Bullies are out and saints are in – the Hougang Experience

May 27, 2012

Increasingly people are demanding moral coherency from their leaders. These days it is not enough to just win like the good olde days of LKY, when he can just throw someone in jail or just sue the shit out of them to stroll through the finishing line. To really win these days, leaders need to be seen to be playing the game fair and square. They need come across to their target audience as bona fide on the level.

This seems to have come as a great surprise to the PAP strategic planning team that is still stuck in a time warp circa 1970’s. But for the vast majority of people. This new expectation for leaders to come into the game with clean hands is rapidly assuming a new standard of what is expected from a much more educated electorate.

This should not come as a great surprise to anyone, especially the PAP. As the financial meltdown has really revised the way most people these days regard the whole idea of power and politics. For starters, no sane person these days even considers leaders as infallible demi-gods any longer. Neither do they believe they are always acting in the interest of the common good. Or that they are so exceptional they even deserve to paid high salaries and creamy bonuses. Infact, since the collapse of the financial markets, the cultural authority that leaders used to command has steadily gone through a sort of rationalization – one where the general public is increasingly skeptical of officialdom and feels that it should always be checked and if possible interogated to make sure they are not up to no good. To put it another way, there is an imperceptible shift of power from state to people.

Some people may say the public is just being paranoid – I disagree. As the reason for this new compact between people and state is premised on good reasons. After all the public has been able to successfully ferret out glaring inconsistencies between what is claimed by officialdom and what they are actually experiencing at ground level. Leaders may insist inflation is under control. Or that run away prices of COE’s will have a marginal impact on the cost of living. But on the ground prices keep going up and up with no respite in sight. Hence this can only breed skepticism and askance along with the sinking feeling something is amiss in happy Singapore. Leaders may even showcase, that Singapore is one of the best places to live on this planet – but many are beginning to distinguish, analyse and connect the dots – they are even starting to ask: good for who precisely? It is certainly not good for native workers! As our lot hasn’t got better despite the stellar GDP results. Maybe it is only good for expats who can afford to crash their Ferrari on a weekend? And this mood of cynicism seems to be widespread and growing more prevalent especially amongst the thinking classes – a casestudy that best highlights this emerging sentiment of askance towards officialdom transpired when eight ball Tharman proclaimed imperially that it was possible for a Singaporean to own a HDB on only a salary of SGD$1,000 – he was questioned repeatedly on his assumptions online. But instead of defending his ground, eight ball decided to slink underground and take cover. And that by itself is a pithy summary of what we have come to expect from politicians these days – they don’t come across as honest. Infact, they are evasive and at times even require us to suspend disbelief just to understand their inverted logic – to sharpen the sense of cognitive dissonance, the recent spate of breakdowns in the MRT also points to certain faultlines that may exist in the PAP way of doing things – again this was repeatedly questioned. Again nothing substantial emerged, except a few doggy soundbites and somewhere a bath tub featured. And now even the general public is beginning to question whether the trains should even be privatized in the first place. After all what is the point of privatizing something when it doesn’t seem to produce any discernable benefits to taxpayers? As for the governments resolute policy of importing cheap labor; that has also been repeated questioned – and once again all officialdom seems to do is push out the same tag lines in an attempt to placate an increasingly frustrated public that is simply seeking answers to very simple questions – things may have even got so bad between state and citizenry, that no one these days even believes the PAP are serious about increasing baby birthrates in the native population. As many of their baby incentives currently on offer are really so backward and stingy that even Sengkang Sally from the Heartlands is hanging up her eggs.

My point in illustrating these salients is not to cause intellectual offence. Rather it is simply to illustrate how the things that used to unite us all is now giving way to the sheer force of the divisions that will continue to divide us all – and this simply underscores the importance of managing perception – as for leaders to succeed these days – it doesn’t pay for them to be seen in an unsavoury light. If they speak like Sitting Bull said, “with forked tongues,” delight in taking cheap shots or try to run a competitor through mud just to get political mileage. All they are really going to doing is attracting negative press and running the risk of being pelted to dust by the rotten tomato squad – as what they have really demonstrated is their pettiness and lack in their character to grasp the broader picture of statecraft.

A new calculus seems to have descended upon Singapore politics – one that has emerged from a class of voters who are increasingly demanding that leaders walk the talk, instead of just going through the motions where the seem to embody the form without the content.

It seems happy hour is truly finished for the PAP. They really need to brush up on their questionable ethics and morality if the imperative is to stay in power.

Darkness 2012

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It’s conceivable the PAP’s radar is busted. They are flying blind and there is panic in the cockpit. But the only flight manual they have was still printed in the 1970’s and it is written by LKY. LKY likes to use the hammer. You can say that is the only tool that exist in this troubled cockpit. So the pilots are taking turns to hammer the shit out of those instruments that don’t make sense. They are probably using the same hammer to solve everything from plumbing leaks to migraine – wonder no more why the world just look like a field of nails to all of them.

But these days the thinking man is a very different person – I am not saying he is not interested in money any longer – sure he still likes to make money. Only there is a new moral calculus that seems to govern how decisions are regularly made. Folk these days know they are not the Dalai Lama, we all still step on ants and spray the shit out of roaches – but if you ask thinking folk these days to invest in cigarette firms or buy shares in firms that outsource their manufacturing operations to outfits that are immoral and treat their workers like disposal underwear – then you are going to get the thumbs down from this new generation of investors. They are likely to boycott your goods, products, services and mission like how they slapped and spat at BP, when they fucked up that well head just off the coast of Mexico. Like I said, people are still very interested in making money these days, only you must understand since a moral and ethical component now features – they simply can’t run the risk of being associated with bad company by default – that means if profit has to come at the back of 12 year old Abdul who is chained to a carpet loom somewhere in Pakistan – then most of them will rather settle for an Ikea rug rather than an exclusive Persian carpet. There is a new awareness that business must be clean or at least be seen to be cleaning up their act, otherwise, it isn’t business and deserves to be run out of town. Shut down or simply consigned to the rubbish heap of history

Politicians would do well to get up to speed on this new page of reality – as thinking folk these days have zero tolerance for people who are confused about the whole business of power and politics – the days of throwing your weight around is well and truly over – do it these days and plenty of people are going to push back. And some will even push so very hard, they may even get used to the idea of taking and holding ground. Beware. As the writing is already on the wall in main street these days. Two or three years ago, it was only in the internet. Now it seems the loop is closing – That is the way I see it, that is the way the Brotherhood sees it – we are already in clear and present threat territory. That gentlemen is what new normal really means  – and it is sad that the PAP conceived this notion without even realizing what it demands from them. Let me be direct here: to prosper today in politics or business. You need to embody not only the form but the content of good and honest statecraftmanship.

I am not kidding – if I was mini Lee, I would be having sleepless nights. Because Hougang may not just be Hougang – it could well be Stalingrad.”

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