I am writing this response to an article that has been making the rounds. I think that it is important and necessary to address some key issues in the way this article was written and the message it sends out.
This response was initially directed to him/her whom i will from here on call ‘Anon,’ However towards the end of writing it, I realized that the response was not directed so much to Anon, as to the people whom this writer attacks, people who have been labelled ‘spoilt brats’ by Anon because they do not view things the same way as Anon does, because they do not think that the PAP has done right by Singapore.
Dear Anonymous Overseas SG Graduate who calls us “spoilt brats”
From your limited perspective you have basically damned and castigated everyone who will be voting for the opposition. Of course you will vote for the PAP, and you are entitled to your own choice and opinions.
However, the biggest issue I fault you for is not the major fallacies in your arguments, but rather the tone and manner in which you wrote it. That is the main thing that needs to be addressed. Your tone and manner reeks of contempt and disrespect.
I think that this attitude of disrespect and condemnation of others who think differently is one of the biggest problems Singaporeans face, and it is one of the most pertinent factors which has caused stagnation and lack of true growth in all aspects of Singaporean life.
It is dehumanizing, mean and bullying and completely disingenuous; this toxic castigation and dismissal of others with different opinions and convictions is poorly disguised as ‘wisdom,’ ‘common sense’ and ‘intellect.’
I have travelled around the world and currently live in LA. Yes, America is far from perfect, I do not think for a minute that it is THE model for us to follow. In fact, there is no perfect model in the world to follow. Every single democracy is riven with its own internal contradictions and problems.
However the point of a democracy is to recognize that there is no perfect government, and that no single party should have the mandate to rule over its citizens without being accountable to them.
The idea of a democracy is based on the belief that citizens themselves, not a group of ‘natural aristocrats’, can and should take ownership of their own country, the citizens themselves must have the power to decide on what is right and wrong, what works and what does not. Ultimately, they have the freedom and power to vote into parliament the individuals or parties they think will best represent them.
They also have the responsibility of bearing the fruits of those choices.
The contestation of policies in parliament is integral to a democracy: it is a process which allows the government and the citizens to choose the best policies that is most well-suited to the needs of the country and its people.
Admittedly this process does not always work out, but that does not mean we have to throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Checks and balances in a democracy ensures at the very least, that every policy is closely scrutinized before it is passed.
This is why we need a substantial opposition in parliament, one which can question policies that may not be in the best interest of Singaporeans. Without a good opposition, we are writing the PAP a blank check. Up till today we do not know how much we have in our reserves. There is little or no accountability from the government for taxpayers’ money.
This is not acceptable.
America is far from perfect, but here there is profound freedom to develop, create, grow, change and contest laws, and policies. There is freedom to make mistakes, to fail spectacularly and even to indiscriminately criticize revered political leaders, without being sued for defamation, or dragged into a mental asylum.
People here do not feel the need to police “free speech,” most have the maturity to discern for themselves what they will listen to and what they will not, they are able to sift the chaff from the wheat, and are not reliant on a nanny state to censor mainstream media. Fear is not the primary tool used to govern people.
In addition to this freedom, comes freedom in the major choices one makes in life. Here there is a much broader definition of success. Talent and leaders here are not culled from ivory tower academics and elitist types who are completely out of touch with the struggles of the average citizen.
School drop-outs in America with guts and tenacity have full autonomy and resources available to create companies and products that change and impact the world, think Steve Jobs. The value of believing in yourself and trusting your inner convictions is not dismissed as mere fairy dust and wishful thinking. It is not condemned as being selfish and stupid, but taken seriously.
I will vote for the SDP, not because they present themselves as a ‘Savior.’ This is far from the truth, they do not portray themselves as infallible, in fact they are honest about their imperfections, and recognize their plans may need to be adjusted. However they have presented clear and cogent alternative policies to many of the PAP’s dysfunctional ones. They are open to debating about these policies, compromising and making relevant changes to these policies that will benefit Singapore, and they are deeply committed to building up the hearts and souls of Singaporeans.
Very importantly, the SDP is accepting of people with different political views and opinions, the members of the SDP have humility and do not feel the need to label others with names, or to speak with contempt and condescension towards those who think differently from them. They do not seek complete dominance of the government, as they recognize the value of contesting ideas and having checks and balances.
Above all, they recognize the intrinsic value and dignity of human life, independent of extrinsic factors like wealth and merit, and have cogent and sound policies that reflect this one true and irrevocable fact.
I do not write this post to change your mind, because it is most likely a lost cause. I am writing this for the other Singaporeans who may be swayed by what you say, or who may doubt themselves, after reading your article.
To them I want to say this:
Do not let anyone talk you down or tell you that you are stupid for having differing convictions and beliefs from the mainstream.
Do not let anyone tell you that you are a spoilt brat because you have a bigger vision and ideal of what life can be like in Singapore, because you aspire for something more than the status-quo, or because you long for something more meaningful in the depths of your soul.
Do not let anyone make you feel guilty for choosing a different or unpopular path because you have listened to your heart, and have allowed your conscience guide you.
This is the value of democracy and freedom. This is the value of having a hope and a dream and a deep love for your own country and nation.
This is the primary calling of us all who seek meaning and purpose, to be true to ourselves. It beckons and inspires us to listen to and follow our deepest convictions, and our clearest conscience.
It gives us courage to take risks, make mistakes and fail, and to pick ourselves up again, each time we fall. It gives us wisdom and patience to appreciate the journey, and to mature from it, even though the destination is still far from sight.