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Thursday, August 13, 2009

8:22 - The Hypocritical Oath

8.22pm, 9th August 2009 – A moment of no real significance for our nation. But, as trumpeted by the mainstream media, it was ‘the universal pledge moment’. A moment of ‘significance’ manufactured out of thin air. An insignificant point in time artificially grafted onto the nation’s collective consciousness.

10am – That would have been my preferred time. 10am – The moment that the independence of Singapore was proclaimed on the steps of the City Hall.

Wouldn’t that be more significant? Wouldn’t we at least have a greater historical sense of what we were doing when we took the pledge? Wouldn’t it be emotionally significant to those old enough to recall where they were and how they felt at the precise moment of independence?

As with the general plasticity of many things in Singapore, the 8.22pm moment was just another plastic moment. Well, it doesn’t really matter in the end what time the pledge was taken. The larger question that we should ask is how many of those that took the pledge at that appointed time meant what they said?

If you watched the parade on tv, you would have seen a short ‘preamble’ appear on the screen……. ‘say what you mean. Mean what you say.’ I really hope that the citizens of Singapore taking the pledge on that day said what they meant and meant what they said.

My challenge to the pledge takers is this. Ponder very carefully on what you pledged. You pledged…(amongst other things)....

…. to build a democratic society based on justice and equality….

How have you helped to build such a society? Do we have such a society? What can we do to live up to our pledge?

What does it mean to say that a society is democratic? Is democracy defined by the conduct of elections? If the electoral process does not involve a level playing field, does it warrant being termed as being reflective of democracy? If the ballot is cast without an informed choice, is that democratic? Is it democratic to group constituencies together thereby shielding potentially weak candidates from electoral fire? Or even to use such a system to allow candidates that may have otherwise lost their seats to nevertheless become representatives of constituencies where they do not enjoy majority support? Is that democratic?

What is the meaning of justice? What do we mean by equality? Do we have due process in all instances? Or can we be arbitrarily classified as a security threat and incarcerated indefinitely? Do we enjoy equal treatment or does political persuasion play a part in decision making by the authorities?

These are questions that we have to ask ourselves.
If you believe that we do have a democratic society based on justice and equality, good for you. Blessed are the ignorant.
If you do not believe that we have a democratic society based on justice and equality, then you have to consider what is the peaceful and constructive way to accomplish such a society. You have to do this in order to live up to the pledge.
However, if you do not believe that we have a democratic society based on justice and equality and do not think that you need to even ponder about how such a society can be accomplished, but nevertheless gleefully took the pledge, you are a hypocrite!

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said and a good challenge. But I fear majority who said the pledge that day merely uttered it. Sigh...

Anonymous said...

http://theonlinecitizen.com/2009/08/our-hope-for-singapore-activists-speak-up/

these people meant it when they said the pledge on 9 Aug 2009 thought ;)

Anonymous said...

Dear friend, have a read of this, if you haven't yet-

Lee Kuan Yew on Race, Culture, Genes: http://www3.ntu.edu.sg/lib/ne/lky/raceculturegenes.pdf

Gerald Giam said...

Equality - What kind of lip service are we paying to the concept of equality, when our income divide is one of the largest in the world? We don't have a minimum wage, except for Ministers (minimum $1 million), while poor old people who have exhausted their meagre CPF savings are still being made to pay for their expensive medication and public transport.

Subra said...

Yes, Gerald.
I have to agree with you that the socio-economic stratification of our society is an important issue to be dealt with in pursuance of the pledge.

To Anon: I have read that piece before. Thanks for reminding me of it though and it is especially timely in the light of MM's comments about the Pledge.

Anonymous said...

I think that a subtle but valuable understanding that the well-intentioned leaders of Singapore are failing to grasp in dealing with the issue of creating a national identity is the need for a sense of history. If history is treated with contempt and neglect, then Singapore is merely going to be a place in a route and not a place of roots. As you've rightly stated, the pledge timing had to have historical significance, which it didn't. The leaders seem to rely on materialistic ideas of national identity - you give people material comfort and that'll somehow make them loyal to the country.

Anonymous said...

The above comment was by me

~ Vinod

Anonymous said...

Interestingly. there seems to be a link between affluence and citizenship resonsibilities in developing countries. Indian middle class and the wealthy chinese middle class display the same can't-give-a-damn attitude about the ethics in the governance of the country that Singaporeans, who are comparatively an affluence lot, display.
~ Vinod
~ Vinod

Anonymous said...

Singaporeans may find this interesting - the Chinese middle class' form of protest marches in a country where permits are required for marches ;)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/25/AR2008012503500.html

~ Vinod

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