This is a continuation of Part 1 of this article.
What is Needed in Singapore is Accessible Information and Open Discourse
The current problem facing Singapore now isn’t that the people do not have Singapore’s interests at heart. As explained, the people do – the issue lies in the different ways we express our concerns for Singapore. And the real underlying issue is this – we simply do not know enough to make a decision as to what is the best way forward. However, the government might, though because the government believes in a certain agenda, even as it has hold over all the information, it might not act on them in alignment to the wants of all Singaporeans.
If we may reach a conclusion at this point, it is this – because of the lack of clear information and public discourse on the information, the people are not able to come to a common consensus as to how Singapore needs to move forward. Currently, the government makes most of the decisions for Singapore’s future. For the former group of Singaporeans, they are willing to accept the information that is being shown to them in the mainstream media at face value, perhaps unquestioningly, and accept the government’s motives and recommendations. To the latter group, this former group asks – why do you not want to trust the government when they have done so much for us?
But to the latter group, they probe and pry, and try to dissect the information that is being shared so that they can have a deeper understanding as to how to understand the situation in Singapore better. This has led to a burgeoning of online blogs, commentary and discussion, creating alternate media sources for Singaporeans who do not content in the government’s framing of information in the mainstream media.
If it is not clear by now, the current divisiveness that Singapore faces is not a sudden rise of anti-whatever sentiments. The current divisiveness that Singapore faces has its root cause in the lack of the openness to information, and in the lack of adequate discourse on the information.
A Lack of Trust Breeds Angst and Anti- Behaviours
Singaporeans, by and large, are concerned about the long term future of Singapore. We are all brought up in this country which has grown so quickly that our lives are as much attached to this country as this country’s growth is dependent on us. The reason why we are so unsettled by the ongoings of Singapore is because we have a stake in this country. Otherwise, why make so much noise? If we want to, we could simply migrate somewhere else and not make that much noise. The people who are making the noise are the people who continue to want to make it in Singapore, and who continue to want to see Singapore succeed. And this is something we can, and need to agree on. All Singaporeans who are here, in Singapore, and the people who have come into this country, are here and we want to make it happen – we want Singapore to flourish, and I am convinced of this.
But as said, if people do not have enough information and are not able to have a broad and discerning discussion of the information, then they will start becoming suspect of the government and its agenda. Mistrust will start breeding and conspiracy theories will spread, as they have. Before they start taking root, it is important that we work together to prevent the lack of trust from becoming an ingrained part of our culture.
If we are able to understand this, we would be able to understand many of the current ongoings in Singapore. For example, the current angst that some Singaporeans have towards foreigners has arisen from the lack of trust towards the government’s policies – because the people do not have faith in the adequacy of the policies, they have taken it out on the foreigners. Of course, it’s more complicated than this. Belie all this is a population who feel powerless towards reacting against a government which they feel have curtailed their ability to speak up so severely that they have learnt to censor their own ownership over the country. This self-censorship has resulted in an angst that has cascaded over all issues which they feel powerless over. Instead of learning to deal by developing critically thought-out solutions, the people bang their heads on the wall and describe their unjust treatment.
And so, this has finally come to a head. The government might have wanted to control the people when Singapore first gained independence. A hardliner government which has the smarts will be able to kickstart the country and fire its engines and that was what our government did. But in our growth, because of the lack of parity in our social and economic growths, there is now much catching up for our society to do, to catch up with the First World economy. Is our society at the level where it needs to be, in order for us to truly be a First World country, not just economically, but socially and politically as well?
We Need Learn to Take Criticisms Less Personally
As the people become more educated and evolve in their thinking behaviour, they are more likely to become more discerning in matters of the country. And this is good – this is what you want for an economy which is moving towards a knowledge economy, and this is what the government has wanted to gear the country towards. Yet, in allowing for more discerning thoughts, it means that we have to also learn to take criticism less personally and to understand that these criticisms aren’t necessarily negative in their labels.
The current pitfalls of our people and government is precisely because we are still on catch-up mode socially, we haven’t learnt to adjust intellectually towards receiving feedback in a non-threatening manner, and also to give feedback in a less-provocative manner. Yet, instead of learning to do so, we have learnt to shut one another off. And thus some Singaporeans have shut the government off, and the government has also learnt to shut the people off.
Transiting Into A New Social and Political Era
It is true that Singapore is in a transition, yes. But in what transition are we undergoing? Some people claim this to be an intergenerational transition? Is it? I am less inclined to believe so, than to believe that the current transition lies in a transformation of our society and politics. It requires all of us, Singaporeans and the government, to understand that the current transition that we are undergoing require a persona that adopts an intellectual openness and lesser ego-centric protection of one’s own viewpoints. It requires a persona where we are willing to take a step back from our angst, and take on a broader mindset to frame our thoughts in a deep, balanced and responsible manner.
Underlining this is a people and government who are willing to move into the next stage of Singapore’s growth towards intellectual inquisition as we evolve into a new social and political consciousness.