A New Way Forward, Fists Forward?

Update: About 20 minutes after posting this, news erupted that this had happened. I will be posting a second part to this piece shortly.

The nation waited with bated breath to see what our ruling party would emerge with after the much-anticipated party convention this Sunday. Titled “Our New Way Forward, A Call to Action”, the People’s Action Party was set to define among its cadres how it would tackle the challenges it — the PAP, not Singapore — faces.

They emerged with 8 points (link).

  1. Dedicate themselves to serving the nation and advancing the well-being and interests of Singaporeans.
  2. Strengthen the Singaporean identity, where people of different races, religions and backgrounds live harmoniously together for a better Singapore.
  3. Create opportunities for all Singaporeans to build a better life.
  4. Called for sustaining a vibrant economy, enabling quality jobs and improving living standards for all.
  5. Uphold an open and meritocratic system, so that everyone has opportunities to fulfil his or her potential.
  6. Strive to preserve social mobility so that all Singaporeans, regardless of social backgrounds, can achieve success in diverse fields through their efforts.
  7. Build a fair and just society, where the benefits of progress are shared with all Singaporean
  8. Resolved to be a responsive and responsible government — responsive to tackle immediate challenges, and responsible to look beyond the immediate and create long term, sustained success for Singapore.

In short, the party resolved to do everything exactly what it has resolved to do since 1959 (give or take a few communists here and there).

Given that it’s a party convention and it is not election season, this was not a time to create a manifesto or debate policy, I get that. It was a time to affirm its core values, which it has. It was also a time to acknowledge its challenges and internally decide how it can evolve to meet them. It appears they chose the path of taking on those challenges — head on.

It’s a little puzzling that the mouthpiece chosen to address exactly this should be that shining light of the PAP’s fourth-generation politician, Chan Chun Sing.

Our political process is addicted to our military men turned Prime Ministers and top leaders, which is all well and good (well, not really but that’s another story for another day), until you realise that military men never lose their uniforms.

Chan Chun Sing wants to do battle. On every street corner. Every cyberspace corner. In mass media. Social media. And so forth (link). With you. What’s more, he will not concede the space — physical or cyber. At all. Just before that he was saying the PAP had to improve its communications…

What’s wrong with this picture here?

Vocabulary is everything. Thus far our leaders have demonstrated an outsized inability to understand just how they don’t understand the media. Used to owning the message right through to the last soundbite through old forms of media control, that ship has long sailed and they do not understand they are no longer even on the boat. Their ministers struggle to explain themselves, even with well-meaning messages. Politicians of all people should understand the importance of the soundbite. The difference that vocabulary makes. Instead we parade the lack of charisma and military style buffoonery to be hallmarks of Singapore governance: is it because if someone isn’t slick and sophisticated, we should believe him more?

I don’t need Mr Chan to be sleek. I just don’t want to have to do battle with him. I’m not going to win. All he has to do is feed me army food and I will concede defeat.

I’m just a concerned young citizen of this great nation who wants to know if they have any ideas about how they are going to evolve as a party which is quite frankly losing its sheen. Perhaps even its ideas. I want them to concede the space. Move over somewhere and let the other guy talk. Maybe not even the other guy, that may be too much to ask of them for the time being — let some other guy talk. Like the guy who doesn’t want to fight me on the street corner.

I’m not yet convinced that they are completely irrelevant. But I am alarmed by where they are going. For a start I would like them to wean themselves off their addiction to legal action against private citizens who have something to say. That’s not a fight they’re spoiling for; that’s a long-range missile against people who only have fruit to throw at you.

I was hoping to hear more introspection rather than more of the same. The one thing they got right: they must improve their communications.

Because quite frankly I am tired of being told that I read it all wrong*, they didn’t really mean it that way, their words were taken out of context — I sometimes wish they went back to the good old days when they actually knew how to control the media. Now they just look like bumbling idiots.

* Someone, somewhere, is going to say that ‘battle’ was just a figure of speech, probably after the ‘netizens’ howl about it. I stand my ground. Say what you mean, pick neutral words, try not to put down anyone while you’re doing it, and if you’re getting it wrong again just read a dictionary.

  • maenadery

    I think it comes with the overemphasis on Science and Maths over the Humanities. For anyone who has ever asked, “what’s the point of learning Literature?”, well, this is exactly it! We have so many misunderstood ministers who make a statement to the press and then have to scramble to correct themselves because they just don’t understand that words have nuances to them that shades their meaning. But they might, if they’d just taken classes in Practical Criticism.