Never too early to be conned in politics

I refer to the 30 Sept 2015 Straits Times letter “Never too early to learn about politics” by 16 year old student Yeo Jen-Lin.

Jen-Lin wrote:

In the lead-up to the recent general election, my parents took me to rallies held by the People’s Action Party, Singapore Democratic Party, Singaporeans First and Workers’ Party.

They wanted me to hear and see for myself what policies and values the parties promoted and represented.

A month before going to the rallies, I accompanied my father and his friend to a few Meet-the-People sessions.

Again, my parents wanted me to experience being “on the ground”, to know the everyday problems faced by some of the middle- and working-class Singaporeans, and to develop empathy for others.

These were eye-opening experiences.

It was evident from the rallies that many people wished to listen to what the opposition had to say.

The large crowds at the opposition rallies, however, did not translate into votes in the end. This was an important takeaway for me, as social media did not seem to reflect that.

Having witnessed the everyday problems faced by Singaporeans, Jen-Lin should ask himself whether or not government policies are working fine and whether alternative policies might better address those problems.

Jen-Lin should not mistake large crowds at opposition rallies as indication that many people wish to listen to what the opposition has to say because the crowds never amount to anything more than 10,000 which is only a tiny fraction of the 1.2 million voting population.

The fact that social media doesn’t reflect overall voters’ choice doesn’t mean that social media is therefore wrong because history has shown that it is possible for the majority of the population to be wrong as had happened in wartime Germany and Japan.

Jen-Lin wrote:

It is vital that Singapore youth keep abreast of the local political scene, as it will soon be their turn to vote.

Having knowledge of local politics, and some awareness of regional and global current affairs, will help us make informed decisions based on balanced perspectives.

We cannot simply stay in our comfort zone and rely on social media for information and perspectives.

As far as possible, we should be involved with our community.

In this way, we can learn what is happening on the ground in Singapore.

How does Jen-Lin ensure that his understanding of regional and global current affairs would necessarily be balanced since most commentaries on such events come from traditional mass media which is controlled by the government?

Even something as innocuous as community involvement may subconsciously colour Jen-Lin’s political perspectives as government politics has infiltrated many community organisations. Even religious organisations and churches have openly declared support for PAP and are no longer neutral.

Against such odds, Jen-Lin should ask himself whether or not it is healthy for Singapore politics that opposition voice is largely confined to social media which is severely underfunded, limited in reach and cannot compete with traditional mass media. Does Jen-Lin ever wonder why would a government whose policies are so flawless and defensible have the need to exclude opposition criticisms from traditional mass media?

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