SG50: In The Light of LKY

9 August.

This national milestone will certainly be marked by the undertones of one man, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Much has been said in March, but what stood out was the remarkable unity with which Singaporeans spoke out for the legacy of their founder.

It is remarkable because it happened after 2011. The last elections ushered in a new normal of politics for Singapore. Unthinkably then, it became fashionable to attend rallies and rail at the government. The little red dot has erupted, and blood is drawn with the loss of Aljunied GRC and one of PAP’s most respected leaders, Foreign Minister Mr George Yeo.

Then, the opposition voices drowned out the silent majority – based on voting percentages. One could say that this March, the majority spoke up. The pain of loss often brings renewed strength and vision, and we’ve seen it reflected in PAP’s efforts at greater outreach, such as Our Singapore Conversation. Singaporeans, so eager to stay silent and remain unseen in the monotones of life, joined tribute queues way longer than any Hello Kitty ones.

There were dissenting voices, of course. Amos Yee takes the headlines for blathering insults. He must have thought the headlines were worthwhile. Yet he has become the target of widespread animosity, which certainly defeats the purpose of his dissent. By misreading the occasion – a man’s passing is never the right time to take cheap shots – he ironically gave the PAP proponents a face to fight against. Opposition is not as fashionable as it seemed.

Some others decided to raise scepticism. Blogger Jeraldine Phneah tried to take a middle ground perspective, but was criticized for perhaps not displaying the nuance of Catherine Lim. Generally, any hint of disrespect was lambasted. Was this the case of a vocal majority clamping down on the minority? Was it a step backward for our political consciousness?

No, I’d say. The context must be taken into account. It isn’t in Singapore’s blood to be critical or disinterested during Lee’s memorial. We are a young nation, and while we may disagree sometimes, we have nothing but respect for our father. If we look at how grassroots politics has resumed in anticipation of a general election, alongside near-universal respect for Lee’s work, we will see how we have matured as a whole. Opposition leaders paid tribute along with their supporters.

In a world of cut-throat politics, I caught glimpses of a more sensible people.

Lee’s world-view is distinctively combative, but it was mostly out of necessity. This year, we have reached a junction. Lee’s passing has introduced a new element to our social crucible. It not merely awakened the proponents; it provided a chance for proponents and opponents to meet each other in good faith. Our youth represents the potential for a more cooperative form of politics. Will we remain in Lee’s shadows, or pass on his light to future generations?

Perhaps we will learn more when the festivities are over and the electoral battles return.

Happy 50th Birthday, Singapore!

Socio Empath

Hi, my name is Eugene. I am a Sociology graduate from the National University of Singapore. This blog is an invitation: To see our selves as colored by cultures, and to brighten the colors of our society. I seek to help you create freedom in everyday life, with empathy and the sociological imagination.

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