I was having a discussion with a Malaysian guy, Lee, on Facebook on the state of politics in Singapore. I’ve decided to share the discussion on my blog.
Lee: Why are you anti-government?
Me: I won’t say I’m anti-government. I’ve tried my best to provide a balanced view over the past few months. But recent events has shown that no matter how Singaporeans try to accommodate and work with the government, the government is still focused on earning more while taxing the people more, and this is simply not right. I’m very disappointed with my government and I’ve decided to be open and critical. Images and words I put up are aimed at igniting the thinking in people. The government needs to learn that it needs to respect the people, not only in areas they want to or are comfortable with, but truly in respect of people, in totality.
Lee: Ur tax is one of the lowest…. Give me example how government of sg to absort ur money through any type of channel?
Me: Ah that’s when you do not understand the economics behind how it works. Our government is smart. They’ve created a perception that with low tax, there’s as much as they can do. But they siphoned off our money from CPF and the privatized public services, where people’s money are channelled into higher and higher revenue and profits, as well as higher pay for their management. You need to look only at our finances to understand how the personal income tax we pay represents only a very small proportion of the otherwise massive amount of money that they’ve taken away through other institutionalised ways of absorbing our money. You have to look beyond the government rhetoric to see the truth.
Lee: U have the confident that ur opposition can do much better than pap?
Me: The rhetoric that the opposition cannot perform is created by the PAP. The rhetoric that our reserves need to be accumulated at all costs is created by the PAP. And you’ve bought into all of that. You really think Singapore will collapse once PAP falls? It won’t. There are thousands and thousands of people engaged in the civil service who are doing the real work. If 90 people disappear from PAP, these people are still going to do the work. These people will still endure the government functions. The main reason why the opposition doesn’t seem to be attracting people is because the government has created an environment where people feel that they cannot partake in politics, because of the fear that they might have something to lose. We have managed to put in place structural fear which underlines the motivations of how people think or behave.
Lee: U will know the true color once sg fall. Make it simple, convince the pap n stop importing foreign labour fr all level. Just try it… U got the good svc ? U got the safe environment? U got the steady economy? What do u expect
Me: Well, of course, of course I appreciate the safety and security of my country. Of course I appreciate the structural security and peace of my country. Does it mean I’m a hypocrite for speaking up about what can be done better for my country? Does it mean that I’m a hypocrite for wanting my government to change? Every country and every government has its good and bad. Every country goes through their individual challenges. Does it mean that because we have structural security and safety that we should be accepting and contended, and allow our government to exploit us, because we should be grateful for what they’ve given us? All societies grow and do their best to grow. Of course I’m grateful. But when people are not being treated fairly, they will not be fair. This is a common grouse, whether you are in Singapore, Malaysia or anywhere else. It’s about fairness and equality. Of course, from an outsider perspective, Singapore has it going for them – why are Singaporeans ungrateful? Well, why are the Americans unhappy, why are the Japanese unhappy? Why are the rich Malaysians unhappy? Justice and equality is something that pervades all of humanity. We all want to be treated with a sense of respect, fairness and autonomy. And when you are not, regardless of the economic situation or wealth that you are in, you will feel compelled to act.
Lee: This is simple. Once stop importing foreign n all ind with all jobs filled up by local……. u will know.
Me: Well, I will leave it up to you and others whether we continue to buy into the rhetoric that PAP creates. We have opportunities to think differently. Do we want to look at the opportunities and think about how we can create a different society, or do we want to continue to buy into a fear-based politics, which prevent us from moving beyond our current comfort zone? Am I saying – overhaul things? I’m not. We might possibly have to do that. But what I’m saying is this – treat the people fair. They know they are not paid fair wages. The recent ‘strike’ by the bus drivers – you seriously think it’s only the China bus drivers who are unhappy? Because we’ve allowed their wages to be repressed, we’ve allowed our own wages to be depressed. Lower wages is a chronic structural problem that pervades the lower income group in society. And it has boiled over for those at the lowest economic strata. And because Singaporeans have bought into the fear-based policies and climate, we wouldn’t dare even thinking of doing what we had to rely on the China bus drivers to do for us – to make a statement.
Lee: There is not perfect single solution to solve all problem……..
Me: Of course there’s no perfect single solution to solve all problems. Aren’t we saying the same thing here? We are saying that if there are ways to improve things, let’s find ways to do it. Is that any different from what you are saying? If we acknowledge that problems exist and tensions exist, let’s look at them from a broad basis, let’s look at what needs to be done on the whole and let’s find a solution for them. Let’s not look at silo problems and create patches for them. At the end of the day, we have a pot filled with clay patches which will break sooner or later. If there’s a problem, let’s remould this pot and put it into a furnace again to strengthen it, so that the pot can continue to function as it should. This is what we are asking for.
Lee: Do u think the wages increased should be bear by operator or transfer the 100% to the consumer or 50 50 share between operator or consumer or government to subsidise it?
Me: Simply looking at whether the increase in costs should be bourne by the operator, consumer or the government is a very myopic way of looking at the issue and is once again – a mindset bought over by the rhetoric by the government. The real issue behind wage unhappiness, as well as resistance against fare increases is because the government has created a system which has resulted in a privatization of public services, where the government has a 54% stake in this privatized public service – SMRT. High profits of a billion dollars were accumulated in 2011, with possibly billions of dollars of profits over the past few years. And this goes back to the government without coming back to the people. The people are asking – and you are keeping this money for? Instead of channelling it back to us, you want us to pay more for you? Isn’t this logical, what the people are asking for?
Lee: This is the reality! Any improvement involve risk n money
Me: I can tell you this – you cannot outwin this argument against me because you haven’t thought carefully about this issue. You’ve bought into the government rhetoric. The thing is this – if you can convince me of the government’s position in all fairness and logic, I will agree with you. But you are only putting out rhetoric that they’ve been putting out. And this doesn’t hold water. I’ve been looking at their statistics and the structural underpinnings that have taken us to where we are today. Things can be moderated and improved on, and the government needs to do it.
Lee: Honestly, I agree what Pap is doing. Fair competition, transparent …
Me: Lol. Fair and transparent. Lol. Well, I have to rest my case! Fair and transparent. Well, of course, when you are able to legalize corruption, anything becomes fair and transparent. When you are the father of the family, you set your rules and your children abide by it. It might not be the most sensible rules. But your children live in your family. They have to live by rules that you create. Until they grow up and learn other ways of doing things and realise that they might have been trapped within an illusion that you’ve created. And then…