Much as we like to keep things black and white, life just isn’t that — rather it is the many shades of grey between it that represents reality. But perhaps it is the incessant need to be efficient, to pigeon hole people or situations to keep things “easy”, to keep the wheels of capitalism and production turning, that causes us to take a binary view of things causing attitudes like “you are either for us or against us”. That it would appear, is the Singapore way.
For the government, perhaps, this is an easy way to simplify the way it rules. You are either our supporter or you are a rebel rouser. It is as if questioning the way things are done is itself an act of rebellion and an act of disunity when in reality, a question is just that, a question.
One doesn’t have to be against the government just for asking a question. Neither does one need to have a solution before one is entitled to ask a question. A question may highlight an issue and kick start an honest discussion which in turn leads to a solution.
As the saying goes, don’t shoot the messenger. Take former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong as an example. He famously hit back hard at writer Catherine Lim for comments she had made, hinting that she was not patriotic for so doing.
Now take the current COVID-19 situation as an example. There have been remarks levied at Facebook posts and alternative news website posts for comments in relation to how the government has been handling the crisis.
Some netizens appear to simplistically think that by querying something or commenting on how something can be improved upon is somehow bringing about disunity? Surely, unity does not equate to blind adherence and dogma? One can be appreciative but also ask questions.
In other words, one does not equate the other.
Besides, it is important to note that while the government has handled the COVID-19 situation well compared to many other countries in the world, we also have to remember that our government ministers are paid far above and beyond what their counterparts are being paid.
So perhaps it can be said that they are earning their keep? Praise where praise is due of course but praise has to be measured and balanced. Remembering how much they are paid in line with the jobs that they do is important.
And let us not forget how many people spoke out against the government’s advisory against the general public wearing mask and attacked online by pro-government internet trolls for going against the official narrative, only to be proven right after months later, just before Singapore saw its highest daily increase of 142 confirmed COVID-19 infection cases yesterday.
Perhaps it is the way patriotism is inculcated into our entire lives from the national day songs to slogans such as #SGUnited which have parallels with communist slogans that appear to call for unity no matter what, no questions asked.
Is this the subtext we have been inundated with all our lives such that even appearing to have doubts raises an internal red flag? Certainly, food for thought.