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The Online War

by Lee Yung Hwee

I have been on Facebook for about 10 years and that decade has just quickly flown by.

My participation in Facebook in this decade has always been more on a superficial level of my personal life as I value my privacy with occasions where I would share a little more but I am more of an observer of others and I enjoy sharing humour-related things or articles to help raise a little awareness on certain issues.

I am not an academic, expert nor a public figure. I do not write notes or articles on most matters nor do I write about matters in the area of sociopolitics. But I am a regular Singaporean who has taken deep interest over the years in the direction & policies of our country and also interest in matters that affect Singaporeans. I observe, I listen and I learn.

Since the Budget 2018 has passed, the online vitriol I have witnessed in the past has gotten more rampant with the cries of needing to be heard seemingly reaching new heights. There is unhappiness from all levels of our society.

With this, I feel that it is time for me to write.

But I am not here to write about the budget itself, many have spoken up against it, some have reservations, some applaud it and some are hoping to get their "hongbao" soonest possible. It would serve no further purpose for me to write & repeat on similar matters.

Instead, I am going to write about something else that I see.

There has been an onslaught of issues that have affected the nation in the last few years. From frequent train breakdowns to issues that have left many scratching their heads and the seemingly endless number of hikes which our Government tries to constantly assure everyone that it is manageable for all Singaporeans.

It is increasingly hard to convince myself that we are being really heard or truly cared for as calls are unheeded in the name of "political capital sacrifice". The only real sacrifice I see here is that of our people. Our voices to help determine our country’s future and that of our own have all been sacrificed.

Still, there are many who hold onto blind or good faith that everything will always be done in our interest. Some do not discuss out of fear, some believe nothing can go wrong and many have no interest in such matters.

Then there are those who have a loss of hope and trust after their cries have gone unheard over the years. They feel that they live in darkness and there is no light. They despair and they anger.

And because of this, these factions for the establishment and for the anti-establishment rage war online endlessly.

Civility, respect and rationality in discussions are almost all but gone. Cynicism is strong, with factions thinking that anyone could be from the opposite faction attempting to promote their own factional interests and they attack without much thought. You are either with them or against them.

There is no room to discuss opinions or perspectives.

This stems from the fact that we never had an open platform to openly discuss on matters close to our hearts and with regards to issues or policies that affect this country or us. To many, it is almost a taboo to talk about politics. Many find it pointless to engage now because they feel that no matter what they say, at the end of the day, it will never go their way.

Since the emergence of social media, the people found an opportunity to unleash the pent-up unhappiness and without previous opportunities to openly discuss issues or challenge matters of policy, resulting in the inability to discuss anymore. Attempts to discuss become paralysed; everyone only wants to be heard.

Proponents of both ends have gone to extremes to generate hate and fear online in an attempt to sway the silent majority and to overshadow one another. It is a shouting match, an ugly game of petty politics engaged in tit for tat and mockery.

But in the process, those who have been drawn into this fight, have lost sight and have been consumed by so many emotions which have created this cesspool of hate and fear which turned many away and it has now spilt into the offline world with photos or videos capturing some of these ugliest moments, reflecting the hatred and fear found online.

And I say this to both factions.

To those who are not listening.

When the people are unheard, it leads to desperation;

These cries of desperation result in angst;

In angst, all rationality will be lost;

When rationality is lost, the seeds of blind hatred are sowed;

When blind hatred takes place, chaos ensues;

In this chaos, destruction will eventually take place.

We cannot continue on this destructive path as a country, society and Singaporeans as it erodes everything that this country was once built upon.

Governance is not about imposing your will on the people. Governance is not about holding indefinite political power for your party.

To those who are unheard.

When we are unheard, we do not despair;

We do not use hate to propel ourselves;

Instead, we strengthen with resolve;

With strength, we come to peace with ourselves;

With peace, we channel and focus on the issues with clarity;

With clarity, we use logic, rationality, and the love of our country to bring about change.

We must stand for who we love, what we love and it is our family, friends and this country that we call home that we love.

It is alright to be angry and we have the right to express our emotions, opinions and perspectives but we can do something better with those rights. We can respect each other, engage in civil discussions and we can agree to disagree.

We must not get blinded by hatred or we face self-destruction.

We focus so much on our differences that we forget that we have much in common along with our love for Singapore.

Make no mistake that I am without a temper and I make no mistake that many will disagree with what I have written; many may even doubt my intentions or suspect if I am with either faction.

I am a Singaporean who is deeply concerned with the affairs of our country and fellow Singaporeans. While there was much good there was done for Singapore by the earlier generation of our establishment and civil service, I disagree with some of the current policies, methods of governance and direction of our country today.

But I know we can put our emotions and thoughts to better use, for I know Singaporeans are better people and together, we will make everything better.

I pose this question once made by Martin Luther King to those of you are reading this. Where do we go from here? Chaos or Community?

For the love of Singapore, I say community.

Let’s discuss and do things together.