Some have asked the question on whether or not Singapore is too small a country to have so many political parties and this got me thinking. Are disagreements in politics always a bad thing? Does it always lead to deadlocks, chaos and indecision? Is unity the most important ingredient for a happy and prosperous state?
I suppose the issue is one of balance. It isn’t so much the disagreement but rather, how conflicting opinions are resolved. At the end of the day, both “two heads are better than one” and “too many cooks spoil the broth” are common sayings of wisdom. Do Singaporeans fear conflict for the sake of it? Are we unable or ill-equipped to deal with differences of opinion?
In life, people often disagree. That is just the way it is. We work through our differences and learn a new perspective and that’s just the way life goes. Have we been molded into thinking that conflict is always a bad thing? That order should trump all things? I am not suggesting that total breakdown of government due to chronic tit for tat disagreements for the sake of it is a good thing. All I am wondering is if we are simply fearful of conflict without exploring why we really are. Is this really something we fear or have we been taught to fear it?
In the Singaporean context, “community values” are ingrained in us. We try not to stand out and go along with the majority. We are taught that conflict is a bad thing. However, it is also often through conflict and effective conflict resolution that something new and meaningful is created. In my opinion, this is what Singapore needs.
Often, we have been criticised for being robotic. But perhaps, the reason why we are so “robotic” is because we are so fearful of standing out, so wary of being different and so terrified of conflict. In my opinion, conflict is part of life and conflict resolution an essential life skill which should also be displayed at Parliamentary levels. Stop trying to stop the disagreements. Instead, focus on the best way to manage differences in a way whereby everyone benefits a little. It shouldn’t be a winner takes all system.
Singapore has been a one-party state for so long that we have been conditioned into thinking that cohesion is the norm. But honestly, isn’t that an artificial representation of life?
With many voices in government, more perspectives can be heard. Yes, it may slow down the speed at which projects are pushed through but at this stage, I think that this would be a positive thing. Too many things happen too fast in the blink of an eye. We don’t even know that these huge decisions have been taken until an announcement via the mainstream media tells us so – done deal. Signed, sealed, delivered.
Only time will tell what works best for Singapore but conflict cannot be feared just because. We need to examine what lies behind that fear. Do we fear it simply because we have been conditioned into fearing it.