It has been an eye-opener reading the flurry of online comments about the release of Amos Yee. Most of the comments have been heated with much mud being slung both ways. The raging debate over Amos has clearly brought out the worst and the best of Singaporeans and, of greater concern, it has highlighted an ugly segment of militant people who are exceedingly intolerant of anyone behaving outside their notion of the social paradigm.
These extremists have hurled vitriol at Amos and even at those who campaigned for and supported his release from prison. An example of their vitriol can be seen in the ridiculous allegations made in response to a comment I had made on TODAY FB page regarding the Amos Yee release. Using my Facebook moniker Min Zheng I had written: “A very shameful period for our country. Shame on the state for bullying a child. And shame on those who wish the worst on this boy.”
This comment sparked a slew of angry responses. Many militant conservatives strongly defended the actions by the government and accused me of being anti-government, a paid foreign spy (ah if only I get paid for my writings), a political tool for just about every opposition party (and curiously even a tool for Han Hui Hui). Some sneered and said I should leave the country implying I am a traitor of sorts.
It was also disturbing reading the many callous comments about Amos with many saying he deserved being jailed and sent to the mental hospital and that he was faking it when he looked traumatised yesterday (these people should try staying in jail and a mental ward and see how they look after that). Some even attacked his mother for being a bad mum and criticised her for wearing a “I Support Amos” T-shirt on the day of his release.
The belligerent attacks continued with one smart-ass trying to assert that Amos at 16 is an adult and not a child and that the jail sentence is too short as he is a menace to society! Amazingly, some people went on to declare Amos had to be punished if we do not want to see racial riots in our country or become like Malaysia!
For the record, a teen at 16 is still a child not an adult according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which defines child as persons under age 18. If any adult disagrees, please ask yourself if you thought and and behaved like an adult when you were 16.
Frankly, even if Amos were an adult I would still say it was wrong to arrest someone for speaking his mind, albeit rudely, as what he said was not so earthshaking that it could cause even a dent on our social harmony. His rant and his name would most likely have have long been forgotten if the fanatical gang of 32 had not created a ruckus by filing police reports against him.
Next, what Amos said had nothing to do with race and what he said could not have caused a mini riot much less sparked a descent into hell for our religious harmony which was built over many years (Singapore’s history harks back to the third century contrary to political propaganda that we are 50 years young).
Do note that not a single Christian group came forth to cry father cry mother about Amos’ video rant (which btw was about Lee Kuan Yew lest we forget and not about religion). Not a single one. On the contrary, there were many Christians who petitioned for his release. One pastor even took part in the recent Hong Lim Park rally, which campaigned for Amos’ release, and he said there was nothing to forgive when someone asked if he forgave Amos.
There is much hypocrisy among those loudly condemning Amos. The fact is many of these people are not really concerned about our religious equilibrium, their anger is actually fuelled by Amos insulting their idol by calling Lee Kuan Yew a “horrible person” and a dictator not long after his death. Yet, these people are shamelessly using religion as a tool to hang Amos.
As for allegations of me being used as a political tool to topple the government, please lah don’t honour me with such importance when I do not have such power nor any political associations of any sort. All I have done and am still doing, like many other concerned citizens, is sharing my opinions and speaking up when I see injustice done against my fellowmen.
On the flip side, one could also accuse these zealots of being political tools or agents out to protect the PAP-govt by defending the abusive use of draconian laws to squash dissent. These defenders are also being hypocritical in ignoring the double standards in how the law on sedition and harassment has been applied over the decades by our government. In addition, the outspoken Lee Kuan Yew had said many hurtful things about women, Malays and had even insulted Singaporeans such as calling us dogs in the past. Yet, none of his supporters called him out for causing disharmony did they?
As I have mentioned, this whole saga has brought out the worst and the best of Singaporeans and it has brought to our attention the emergence of a highly intolerant group of Singaporeans whom I shall call the “Intolerants”. Their behaviour goes well beyond being conservative as they appear to be callous, swift to anger, fast to condemn and worse, have the tendency to push the authorities to punish those whom they find offensive.
This militant group’s arguments are often fallacious and strident to the point of telling those who disagree with their political views to leave the country. Why the hell should any Singaporean leave their country? What gives these arrogant “Intolerants” the right to tell their fellow citizens to leave the country in the first place? Such behaviour makes them look like fascists trying to purge the country of those who do not share their views and values.
We should worry for our country’s future if such people are in community leader positions and in the PAP-government.
IMO, such extreme intolerance should not be allowed to proliferate as they will end up polarising our society and cause more cracks and unhappiness. Our Government leaders need to be more careful and discerning when listening to such people’s complaints and advice if they truly want to have peace and harmony among our people.
Yes, there will always be differences in any society but being militant in saying “It’s my way or the highway” is simply not the way to build a cohesive and happy community in today’s day and age. We should be able to discuss, argue and debate in a civil manner without resorting to hysterical vitriol and to using the law in an abusive manner.
As society progresses and becomes more complex, we will need to become more understanding and accommodating of different views and beliefs; we will need to have more empathy; and we should be more open-minded and less judgmental.
One final comment on Amos. Whether one loathes or love him, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the people and our authorities treat the boy right – with universal values of compassion, fairness and justice. To his haters, I say you have the choice to stay angry or to ignore his future postings (which I am certain will resurface) and please stop cursing and condemning him. To his fans – don’t make him into some sort of idol and stop egging him on to do things that you wouldn’t even think of doing.
Amos is just a 16-year-old boy. Let him be. Let live his life.