At a recent gathering with some Singaporean friends, the discussion inadvertently turned to local politics. But when I mentioned Mr Brown, our famous Singapore blogger, one of my friends asked: “Who??” And the punchline came when another friend answered:”Oh, I know! He’s that anti-Singapore blogger!”
I was flabbergasted and told her that Mr Brown (whom I do not know personally) may be many things including being a funny humorist, amateur actor and avid blogger but he is certainly not anti-Singapore. If anything, I think he has consistently come across as a pretty die-hard supporter of Singapore. So how on earth did she get this impression of him? Was it the video spoofs he did of the PAP MPs? Or was it his satirical jokes that failed to tickle her funny bone?
This incident reminded me of the common labels that are being dished out regularly by the more conservative Singaporeans (and even some PRs) to locals who dare openly question and criticise the Government and government policies. Often they use the labels “anti-government” and “anti-establishment” to dismiss whatever is being said as negative. As for the label “anti-Singapore” it implies a “you are with us or against us” metality.
How did such erroneous thinking and labelling come about? When did speaking up become akin to a treacherous deed against the country?? Is it because, for far too long, Singaporeans have been moulded and raised on a diet of out-of-bound markers, quiet obedience, self censorship and an apolitical attitude? Have all those lost years – post independence – of never blatantly questioning government policies and the ruling party turned many of us into a people who have lost the fire in our belly? Or worse, lost our ability to evaluate the facts, to think out-of-the-box and to judge fairly?
It flummoxes me when well-educated, intelligent people instantly pigeonhole Singaporeans as being anti-establishment as soon as they criticise or poke fun at the Government. In some ways, it is like the frog in a well. The frog thinks he knows what is best as he has been safe and well fed staying in the well all this time. He feels threatened by anyone who tries to talk to him about the New World and who shakes his comfort zone. Fair enough, he is entitled to his opinion.
But let’s get it straight once and for all – it is wrong to label people who speak up and question government policies and PAP as being “anti-establishment”, “anti-government” or “anti-Singapore”. Think about it, are the Republicans being anti-establishment when they criticise the Democrats in the US? Are the loyal supporters of Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim being anti-Malaysia? Of course not! Regardless of their differences, they all love their country with a passion.
We all have different ways of showing love, be it to a loved one or to our country. Some are more reserved while some are more open and expressive and some are downright passionate. Just as we do not label those who don’t speak up as being anti-Singapore, we should not tar and feather vocal citizens who speak with a voice of reason as being anti-anything.
Think about it. It is precisely because we care that we bother to share our views and to speak up for our country. We speak up when we see wrong doings by politicians or policies working against the interest of our people. We speak up simply because we want to build a better homeland for our future.
In most democratic countries it is normal to hold different political views and to freely express them. Opinions are exchanged, ideas will occasionally clash and there will always be some extreme voices on the fringe. But out of this “noise” comes a maturing of the electorate, one that will care even more about what happens to their country. By having a say in our country, we gain pride and ownership and a real sense of belonging. That much desired thing called patriotism is an elusive fire that comes from within us and not because we sing national songs during National Day.
At the end of the day, we should all realise that we are just one people wanting the best for our country. There will be differences but there should be no enemies in the building of Singapore.
“My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one’s country, not to its institutions or its office-holders.” ~Mark Twain, 1889