Singapore is a small country. In many ways, it is affected by and dependent upon events happening in the wider world. As such, I whole heartedly agree with PM Lee when he says that Singaporeans should also look outwards at what is happening globally to get a better perspective on issues.
This ability to look beyond our borders is in tandem with an increasingly globalised world as developments in technology tears down old geographical barriers. The market place is now wider than ever before and to truly take advantage of this, we need to possess an international outlook. It is therefore vital that Singaporeans keep abreast with international news and reflect on how such global issues can affect us.
It would seem, however, that PM Lee fears that “Singaporeans are not paying enough attention to what’s happening outside of Singapore, as more people are getting their news not from reading newspapers or watching the television news…but from one another or through the social media.”
Increasingly Singaporeans feel that they are no longer getting objective and thought provoking information from the mainstream media. Frustration with the standard of news reporting is on the high. In the absence of such stimuli, Singaporeans will naturally gravitate to other means – one such outlet being social media where they can bounce ideas off like minded individuals and enter into robust discussion. Perhaps one of the key contributors as to why Singaporeans are turning to one another and social media is because they are not getting what they need from the newspapers and television news that they currently have at their disposal?
With Singapore’s history of suing foreign news magazines and outlets for defamation, it is unsurprising that any publications that are deemed kosher are heavily censored. With the local media perceived as a government mouthpiece and foreign publications muted, Singaporeans will naturally gravitate towards a more vigorous source – one another and social media.
While PM Lee’s observations on the need for more global perspectives is true, we need to do more to address the causes of this phenomenon of Singaporeans turning to social media and each other. There is no point in identifying the illness without also pinpointing the cause.
It is also curious that PM Lee has mentioned the need to look beyond Singapore but in the same vein defend the government’s position in banning the film “To Singapore with Love”. If global perspectives is what we need, why not give Singaporeans a chance to listen to Singaporeans outside Singapore?
Singaporeans are more well-travelled than before and their appetite for varied news and information is larger than yesteryears. For Singaporeans to pay attention to newspapers and television news, the content of such television news and newspapers must also reflect that change. People need a variety of viewpoints with which to make up their minds. It seems contradictory to observe that Singaporeans need to pay more attention to wider world affairs but yet deny them the access to a movie that could provide a global perspective to our country.
As director Tan Pin Pin has said, “…this film is shot entirely outside the country, in the belief that we can learn something about ourselves by adopting, both literally and figuratively, an external view.” How can we be asked to have an external view when an external view of ourselves is denied? Surely any understanding of the external world and how it relates to us stems first from how we perceive ourselves from an external perspective?
On the one hand, we are being sent the message that we should take a greater interest on the wider world but on the other hand we are being told that we are not clever enough process information and make up our own minds – is that not a contradiction in terms?