By Siok Khoon Kent
I first saw Amos Yee in his video on Lee Kuan Yew. Watched the first one minute and decided it didn’t deserve my time, as I do not believe in shouting for change.
The second time I saw Amos was in person. Something I didn’t expect. He was charged & out on bail. His parents & a family friend have been looking for a mentor.
Hearing the first few lines of conversation I had with his father, Amos’ whole being lighted up. He expected to hear the “same old shit” and was surprised by my unconventional content and approach. He became alive and curious, and asked many questions.
He is undoubtedly one of the most advanced thinkers of his times. Seldom do I come across a 16 year old who is so hungry for the real juice of life. He is clearly not the average in-the-box kid. He had his awareness tuned into the many questionable issues around him, dropped out of school, and has found himself an outlet for expression via video production.
He inspired me to want to know more about him. I finally got past the first minute of his LKY video, and couldn’t help but acknowledge his talents and endeavor.
I, on the other hand, inspired him to take better care of himself, which he did, enthusiastically juicing the next day. And when I met him the next time, he was more clear headed, composed, and centered with a healthy zest for life. He was also motivated enough to get into a water fast, which he did, for I think 4-5 days.
Witnessing Amos’ transformation within these couple of days convinced me that this young person is truly deserving of the highest care & nurture. I was privileged to witness first-hand, his interaction and dynamics with his parents, and see how he dealt with his predicament throughout this period, and if you were in my position, you would see that although Amos has a lot of reality to catch up, he is potentially, a gift for Singapore.
Amos’ parents have long been crying for help with their special child. This is a child so smart that school was a bore to him. He has a mind of his own, and is brutally honest and outspoken. His originality may seem outrageous at first, but not without clear thinking and sensitivity. Not many people can get past his arrogant demeanor to see the genius in him.
I’ve also observed that Amos is not just an angry or violent child who has nothing to do but vent, he has found his world in creative pursuits. Just like Bill Maher who has found a place for his provocative comments, here is Amos daring to be himself & trying to find a place in the world. Here is someone who has a grandiose ambition, and he knows it can be backed by his genius and honesty.
Yes, Amos may have a lot of reality to catch up, a lot of growing up to do, but I truly admire this 16 year old who dares to show his face to the world.
To think that the government is suing and silencing this young person, for whatever reasons, I can’t help but think that any symptomatic treatment will be in vain. Suppression has never led to the path of true healing.
I was glad that offers of help came to Amos, but at the same time, I saw what a precarious situation he has gotten himself into. I guess only real life experiences will teach him what he needed to learn.
So, I told Amos that I won’t even donate one cent to him. He was surprised.
“Why?” he asked.
I said, “Not to this Amos. You are a slave to your own need for freedom.”
He disagreed, of course, but circumstances didn’t allow us to finish our conversation.
While I push Amos to reckon with the outer reality and to look at himself more intensely, I think it’s also time that our society take stock of our patterns of thoughts that may have worked in the past but no longer serving us.
We have been so used to stability for so long, that any seemingly new, opposite or outrageous thoughts and behavior are simply seen as a threat to societal stability and harmony. The danger is in jumping too quickly into conclusion, and judging someone we don’t understand as a “criminal”, a “terrorist”, an “extremist”, an “outcast”, “insane” etc., and oh yes, call the police quick.
Has this become the modus operandi of our society?
Towards a Healing Society
Most societies have a tough penal system to handle “troublemakers”.
Instead of punishing, the rehabilitative and humanistic approach of the world famous Norway prison reform has certainly made a statement by its world’s lowest recidivism rate.
There’s much to learn from this healing system that treats every criminal as ahuman being. And by genuinely demonstrating respect, trust and love, it has done more to help not only the inmates, but society as a whole. A win win situation for all.
I have been thinking about this in the light of how the public sees Amos Yee as a troublemaker and trying to stop him by shouting back at him, parenting him and policing him.
When I first saw his video, by the first couple of seconds, I decided to shut it off and chose not to be “harassed”. But apparently, he has touched a very sensitive part of people that sparked many to silence him and request for his repentance.
All these seemed to have fallen on a deaf ear. Suppression only seemed to have made Amos more determined to fight for his own freedom of speech.
Just by being aware of this situation puts us all in a very powerful position to shape the future of Amos & many more Amoses to come.
When I first met Amos, he was suspecting that his parents must have conspired with me to try to counsel him into pleading guilty. I told him whether to plead guilty or not is a decision he has to make for himself. I only want to help him take better care of himself so he can make a wise decision. My suggestion was for him to go by himself and fast for a couple of days, and learn to mind his own business. However, in the heat of all that is happening, it has only gotten him into a survival mode, and not a healing mode.
I read on Facebook about a tribe in Africa who has an amazing custom to deal with trouble makers:
“When one of the members makes a mistake, the entire tribe surrounds him/her for two days, they speak of the great things that member has done. It is their belief that humans are good at heart and that we all seek security, love, peace and happiness. However, in this pursuit, we sometimes make mistakes and when that happens, the tribe unites to reconnect that member with his/her real nature. This tribe’s greeting is SAWUBONA, or I value you, I respect you, you are important to me. And the reply is SIKHONA or so I exist for you.”
Wow, what a reality they have built for themselves, and it reminded me that all of us do play an important part in the making and healing of our society.
This article was first published siokkhoonkent.tumblr.com and was given permission to reproduce the write up.