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I am Singaporean XIII – Siege Mentality February 23, 2009

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. II.
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Singapore is under siege.

At least, that’s what the Gahmen would have you think.  At first, it was the Japanese, then the Communists, then there was terrorism, global economic forces, and now the Net community.  Sometimes, the Gahmen feels besieged by the people too.  Singapore’s small size and multiraciality have always been used as reasons for our fragility and for our siege mentality, because we are easily overrun.  This explains the huge defense budget each year, and the same old threats (and ironically, some self-fulfilling prophecies like the bad governance prophecy) made by our Dear Leaders.

The latest one was that anonymity on the Internet is a farce.  They will hunt us down and we should know it.  It is a veiled threat for the Internet community for regulation, after a certain RADM Lui showed how disappointed he was.  But why is there a need for such a siege mentality?  Why is there a need to demonise everything which may not toe the Gahmen line?  Some examples for you…

  1. The blogosphere is always demonised by the mainstream media for its perceived lack of objectivity and lawlessness (ironically, for a prime example, see STOMP)
  2. When the people become unhappy, an octagenarian will raise his lightning bolt and threaten you to silence (siege mentality against the people)
  3. Uncomfortable questions in Parliament deserve an uncomfortable answer, like if people want to have three meals in a hawker centre or a restaurant, or if Can’t Sing should resign now for Mas’ Great Escape
  4. Blaming global economical forces out of the Gahmen’s hands when a recession hits, instead of looking at their own household first (perhaps shutting up would have been better in this case)

And much more!  But still why? Maybe the siege mentality is supposed to work because like in the military, you are supposed to obey whatever your superior tells you, because technically he is supposed to know what he’s doing.  So transferred onto Singapore, the siege mentality ensures that the people do what the Government says.  And since the siege will pass on, the Gahmen has the opportunity to pride themselves (much like senior commanding officers get promoted after a large battle and not Privates Tom, Dick, or Harry.)

The latest example of the siege mentality against the blogosphere is just one example.  For example, the ST saying ‘Moderate so the Government can de-regulate.’  If moderation takes place, it will be a Pyhrric victory for the blogosphere, because aren’t we moderating according to the Gahmen’s guidelines, if moderation is to keep bloggers out of trouble?  Then we just have an(other) online MSM.  For what?  As long as the Gahmen continues to feel besieged and tries to fight a siege which isn’t there, we don’t have to hope for a calming of relations between the MSM and the blogosphere, for no sensible dialogue can exist as long as the siege mentality remains.

What Andrew Loh says at TOC is that instead of trying to regulate the blogosphere, we should focus on education to teach children the pitfalls of the Internet.  Even if it is a step in the right direction, it does not remove the general distrust and/or disdain of what is published on the Net.  The siege mentality remains, and you can be damn sure that the Gahmen will do its best to demonise all blogs as subjective and partisan except a few chosen ‘credible’ blogs.  As long as this mentality remains fixed, we can all go fly kite, understand??

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Mr. Tan VIII – Protectionism? February 18, 2009

Posted by The Truth in Mr. Tan.
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Mr. Tan was reading the Straits Times when he came across this letter on protectionism (actually Mr. Tan only reads the Forum.)

And Mr. Tan said: Why must Singapore guard extremely against protectionism?  Is not a government’s first responsibility towards its citizens?  And Mr. Tan said that although Governmental steps towards helping its own people first were laudable, more could be done.  Mr. Tan said, “of course protectionism per se is bad for the people.  But does not the Government have a responsibility to help those in need?  The Government should get its own house in order before agreeing to purely help others.”

“True, we need foreign help.  But we need to set a standard to make sure that not every mother son is hired!  We need people who can help the country, not people who will leave when they see that conditions are not so good for them.  Singaporeans are already leaving, because they see that the help they need is not coming, or that people are given scholarships whereas they have to serve NS, get a huge bank loan for university, and much more.  What’s more, when we’re not wanted anymore, the Government tells us go retire in Malaysia because it’s cheaper!  Not that it doesn’t help my wallet – but i feel that the country doesn’t want me anymore since i am not economically viable anymore!”

Then, Mr. Tan came to this section:

If the Singaporean Government enacts policies that discriminate against foreign workers and PRs in the midst of an international call for continuing global free trade policies, would it not amount to the protectionist policies that Singapore must avoid?

Mr. Tan said: “So these are the protectionist policies that Singapore must avoid.  But must Singapore avoid protectionism?  The argument is not good, in that it accepts what the Government says as gospel truth.  If we avoid some kind of protectionism now, then what’s to prevent firms from hiring others who may not cost so much as a Singpaorean would expect?  Then what would happen to Singaporeans?  That the Government says that we must avoid this policy doesn’t mean that the policy is per se sound. It would be unwise to accept such a statement as it is as truth.  Protectionism must be expressed to a certain extent, because this is politics, not some textbook exercise you can use.  The opinion of the people should matter, but are we treated as if our opinions matter?”

I am Singaporean XII – Singapore vs. Singapore, Inc. February 11, 2009

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. II.
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Do we live in Singapore, or do we live in Singapore, Inc.?  That’s a question we should slowly begin to ask ourselves.  Are we citizens or are we economic units, to be replaced should we become not so productive due to aging or economic crises?  Is Singapore a company or a country?  These are questions which the political leadership, and more importantly the people, should be asking themselves.

Personally, i feel that the only reason Singapore can be considered a country is because so many people call it home.  A place where family is, and damned be the Government.  That is the only reason Singapore still qualifies as a country.  But look around you – apart from your family and friends, is Singapore home?  Why are we always pointing our our own deficiencies, especially in the non-elite class?  The commoners are not reproducing enough, the commoners are rude, the commoners are not creative enough, etc.

Also, why is there the perception amongst the ruling elite that punishments are the most effective way of doing things?  Why is fear such an important tool in Singapore, a country first-world in some aspects and third-world in others?  More importantly, why are we, human beings, people who is someone’s son and someone’s friend, why are we dehumanised into economic units?  A company definitely looks at people as economical machines, replaceable at any time should something go wrong.  It’s cold, mechanical, but oh-so-efficient.  But isn’t that what the Government has been aiming for?  Efficiency.  Human potential is to be developed, as long as they reach a certain productivity level.

Singapore, Inc. being the physical realisation of Singapore shows itself too when one particular NMP said that we should go back to the 6-day week, since we aren’t reproducing anyway.  Is it an informed decision to revert?  I doubt so.  This guy seems to be talking through his ass without much regard for the consequences.  What will happen to the reproduction rate when the 6-day week begins again (because the workload, which has been compressed into 5 days, is definitely not going to be reduced)?  More importantly, is this punishment for the failure of the policy?  If it is, why are WE being punished and not the policymakers?

When leaders begin to think almost entirely for the whole in terms of economical survival, abstracting from the many individuals which make up this body…is this not an obvious sign that we are living in more Singapore, Inc. than Singapore?  Even more so, when these leaders are supposed to represent the people who put them there!  Then there’s this thing with Khaw Boon Wan saying that the old could go off to Malaysia to retire.  Again, it’s like a company – if you’re of no more economical use to the country, off you go.  We don’t really want you anymore.  Economical progress at all costs – isn’t this also how a company is run?

Is this the way we run a country, when we tell the old, who have spent years working for the country, to simply Shut Up and Fuck Off?  So that space is made for fresh young blood?  I understand that the old must be replaced by the young.  But removing citizens who have contributed to society for other more economically viable individuals just sounds like the way a company would do things.  Where is the appreciation of the old?  We are told to appreciate the old and all that they have done for us.  In that case, why doesn’t the Government acknowledge all that has been done for us by the generation which is now too old to find work, preferring instead to ship them off to Malaysia?

You can’t just rely on filial piety when the country company doesn’t show piety to its older citizens.  Who do they worship then, a certain superoctagenarian who still looms over high with lightning bolts?  I would rather go live in a foreign country where i am appreciated when i am old, and not simply shipped off somewhere else when i can’t afford to live in my home country anymore.  The very reason why the Government will not build accomodation for the old is an economical one – it will slow Singapore’s economical development!  What a scandal!

Singapore or Singapore, Inc.?  The reader should decide.  And the next time some politician complains about how Singapore has no culture, no identity…how the values today are so eroded that we don’t take care of our old anymore – Hypocrisy, thy name is you.

I am Singaporean XI – Objectivity and Self-Regulation February 6, 2009

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.
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In the aftermath of someone burning someone else in Singapore, a certain Rear-Admiral has showed his dismay at the “lack of self-regulation” in the blogosphere.  How tragic.  His worldview of things in Singapore, namely that everything functions like clockwork and that dissension is put down by a lightning bolt must be shattered.  Indeed, he felt that the blogosphere did too little to rebut some of the flaming which took place.

So what is self-regulation?  While i do not condone the flaming attack, i too did not do “my part” in refuting the barrage of comments supporting Ong Kah Chua.  And why did i not do it?  Because there is no point in refuting people who are expressing their feelings.  What’s more, is not the glowing adoration of the victim in the State’s Times enough?  It is true that Seng Han Thong’s plight is a pitiable one.  But if you will read what some of the residents of his constituency said, you will also realise that there is not much sympathy for him.  Why are all the top-level personnel visiting him and hardly anyone from his own constituency?  Faced with such evidence, with what would you expect someone who wishes to refute them to actually refute them?

What the RADM wants to have is objectivity in the Internet, self-regulation, accountability and balance.

On Objectivity.  This criterion is one of the most problematic.  It’s no secret that the PAP controls the press indirectly and has consolidated its power by systematically keeping the Opposition weak.  Naturally, they, being the powers that be, have the right to declare what they subjectively see as a party to be what objectively is the case.  But is it?  Objectivity, in our Rear-Admiral’s definition, means objectivity perhaps the way the State’s Times publishes its news.  Well-researched.  Accountable.  But again, with the caveat: it is indirectly politically-controlled.

Indeed, doesn’t objectivity come from having both pro and contra?  Objectivity means literally from the ‘viewpoint of the object as it is’ – just because you have power doesn’t mean that your view is objective.  Objectivity comes from pluralism.  (Or at least, it’s a way of minimising subjectivity.)  It has always been easy to see the Internet as a dangerous place, because people there are oh-so-hostile.  But now that there are well-written, logical pieces (i refer you here and here) speaking against or asking for reflection on the side of the powers that be, is not a form of objectivity being produced?  Objectivity in the PAP sense is not pure objectivity.

On self-regulation.  In what sense of the word do we want self-regulation?  Are we supposed to rebut every comment extolling Ong Kah Chua because of the lack of objectivity and the fact that what he did was deplorable?  As a blogger, we can argue, but we cannot convince one to change his beliefs.  This isn’t the State’s Times, where letters are rejected.  Indeed, when it comes to accountability, the online news sites are a lot more accountable than the MSM.  People ask why their comments were removed.  Can you ask the State’s Times why your letter wasn’t featured?

Everyone has a right to saying what he wants on the net.  Self-regulation à la the Rear-Admiral would make the Net like the State’s Times.  If our RADM wants self-regulation, he could start with Stomp, where anything and everything is put up.  If he looked at Stomp, actually, he probably would marvel at how different the Net is compared to what the MSM tried to make the Net into – a lawless place where anything and everything can be said.  It is true that you can’t say anything you want on the Net.  But you can surely say a damn lot of stuff.  But do we sensationalise couples we interpret to be making out on buses, like Stomp does, and then getting them into a lot of trouble?  The Net has self-regulation, just not the way our RADM would prefer it, which is MSM-esque.

Part II follows!