The dust has settled. Its time for an analysis of GE 2006 from a slightly different perspective. Many agree that this elections was a watershed event. Its a watershed for many factors but I wish to highlight some which are close to my heart.
First, GE 2006 has demonstrated how the Net, how blogosphere can help in the most crucial part of any socety's progress along the road of democratisation. The awakening of the people. That critical initial spark which makes a difference in a person's life. A sense of empowerment primarily.
And this awakening has been helped by the ability of the Internet to inform, to analyse and to help spread sound, pictures and film. What the Net does is to create a platform of political learning hitherto unseen in depoliticised Singapore. For the first time in a long while, since the advent of the Newspapers and Broadcasting Acts, which sounded the death knell for competitive media in Singapore, we are seeing political events in Singapore which are not mediated only by the dominant media channels.
The mediation this time round is shared with the local Net community, despite the laws and regulations, whether or not the political masters, bureaucrats, media bigwigs like it. The monopoly on political mediation by the dominant media has been forcibly removed. By sheer numbers. Sheer momentum. Sheer will.
And what a difference that makes.
The plurality of online opinions was a breathtaking change in local political discourse. No longer do we need to rely on the Chua Mui Hoongs to dictate political discourse in Singapore. We have credible enough Singaporeans who articulate alternative viewpoints just as eloquently and probably with more feeling. Just take a look at some of the comments in my less than perfect, less than coherent entries. These are intelligent Singaporeans who have their opinions and who are willing to listen to others as well.
For the MICA or IDA officers performing the study on Internet during GE 2006. Read this well since you drop by every day. There may be wild articles, irresponsible allegations during this period but the Net community itself regulates them simply by ignoring them. Because, the audience that surfs the Net for alternative viewpoints consists of discerning and not an agglomerate of naive individuals. Only the good articles, like the Yawning Bread series, get spread with speed across cyberspace. Only pictures which are withheld from mainstream media get hungrily devoured by cyberspace. The un-credible creates a stir and is quickly debunked by a community intelligent enough and well versed in cyberspace reflexes to detect it.
And GE 2006 is a watershed because of the number of political awakenings this free-er flow of information created. I have personally read countless blogs by young Singaporeans and talked to many an apathetic and jaded Singaporean who felt the sense of possibilities that GE 2006 opened in them. This is perhaps the most priceless relic of GE 2006. This awakened sense that there are political possibilities in Singapore. That life is not a meaningless trot from cradle to grave. Beyond family, beyond materialism, the Singaporean needs to feel a sense of citizenry. And this GE 2006, I know for sure, created this sense of citizenry, for however brief a period, for supporters of both ruling and opposition parties.
Why for sure?
I see the Governmental responses in Gomez-Gate, the shift in the dominant party's discourse through the campaigning period, the concession that the Net needs to be studied, and I know that the ruling party has been taken aback by GE 2006. Shaken, but it does not mean they fear. Shaken to a degree that they have taken notice. And when they take notice, it means something fundamental in Singapore society has changed. The catalyst is GE 2006. The ruling party perhaps understood that the Singaporean citizens they were always seeking to cultivate, to nurture were being born in political rallies in the physical world and in discursive events in the cyber-world.
Take Gomez-Gate as an indication of this subtle shift in Government awareness. On 8 May, the PM does not know what happened to Gomez after Elections Department lodged the police report. A few days later, Police probably completes their investigations and refers the case to AGC. And the AGC calls off the case and issues a stern warning instead. The founding father of Singapore, who has spearheaded the failed campaign strategy of archetyping Gomez as the Opposition bogeyman, issues a statement from the PRC asserting his continued belief and his non-compromising stance. If the founding father of Singapore, the politician consumnate, issues such a statement which indicts Gomez and in so doing, contains veiled contempt at the institutional failure to prosecute Gomez, it can only mean that there was one person in the Singapore Government who declined to act on his advice and his belief.
This decision to issue Gomez a warning and not finish him off, is a sign and an indicator of the Singapore Government, under the current Prime Minister, understanding that GE 2006 was a watershed event :
That the strategy as dictated by the founding father cannot work into the long-term without severely damaging the already shaken credibility of the ruling party.
That there was a significant loss of media preponderance and perhaps even an awareness of a widening disillusionment within the dominat media's journalists as well.
That there was a disjuncture with a significant portion of the citizens of Singapore. With Singaporeans who were increasingly finding that the Opposition was making more sense as policy issues were raised again and again in rallies which were heavily attended.
All the above translates to something positive for the Singaporean.
When you really speak up, when you really step out, you make a difference. A plurality of narratives and discourse.
Keep this sense of awakening in you. Remember the white nights of freedom. And await the day when those nights of freedom dawn into a new era.
For the quotes of the day, look no further than the comments in the previous entry. Each has a point, and in their aggregation lies democracy's heart. I highlight the few lines which captured my imagination and in which a non response would be remiss.
Zyn -- Yes. Do not abandon reason and logic. Consider this : the State wields Reason and Logic backed by Law. Citizens who use reason and logic only, more often than not, fail in their challenge because of Law. NKF is a clear example. The recourse is to use reason and logic backed by passion, fuelled by emotion. As the tenor in your comment itself translates into. That sense of utter wrong-ness. Law and Ethics in Singapore is not completely symmetrical.
SgClassics -- At the core of power is a fear of its loss. Once power reaches this condition, it slips into the defensive. And when it is at the defensive, it consumes itself in fear.
Dsong -- The remnants of belief and despair, the relics of hope are like parables. Parables are the remains of stories. Stories lost, stories silenced. These parables, like anagrams, once sorted into place, continue the transmission of the message. A message bound by ethics. And for that we bear witness.
Gayle -- Yes there will be a branding and we should not help it. But consider this possibility. What if the branding and the categorisation is always be there? No matter how reasonable you are? The infamous journalist forum, the countless tertiary forums with LKY, it always results in the same "branding". A brand which is a wound and a silencing. And dignity is further lost when after the branding comes the silencing which translates to the following words : "You will grow up and all will be fine in Singapore and you will realise the folly of your youth."
Parkaboy : ahhh, you need to blog again. You strike the heart of the matter.
as you would also know , it is forgetting that we remember.
On the contrary their appeal is to the deeply irrational, the part of Singapore that holds LKY (and PAP with him) to be a sort of totem without whom we cannot prosper - to the part of Singapore that thinks SG will automatically descend into anarchy if the opposition comes into power
It is with none other than reason that we must approach Singapore politics, because Singaporeans, for all their flaws, are a down-to-earth, reasonable people. And it is only with reason, and logic, that we can fight the subjective and powerful law that the PAP has put in place.
Sweet Singapore. Where the harsh Sun shines brillantly, iradescently, where the wrinkled smile and crooked teeth of the old man drinking his black coffee warms my heart more than the most beautiful postcard of any beach in California. Even if that same old man will vote the PAP. Injustice continues, because the truth is hidden, concealed. Yes, xenoboy, reason and logic is not the way to approach matters - but only, only because their truth, their truth is not the truth of peace, it is the truth of power.
Already the government seeks to brand us as emotional, hotheaded, irrational, unpragmatic, idealistic youths who are jeopardizing our society. I don't think we should allow them too much ammunition with which they could make it seem like they are right.
But appealing to reason will not suffice to change Singapore of the minds of Singaporeans. Argumentation and pihlosophy rarely tell us things about who to be, about what ends to have, that we do not already know: it is narrative, it is experience, it is encountering the inner lives of others, that does. Vision is not a product of logic.
Yes, in the silent chasm between reason and unreason, in the remnant of belief and despair, we must not sleep and cannot but continue to bear witness.