By Jamie Shum

Psychiatrist Dr Ang Yong Guan knows fear best. Wearing his new hat as a political candidate for the Progress Singapore Party, the media darling for mental health says it categorically — after 60 years of indoctrination, our fears of the government are real but irrational.

If Dr Ang is right, then we are not voting in confidence the best candidate to serve us, but voting in fear that they don’t do us in.

Nonetheless, fear is a major theme this GE, especially when the COVID-19 virus is non-discriminatory and affects all lives. This means fear is not the sole domain of the common man. This also means that if any government is going to push for a strong mandate amid grave uncertainty to take the country through this crisis, then surely we must ask, “How are our leaders responding to fear? Are they courageous enough to beat this?”

American psychotherapist Miriam Greenspan says that of all the dark emotions, fear is the most humiliating and condemned. She explains, “The problem with fear is not that we feel it but that we don’t feel it. Fear-avoidance and psychic numbing are common ways of handling fear in a culture that continually triggers this dark emotion and yet shames us for it.”

Did this fear cause the shaming of supermarket hoarders when the country went into DORSCON Orange?

Sociologist Dr Brene Brown adds that instead of feeling our emotions, (including fear) and getting curious, we offload them onto others in anger, blame, making excuses, which are really forms of self protection.

Why is Singapore the only country to call it a circuit breaker when the rest of the world is in a lockdown? Why separate work permit holders/foreign worker dormitory and the community when reporting infections? Why refuse to apologise for the worker dormitory conditions, then tell us not to be alarmed? Why express regret and not apologise for fielding a questionable GE candidate?

Author Mark Twain once wrote that “Courage is the resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear”.

To master fear is to sit easy but strong with the discomfort that you don’t have the answers. It is in this humility that one can lead from their hearts and not from a place of fear.

Elections in Singapore, no matter how it is played, will always be reduced to the fear of the electorate and the vote it produces. Fear cripples and robs even the most educated of logic, reasoning and rationale, and rears its ugliest head during election season. The most well-thought policies and reasoned arguments are no match for this fear. The difference is how holding an election during a pandemic now is exposing the leaders’ own fear too.

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