Random stream of consciousness before I return to more serious work:
Many have suggested that the establishment’s gutter politics and mud-slinging (see Lianhe Zaobao; see Lawrence Wong; see Vivian Balakrishnan etc. etc.) is in bad taste and will ultimately backfire. Friends and I have written about how we’d like to see more constructive debate and dialogue.
But I guess we may be all missing the point. The PAP has probably figured that its best strategy is a platform of fear, negativity and backward-looking glory basking. Against the opposition’s hope, positivity and forward-looking ideals. Which the establishment paints out to be irresponsible, naive, reckless.
There is surely an age factor at play. When compared to other developed countries, it is striking how powerful notions of gerontocracy are in Singapore. The youth are meant to be chided, corralled, cornered. Every other day I hear some asinine comment or anecdote about an elderly person lambasting “young Singaporeans” for even contemplating the opposition.
Apparently the young will ruin Singapore; I wonder if these older Singaporeans remember when they were young in the 1950s, and, flush with their own fervour and ideals, were cheering on LKY in the opposition. Perhaps today’s young will forget in fifty years too.
What I found fascinating about the Amos Yee saga, aside from everything else that we know about, are the cultured and sophisticated views to emerge from young people. I met a bunch of young teenagers at a school in July. They all had fiercely independent but varying views on Amos. Many disagreed with what he had said about LKY. Or at least, the manner in which it was delivered. But nobody thought the punishment fit the “crime”. And they certainly didn’t need Big Brothers telling them how to think about it.
Singapore continues to chug along with this pervasive ageism. One of the WP’s policies I like is lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. Why not? If they can drive, drink and defend our country with arms, why shouldn’t they vote?
Unlikely to happen though, because the youth are unpredictable. Or so the PAP probably thinks.
And so it is banking on the older vote. I smile when I see the PAP and its fans moralising about fiscal prudence. For heaven’s sake, when the PAP announces any goodie bag, package or handout, it is considered smart and considerate spending. When the opposition suggests any form of new spending, it is reckless.
How do you know? We don’t know how big our reserves are. We don’t know the implications of tax increases. If the government made information easily accessible, we could have an honest debate.
And even if we needed to “raid the reserves”, why not? What the heck are the reserves there for? To help Singapore in a time of crisis, right?
Well, wealth inequality is one of the highest in the world, and xenophobia is on the rise. Every revolution in history has involved those two elements. If this doesn’t qualify as a crisis, what does? An attack by Malaysia? Our obsession with supposed external threats has blinded us to the problems brewing internally.
So, yes, the opposition is reckless, but the PAP’s Pioneer Generation package is simply fair help for those who built the country. Even the billionaire on Nassim Road. Without means testing, the Pioneer Generation package essentially means that a young, middle-income family in Singapore is subsidising the healthcare of rich, old people.
Prudent? Perhaps. But also an old-fashioned vote buy.
Of course these easy dichotomies of positive and negative; young and old have limited use. These are all spectrums, and the lines do cross.
But in some ways this Friday could be the first time Singapore’s youth sends a powerful message to the ageists. Or maybe it’ll just be business as usual…
Image credit: Today Online