Friday, April 14, 2006

POLITICAL EXCITEMENT, OR POLITICAL APATHY?

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I have a serious confession to make. Sometimes, I wish I was never a Singaporean.

Now, before my readers start booing me and branding me a would-be quitter, allow me to explain, in a clear, lucid manner, as to why I harbour such seditious, troubling lamentations.

Our government leaders have this knack of treating the populace like juvenile delinquents. This kind of leaves us with a pretty lousy image in the eyes of overseas think tanks, with one particular Taiwanese historian branding us as "stupid".

Of course, we know that over generalizing has the effect of defaulting from the real picture. Of course, not all Singaporeans are dumb, I mean, we have our scholars, billionaires, and so on.

But that's beside the point.

The "stupidity" that we are often accused of is not that of academic achievements, or lack of, but a clear, unambiguous apathy towards our very own politics. Now, you may ask, why wouldn't us Singaporeans care about our own issues in our own backyard? Wouldn't you want to tend to your plants in your own garden?

Or is it just that, maybe, perhaps, there is a sinister force behind this widespread, appalling apathy amongst the general populace???

Well, Mr Khaw, our current health minister, has these pearls of wisdom to share:

EXCERPTS FROM CHANNEL NEWS ASIA FRI,14

1. Mr Khaw said: "Who can deliver a better future? Voters, please support the team that you think can make life even better. Yes, once in a while, you want some excitement but at the end of the day, you have to go back to 'how do I bring food to the table?'"

2. Asked if political excitement is bad for Singapore, Mr Khaw said: "The alternative is: do you want what happened in Bangkok just a few days ago, or in the Philippines? People say 'alright, since we are very different, we can let go'. The moment you let go, you end up potentially looking like that. So if things seemingly look calm and peaceful and healthy, it doesn't happen accidentally.


"I think people want excitement, that's ok. People want entertainment value and so on. It's a young generation, they want issues to be connected. I don't think they want people to hit each other in the Parliament as you see in some countries.

"Let's make politics honest, clean and serious. Some entertainment value, we do workout, do line dancing, that's alright. But do not make fun of, and along the way, you belittle the whole political process."

I wonder if it is just me noticing, but quite many times in the past, our ministers seem incapable of differentiating, or rather, comprehending the fundamentals behind political excitement and social unrest.

Here, Mr Khaw equates "political excitement" with "entertainment value". And he hints that this "entertainment value" factor is responsible for the current social unrest in Bangkok and Philippines.

You see, ladies and gentlemen, our government doesn't really want you to get all fussed up with politics. Leave the politics to us. And we shall ensure that you will be able to "putfood on your table."

That kind of attitude explains why bloggers and other net users are not allowed to discuss politics; why political movies about opposition parties (such as those made by See Tong Meng) are banned, and the general, pervasive fear of Singaporeans speaking up in public. Political apathy, or stupidity (in the eyes of a particular Taiwanese politician), has been shoved down our throats.

Will political excitement in the form of informal discussions, both real time and online, be detrimental to the political stability of Singapore? Does Minister Khaw truly believe that the reasons behind the riots in Bangkok are the results of political freedom, and not rampant corruption and other factors?

If the Singaporean government is truly corrupt-free and honest, why the need for such widespread gagging of the general populace? Shouldn't elections be a yardstick to measure a nation's attitude towards the basic tenets of democracy? Without political excitement, how then does a population approach the elections, which happens about, say, once in five years?

The lack of political apathy amongst Singaporeans is also compounded by the fact that most Singaporeans have never voted in their lives, no thanks to the numerous GRCs and Single Constituency Wards, and the vast sums of electoral deposits required in order for an opposition party to field a team in the respective GRC districts. This generally translates into a desperate pool of meager rationing, both in terms of the number of legitimate candidates, and the monetary investments(Which cannot be refunded if the opposition party/candidate fails to achieve a required number of votes) involved.

In short, only a small percentage of the GRCs (consisting of more than 1 MP) are ever challenged, which results in virtual walk-overs and no voting rights for the residents of the GRCs concerned.

I, for one, have never voted in my entire life. I am 27 yrs old now. Shouldn't I, and the rest of the legitimate voters in Singapore, be allowed to exercise our voting rights?

Sure, Singapore is one of the better nations to live in, and our government should take credit for its successes. Economic success, however, does not ensure continuity of a nation: Citizens of a healthy, vibrant nation should be free to voice their views and exercise their democratic rights without fear of persecution, failing which, social and political apathy will seep in like flies in a festering wound. Subsequently, with the onset of political and social apathy comes stagnation, and history tells us that apathy is one of the chief ingredients of social disintegration.




1 Comments:

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