08 November 2006

An echoless ravine

Raising interest in politics among young Singaporeans is an uphill task, especially when we either forget or distort our own history of student activism. Full essay.


Anonymous said...

Interesting essay.

If you study only the textbooks you will only know that the students caused Singapore hundreds of man hours in $ and that they are Communists.

Anyway, in this age, where Politics is restricted to those High-Fliers and MIW, what else can the people do but ignore Politic Life altogether.

Quote: Yawning Bread
The young Singaporeans don't believe them, but even more dishearteningly, they don't believe in themselves.

Hmm, in my opinion most young Singaporeans believe in themselves but they also know politics is a OB-marker.

Anonymous said...

a brilliant article, you completely "nutshelled" it. i half wonder if the government is in fact cognisant of this strange irony and if they are intentionally perpetuating this sorry state of affairs. if so, it is clear they fear us more than they let up.

KiWeTO said...


i have to disagree. Most SG students don't know what to believe about themselves. (and in desperation, cling to scoring grades as the primary marker of self-confidence.).

Having spent 2 fruitless years trying to awaken my fellow SMU students to why they should represent themselves, take action on their own behalf, and not to just run to the emperor for handouts, the truth is, the conditioning imposed from primary level (lack of class participation in selection of prefects, and other acts of rewards from high), means that by the time they reach university, instead of being ready to explore all possible options available to them in life, they end up doing the endless rounds of low-grade-phobia.

There just isn't enough mental room for the less gradable to seek individual success in. (if you're not good enough grade-wise, u won't get the best jobs... but what is a 'best job'?! pay-wise? single factor measurement?)

Such wonderful conditioning our country has made in us. Deprogramming it will take much much more than a simple university matriculation card.

The whole system needs a rethink. Unfortunately, since everyone thinks the same (and dissenters are considered disloyal), the rethink will be a complete circle, and no progress is ever made.

C'est la vie. We get what our forefathers pact(ed) for. Economics in exchange for self-determinition. Truly, a communistic system devoted to the greater good (of somebody, not everybody).


budak said...

Not only politics, but a fair portion of youths (12-30s) seem to have little in them other than life as one big party/entertainment source/fix.... stuff like the environment, socio-economic policies, anything that isn't directly related to pop-culture, and you get a blank of non-comprehension. That said, this subgroup could simply be the most 'obvious' group of youths on the street; there could be lots more young people quietly involved in pursuits according to their own calling.

Anonymous said...

it is simply a case of "you guys know it all; so you can do it all"; whether PAP intended it, their elitist process produced this result

Anonymous said...

This is a very insightful article.

My generation is indeed an apathetic bunch. The number of friends I know that simply to many to remember. This is of course no thanks to so many years of social conditioning.

However, i feel that since the last GE, there has been a slight wind of change. Perhaps it self-selection, but I noticed the emergence of more young Singaporeans commenting about singapore socio-political scene in their blogs.

Somehow, I feel that the government initiatives in making people speak up is not going to work. It come across to me as just wayang. Perhaps a bottoms up approach, without government interference, might be more effective.

Anonymous said...

if they want to be taken seriously, they can start by actually taking some of the suggestions made by bloggers and implementing them, or at least, put them up at some forums for discussion, instead of only looking out for negative examples and knocking them down

Anonymous said...

It is very important of people like you--mature,think deep and independent,write well,with good knowledge and experiences in history of the country--to write as more as possible of S'pore history with the civil/people angle point of view.
In fact I have long been seeking for such things to happen,independent(meaning the people) writing of our history with an independent point of view WITHOUT FEAR.
U should be able to know from my writing that I'm not an English ed. and for what I know this hope is absolutely impossible from the Chinese ed.circle--which could be the most suffered "victims" of our history.If there are a group of people like u to investigate/research and disclosed more of the facts in this country,even just providing a different and deeper angle of interpretations, would do very much help to those unable to know more(not neccesary to be the young) as well as the country.
We should be grateful to have citizen like you and I like to express my respect to u.
Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

So far, Singapore students share their thoughts on blogs. I just don't see it happenning as long as MM is still alive.

Anonymous said...

he might be around for a long time,
and because of this, his son is
seen as not fully in power; so it
is not just the young singaporeans
who are affected by his presence

Ronald Lim said...

Hi everyone.

I found myself very fascinated by this article and the perspective it brought. I gained my political awareness only during my undergraduate days here in the US (actually on one of the most activist campuses here).

I just wanted to say that related to this commentary on student activism, there is a bilingual journal entitled Tangent (which you can buy from the shop at Old Parliament House) ...which is a predominantly Chinese-speaking group that seeks to question national issues.

They had an issue one or two years back on the History of the Left in Singapore. In it, they not only re-explored the narrative of ISA detentions of "Chinese-speaking communists" or perceived communist sympathisers, but they also included interviews with former students of the then University of Singapore (including Professor Koh Tai Ann) and re-explored the history/ historical narrative of Singapore's "Left of Centre" (as opposed to the Chinese far-left).

In those days, not only was student activism dynamic, but students cared about the issues of the day, and they were given the space to even go up to ministers to tell them that their policies were wrong. (Meet the minister events on campus were not the fancy things they are now)

Koh Tai Ann also talked about how the scene evolved from her days in the early 60s (which really had the tone/atmosphere of a college in Cambridge) to the radically heated atmosphere when Tan Wah Piow finally came along... and how independence of the university slowly gave way as the PAP government started to send their own people in to take over the reins of the university.(presumably to de-politicise it)

Definitely, look up the issue of "Singapore's of the Left" in the journal "Tangent". You can definitely find it in the bookshop at Old Parliament House.

Anonymous said...

Singaporeans are interested in money and nothing else

Anonymous said...

that's because other things are too risky

StealthEagle said...

I don't know whether the history and laws of the government have something to do with repelling youth away from politics.

Think about the SDP and others, it is very clear that if youth are against the government, they are going to live in hell. No ones want to risk breaking their rice bowl when getting a job is painstaking.

Talk about parents, they have warned them since they were young; if you are against the PAP, they are going to throw you into jail.

I am a politically-aware teenager, no harm saying. Most of my friends are contented with the government, I bet they haven't see the real picture. Look at the Social Studies textbooks, these are good enough to influence them.

One more thing, these teenagers believe that whatever the government does something, it doesn't affect them. What should they care? What is so interesting with politics when they can mind their own business?

If the government ever wants to attract the youth, it has to keep its promise about having a "open society". That means, stop curbing the bloggers and others who want to criticize.