A very encouraging letter from a Singapore student Tan Jun Yang.
Thank you very much Jun Yang.
Saturday, November 7, 2009 1:30 PM
From: "tan jun yang"
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hello mr gopalan nair, i'm just writing to you just because i enjoy writing this (:
i've read your blog forawhile and its been very insightful and i've especially enjoyed your direct challenges towards leeky such as the middle finger you dealt him and the "i'm calling shit(the sg government), shit. and what can you do about it?". i've gotten a lot of material from your blog which i use to blast the sg govt to my friends, on my blog, and recently, when i wrote a gp essay on conformity in singapore. i've talked to a lot of my friends who agree that singapore's authoritarian leadership and conformist society is creating the very same economic, social and political problems that they whine a lot about during national day rally speeches. Ahh, i know i'm merely repeating what you already know, but i think you'd be interested to read my perspective on singapore anyway and i hope you enjoy it (: (you're also very welcome to post it...infact, i know a lot of what i write in this post, you already know, and its actually directed more towards the people who read your blog)
tharman shanmugaratnam (incidentally his 3 sons are my friends!) pointed out in some speech of his that singapore are good at producing managers and workers, but not entrepreneurs, business leaders and innovators. The reason is very simple, Singaporeans are taught to conform, to obey, to follow. maangers and workers and robots are good at following and obeying, but only original, independent, non-coforming individuals can be leaders and innovators. many of the "intellectuals" or "talents" that come out from the sg system are inclined to leave singapore (brain drain). Why? Singapore is safe, secure, and supposedly one of the economically wealthiest countries. But such a system is created through fear and conformity with little regard for individual expression and all humans desire to free. Those who can leave, do so.
the insane drive for economic growth and the fear-controlled, conformist system has created a ridiculusly unhappy nation. i take the bus everyday and i see unhappy, long faces with dull, blank eyes. I'm a student and everywhere, i can see my schoolmates living lives of fear and stress (of the a levels) at the age of merely eighteen! And if you google Singapore are the unhappiest people, you'll find many websites and reports that certify that Singapore is one of the unhappiest places to live in. Its not a social problem measured in crime rates, but felt and seen on an intangible but very real manner. there is a heaviness in the step of Singaporeans and faces that sparkle with aliveness and joy are few.
but of course there are TANGIBLE social problems in singapore. you have poor, homeless people, struggling to survive by selling tissue packets(i walk past whenever i go to the mrt). the singapore media channel 8 has shown families that struggle to survive, struggle to feed their families, parents who cannot afford to educate their children. in these shows, the plight of these families are only exposed because the shows are concerned with showing how a group of volunteers aid the poor and needy rather than criticisng the government for the plight of these people. however, they still expose the tip of the iceberg - that there are people abandoned by the system, left to struggle and writhe in poverty and pain.
the plight of the poor are ignored, and justified by the government line that "we don't want people to rely on hand-outs and lose their incentive to work" translation -> if you don't work, you don't deserve to live. the insane drive for economic growth comes at the expense of abandoning the poor and homeless. I wish to see a singapore that cares for every other citizen, not a singapore blinded by the mad drive for economic "prosperity" that only those at the top enjoy (we have one of the worst gini-coefficients, a measure of income inequality, in singapore_
singapore mainstream media harks on two political problems; the lack of a strong political opposition and the political apathy of youths(of course there are other issues like the lack of freedom of speech etc but those are already obvious and i'll be merely regurgitating what everyone knows). awfully ironic and hypocritical is the singapore mainstream media talking about how there is a lack of strong political opposition when they're the ones who made it this way. through selective, biased, state-controlled reporting, they slander and demonise the opposition unfairly (often in very bad and unenjoyable prose but what can we expect from conforming robots). Their masters, the PAP, persecute political dissidents, thus engendering the fear of opposing the government into the citizenry.
youths pick up and inherit the fear and conformity from the society which they've been brought up. they see the bankruptycy and ridicule of chee soon juan and jeyaretnam, they see the authoritarian leadership of the pap government; some of them are brainwashed by the mainstream media, those that see past it are too scared to voice it out. where is the energy for "political activity" going to come when our youths cannot or dare not to agitate for political change which they want to see? there's a niggling fear as i write this, a part of me asks me to "check" myself, but to a large extent, i no longer fear or care.
the arrogance of the pap (here's an excerpt from something i posted on my blog awhile ago)
one piece that really epitomised the retardedness of the straits times as this article which tried to give credit to the HOME TEAM for playing the extremely important role of giving information to the malaysian police and congratulated the HOME TEAM for the successful capture of mas selemat by malaysia. any decent newspaper should be sarcastically mocking the HOME TEAM and saying how lucky they are that malaysia has saved their fucking ass, but instead, the straits times attempts to make the obvious, least-they-could-do act of giving information to the malaysian police into a profound, strategically complex manoeveur that was instrumental in the capture of a terrorist.
when you take taxpayer's money and you give it back to them because you fucked up the economy and created a system whereby when an economy is fucked, people will find it hard to even feed themselves, you don't act generous, you don't act like you're some noble, kindly govt that cares for the people and that we should all be grateful. the people gave them the money, its the least you can do to give it back when you fucked up so badly they need it back
you lose a shitload in investments, you fucking apologize, you don't turn around and tell us to be grateful that you're helping singaporeans. what the fuck, you're paid to run the country, and if you can't do it, fucking shoot yourself and admit that you suck. why don't the governemnt and all the ministers take out their personal savings and distribute it to the poor and homeless. THAT would be something that deserves our gratitude. not taking our money, get paid for taking it and losing it, and then tell us to be grateful for screwing up.
my way forward
i have my own take on how singapore is going to progress into a better nation. i always see you exhorting us to stand up and start a peaceful protest and i think that could work, but its something that must be "inspired". for instance, when i bitch about the sg govt on my blog or to my friends, i don't force myself to talk about it. somehow, the conversation just flows to the topic of the sg govt, or i suddenly feel compelled to do it. at that moment, it feels "right" for me to do it. i can imagine that an individual protesting by himself, getting taken away by the police, and then all the people who watch the police do that become even more fearful of agitating for change. on the other hand, an individual may be walkin randomly around orchard road and suddenly, he feels the tenseness, the unhappiness of the singaporeans around him, an atmosphere of disobedience ready to erupt, and then starts to protest and then the people around him quickly join him.
inner change is the most important
external actions like peaceful protests and demonstrations are helpful, but they are only a reflection of the inner character of a person. educating people, "spreading the word", is useful, but real change has to come from the inside. i know this sounds all spiritual and doo-dah but it makes a hell lot of sense to me. people are unhappy and upset, they want change, but they aren't taking action to effect change because they are scared to do so. if, on the inside, they grasped the courage necessary agitate for what they believed in, change would come very quickly.
similarly, i used to have a fear, a fear which made me mince my criticisms towards the singapore government. now, the fear is still there, but at a negligible level. in the past, i'd never dared to criticise my school and the government in public, but in a recent student forum in my school, i criticised the school's policy of denying students meaningful participation in school policies and how that was inimical to the creation of a sense of belonging to a school. I drew a parallel to our school's administration to the civil administration, and said "...i know the singapore government treats its citizens like kids, but maybe there's why the people don't feel a sense of belonging to this school" i said in to the whole auditorium of students and i knew i just said something that they all knew in their hearts but didn't dare to explicitly say it. I changed on the inside and that was reflected in my external actions, and i think any real change in singapore depends on whether we change collectively, from a fear-driven nation to a populace that acts based on a sense of justice and love.
government is not our enemy. we are our own enemies.
I don't want to "demonise" the singapore government because i don't think that will do us any good. there's no point in blaming other people. if we want to look for the perpetators, we only have to look at ourselves in the mirror. the government can rule through fear and conformity because we, the people, let them. Hell, we VOTED them in. i don't want to see the collapse of the government, i don't want veangeance or "justice". I just want to see a better, friendlier, saner Singapore with a government that learns to respect its citizens and not treat them as..."kids".
courage inspires courage!
i believe courage inspires courage! your courage in criticising singapore's government has inspired me and many other people to become more courageous as well.
Now, i invite you to post my letter on your blog (er, if you want to of course (: ). And the person who wrote this letter, despite living in singapore, is not afraid to announce who he is despite being aware that the cronies of the singapore government read this blog. The person who wrote this letter goes by the name Tan Jun Yang and studies in Hwa Chong Institution. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope that this will encourage everyone else to become more...er...courageous, not in criticising the government, but in being true to themselves, expressing what they believe in rather than conforming because they're scared and cause the PAP said so.
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