Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Looking inwards - do we know the nature of the beast called Singapore society?

A reply posted to Charles Tan's article on the lack of use of civil disobedience as a tool in winning public opinion


why isn't it taking hold as an idea?

Some additional points to ponder:

1. Indoctrination in school.

The legalistic traditions that we are educated under means that one is taught to always run to the official in charge for redress, rather than seek to convince the greater majority that there is an issue that needs redressing by all, and not just the ruling 'power'.

Other sub-factors:

1.1 The repression of all things political. We are encouraged to stay under the radar, not rock the boat, not stir up trouble, not be the nail that sticks out; all the above behaviors discourage initiative. We are taught to wait for the 'powers' to pronounce. The lack of any political training through classroom elections (and any real power that comes from being 'elected') means that politics within SG society has been reduced to something undesirable - We're better off just working hard, and letting our learned 'betters' run the government (and therefore society).

2. Social cohesion leading to apathy

Do we really feel like a community? or are we just a nexus of economic and social contracts? What is the higher ideal that Singaporeans revel in being Singaporeans? Food?
Family? Which principle or ideal do the majority of all Singaporeans subscribe to? Pragmatism?

If the only higher ideal that all of us subscribe to is pragmatism, then on an individual level, civil disobedience would be seen as an unproductive approach. Standing around waving placards to emphasize a philosophical/political point is fruitless to the pragmatist.

3. Increasing awareness - the lack of an independent press

For a city of 4 million, we seem to be in perpetual intellectual anorexia. The lack of any kind of printed diversity in local views (see Newspapers and Printing Presses Act for details), means that there can never really develop a emotionally supportive segment of society that will empathize/sympathize with the civil disobedients' cause. All we are interested as a society is news that comes in tabloid genre - trashy, fantasy-world reports of other things ongoing that only aim to titilate rather than contemplate.
(truly, titilate the masses, and all power pf theirs be yours.)

What we have here is for all intents and purposes, 1984. The citizens are told what to believe, believe what they are told, and that the powers can never be wrong. As long as nobody upsets the apple cart, it keeps going.

Is there hope? Venice in its heyday was more than a nexus of economic contracts in the 14th century. It was an economic and military power with an identity.

Can Singapore become the Venice of the 21st century? What aspirations do we have for this country as its members? or do we only have individual interests?