Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has called the younger generation of voters as a generation that “does not remember.”

Lee was probably expressing his frustrations that younger Singaporeas appeared to have forgotten the efforts of the People’s Action Party in making Singapore what it is today, suggesting lack of gratitude from young Singaporeans.

A letter to a local newspaper went further, chiding young Singaporeans as dependent, spoilt brats who want free HDB flats. Even a foreigner hoping to be a Singapore citizen has weighed in on the issue, claiming that Singaporeans have a “complaining, molly-coddled mindset” and he would gladly swap citizenship with any unhappy Singaporean.

Such sweeping criticisms conveniently, and perhaps deliberately, belittle the younger generation of Singaporeans, conveniently dancing around the important question of understanding why they are unhappy with the current system.

In fact, these sweeping criticisms are warning signs of complacency, of stagnation, of impending decay. Those who made these criticisms of the young appear to be more concerned about not have their boats rocked. Questioning the system that has worked thus far is the act of an ingrate, a deviant, or worse, an infidel.

The younger generation are more critical not because they forgot, but because they have passion and drive to make their home a better one for the future. Woe betide Singapore if its young take comfort in enjoying the fruits of their parents’ work and not labour to cultivate fruits for future generations.

However, what is probably unnerving to the older generation is that the younger generation has appeared to want to chart their future in their own way, not in the way that the older generation wants or prefers. This is most unfortunate.

The world today is different from that of 50 years ago. Back then, the older generation was young, probably brimming with passion, and took on the challenges of their day their way, resulting in the success Singapore has today.

But alas, the younger generation today are being chided for wanting to meet the challenges of today their way when conditions are different. The younger generation is being asked to follow the successful formula of the past, as if it were a magical formula that will always work.

The older generation of Singaporeans created a formula that worked for them. Younger Singaporeans are increasingly seeing that this formula isn’t working for them and they want to create their own formula for their generation, only be have cold water poured on them. Why should the younger generation today be denied the chance to seek their own destiny to secure their own future?

Perhaps the real generation that did not remember isn’t the younger generation.


Auntie power

Posted: May 2, 2011 in People
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In this elections, Gen-Y voters may be playing a more significant role than in 2006, but the bulk of the votes still lies in the hands of the Gen-X group, and any candidate wishing to win any seat must be able to seal signifcant support of the Gen-X group.

The People’s Action Party appeared to be directing significant attention to the Gen-X group, both positively and negatively, in their election campaigns. On one hand, they remind these Gen-X voters about high flat values and that the government will always share the fruits of economic prosperity through cash handouts every now and then. On the other hand, the PAP also wields a big stick to strike fear into the hearts of Gen X voters by warning of dire consequences should the PAP be voted out.

The PAP has a huge advantage with significant numbers of Gen-X voters using this strategy, especially with the lesser educated homemakers or the so-called “aunties” in Singapore lingo. These “aunties” are not small in numbers, and it is doubtful that these “aunties” are interested in themes such as a first world parliament.

Instead, these aunties are perhaps more concerned with whether the fish or vegetable prices at the wet markets are going up or down, or whether their favourite fried carrot cake or daily cup of morning coffee at the kopitiam stalls downstairs have increased prices. Or they might be worried about whether the world they know, the world in which there’s only the PAP, will collapse should the PAP be voted out.

Political parties should start thinking about what makes these “aunties”  tick and how to get their votes. The PAP has less to worry about because these “aunties” grew up with the PAP and it is probable that in the absence of a good reason, the default choice is likely the PAP.

The non-PAP parties should not underestimate the power of the “aunties”.

The upcoming General Elections 2011 will see much larger numbers of eligible Gen-Y voters since the last elections in 2006.

According to a white paper by the e-Government Leadership Institute, Gen-Y refers to individuals born between 1977 to 1997. For this year’s elections, Gen-Y Singaporeans born between 1977 to 1990 are eligible to vote, making their collective impact on election results even more pronounced than in 2006.

This generation of voters were born after Singapore started prospering economically. Thus, they are generally more educated and more tech savvy compared to the previous generation.

The preceding generation, known as Gen-X, lived through the hard times of the sixties and seventies, and what Singapore is today to Gen-X Singaporeans is almost a godsend, hence their strong support for the People’s Action Party which had brought about what can be said to be an economic miracle.

Gen-Y Singaporeans, however, are a different breed. Politically, they are likely to be much harder to please. Gen-Y Singaporeans, by virtue of the fact that they are more educated, are more independent-minded and demand more from the government than their parents. Economic prosperity is not enough, and Gen-Y Singaporeans probably have a very different idea of economic prosperity compared to their parents.

With costs of living rising faster than wages, Gen-Y Singaporeans will be hard pressed to be convinced that Singapore is prospering economically. Except for the few Gen-Y Singaporeans who either have parents have deep pockets or who have secured scholarships, most end up saddled with a sizable study loan after completing tertiary education.

Then, they are saddled with a large 30-year housing loan that eats away at their retirement savings. There’s probably the renovation loan after getting married and the expensive 10-year car loan some years down the road. It’s no surprise that Gen-Y Singaporeans don’t feel too happy economically.

Socially and politically, Gen-Y Singaporeans, unlike their parents, are no longer contented to leaving things in the hands of the PAP, which has ruled Singapore since it achieved self-government from the British in 1959. Their voices are loud and clear on online platforms, their natural playground as they grew up with the Internet.

Gen-Y Singaporeans are probably a lot more unpredictable than their parents, and political players need to start figuring out what makes the Gen-Y tick, how to connect with them and more importantly, how to get their vote because there will be even more of them in the next elections.

The PAP appeared to have surrendered the courting of Gen-Y Singaporeans to their opponents. Estate upgrades, the rhetoric of fear and government handouts that proved very popular with Gen-X voters do not necessarily work on Gen-Y Singaporeans. The PAP’s attempt at connecting with Gen-Y voters in the form of Tin Pei Ling is a flop compared to the National Solidarity Party’s Nicole Seah.

For GE2011, the increased numbers of Gen-Y voters compared to the previous elections might provide the crucial swing votes that may tip close fights either way.

Fear is perhaps one of the most powerful human emotions. Out of fear, human beings can be made to do certain things they normally would not do, or they can be made not to do things they want to do.

During elections when every vote counts, political parties will use all legitimate means at their disposal to win votes, and that includes using the powerful emotion of fear to influence voter choices.

The political parties trying to dent the People’s Action Party’s stranglehold on political power in Singapore are using fear on a grand scale with their talk about how voting candidates from non-PAP parties constitute sound and necessary political insurance to guard against future failure of the ruling PAP.

The PAP is also engaging in the rhetoric of fear on an equally grand scale, with party honchos warning of dire consequences of voting non-PAP candidates, which include weakening of Singapore’s government and loss of future prosperity because PAP policies had always brought about prosperity for Singapore.

The interesting thing about political rhetoric of fear is that many people get caught up in the rhetoric and do not confront and analyze these fears rationally. The rhetoric is based on certain assumptions, and the validity of these assumptions are generally suspicious.

For example, on the topic of political insurance, the fear that non-PAP political parties, especially the Workers’ Party, are trying to sell is the possible failure of the PAP in future. What are the odds of that happening? The non-PAP political parties are mum about that. The unspoken assumption is that the PAP will eventually fail, so voters should buy political insurance by voting in non-PAP candidates.

The other assumption about voters ‘buying’ political insurance by voting in non-PAP candidates is that these candidates represents sound insurance. How true is that? How can Singaporeans be sure that the non-PAP candidates are good enough to take over? Why bother paying money for insurance that doesn’t protect you? If you have no insurance, you are also unprotected, but at least you keep your money.

The PAP’s rhetoric of fear make no rational sense too. Why is it that a government comprising of non-PAP members equals a weak government? Are there prior examples of incompetent governance by non-PAP political parties? In fact, the only government that Singaporeans know of is the PAP government, so voters have no basis for comparison. Perhaps this is why the PAP wants voters to fear the unknown and then allay the fears using the illogical reason that the PAP doing a good job (which is debatable) means other political parties do a bad job.

Also, Singapore’s democratic system (again, subject to debate) is designed such that incompetent political parties don’t stay in power long enough to do long term damage. If Singaporeans vote a lousy, incompetent political party into power, then out that party goes in the next elections. Which political party fights to get into power only to lose the power in the following elections? All political parties are the same; they want power, and they want to stay in power, and the only way to stay in power is to do a good job when they are given the chance to be in power. There’s no rational reason why a political party other than the PAP will do a bad job.

The argument that the PAP had been successful in the past doesn’t mean that Singaporeans can assume it will be equally successful in the future. The PAP has done a remarkable job bringing Singapore from third-world to first world. Does the experience of moving Singapore from third world to first world means that the PAP has the ability to keep Singapore ahead among first world countries? Moreover, the political leaders of PAP back then, now and in the future are not the same. What rational basis is there for saying that the PAP, under different people and conditions, will always bring about good outcomes for Singaporeans?

To the political parties, as long as they get their votes, they probably do not care about whether they got their vote by scaring voters, or they got their vote by convincing voters rationally. Voters, however, should care about whether they are casting their votes out of fear. It is important for voters to rationally examine the assumptions behind all the rhetoric of fear in order to make an informed decision at the polling booths.

Heaven or hell for the next five years will be decided this year. And if there should be political rhetoric of fear, it should be coming from voters to political parties through their votes to keep these parties on their toes to do the best for electorate.

Political parties should be very, very afraid of the electorate, not the other way round.

Editor’s note:

For a more detailed discussion about which political insurance salesman to buy from, read Fearfully Opinionated’s excellent analysis of the various insurance policies.