Post-election thoughts & notes

So I am exhausted.

I actually wrote this more than a week ago but decided to let it ‘cool’ for a while before publishing it.

As someone who tires easily even from shopping mall crowds, attending a rally at Serangoon Stadium and the supporters’ gathering at Hougang Stadium really knocked half of my life out of my already weak body. I kept telling myself, that this only happens once in five years.

In the end, it was all worth it. It was priceless to be part of the group of people – all 72k+ of us – united in a common purpose. Part of the victory speech delivered by the new Hougang MP, Yaw Shin Leong, said that the Hougang people knew that their vote held nationalistic importance. This to me, held a lot of power, but I am personally unsure if they truly voted because they understood the weight of their vote or if it was out of plain loyalty or anger.

But at the fundamental root of politics, isn’t it very personal? Ultimately perhaps one may not understand the true power of the vote, perhaps that resident simply loves Mr Low Thia Khiang – to me, that is enough. You want a leader you can respect, that applies to every level of our lives. You want to respect your parents, your colleagues, your bosses. Not fear.

I understand the concept of duality, that sometimes it is necessary to have unfortunate events for human beings to display their true potential. If the incumbent didn’t upset so many people in different ways, would we be initiated into thinking deeper?

Nobody can say that you’re not interested in politics. That it doesn’t affect you. Are you an animal lover? Then perhaps you should think about the state of animal welfare in Singapore. Are you in the Arts? Then, think about the media censorship policies and distribution of grants. Who are the leaders of these organisations? How are policies being formed? Are they formed by people who truly care about their respective areas?

I hope for the future of Singapore, we can set aside some time out of our busy schedules to ask more questions.

A few significant points I want to note:

  • Still wondering about the geographical significance of Aljunied GRC, previously in different incarnations of Cheng San GRC & Eunos GRC. This area has been hotly contested wards for the past few elections. I am curious to know if there is any reasoning to the high concentration of pro-opposition voters here.
  • Tensions and emotions running high on social media accounts. I am sure I am not the only one who ran into disagreements with friends because of differing political views. I think personally, I am fine going into debates with pro-incumbent people, as long as they are aware of what they’re supporting. For example, if you’re personally fine with the incumbent despite their oppressive nature (i.e. locking people up without trial and suing independent news agencies, controlling the state media, refusing to give clear statements of accounts to ex-Presidents, etc), then perhaps you just have a different set of values in the sense that you may favour stability over other things. Which is fine to me. I just find it difficult to stomach people supporting the incumbent literally blindly. Oh well.
  • The “Facebook is not for political discussion” people. So a couple of my friends got very annoyed with the FB streams getting filled up with GE updates (not only from me). I don’t know what to say (lol). If our social media accounts are not for self-expression, I don’t know what is. Hmm. I guess their annoyance are is their own form of self expression. I just don’t understand why we can be tolerant of American Idol, pictures-of-the-branded-goods-I-have-bought, but it is not okay to post political updates.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, I am glad to have people telling me they look forward to reading what I had to share. I am grateful.
  • After physically attending a rally, I am surprised by the profiles of the pro-opposition people. You see people from all walks of life, no longer the perceived dissidents. A very memorable moment for me was seeing a well-dressed family of three, father, mother and young daughter, suddenly breaking into chants in excitement, waving blue flags, jumping up and down.
  • Very encouraged by the quality of writing going around. Yes, there are the crappy articles and noise. But hey, we had nothing to read for the past few decades except the Straits Times and The New Paper. Be grateful! ;P I understand the need for quality, rational discourse but as a young nation, we need to start from somewhere.
  • Heartened by several celebs taking a very clear political stand. Eg. Neo Swee Lin & Lim Kay Siu.
  • Was impressed by the quality of speeches given by the lower profile opposition candidates. Eg. Lee Li Lian, Png Eng Huat from WP, Michelle Lee from SDP.
  • Not sure why the victory of Aljunied was already confirmed by 12 midnight and yet they waited till 2am to announce it on national TV. Many of us were camped out at Hougang stadium since 8pm, after waiting for 6 hours we were denied a chance to spend more time celebrating with our candidates. That was a major disappointment for me.
  • I remain in hope that we can have political diversity, still be tolerant towards one another, that the welfare & economic growth do not have to be mutually exclusive, that voters can make empowered choices. Not blind ones.

Why I do my best for the elections

I admit I do have a mildly obsessive nature. I don’t know if you can put mildly and obsessive in the same sentence. This sort of nature has served me well when I am in any learning process. Whether was it learning Photoshop, building my first PC or trying to build my first website. When I really want to do something, I have to do it, or I can’t let it rest.

So I’m not afraid to admit I’m slightly obsessed with the elections in Singapore. Perhaps there’s a thin line between obsession and passion. Not to the point that I go to rallies physically (I’m crowd phobic actually) but I monitor my twitter stream and Facebook feed like every 5 minutes. I retweet links, share my own thoughts, selecting quotes to display and basically disseminate as much information I can.

Someone told me I shouldn’t be obsessed. Hmm. After feeling suppressed my entire life, I don’t think I can oppress myself any further. I feel that this may be the same case for many people. Having to put up with threats and fear all our lives, from every single level you can imagine – the government, the authorities, our teachers, parents, etc – now that we can actually have some self-expression, of course there’s tons of noise being generated!

I felt a little guilty, because I am like ignoring all other aspects of my life. I do whatever I can for my work, but other than that, I’ve stopped watching tv, stopped doing pretty much everything else. I paused for a while and questioned myself if what I was doing was right.

Then I realised, hey, I’m just taking 10 days out of 4 years to do my best as a Singaporean. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. Sorry if you’ve been a neglected friend, or irritated friends and followers on my social media accounts. Please feel free to block me or whatever, but I cannot stop expressing my views freely.

I’ve been writing the same in several blog posts, I want to be the change I want. So if I cannot stand for elections myself, I will do everything in my capacity to disseminate information. I will speak, loud and clear. I want to preserve my own voice. I want to set an example for our future generations, that they too, can and should have their own voices.

I am proud to be a human being with a lot of heart, so by natural extension, I want to be part of a country with heart as well. I want to have a leader who inspires me. I mean, if you safe and secure types like having those kind of leaders, I respect your choice. But please don’t try and tell me that I should be happy being safe and secure. I like living on the edges. I may be considered radical, I do not know, it really depends on which school of thought you belong to. Perhaps Singapore would eventually prove to be economically unviable to have that sort of leadership that possesses empathy with the commonfolk, but I would like to try.

It is like choosing a lifetime partner, a career route. People keep telling me what I should choose. I am genuinely sick of that. I just want to make choices based on my own preferences, can I? I don’t care if I am naive or idealistic because this is the way I have been living and this is the way I like myself best. With lots of heart. With ideals. With passion. With a genuine desire to push for change. Not only for myself but for the kids of future generations. They need love, nurturing and ideals, not 16 hour school days with school bags that weigh 5kg. They should walk around with fire in the eyes, not with a glazed look and detachment from everything.

They can choose to fall down themselves, make a few mistakes, but we shouldn’t sabotage them.

You know, sometimes I ask myself. Why do I bother? I mean, I’ll just work hard, save up a considerable sum, find a country that suits my ideals, and live there for the rest of my life. Why do I bother myself with what happens to the future generations?

I have no concrete answer. All I can say is, that it pains me to see clones of me walking around. Thinking there’s no hope to be doing what you love.

Can I live with myself not doing anything for these kids even though I know there’s could be some light at the end of the tunnel?

No, I can’t. I can’t bear the thought of just one more person who was on the same self-destructive and self-loathing pathway that I was taking. Because I’ve now had the benefit of hindsight and now I know that it is possible to live authentically and do what you love. It is possible to be a little bit more human. It is possible to have crappy O level results, with no tertiary degree and still be happy.

I wished I had someone tell me that 15 years ago.

I saw a rally speech by Mr Chiam See Tong, he said, that our MM Lee had taken a particular interest in his O level results. He only had five credits. Our MM was asking, if this is the person you want to be holding office. The guy with 5 O level credits, or the one with straight As (*ahem* Mah Bow Tan)?

So this is what we tell our kids. Hey, judge people on the number of As okay?

Mr Chiam said, not in his exact words as I can’t remember – ‘if your mother scold you for your O level results, you can quote me as an example. I had 5 credits but now I am a lawyer. When there is life, there is hope. When there is hope, there is change.’

These are the kind of words our leaders should be telling us. But maybe they can’t. Else we’ll stop being GDP machines.

Why can’t we look at the bigger picture? I can’t help but feel, they don’t want to look at that picture. They know about the poor but they only want to do the minimum effort. They’re not doing a good job of trying to convince us that they make all these decisions because they truly care about the people instead of lining their own pockets.

I saw another quote from SM Goh (youtube video), referring to JBJ, saying that JBJ had fought for welfare, and ‘we were dead against it’. (In this context he must have meant social payouts – perhaps we can’t have payouts but I definitely believe we can do more for the poor since we are so f*cking rich.)

Now I see. Rich people live happily ever after and it is okay to leave the poor behind.

I as an individual, rather not have the glamour of YOG and rather spend that 400 million trying to help our poor. Where are our priorities?

Yeah okay, if Singapore wants to be an efficient country with strong GDP, casinos and children with glazed eyes…..and if like some of my friends seem very uncomfortable that the stability of our country is now being threatened by democracy, that you tell them about the poor, the injustice of the ISA, but it doesn’t matter to them as long as their pockets are full….

Then maybe it is really just me. I can’t be part of this place. If one day, I’ve tried my best and the country takes a turn for the worse in terms of human spirit, I’ll not hesitate to pack up and leave. At least I have given my all.

p.s. dedicating this to the people who has been telling me I should be grateful that Singapore is safe, secure and stable. Please be grateful all you want, I have spent my life hating myself because I was trying to be safe, secure and stable. I want to have more heart, and if that comes at the price of my safety, stability and security, I’ll gladly exchange my life for it. I, just want to be myself and express my own preferences.

Why voting for the opposition means a lot to me

I’ve been trying to express my views on twitter but I guess that micro-format doesn’t put my words in context and it makes me seem like I’m so insecure, xenophobic person.

If you know me personally as a friend, u’ll know this to be untrue. I cannot be proud of much but I am definitely one of those who will actually speak up for our foreign workers and talent. I certainly don’t like picking on people based on stereotypes and the country they come from. To me, it is very simple, don’t do to people what you don’t wish to be done to you. I don’t like being stereotyped, why should I do the same?

Anyway, I will clarify my position once and for all, and hopefully, those people who care enough will read.

1. I don’t have issues with foreigners.

We are all immigrants. How many of us can claim to have aboriginal ancestors? Perhaps I do think the population number needs to be managed, but that’s because Singapore is feeling like it is about to burst its seams any moment.

2. The education of our youth

The reason why we depend a lot (I mean, a lot) on foreign talent, especially in the tech sector, is because there’s not many local talents around. If this is true, then why are we not examining why? I’m constantly being asked to refer good independent designers. Oh come on. Why do talented designers go ‘freelance’ or independent here when the standards of living are so high, and in all seriousness, most clients here do not want to pay for quality? They ask for free pitches and mockups, GeBiz is setting the best example for this. Ask any design agency. How would an independent designer survive here?

In all honesty, if not because I have an international client base, as well as an increasing number of tech startups who are willing to pay for quality (though still rare), I myself wouldn’t have survived. In fact, I am having issues trying to afford my rent and pursue my goals at the same time.

I can probably write another 10,000 word essay on education, but I don’t want to dilute the points I am trying to make here. However, it is a fact that we’re encouraged to have a herd mentality from young. We’re taught to pride academic success. We’re conditioned into thinking that having money and security is more important than anything else. So, can anybody tell me why we have a lack of talent here? It all stems down from the roots, isn’t it?

3. The Internal Security Act

Along with many other people, I was not aware of how unjust this was until very recently. I am appalled. I am also upset that we were deprived this part of Singapore’s history. Why? Google “Operation Spectrum”.

‎”You dun care because you dun have friends who were imprisoned without trial for doing social work and helping the poor,” I replied. “You dun have friends who cannot come home to Singapore, you dun have friends who were made bankrupt and had their lives destroyed by the PAP government.” (source)

4. Public Housing

Okay, being pragmatic. I don’t expect Singapore’s property prices to be affordable because we really don’t have much land. That’s fine. I can accept that because I am unmarried, I have to work harder in order to either purchase my own resale HDB flat when I am 35, or expensive private property. But I cannot accept Public Housing prices being pegged to market prices because public housing are precisely for people who cannot afford property otherwise. I can’t help but think, what are they trying to achieve here? Make people work very hard so that they cannot do anything else?

5. Ministers’ Salaries

I don’t feel comfortable when I found out *all* our ministers earn at least 1.57m, more than Barack Obama, who has to take shit on a per-minute basis. But I can perhaps learn to accept that if this is what it takes to have a non-corrupt government. What I cannot accept, is there are tons of under-performing ministers drawing that sort of salaries! They want to compare our ministers to CEOs, sure. CEOs definitely have to justify their performances to the board. Who do our ministers justify themselves to? They all belong to one party and I cannot help but feel like they’re all shielding each other. Even the ones who don’t perform. Can you imagine that happening in a proper board? This may as well be a family-run business!

6. GRCs

Redrawing boundaries to dilute the opposition is just not cool. Why can’t we just have a fairfight? If the PAP are truly capable, why do they have to resort to such tactics?

7. State of animal welfare

If you are into animal welfare in Singapore, you’ll know there isn’t much effort from the government. Then again, they’re deemed to be lacking in human welfare, so I guess we can’t even talk about animals. I struggle to call us a progressed society.

8. Personal reasons

I would say that growing up here made me depressed and suicidal. And that it is very painful to be not part of the mainstream. It is not funny at all when you’re insulted, looked down upon on a frequent basis because of academic non-success. My own mother thought of me as a disappointment. I was not accepted for the child I was. I survived it all, but I wonder, does it have to be this way for other kids like me? And it is not even about being gay. It is not buying into the whole ‘Straight As’ concept. Why can’t our individuality be celebrated? We suppress our kids’ individualities, then go proclaim a foreigner’s individuality as ‘talent’.

This is personal and biased, I am not afraid to say. Perhaps some other kid less emotionally sensitive wouldn’t be suicidal, I wouldn’t know. But I do know of other young people who have become either detached, or they just try to numb themselves with substance abuse. These are not delinquents, but truly bright minds, albeit emotionally sensitive.

I would also like to add, if not for the horribly inflated housing prices, I would be travelling around the world right now, exposing myself to different cultures and learning as I go along. I would also have more time for the non-profit work I am doing. I just find it difficult to stomach that people with a heart are forced to be concerned over survival when they can be spending their time over more meaningful issues.

I earn a comfortable income, but I am not comfortable at all. I don’t even drink and party. 60% of my income (if I work my ass off) goes to rent. If that is the case for me, I shudder to think of the genuinely poor. Three years ago, a small HDB flat would have cost 1.2k to rent. Now it is about 2k and upwards, depending on location. This only intensified during the past two years. Why?

The rich are indeed very comfortable here. The poor are getting poorer. We’re performing strongly economically, but the people are suffering.

At what expense, I would like to ask. All for our GDP.

I am not saying that the Opposition will do better. But let’s give them a chance before threatening the voters that the value of their flats will become worthless. Can’t PAP talk in concrete terms, exactly how they will ‘take care of us’? Why do they have to make it sound like we’re voting for the mafia? If the Opposition is shit, let time tell. But based on my personal observation in Parliament, I’ll take Sylvia Lim, Chiam See Tong, Low Thia Kiang, over 90% of PAP MPs anytime. Most of them don’t even bother to debate on national issues. Those who do, get silenced into submission.

As a human being with integrity, it is difficult to support a party that jailed people without trials and sued people into bankruptcy.

Can we have a government who truly cares about the people? That is all I ask for. And not have our leaders think of us like animals. I’ll leave you with this quote to chew on:

“I have always thought that humanity was animal-like,” he says. “The Confucian theory was man could be improved, but I’m not sure he can be. He can be trained, he can be disciplined.” – MM Lee (source)