Read the entire note on Facebook here:
When the British royal couple came to visit, PA and HDB organised an event at Queenstown to give them a glimpse of the diverse activities in our heartlands. Singaporeans young and old volunteered readily to be part of this event. Yet, they were mocked online for taking part in a “wayang” show.
To be honest, the idea of a descendant of “the Crown” and his wife going around the world visiting people is… personally I find it all a little silly. I don’t see anything wrong with a little wayang for people who are essentially wayang also. The “entertainment” side of politics is a fundamentally wayang affair to begin with. Weird stuffy folk doing weird stuffy things. Frankly I think dignitaries should just hang out, get drunk and be bros. (This is why I am not a dignitary and have no future in politics.)
When Mediacorp organized a TV forum with the PM, they invited a group of 50 people from all walks of life. Some had participated previously in Mediacorp’s TV programmes. Several were nominated by the unions and schools. Others came from a range of professional, voluntary and self-help groups.
The invitations were poorly dealt out. I’m not sure if this is incompetence or complacency on the part of Mediacorp or the PAP. I’m still waiting for someone from either group to acknowledge that the breakdown of the people who were at the forum was pretty bloody stupid!
No one was invited because of his or her political affiliation. But it so happens that among the group of 50, a handful were PAP members. They were a small minority. But on the internet, there was a campaign targeted against these PAP members, with their names being singled out and attacked, and their phone numbers publicised online.
“It so happened”? Sounds so cute and dainty! Why didn’t “it so happen” that “a handful” were Opposition members, then? There were bloggers who were ceremoniously uninvited, so clearly there’s some sort of vetting process going on. If you “didn’t want it to be partisan”, then leave out anybody who has any political affiliations. Otherwise, seek a fair distribution or representation. I find it hard (or sad) to believe that everybody involved in the vetting process was that ignorant.
I strongly agree that the publicizing of phone numbers was unnecessary. (This information is freely available online if you’re willing to look for it- this is the price of connectivity and accessibility in today’s world. But it’s ugly behaviour and we shouldn’t condone it.)
I understand that not everyone will feel the same way about the PAP. Each of us is free to support any political party and choose the government we want. Indeed, the critics online clearly have their own political affiliations too, even though many have chosen to stay silent on this, or to hide their real identities behind anonymous online profiles.
“The critics online” are not a homogenous monolith- we are not all the same. I consider myself pro-Singapore and I shudder at the thought of being affiliated to any of the political parties in Singapore. (Brr.) I think we will move forward quicker if we spend less time and energy dealing with the ugly behaviour from the anonymous trolls, and focus on moving forward instead. By that I mean to say, let’s talk about things that people actually care about, instead of spending all day complaining about the trolls.
Politics is important. But surely we do not want to end up in a situation where every activity or conversation in this country becomes politicised, where our people are polarized by political beliefs, where Singaporeans are set against Singaporeans based on creed or political affiliation.
I think there’s an implicit assumption here, which is that “Singaporeans set against Singaporeans” is necessarily something violent, ugly, hurtful and damaging. I disagree. I think people can have different perspectives and strong arguments and disagreements while still embracing our common goals. Democracy can get messy and noisy, but I think (with the exception of crisis situations, perhaps) that it’s vastly preferable to the alternatives.
What happens in the alternative- what happens if we choose not to be polarized? What sort of out come do you envision? One where everybody supports the PAP? Or everybody supports the Opposition? Or nobody cares about politics, and are just apathetic because they have no hope for their own future?
To quote a Facebook status update from Kirsten Han:
“Once again disagreement is framed as bullying, being mean or small-minded. Once again we are reminded not to polarise society or let politics get in the way (in a status update that says the PAP gave us this, PAP gave us that, no less!) But don’t they get it? If they’re really sincere about a national conversation to move the country forward together, they can’t expect to only hear nice things on their terms.”
More importantly, when decent people step forward to be part of a genuine national effort to welcome our overseas guests, or volunteer their time to be part of a national TV forum with the PM, and yet get vilified by their fellow citizens, then we really should pause and reflect, and ask ourselves whether this is the kind of society we want.
I agree that we should constantly take the time and effort to pause and reflect about the kind of society we want. That said, I think it’s really important to emphasize repeatedly that the vilification isn’t universal.
There will always be people out there who vilify others. They do not represent us. I mean, come on- Xiaxue can post pictures of herself and some of her fellow citizens are going to demean and dehumanize her for it. Should we pause and reflect, and ask ourselves whether this is the kind of society we want? Well, yes, that’s always a good thing, but I think we’re missing out on the point that a few idiots don’t represent everyone and the vast majority is quietly waiting for some actual progress to happen.
Not all of us are out to insult and vilify- many of us are actually looking for some serious discussion. Engage us. There’s only so many days we can spend talking about how annoying some Singaporeans are- what about the rest of us? Why are we feeding the trolls?
Let us continue to work together and keep our democracy healthy – by maintaining a basic level of civility in our public discourse, by treating all with dignity and respect, and by finding ways to bridge our differences and forge a common future together.
Agreed. So how about we actually get around to doing it? Why don’t you reach out across the divide and address the differences? (Frankly, I don’t even really have any issue with the actual issues- I just have a problem with the way we do things- which to me is the biggest issue of all.)
All that said and done, I do appreciate Mr. Lawrence Wong’s style. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s a step closer to what I’d like to see. I’ll take little victories where I see them, however microscopic. It would be in bad taste now to punish Wong for sharing his thoughts- we need more of this, and we need to move along a lot quicker.
I think everybody needs a beer, really.