Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Politics of Civil Un-obedience

What powers do a community truly have?

To quote Frank Herbert (of Dune fame),

"The power to destroy a thing is the absolute control over it."
- spoken by the character "Paul-Muad'Dib Atreides"
- Dune, Frank Herbert

So, what power doth dis-enfranchised communities within Singapore have?

The power of civil un-obedience.
*NOTE: this is not quite the same as civil DISobedience.

What does concept of civil unobedience bear?

Well, simply - the collective power of actors in any given situation, to simply stop acting. No hurry, no fuss, no proclamation, no protest. The power the powerless wield by simply - not doing anything. The end result is an inaction that draws attention to the issues within the process, or to the situation itself.

Example - If the entire arts community (or anyone with an artistic bone, or claims by profession to be paid by the arts) decide that they do not wish to participate in the directing/choreographing/artistic involvement/etc of a National Day Parade, then, by extension, the technobureaucrats that run the city state would be deprived of its annual circus (from Latin: panem et circenses).

Or if they did, well, one can attempt to imagine engineers and bureaucrats trying to craft a performance together. All function and no soul.
(sign lights up - Applause!)

Is this possible without individual repercussions? difficult. Powers-that-be are powers-that-be for a reason being that they have learnt to wield their powers-given-to-them against those who cannot conceive of acting collectively. However, blue-flu days, or sickout days, are examples of unobedience. And this technobureacratic government "greatest representative" afterall once famously decried that it didn't see a need for the soft arts, and that hard maths & science were all that were needed for this society to advance?
(he has since seen the error of that view?)

And, if one is feeling unwell philosophically over a situation, why would that person be 'fit-for-work'?

Now, this post could be argued to be seditionary - afterall, one is raising the idea that is just about akin to a strike. But just exactly who are the powerless community here striking about? Lack of arts freedom? Freedom to think?

Now raise the idea to the political level - what if collectively, all non-PAP political parties in Singapore decide that instead of forever fighting from a losing (lost?!) position, to take the other extreme end of the political continuum - inaction? Would such an idea ever be possible? Is it desirable (by whom?!)

What is the serial-numbered un-candidate doing by not-doing? He is just practicing what the ruling party has desired for years - the non-concern/attention of politics. The apathy to all things political; since the average citizen does not know better, and that they should leave it to the 'good men' that the ruling party seeks and puts forth as candidates.

What are the potential consequences, if in the next election - at the end of Nomination Day's closing - the only candidates put forward from within the society only wear White? What message would that send out to the rest of the world about the quality of 'representative democracy' in this tiny island state that is more island-city? What happens if there was no Election Day? (teachers and civil servants would be happier from not having to be volunteered to return any counts!)

IT would truly exemplify a "...(servile) population, led by good men"? (or that White is so all-co-opting that only they have the good men, and nobody else has?)

What be the odds of such an event occuring? - next to absolute zero. All it takes is for one non-ruling-political party to break ranks, in the hope that by being the only 'party' other than white standing, draw to itself a greater proportion of the vote.

However, that would absolutely accomplish nothing - our system here is like the British in that it is "first-past-the-post". IT is of absolutely no importance parliamentarily just exactly what % of the vote you received - 49% still does not give you a single seat, unlike countries with proportional representation (seats that are awarded to a political party based on the % of votes it garners at an election).

So, that particular party breaking the 'ranks of inaction' would gather short-term visibility, win some brownie points with the voting population, but no real lasting outcomes in implementing whatever ideology or political view it espouses. Easy come, easier gone?

Would game theory then posit that - to bring about political process change, divorcing elections from the executive, that such collective action might bring about real change? Afterall, the futility of life is to keep trying to do the same thing, without changing anything in the hope that you get it right someday.

Would advocating such an electoral strategy be seditious? Standing for an election is a voluntary thing. (and $10,000 deposit against time wasters). So is choosing to work artistically on an NDP. Nobody can compel anyone to stand nor be artistic. Service to society has to be 'freely' (freely?!) offered.
(ahh, what is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness all about anyway? bleached-white handcuffs?)

Afterall, isn't unobedience is just apathy writ large?

[ideas can never be destroyed by swords - they can be forced away, but like that itch that cannot go away, someday, self-actualization might actually happen to the people of this island.]
[princes that forget that their power is given by their peasants, will one day be replaced from the peasants.]