Whatever we decide is what we will leave our children

“Most Singaporeans understand the need of immigrants and foreign workers, and accept them… many have concerns because the influx has caused real problems and I completely understand this. But I am worried by some of the nasty views expressed, especially online, and anonymously.” – PM Lee Hsien Loong, National Day Rally speech 2012.

MP Irene Ng posted the following on her Facebook page shortly after:

“As Singaporeans, what kind of people do we want to become? Decent, generous and warm, or angry, ugly and hateful? The choice is for us to make. Ultimately it is up to us how big-hearted Singapore will be.”

I feel it is a timely message from PM Lee, although for the speech itself I feel he could have gone further besides disclosing the various measures the Government will be taking to address particular concerns. What was a big miss is the issue of immigration and the number of foreigners in Singapore – PM Lee did not directly deal with this or say what the Government plans are for these. Perhaps he is leaving it for until after the National Population and Talent Division has completed its public consultation exercise.

But his worry of some “nasty views” being expressed online is a valid one, and we should pay attention to this. I am not in favour of a code of conduct as proposed by Minister Yaacob Ibrahim. The reason is simple – I do not think it will work, just as Yahoo’s “Silence The Hate” campaign (recently) – which is effectively a code of conduct in itself – will not work.

What we need to do is to voice out against those who blatantly have expressed their aims to sow discord in our society – and at the same time disguise this as being “pro-Singapore” or “pro-Singaporean”. They are not. Lets not be fooled by this.

How can one be pro-Singapore or pro-Singaporean when one’s expressed wish is to see our society disemboweled and to sow discord, even if it is between locals and foreigners?

Being unhappy with policies does not give one the right or the reason to constantly and regularly beat down individuals. It shows a certain sense of recklessness, selfishness, and plain immaturity and irresponsibility.

Yes, we understand the frustration, the anger even. Still, one has control over one’s own faculties, unless one says one is suffering from some form of illness which would not grant one such control. As far as I can see, however, those who are purposefully promoting the hatred – yes, it is hatred – of foreigners aren’t devoid of control of their behaviour.

So, while we dismiss the code of conduct or any campaign to foster good behaviour, we do have a responsibility to speak out when we see irrational – and dangerous – fanning of the flames, especially when certain websites cheat, steal and blatantly lie.

We are Singaporeans – and this must mean something bigger than our individual selves. Being Singaporean is not simply because we were born here. It also means we stand for something. Otherwise, we would be nothing more than Singaporeans by chance. And this something bigger must also be something which we would want our children to be.

One of the traits, I would say, of being Singaporean is that we are able to voice our opinions and views – and do so even ardently and passionately – with respect and maturity.

Taking the easy way out by attacking others – especially anonymously – just shows one is not really concerned about our society. It also shows cowardly behaviour and an inability to deal with disagreements.

Ironically, these are the same people who also claim to want democracy and all it entails.

Instead, it shows selfishness and a woeful lack of responsibility – to themselves, their loved ones, their friends, community, and society.

Having said all that, I know that most Singaporeans, by and large, are big hearted individuals. I have seen them, I know them and I work with them – the many who are selfless, who are passionate, who go out there and do their best to make our society and country better.

These are the people who truly care – not those who try to cloak themselves in the armour of fake patriotism and does nothing but sow discord.

The tireless work of the Singaporeans who truly care should not be undermined by the few who are devoid of any good sense – we should not let this happen.

We have one home – and yes, there are many problems we face. It is precisely because of this that we must work together to find solutions. As the saying goes, a house divided must fall. It is, as Irene Ng said, up to us to decide what being a Singaporean means, and what kind of society we want to be.

Whatever we decide is what we will leave our children.

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