Thursday, May 05, 2005

Where is the Fertile Land?

Where is the Fertile land?

There was a small debate in the past on civil societies and partisan politics. One argued that civil societies should nourish first before partisan politics could develop. The other argued that partisan politics has to take the lead.

I was quiet throughout the whole debate and pondering on the points made. This happened months ago and it is only until now, I realize what is more important.

I have always had this idea that our greatest opponent, is not the media, neither it is PAP, but it is the “mindset” of Singaporeans in general. It is the mindset that has been groomed within the social engineered environment over the past decades.

Recently, the casino debate has led me to revisit this topic of civil society vs partisan politics. I have spent time to ponder over the argument again and I have finally come to my own conclusions.

Partisan politics cannot strive in a land of “political desert”. This “political desert” is formed by the apathy of the population, in Singapore’s context, it’s the “mindset”, the mindset of “materialism” which is easily bought over by little goodies of HDB upgrading, ERS, NSS and nothing else matters. Sometimes, we may have “desert storms” whereby the voters will put up “protest votes” against PAP, not that they like or support the opposition parties. But these “desert storms” are easily subdued by materialistic considerations. There are some oasis out there, but otherwise, the whole political outlook is basically a dry desert with no fertile soil for partisan politics to grow.

Civil or civic societies are the rivers and fertilizers needed to change this political desert into fertile soil for partisan politics to grow. These societies should act as catalysts to the awakening of the population in terms of social-political consciousness. We may have some civil or civic societies registered in Singapore but it seems that their sphere of influence in terms of outreach is limited by the resources as well as the media blockade of their views and activities.

Some Civic or Civil societies have defunct or de-registered themselves in the past years. It is natural for Singapore government to view these societies with distrust, terming them as “opponents” out to create trouble. Think Centre has suffered such cold shoulder attitude and even forced to be registered as a political entity. This has further limited their effectiveness as it curbs their source of financial funding.

Civic society like The Tangent has confined itself to writing to newspaper forum pages, having closed forums and publishing their annual book on various forums and articles. It seems that it is contended to be an “elite” grouping instead of taking the effort to make further public outreach. The development of civil/civic societies is in dismay in the sense that they are not functioning as a channel to bring fore the needed social-political consciousness to the population.

Partisan politics cannot grow or develop if there is no fertile soil on this land. And it seems that we will have a long way before we could develop a more balanced political system via building up the alternative platform.

We used to have a very vibrant partisan political landscape in Singapore due to the many self-help groups in the community. Political awareness and consciousness were high after the struggle we have had with the Japanese Occupation, British Colonists and Communists. When PAP came into power, after the humiliating failure of the merger with Malaysia, it had forcefully eradicated all its opponents and subdued dissidents in every spectrums of Singapore. The present political desert is the direct result of such rule.

Whether such apathy could be reversed is up to anyone’s guess. In my view, only an active citizenry via civil or civic societies’ participation, could we rebuild the lost fertile soil of democracy.

It is ironic for someone like me who has gone through these years and many months of partisan political engagement to finally realize that what we are doing is “building castles in the air”. Well, not exactly, but building castles without sufficient pilings. It is so because we have neither the foundation nor fundamental support from a political desert in Singapore. Even if opposition parties managed to win a few more seats this time round, this is just due to the unhappiness against PAP's policies. These "protest votes" will not help Singapore to mature into a more balanced democracy but it is ironically, demonstrated the inadequacy of our social-political consciousness.

Is it the time for me to do a reverse gear and contribute my time and effort in organizing civil society? Or should I actively encourage more people to take up this role while I continue on my political struggle? It is a crossroad I have to cross.

1 comment:

Huichieh said...

Trackback: From a Singapore Angle, "Thoughtful..."

(Sorry for the delay, slipped my mind because I read this first on The Void Deck. Sort of a spin-off from your comments at Redrown's)