Part of this article was taken from a previous article here, for submission to The Straits Times Forum.
The report “A Watershed Election For Youth: SM” (October 30, 2010) by Miss Rachel Chang: Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong is under the impression that young Singaporeans are not appreciative of politics and the General Elections (GE); even though these aspects have considerable consequences on our lives. Yet, has he pondered over the reasons for the proclaimed apathy and lethargy amongst the current generation? Recent instances have reflected that while young citizens might be trying to get their voices heard, affirmation of these perspectives have been far and few between. Even though greater political freedom and liberalisation might bring about a few flies – in the form of vitriol and inflammatory remarks or activities – they would certainly pale in comparison to the actual benefits of increased dialogue and engagement on the ground.
SM Goh’s call for youths to make a direct difference in Singapore, through politics per se, is a misguided one. For any country to work or prosper, what is also required is a concerted bottom-up approach – in the fields of non-political grassroots engagement, community service, active citizenry et cetera – such that every Singaporean has a role to play. Given that politics is closely intertwined with social-economic concerns, the young’s involvement in Singapore can be diverse and equally – if not more – constructive.
The ruling party likes to refer to the maxim, “change from within” to reaffirm how its members are not simply yes-men, but individuals who have the liberty to challenge policies or initiatives introduced. Yet such measures are clearly insufficient. If an organisation – including a political party – has had a relatively easy ride for an extended period of time, complacency and contentment with the status quo would naturally set in, and its members would often see no need to challenge something that has been working for considerable years. They would much rather relish in the successes of the past and present, and see no necessity to upset the current equilibrium.
Nonetheless, the rapidly globalising world means that: i) political policies for socio-economic reform need to be more dynamic and wholesome, and blind adherence to tried-and-tested methods would not necessarily yield the greatest net result; and ii) the people would no longer willingly rest on their laurels: for the empowerment they are imbued with has galvanised them to have the desire to be seen and heard.
Checks and balances must come from within and without; who knows how much further we might have progressed if the Opposition was given a greater space to stake their claim and present their manifestoes. While the dual-party stalemate in the United States and the United Kingdom should be another extreme that we should shy away from, the incumbent administration must be prepared – yet not fear – the encroachment of a more substantial and credible Opposition. Rather than seeing it as an unfriendly threat, treat it as a much-needed stimulus and form of competition; especially both sides genuinely wish for nothing more than the continued progress and prosperity of our Singapore.