Friday, March 23, 2007

this is not a book review

i just finished reading Thinking allowed? (politics, fear and change in Singapore) by Warren Fernandez (currently foreign editor of straits times), and i have 3 thoughts to share:

firstly, this had got to do with a subjective perspective lens. the first time i came across this book was several months ago, shortly after i first started blogging. during that time, i was still relatively influenced by anti-establishment views on the blogosphere, including this report on the resignation of Mano Subnani from TODAY. because of this report, i was very wary of Fernandez, and was highly skeptical and suspicious of his book, believing it to be but disguised propaganda. [back then, i was also too fearful to borrow any books authored by Chee Soon Juan or James Gomez (even though they were openly available for borrowing in the national library) for fear that the gahmen will track me down using my library records.]

i re-borrowed Fernandez's book recently as i remembered that i have not finished reading it several months ago. quite surprisingly, i actually found myself agreeing with much he had to say, which would have been unthinkable several months ago. i still thought he was too fervently patriotic in some of his articles, but i find that he was generally very well-reasoned and moderate in most of his views, something which i definitely would have disagreed with the first time i read the book. now of course, the book was the exact same book which i read several months ago, so the only factor why i have such different views of his book has entirely to do with my own predispositions. in particular, i am currently not as anti-establishment as i was several months ago, and this affects the way i judge the reasoning of other people, Fernandez in this case.

secondly,i found it almost uncanny that the issues which are discussed by Fernandez are exactly the same issues being dicussed in the plogosphere today (such as ageing population, the education system, immigration, bilateral relations with neighbours, ethnic sensitivities and OB markers). this is noteworthy because some of the articles compiled in the book, are written as far back as 1989. in fact, Fernandez noted that former DPM Dr Goh Keng Swee criticized Singaporeans for being too obsessed with examination results, way back in 1967.

why are such issues so "timeless"? (Fernandez calls them "old chestnuts"). the fact that we are still discussing the same issues as 10 or 20 years ago, does this mean that we have not solved old problems and we have not progressed? will we still be discussing such issues 10, 20 years from now? to be fair, i think different issues have different reaons for lasting so long. issues such bilateral relations will probably always be existent due to the nature of foreign affairs.

the issue of an ageing population, and the related issue of not having sufficient retirement funds are "time bomb" issues. they might be recognized over a decade ago, but the full effect of such issues won't be felt until a decade or two in the future. nevertheless, the nature of such issues require action to taken way in advance (like now) to prevent a real crisis from happening in the future. the increasing competition from China and India might be a similar "time bomb" issue.

some issues, such as criticisms of the government being too paternalistic, not open to feedback, and too restrictive on freedom of speech, sound exactly the same 10 years ago as they do now. one might easily accuse the gahmen to be stubbornly refusing to change or are simply not interested to change, and that continual existence of such criticisms are proof of their unwillingness to listen to feedback. this is however, a more complicated issue than meets the eye. one factor to consider is that blogs and the internet are nowhere as proliferated ten years ago as they are now, thus resulting in what appears to be more vocal criticisms, which may not be an accurate reflection of the actual number or the actual percentage of the populace who hold such critical views. are more and more people becoming critical of the gahmen, the same people, or less and less people? the nature of blogs and the internet makes it hard to gauge.

lastly, more than once during reading this book i was lead to contemplate the possibility of me starting to blog about politics. if you have been observant, you'll notice that i don't blog anything at all about political or policy issues. i have 3 fears of blogging about politics or policy: fear of being guity of claptrap, fear of attracting flak, and and fear of gahmen scrutiny. as time passed and the more i blogged, i feel less and less of the last 2 fears. i am however, still quite fearful, being someone who only 6 months ago was a completely apathetic young singaporean, that when i open my mouth i don't know what i'm talking about, and i spout nonsense.

however, i am feeling the increasing sense that should not matter as much on the plogosphere. blogging ought to be more about expressing my own (carefully thought out) views. people are free to engage and disagree, and quite possibly i may be persuaded to change my views when i come across a better argument. at the end of the day we are all better off because we had the opportunity to engage in a dialogue and learn from each other, even if we cannot agree, or even if we turn out to be wrong.

perhaps it is time for me to be a little less fearfully but a little more opinionated?

1 comment:

kwayteowman said...

Fearfully Opinionated,

"however, i am feeling the increasing sense that should not matter as much on the plogosphere. blogging ought to be more about expressing my own (carefully thought out) views. people are free to engage and disagree, and quite possibly i may be persuaded to change my views when i come across a better argument". (Emphasis mine)

Well said. :-) As long as you think about issues as hard as you can and put forth the most compelling arguments that you can muster, it's doesn't really matter whether what you say is "right or wrong". You're not being graded anyway. :-)