Monday, July 1, 2013

You say yes, I say no

When I was a young adult in the 1990s, I used to be extremely irritated by several older relatives who were in the pro-PAP camp. To me, it seemed like they were completely irrational. When things went well, they credited the PAP.  When things went wrong, they dismissed it.  Not only could the PAP do no wrong, it was considered taboo to even question them. Whenever I asked something that would even hint at their mistakes, I was greeted with a raised eyebrow. How dare I question them? Did I think that I, a young nobody, knew better?

Today, the political landscape has completed changed, as we all know.  People don't only dare to question, they do so openly and aggressively, especially online.  For the most part, I welcome this. It is definitely preferable to inertia and apathy.

However, of late, I've become increasingly irritated. Maybe it's a sign of aging but I find that what was supposed to be an awakening of a nation has turned into a massive wave of fault-finding and scapegoating.  We have moved from a drought to a flood. Everywhere I see on the world wide web, every damn thing is being politicised.  There are complaints about every single thing. In a complete turnaround, now everything is the PAP's fault.  Even the most obscure matters can somehow be linked back to something the PAP did wrong.

In fact, now you can't even make a simple remark (like complimenting a foreigner) without being branded a Pappie. People who feel that some anti-PAP comments are unfair dare not speak up because they don't want to be labelled as such.  That's when I realised that the anti-PAP camp today is in a way, no different from the pro-PAP camp back in the 1990s.  To me, being a yes-man is virtually identical to being a no-man. The only difference is the word used. One says yes no matter what, the other says no.

Think about it - one thinks the PAP can do no wrong, the other thinks the PAP can do no right.  One thinks the PAP always has the best intentions, the other thinks the PAP always has the worst.  One thinks the PAP has all the answers, the other thinks the PAP creates all the problems.  One thinks opposition supporters are all entitled, ungrateful trouble-makers, the other thinks PAP supporters are all stupid, brainwashed sheep.

What people may not realise is that both camps are equally unthinking and undiscerning.  Both practise double standards.  Both give their preferred camps an infinitely long leash and nitpick at their identified villains with a fine-toothed comb. Both reduce people to one-dimensional stereotypes with a singular trajectory of thought. Both hold fast to the insular "if you're not for us, you're against us" mentality.

I'm not saying that all opposition supporters are like this, of course. Many of my friends support the opposition (I even hesitate to use the phrase "opposition supporter" because it implies unconditional support of this very diverse group) and they're level-headed individuals. I also made no secret of my happiness when Worker's Party won Aljunied GRC. But for every intelligent speech made by Sylvia Lim, it's sullied by the baseless vitriol and half-truths that go in some other online site and spread by people who are not interested in verifying the facts.

I wonder if some of these anti-PAP know that they're actually undermining their own cause because when it comes to the polls, people who are sympathetic to the opposition might not vote so because they're so antithetical to being associated with this group.

I believe that each person has to be assessed on their own merits (which is why I don't agree with the GRC system). I do like many opposition members but not all.  Even among those in the same party, I admire some but not others. Even then, somebody I like may say something that I don't quite agree with. That is the multi-facetness of human beings. There are very few individuals on earth that are unequivocally evil or saintly.  If even an individual can be so complex, then generalising all persons in one party as having a single train of thought or objective is even more ludicrous.  It's so simplistic that the only explanation is people do so because it's easier to justify their own agendas.

It's like someone who has made up his mind that his life turned out crappy because he had bad parents. Everything negative that happens to him (even 20, 30 years later), he can somehow turn it into his parents' fault. It's a simple way of dealing with dissonance because otherwise he might have to consider the possibility that maybe some of it was due to his own choices or even unfortunate circumstances.  But it's extremely unhealthy because it absolves the individual of any form of responsibility for his own actions. It doesn't benefit the people he's around and it doesn't even benefit himself because he's so full of bitterness that he cannot focus on more meaningful tasks at hand.

I want to be won over by reason and logic, not half-cooked conspiracy theories backed by skimpy or no evidence and fraught with emotional blackmail.  I think some people have confused having critical thinking as being the same as criticising everything. They're not the same thing at all.

I want to be critical where something is flawed and to give credit where things work.  That is my approach on this blog when it comes to education policies and practices.  Obviously, I'm not always right, but I do try to be as rational as possible.  And I don't see why this cannot be the approach even for politics.

Am I moving too far from my rational side to becoming an idealist? After all, this is a nation with people who will get into fights and call the police over a stuffed feline.  Maybe that's why I hardly blog about politics (until something bugs me so much I have to get it out of my system). I dislike how it always seems to generate so much volatility.

All I know is that at the end of the day, all this mud-slinging on both sides of the fence solves nothing. All it does is make our country very muddy.


asingaporeanson said...

Good post.

Cheryl Lee said...

I like what you say and I do agree. Had wanted to put "anti anti-government" and "anti pro-government" as my political view but fb didn't allow it. May a new generation of Singaporeans who do not oppose for the sake of opposing or agree for the sake of agreeing bring some refreshing views to this muddy country.

monlim said...

Cheryl: Lol, "anti anti-government" and "anti pro-government" just about says it all!

rugs said...

good points you make. i harbor a hope that this rabid side-taking we are experiencing is somehow a phase in the natural development of civil discourse in our land.

Anonymous said...

Hi Monlim, been a silent reader of your blog for the past few weeks after chancing upon it.

Very well said and balanced piece!Thanks

Han Hwee Chin

Anonymous said...

Watch the debate organised by IQ with Shanmugam, Benjamin Pwee, Dr Paul Tambyah and Eugene Tan then. Moderated by Visma. No mudslinging or character assassination. Just excellent debate on national issues and it can perhaps help you in your decision making :). This should have been broadcast on National TV.

A side note - guess you have not cross swords with the likes of Calvin Cheng.


monlim said...

MD: I have no wish to cross swords with Calvin Cheng! :P

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