for allegedly pasting stickers bearing humourous captions at traffic junctions near the Lau Pa Sat area, and for sprayed the words “My Grandfather Road” on Maxwell Road and Robinson Road.

Also popularly known as Sticker Lady, Samantha Lo has drawn a great deal of online support, including an online petition started by concerned netizens calling upon the authorities to treat her case with a light touch and reduce her charge to one of Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance).

Meanwhile, some netizens have also said that Sticker Lady should not be treated lightly, or else others might take advantage of the laxity and escalate acts of vandalism. This kind of paranoia and a pessimistic view of Singapore society is unfortunate, and deserves a rebuttal.

As Samantha Lo has said to the media: “It is almost impossible to talk about developing a culturally vibrant, creative or loveable city, without some tolerance for those slightly messy activities that sometimes challenge the rules … … it would be useful to make a distinction between this kind of art and outright graffiti or vandalism that seeks to deliberately destroy public property for its own sake“.

Judging from the reactions of a majority of netizens, Sticker Lady’s traffic junction stickers were not offensive or annoying in any way. Certainly, they made people laugh. I feel that they were cute, wholesomely hysterical, and gloriously tongue-in-cheek. The stickers really captured our unique quirks, in a way that was so funny and so unmistakably Singaporean.

Perhaps Sticker Lady crossed the line when she painted “My Grandfather Road” right on the pavement outside the MND Building. For this she deserves at least a stern warning. Even if she had no intention of damaging public property, a certain line must be drawn.

There are those who claim that letting Sticker Lady off lightly will send a wrong message and encourage more serious acts of vandalism. This mentality is unfortunate, as it displays both paranoia and pessimism.

The thinking behind such an argument is that human beings will always take advantage of any situation, and abuse the system whenever they can, so we have the guard against this at all cost, even at the cost of discriminating against the worthy and the honourable.

This thinking is what makes the government so reluctant to expand its social safety nets, to give more help and financial assistance to the poor, needy, sick, aged and destitute.

The government perpetually fears that people will always look for loopholes to exploit, that if the authorities display even a bit of generosity and compassion towards those in need, there will be hoards of opportunists ready to abuse the system.

“Give and inch, demand a yard” is what the government always assumes Singaporeans will do.

Letting Sticker Lady off lightly will not encourage acts of vandalism if the authorities explain clearly why they are treating her case with a light touch, and that this does not in any way change their tough stance against genuine acts of destruction.

In other words, the authorities have the chance to make use of their good sense, and display some measure of discretion with regards to Sticker Lady’s case, provided they are able to communicate with the public effectively.

However, in much of Singapore’s socio-political history, the government and the authorities have never really practised communicating effectively with the people.

They have, for the most part, simply told the people what to do, what to say, even what to think, and expected blind conformity from the masses. Up until very recent times, there has been very little attempt at genuine two-way dialogue.

Paranoia and pessimism is a poor way to govern a country. It fosters a sense of learned helplessness from the population. It creates a people who are afraid to push the boundaries, afraid to express themselves, afraid of exploring and cultivating their own creativity. It creates a society of mindless automatons who can only follow the written rules and obey commands to the letter. It does not encourage people to think out of the box and devise novel solutions to challenges that our society faces today.

The gift of Sticker Lady is that she has forced us to think. She has forced us to step outside our comfort zones and explore the boundaries between expression and conformity. She has taught us to laugh. She has brought humour to an otherwise plaid human landscape.

Sticker Lady has made me realize that even while a long list of rules are drawn up by the authorities to keep society in place, human beings are by their very nature restless, always seeking change, always wanting to express themselves, and that the more rigidly we apply the rules, the more we confine the human creature to a tight corner that he or she is not meant to be imprisoned in.

Sticker Lady has made me realize that human beings must continually push the boundaries of their own experiences, question assumptions, challenge the status quo, and allow their innate creativity to flourish despite the circumstances.

The worst thing we can do is to lock up our minds and our spirits in a web of paranoia and pessimism, and smother our own desires to be creative and expressive out of fear that such desires would destroy us.

Rules are important to any society because they protect people from having their rights infringed. Rules must be enforced so that people can interact, do business, and live with each other harmoniously. But rules are not meant to be rigid and unbending despite the circumstances, because the very nature of the human condition demands the willingness to discern, to see past the superficial, and to exercise discretion.

Only a society that is flexible, that can practise good common sense in any situation, will progress. A rigid society that enforces rules blindly will not progress.

Certain, taxpayer dollars and public property must be protected. In Sticker Lady’s case however, there is something else we should protect — our humanity.

13 comments on Sticker Lady teaches us to step out of our comfort zones, to think and to laugh

  1. Pls do not make someone who paint “My Grandfather Road” on our public roads some kind of heroine who has more humanity than ordinary Singaporeans. For every 1 person who finds the word claiming she owns the road “inspiring” and
    “beautiful art”, another 1000 don’t. Frankly, I find the O$P$ more uniquely Singaporean and at least use own handwriting and serve a purpose to tell borrowers to be responsible and pay their dues. This “My grandfather Road” jusy smack of overly entitled youth who now is elevated to cult status with some ugly graffiti using stencils. And those stickers are copycats and not even original. What hypocrisy and lame way to find FAME. after all, she blogs and brags about it right? That was how she was caught isn’t it?

  2. Ng E-Jay, prove your conviction on what you think about the whole issue in deeds, and not words.

    Open your house and let this freaky Sam have the chance to freely express herself and to think out of the box and out of your comfort zone!

    Else, you are just a typical hypocrite that always professes out of box and out of comfort zone but never want it to happen at your own doorstep.

    Prove me wrong, and prove yourself right! Else, shout your mouth and your pea brain!

  3. Harry Tee, wait till those loanshark accuse you wrongly, ask you to pay up on behalf of the one who escaped, splash pig blood on your door, lock you inside your own house with a padlock, threaten your loved ones while they are returning home from work or school, then you come and tell me O$P$ is more uniquely singaporean.

    Look at the post by GENEVIEVE below yours. That is what I called “overly-entitled” mentality. Those people who think they own my blog and can ask me to shut up on my own blog!

    Tell me who is the one with the over-entitled mentality here.

  4. how sad to see people are losing tolerance and sense of humour.. copycat or not, sam did bring the quirkiness to our door step, and smiles to the faces of those who were able to tolerate and appreciate the little spices she sprinkled around. is there any real damage to the properties of the public? not quite, not really, not if she’s to remove the stenciled words perhaps. so why the fuss?

  5. i wander if a 文盲illiterate paint or paste somethings in Orchard,will he or she draw
    similar level of support?

    why did Samantha Lo show a SG passport?
    Did she think she has privileges because she is a citizen?
    There is one laws in SG.

    The laws apply to every one with same standard.

    How much tax payers hard earned money were wasted and will be wasted to
    catch her and clean up the mess she created?

  6. Bess, I agree with you.

    There are some like the person below you who commented about wasting taxpayers’ money.

    Let us have some sense of priority. Those who squandered $350 million on the YOG and funnelled billions of our foreign reserves into failing US banks are the real squanders of our nation’s resources.

  7. Re-YOG spending and investments
    1. YOG has its merits. It improves and projects better images of SG to the World.
    2. while you remind us the loss of GIC, Temasek, can you also take note
    the profits made by the above?

    kindly read the assets enhancement of the above companies.

  8. I guess she did it for self-promotion since she advertised her vandalism on her website? While self-promotion is an selfish act which theoretically doesn’t “hurt” anyone, but it still doesn’t change the fact that she should advertise and seek fame the legal way. There shouldn’t be a separate set of law for “artist” like her or down-and-out loanshark runner. I find it appalling that people think the law should be applied differently for different individuals and the pictures above are in bad taste. The arty-farty should be given a separate set of “grandfather law” issit? The reality is, if she is seeking fame and cheap advertisement against the law, she should face the consequences. After all, she is already 25 years old. And $2000 fine is too cheap for someone who deface our public roads for self-promotion. Just let her face the consequence like a brave adult will do.

  9. And I don’t understand why her supporters and politicising everything. Why would one compare a blatant vandalism act with YOG or car accidents? There is no linkage. Just because there are other crimes means this crime should be forgiven right? And she was caught easily because she published her work. And surely our government has to step in for someone who draw yellow lines on the road? You mean you want to see unauthorised double yellow lines and paintings all over our roads? She has to be stopped right? Seriously, just because there are other crimes doesn’t mean this crime is right and all roads are now free canvas and free advertising ground.

  10. lionnosy:

    Asset enhancement by YOG and Temasek/GIC???

    You have to make a better attempt if you wish to write satirically. Read … those chaps do it really well.

    But good effort anyway, and I applaud that. Please keep it coming.

  11. If what she did is considered artistic, then it’s a sad day for Singapore. Our neighbours are certainly more artistic, tourists are buying their paintings, handiworks etc. Her work is comparable to those expletives scrawled on the backs of toilet doors, especially those in coffee shops. You do get a good laugh while discharging your waste reading what the graffiti artists have to vent.

  12. Many are understandably sympathetic to the Sticker Lady, she had done little or no irreparable damage. And her artistic expressions in painting and word are tastefully done and humourous. Me will even say they are educational. However, as many had rightly put it; an offence is an offence. She has to face the Laws, just hope that the Laws can be lenient in sentencing her. There can be compassion in punishment.


  13. We have come to a stage where a little cheekiness is like life and death. The grass we trample on, the dust we kick up, everthing you see belongs to the state. Touch it you die. We live in fear of this and of that. What kind of life are we living? Eat Sleep & Shit. Aren’t we tire? Give her a break man! We are suffocating and she’s giving us air to breathe!

Comments are closed.