An enlightened citizenry is a good thing. If we hold the government accountable the way the student questioned the professor in the above article, well, everybody* is better off for it!
I don’t imagine that governments will be completely redundant anytime soon. We’ll still always need people to make legislative and executive decisions on behalf of the collective.
What gets redundant, then? The government will lose its ability to use hard propaganda to directly influence public sentiment. Any such attempts will now backfire. The pre-internet PAP’s tactics- whatever your opinion on them- have become obsolete. More than obsolete- they’re outright counter-productive.
Am I for or against this? Personally, and philosophically, I am for it. I like that the PAP won’t get to dominate the Singaporean narrative anymore. But perhaps I only say this because I am not in power. Lee Kuan Yew would be against Lee Kuan Yew if he were an Opposition Party member. (And for those who are too young or blur to remember- he was!)
But that’s actually besides the point. The reality of it is what it is. We cannot turn back the clock, and we cannot reverse the tides of progress. Politicians are going to have to figure out how to navigate this new, increasingly complex reality. That is a good thing.
Refinement: It could be argued that this is bad for the PAP, the same way the professor’s reputation might have been “affected” by the student’s questioning. I dispute this. Challenge is healthy and good. Nobody is right 100% of the time. I’m glad to see the PAP being challenged by Singaporeans. Good! It’s only threatening for the PAP if the PAP is stubborn and demands to be allowed to persist unchanged, without “upgrading” and “re-inventing” itself (insert your own favourite buzzwords as you please.)
PS: The PAP can actually tell Paul Krugman to shut up. That’s the reality of how complex economics has become. Just because Krugman says something does not mean that it is true in all circumstances (although he is a great guy who clearly knows his stuff.) But that in itself doesn’t mean that Krugman would be wrong, and that the PAP would be right. Legitimacy has to be earned and re-earned every day. The “enlightened citizenry” of today now gets to decide what sort of country we want to have, and what sort of government we want representing us.
“There are two things that the PAP is up against, more intelligent Singaporeans who are backed up by unlimited information at their disposal. It is either the PAP embraces this eventuality or be overwhelmed. Talking to fellow party members as participants in the National Conversation doesn’t cut it. Neither does exclusion of people who harbour an opposite viewpoint.”
I agree completely. The PAP will have to adapt or perish, and either way the PAP of 2020 is going to be unrecognizable when compared to the PAP of the 1970s. What is most interesting and humbling about the whole situation- as an observer- is realising that the PAP inevitably sowed the seeds of its own destruction, renewal and rebirth. It was the PAP’s policies that (to some degree at least, surely) laid the foundation for an intelligent, enlightened populace (if we have one).
In essence, the PAP is like the stereotypical parent who wants what’s best for his children, and finds out one day that he has taught them to think for themselves, and they no longer agree with him on everything. You have to ask, is this good for the parents, or bad?
By the way, if we have arrived at an “enlightened citzenry”, why STOMP and Yahoo Comments still so like that ah? I think we give ourselves too much credit- we will never achieve 100% enlightenment, and there will probably always be a few crazy buggers with conspiracy theories and whatnot- but what matters is that we hit a critical mass of decent, intelligent folk who have decent discussions and conversations about what we want for ourselves- and the rest will probably just follow suit, or be drowned out. We have to rise above the noise.
One of my favourite poems, which I think is highly relevant. Try to think about the PAP and the Singaporean populace when reading this:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
The National Conversation is lame because (see link). But it’s really cool that we can all collectively acknowledge that the National Conversation is lame. The first step towards solving any problem is realizing that we have a problem. I think we got that part down pat.
I look forward to seeing what the PAP’s going to do next, and I think it’s an exciting time of rebirth and renewal for Singapore. As long as we don’t let the Yahoo Comments people take control, I think we’re on the right path. Majulah Singapura!