What to make of the silent majority?

By Ghui

I read Marcus Wong Zhen Jie’s email to Yahoo! with great interest. Singaporeans engaging in vigorous debate on the matters that affect Singapore is always something to be encouraged.

While I have sympathy for many of Wong’s points, there are some issues, which I would like to take the opportunity to address, if I may. Certainly, Wong is right to point out that any push for a particular agenda without regard for the opinions of others who share the same stratosphere is anathema to the hallmarks of democracy. Such bigotry should of course be roundly condemned. But do Au’s energetic pleas for equal rights fall under the category of riding roughshod over the views of the silent majority?

Firstly, let me clarify that Wong’s letter was by no means antagonistic. It was respectful and well written but I wonder if it is too general to assume that the silent majority are all in favour of the status quo?

Unfortunately, it is human nature to care less for issues that do not directly affect us. So unless we have close gay friends or family members, it is safe to assume that most people get caught up with their lives and are not bothered one way or other. The issue of gay rights do not even factor in Singapore’s collective consciousness. Dare I say, it is only the youngish, the Internet savvy, the growing “social intellectual” demographic and/or those who are vehemently pro or against the so-called “gay agenda” that are actively keyed into the developments of the pink dot movement. So no, I do not agree that the silent majority are in favour of the status quo. I do not care is therefore not the same as I favour.

For any campaign to gain traction there has to be education and publicity. For people to either say yea or neigh, they first have to understand what the movement is all about in the first place. That is what Au is trying to achieve in his many articles and blog posts. Yes, he may have been very impassioned in some of his writings but that is only because he is trying to prove a point and sometimes, hyperbole is useful in driving the message home. Do Au’s impassioned writings constitute a disregard for the views of the silent majority or is it merely an attempt to create awareness and inspire a response? I would think that it is the latter.

Wong asserts that “Mr. Au could do well to remember that this change needs to happen on its own time and not at the will of a few”. Change does not magically happen overnight. It requires tireless work, dogged determination and an undying belief in the cause. For a change to occur there has to be a sustained push for that change to come to past. That, I believe, is all that Au is guilty of.

If the suffragettes had not gone on hunger strikes and fought the arduous fight for women to have the vote, women would still not have the right to vote today. Is that an acceptable status quo? If Martin Luther King had not stood up to the tyranny of racism and died for it, racism would still be the order of the day. Had Nelson Mandela not taken on apartheid and paid the price (being jailed for 27 years), South Africa would still persist in racial segregation and systematic discrimination. Lest we forget, before the brave men and women above mentioned challenged the status quo, these were all regarded as acceptable behaviour! Certainly, no one in the civilised world now believes in these old “status quos”.

Au is entitled to espouse his views and Wong is entitled to disagree with either the message or the way the message is delivered or both. But, the bottom line is this – there is no sin in trying to persuade the silently ambivalent or the apathetic. And if there are those who are aware of these issues and disagree with them, why then are they silent?

If you choose to remain silent, you cannot fault someone who has the moral courage to proudly stand up for what he believes in.