Don’t equate lack of strident views with political apathy

Mr Ng Eng Heng made those famous remarks at Confluence 2007 as reported by Cassandra Chew (ST, 22 Jul 2007). He gave the example of a grassroots leader who devotes three nights a week for the past 30 years to community service as being more politically involved than someone who writes a letter to voice out issues. The question is, how can one dedicated community leader represent political involvement by the community? How many examples of such dedicated people can we find and what fraction of our population do they represent?

Secondly, how much do we know of their purpose for volunteering at grassroots activities? So that their kids can have priority for enrolment in famous schools? So that they can rub shoulders with the influential? Why don’t they volunteer at the school for the handicapped or the old folks homes for example? Volunteerism with welfare groups cannot possibly come with any perks so we cannot doubt the sincerity of those volunteers. The same cannot be said of political volunteers with the PAP. On the other hand, when someone writes to question the decisions and choices made by the government, he does so at great risks to himself with no associated benefits whatsoever. As such, we cannot doubt the true concern he has for the issues that he is writing about.

Thirdly, even if we manage to cultivate the entire population to become like the exemplary community leader to serve a single party much like the whole of Nazi Germany serving Hitler for example, what does that prove? We would have proven to have become mindless subjects serving the whims and fancies of a self serving leader. That would indeed be the ultimate demise for Singapore. For the difference between some grassroots leaders and writers debating on issues is that the former gladly accepts everything as good and right without question whereas the latter actually thinks for himself and does not take anything at face value, which is the difference between blind political allegiance and political awareness.

Lastly, Mr Ng pointed out that there are many Singaporeans in top universities as proof that we are not politically apathetic. But which country has the most number of students in top foreign universities? Wouldn’t that be China? So what have we proven again? That we’re as politically apathetic as communist China?


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