Reading an article by Augustine Low entitled “Are grumblers losers?”, I wonder if Singaporeans and/or the government of Singapore understand the difference between raising questions and complaining for the sake of it. What Low has said in his article resonated with me because I too have been the subject of “Why you complain so much, you got solution meh? No Solution then don’t talk la.” All of these retorts are premised on the basis that you need to have a solution before you are entitled to raise a concern, however legitimate.
But without questions, will attention ever be drawn to something that requires attention? Even if I don’t have a solution, the fact that I raise it means that I draw awareness to it and with that hopefully, we can generate a debate whereby a solution based on consensus may be formulated?
In Singapore where everything mostly falls into a box to tick, do we struggle with disagreements that may not have an immediate or clear cut solution? Do we ignore a potential problem because there isn’t an immediately clear way to resolve it?
The government has increasingly asked for Singaporeans to think outside the box and be creative but do we have an environment which is conducive? To think outside the box, you first have to identify the issues regardless of whether or not those issues have solutions. It also requires a certain degree of ownership and initiative.
Based on my personal experience and perhaps Low’s, many Singaporeans are unwilling to pick up the mantle to look at potential challenges critically if they do not have an immediate solution. It is a fear driven approach – as if one does not even have a right to ask questions if one does not have the answer. If you never allow yourself to ask the question, you never give yourself or others a chance to better the situation and you accept status quo not because you necessarily believe it is the best but because you are afraid to even let yourself explore other possibilities for fear of not having the right or better answers.
Even former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong has echoed this type of sentiment where he implied that for one to comment on politics, he or she has to be part of a political party. Can a lay person not be interested in how his or her country is governed? Do you have to be in a political party to take ownership in your country’s governance? I would have said that it is in everyone’s interest to ask questions about the political situation in their country. They should take an interest given that it concerns all of us. Instead, our government seems to be of the view that if you are not in a political party, you can’t take an interest in politics because it doesn’t concern you. Does this not breed a lack of ownership? Does this insinuate that laypersons do not have the answers or the skill sets to observe and evaluate?
Singaporeans should not be afraid of not having the answers. I doubt the government knows the answers all the time either. However, without asking the questions, the issues cannot be debated and if issues are never discussed, then of course there cannot be a solution – a self fulfilling prophecy. One should never be afraid to ask a question. Raising questions on issues without possessing the solutions is not tantamount to grumbling or complaining. It is simply taking an interest and creating awareness.