In Singapore, when the General Elections draw near, views tend to polarize quickly. Those for the incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP) government will be singing their praises, and those against will rise up with a distinguished vehemence.
A large portion of the population, however, carry a certain attitude that bears highlighting. These are the politically apathetic. Their mentality can be summarized quite simply as “ I couldn’t quite care less the PAP is going to win anyway”.
With the PAP winning the lion’s share of the people’s votes every election since decades ago, it comes as no surprise that a mindset like that would eventually emerge. Political apathy does have its appeal though, as I found out from talking to friends and family.
1. Why bother? This is the reply that I got from many friends. Why bother to even vote when we know who is going to win? Despite repeated reports of opposition parties like the Workers’ Party (WP) fielding strong candidates such as Chen Show Mow, armed with degrees from such distinguished institutions as Oxford and Stanford, they still are not convinced that their vote will make any difference.
2. But they represent an opposition voice otherwise unheard! Surely that must matter? “Heard or no, why does it matter?” They reply in harmony. It’s not like it makes a difference. People complain about ERP, COE, ISA, HDB, CPF, PAP and look, there they still are, beeping loud and clear every time cars pass under the gantries.
3. You guys don’t care about it at all do you? I asked finally, you guys don’t quite care what the government does! To this, they retort, “NO NO NO we DO! Recently they gave us some cash right, now that’s good!” I just chuckled along. Money rules the day, true story.
Perhaps it is the education system that we were brought up in, or our need to import everything from kangkong to Gaga, but in between them, I believe we are seeing a growing apathy towards politics and everything outside of themselves. The so called “Me revolution” would see everyone striving hard for themselves, blogging about themselves, at some point, I have no doubt, someone is going to compose haikus in praise of themselves.
I think there is a fundamental need to raise general political awareness. Realize that there can only be room for “Me” when there is “We”. Recognize that we cannot live sheltered forever from the perils of politics and governance because it is what makes or breaks the nation we live in.
This is all pretty tongue-in-cheek, but the point is, I think we have a system that still works. That is the only reason why people can care so little and yet life goes on in a reasonably well (3 square meals a day, long meetings, short naps, occasional shopping) for most and grudgingly coasting along for some.
Until election time, that is, where the embers of dissent and unhappiness are coaxed into billowing flames, fueled by powerful rhetoric (Sylvia Lim, Chiam See Tong) and high drama (Tin Pei Lin vs Kate Spade). What we don’t see is that this system might be on the brink of breakdown. The PAP has done a lot in the decades they have been in power and will likely continue to do so for at least the next 10 years. However, as our people get more educated, we will see more diverse views and will eventually need more people in parliament who dare sing a different, but not necessarily opposing tune. That is the basis of harmonics isn’t it? Making different tunes work together beautifully?
I would like to see some changes, but find it hard to vote for any one of the opposition parties because while they generally have a vision towards a certain direction, it is difficult to see them implementing them without thoroughly overhauling certain aspects of governance and consequently throwing the country into at least temporal instability. Passion and purpose are admirable qualities in any politician, but perhaps a more moderate, progressive approach that would not destabilize the country would be more appealing for me. In my opinion, stability is the one asset that Singapore has that makes the it work, we lose that, we risk losing everything.
Surely some will say that there cannot be real change unless there is a shakeup, I say, in that case, I’ll keep the stability until someone comes up and tells me look, I have a plan to change things in an orderly way, here are the plans, they are modest, but slowly but surely, we will make it work. A party like that comes up, and it really wouldn’t matter what it was called (The Other A Team perhaps?), it will have my vote.
This is not time for a shakeup. There is probably never a good time for a proper shakeup in Singapore. The system is not yet broken enough for that, and with a little cooperation from the incumbent and opposition parties, may it never be. Instability is the bane of businesses, our entrepot roots have given us an edge in the area and is now arguably our lifeblood, let us not flush it down the gutter with “shakeups”.
Supporting Crystal Palace when they are play Manchester United in Old Trafford is a statement, voting is not. Political parties are not soccer teams and should not be viewed in that light. Vote for the betterment of the country, so that the “Me” in “We” can flourish.
This is what I feel at this point, a few weeks from the elections, criticism is, as always, welcome.