By Visakan Veerasamy
When you surround the enemy
Always allow them an escape route.
They must see that there is
An alternative to death.”
— Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Maybe a few years from now the MDA licensing thing will be remembered as the issue that got bloggers and alt-news agencies coming together against a common threat to have a national conversation of their own.
It might be remembered as a conversation that was inclusive, one where people were engaged in active citizenry in trying to coordinate action and discourse in a way that they desired. Coordinated action to help define Singapore to be what all Singaporeans want it to be, not what the authorities decide is the “right thing”.
I’m not saying that bloggers and alt-news agencies know what is best for Singapore. I’m saying that it’s a broader consensus than what we have right now. I think we should always remember to reach out to the silent, to canvass for opinions and perspectives.
That said, there’s a certain poetic justice to how, in trying to police Singapore and regulate the internet, the MDA is inspiring action that never existed before- inspired a coordinated response that hasn’t been seen in decades.
Yah lah I’m just talking big only. I like to talk big, it makes me feel grand and epic. But what I’m really trying to say here is that I have faith in Singapore, because Singapore is bigger than its government or its authorities, and there are people who are empowered to say “Oy, we won’t stand for this.”
Or something like that lah.
I’m also trying to say I think the MDA is sibeh stupid. Or ultimately genius, in a self-destructive martyr kind of way. They propose a terrible idea, and then piss off the masses enough to inspire a co-ordinated response. Boom, active and engaged citizenry. This is great for Singapore. It just might not be that great for anybody in power right now. But that’s how power works, doesn’t it? The sword of Damocles is always over your head.
I don’t envy the people in positions of authority. But that’s the world we live in. We can’t afford to be sympathetic at the expense of what is best for Singapore- which is something we have to always remember to return to, remember to focus on.
If we forget everything else, let’s focus on that. Who or what is Singapore? And who or what gets to decide what is best for it? What is the best course of action to figure out what is best for our country? These are questions that should be on everybody’s mind all the time, and we have to figure out how to answer them together, as a nation.
This article first appeared on Visakan Veerasamy’s blog, visakanv.com. We thank Visa for allowing us to republish it here.