Is it in poor taste to celebrate a dictator's death?
Lee Kuan Yew, the dictator of Singapore, had just died. Greatly adored by millions of Singaporeans - they spent a solemn week mourning.
Yet in the quiet of my room. I, 16-year-old Amos Yee, after struggling for months to try make a name for myself on Youtube, released the video, 'Lee Kuan Yew is Finally Dead!'.
That blew up pretty quickly. Before, my videos typically got 500 views in 4 days. In that same time, 'Lee Kuan Yew is Finally Dead!' had gotten 500 thousand. It was an 8-minute long expose of Singapore's harsh, despotic rule under Lee Kuan Yew, tossed in with absurdly vulgar language and put-downs. The video was at times mean-spirited and meandering, but had enough concise points about the unhappiness of Singaporeans and the government censoring the media and imprisoning political opponents, that it left an impact.
To the average Singaporean, 'Lee Kuan Yew is Finally Dead!', was mind-blowing. Most citizens hadn't even been exposed to an opposing view of the Government, let alone one using that level of vicious, uncompromising language.
Singaporeans were riled up, all national news outlets were reporting on me non-stop, 'Amos Yee' became a household name in Singapore overnight.
So naturally when you gain massive attention from speaking out against a government in an authoritarian country, you get arrested. Now to say that I was courageous enough to speak out despite the consequences, is to give me the credit that I even considered the consequences.
If you thought being a household name in a country of 6 million was too much, my arrest brought me international attention, being reported on news outlets like CNN, BBC, The New York Times.... And even though Singaporeans were mostly against me, the standards of freedom of speech for most of the world apparently didn't align with Singapore's, so a majority of the international community condemned my arrest, most notably renowned human rights organisations like Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch.
After a highly-reported court case and being imprisoned for 2 months, I was eventually let out.
My case managed to raise awareness towards Singapore's lack of freedom of expression. Though after the tide of news was over, there hasn't been much happening. The ruling political party in Singapore 'PAP', easily won re-election soon after, and there hasn't been the sustained level of effective activism among the opposition, needed to change laws.
Much of which is due to my fault, it's hard for others to support me in the long-term, not just because people didn't agree with me, but also because I wasn't exactly a.... likable person.
Right from the start, there were already signs that I spoke up against the government, less so because I was trying to helps others, but more so because I was an attention-seeker. The vulgar language, the flamboyantly mean-spirited presentation in my videos, all seemed to hurt the credibility of my message and was unnecessary, except if its aim was to gain attention.
An event which really illustrated that: After I was in Singapore prison for 2 months, I walked out of the court room to meet a swarm of reporters and worried onlookers. I looked absolutely traumatised, pale face, eyes deadened, clutching my mother's arm. That picture of me became viral.
That was fake, I made the conscious decision before I was let out to act absolutely wrecked, and the moment I entered a taxi away from the sight of any reporters, I immediately started laughing. I literally started criticising the government on Facebook a day later acting completely fine, but apparently most people still think that image is true and that I was tortured. Look, prison was bad, but not THAT bad.
So why did I fake it? Just to troll and get attention, because obviously a traumatised face will stir more of a reaction than a neutral one.
After I came out of prison, I made even more anti-government videos, as well as some anti-religion videos, such as: 'Why Singapore Is The Worst Country In The World', 'PAP King Manipulators' and 'Responding to the Common Bullshit of Christians'. The videos were still seen by a lot of people, but attention on me was slowly waning, as people begun to realise my true nature. The thing about an attention-seeker is that people will eventually become turned off, and although a huge number of people know you, you won't be able to influence anyone in the long-run.
Because I continued condemning the government, I was arrested again, this time with far less attention and news coverage than before. I was in prison once more for about 2 months.
So after this I was like, alright, it's kinda getting annoying being sent to prison every time I want to criticise the Singapore Government, so I moved to America.
What I didn't know before moving, is that America treats people who escape their tyrannical countries, pretty awfully. The immigration agency deals with a foreigner trying to gain safety in America - by placing them in jail, until you can prove in court that you've been treated harshly by your country. My court case lasted 11 months, so I was in immigration jail for 11 months... The irony of course is that I spent 3 times longer the total time I spent imprisoned in Singapore, being locked up in the country I was escaping to....
But at last I got out, finally safe in America, and I continued to make videos. However though I had a huge audience of Singaporeans and a sizable audience in the west, most people slowly began to ignore and forget about me after a few years. Largely because my personality became worse, and also because I moved to more controversial issues like Pedophile Right's Activism.
Especially when defending Pedophiles got my Youtube Channel and all my social media accounts taken down, even people who were still fans weren't able to find me. Eventually I found a web host that was willing to platform my content, and that's probably why you're able to see this blog post. But after all my accounts were taken down, I didn't immediately try to get back online, but instead chose to take a break.
And so for the past few years, in a humble studio apartment in Chicago, away from the internet spotlight that had consumed my life for so long, I reflect.
Now even though my influence was short-lived, for a 16-year-old having hundreds of thousands of people talking about him, that's a tremendous amount of power, and they say power doesn't change, it reveals.
While I was in American jail I had to undergo a mental assessment for the court case. After saying I wanted to be the greatest activist in the world, start numerous million-dollar businesses, cure cancer, and then insulting the psychiatrist's marriage, I was eventually diagnosed with narcissism. The psychiatrist did however say the diagnosis was most likely temporary, and would probably lessen as I got older (He also told my mom he liked me, quite surprising).
And what I ultimately discovered was that narcissism, is actually a form of self-hate. Some people might mistake narcissists as people filled with confidence and self-love, so much so that they have to brag about it. That's not true at all. What's really happening is: I didn't feel adequate, I didn't feel loved. So behaviors like whoring attention, and boasting about myself, were ways to try to prove that I'm good enough, because I didn't think so. All to escape from the fact that inside, I actually hated myself.
However, why did I, in an authoritarian country, insist on voicing my political opinions? I think although I was a really flawed person, there were some qualities about me I should be proud of: The biggest one being the courage to speak out against a tyrannical government when hardly anyone dared to.
And that's why I took so long to realise my weaknesses, because if there was absolutely nothing good about me, my problems would be way more obvious. But if I was good 40% of the time, I can cling on to that, and be oblivious to the fact that for the other 60%, I wasn't a good person.
And that's also the reason why public perception towards me has always been polarising, why activists half-heartedly stand by my side, and why some might feel hesitant in completely disliking me. Because my arrogance was juxtaposed with a sincere desire to want to help people, and make a positive change to the world. But of course, that's less for me to decide, and more for you to judge.
So what now? Well like most experiences in life, it has both good and bad, and so I'll do my best to fix the bad, while continuing the good. The attention-whoring, narcissism and general unlikable attitude, I'll fix. But the uncompromising desire and courage to share the truth despite hatred, because I know that in the long-run my message will help others and fulfill a purpose greater than myself, I'll keep.
So here I am. I'm now Polocle, I felt like since my personality has developed so much, a rebranding was in order, so I changed my name. Polocle is a combination of the words ‘Polymath’ and ‘Oracle’. ‘Polymath’, meaning: a person whose knowledge spans a wide variety of subjects, and ‘Oracle’, meaning: giver of truth.
And for now my medium of choice will be blogging instead of making videos, not only to signal a change, but also because writing seems more appealing to me at the moment. Though I might return to videos in some form eventually, we'll see.
So to answer the question, is it in poor taste to celebrate a dictator's death? Probably. No matter how evil someone is I don't think you should be that mean. Do I regret doing it? Not at all. Because I wouldn't know what was good and bad about that unless I tried doing it, and without this experience, I don't think I'd be as rich of a person. And that's my story
Related: Attention Doesn't Mean Change