PM Lee in his address to Parliament about the allegations by his two siblings.

Deep sense of learned helplessness prevailing in the nation

by Dr Ang Yong Guan

I sense that there is a deep sense of learned helplessness (evident in the frequent sighing and remarking: “What can we do? They dominate the political space and can do what they want!”) amongst citizens prevailing in the nation.

It doesn’t just affect the 30% to 40% who are the traditional opponents of the current People’s Action Party (PAP) government; many of my friends who were once fencer-sitters or pro-PAP are now disillusioned with a few recent events (e.g. the two younger Lee siblings questioning Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s suitability to be a leader and his abuse of power; taking his nephew to task for making remarks about the judiciary and the coming controversial reserved Elected Presidential election).

Many are doubting PM Lee’s ability in engaging the citizens and clearing their doubts about controversial issues. Instead of addressing these issues openly and objectively, he chose to ignore them; behaving arrogantly like an ostrich burying his head in the sand and believing that as long as he controls the People’s Association with 70% of the voters behind him, there is no need to clear the air about these issues as he will always be assured of their support.

Unlike his father who had to fight his way to reach the top and in the process, was able to actively engage the people, PM Lee, who didn’t have to fight to reach his present top position, seems to lack this ability of active engagement. The problem is further compounded by him being surrounded by ministers who were similarly parachuted in and who too lack the necessary combating skills to offer contrarian views for the building or maintenance of a vibrant nation.

What will learned helplessness lead to in the long run? Anxiety and Depression. To avoid these negative consequences, continue to be aware and to understand these national issues without getting emotionally affected. Contain these negative emotions, be mindful of their presence and continue to lead our usual lives.

We don’t want to be an ostrich ourselves. We want to be well informed and ready when the right time arrives.

This post was first published on Dr Ang’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission