Expect no Change, Singapore

It is the hardest truth universally lamented that Singaporeans can expect zero change from their ruling party after the 2011 General Election. After the euphoria felt by many upon the loss of Aljunied GRC to the Workers’ Party, the optimism and hope dissipate, as per every Election ever since Singaporeans started secretly wishing that the PAP would lose. In the past, the announcement of the election result of each constituency would deal the optimism a blow, culminating in the death blow in the form of the final, decisive announcement, in the unbelievable percentage of votes that the PAP has garnered in spite of itself. Singaporeans have, time and again, proven that the majority of them would rather give a party that has done wrong in their eyes a chance to do more wrong than give opposition parties a chance to fight to set things right, perhaps resulting in a form of uncanny self-disgust on the part of the electorate found nowhere else in the democratic or autocratic world (because those in the democratic world will not behave like that and those in the autocratic world have no choice). Is this who I am? Is this the society of which I am a part?

But this year, the optimism is set to last longer. It was the best of times because it was the worst of times for out of the most deplorable era, a most ravishing hope is conceived. Only to be aborted, ravished before its time. The more we are intoxicated by hope, the more crippling the hangover. Hope is systemically built into the Singaporean psyche as a kamikaze sacrifice. And we buy into it because it is only luxury we can afford. Our hope is not artificial—it never is. Our hope is real, but hopelessly transient. Singapore allows us to hope only so that we can despair. This year, we are led by a rare degree of defiance into hoping for the fantastical whilst fully knowing the inevitable. The non-apology with the word sorry by the man who continues to be our Prime Minister might, too, have fed the hope of Singaporeans. Only we can expect no change. To be sure, we can expect to be informed about changes. To be sure, we will be expected to believe that change has taken place. To be sure, some of us will be led into thinking that there is change, much to the frustration of those who just see otherwise. To be sure, the status quo will remain and be enhanced.

The grand narrative of Singapore as printed indelibly in the books of the PAP is now made grander, endowed with the irresistible seductiveness of change. It is, without a doubt, a cheap rhetorical seduction and not a substantial one. But, still, we succumb. We either surrender to it with our beliefs or we surrender to it with a cynical smirk because we know that even lip service provides more pleasure in the long run. While Power in Singapore has long combed and styled every fiber of the society with its peculiar coat of rationality, it is now threatening to encroach into the realm of the ineffable. Lee Hsien Loong tell us:

To secure our position economically, we must get our politics right. We have to maintain political support for policies which benefit Singaporeans,” he told an audience of about 800 GIC staff, clients and business partners.

He tells us:

It goes beyond specific items, where you can calculate dollars and cents, to a sense of reassurance and concern and empathy.

His words perhaps reveal more than he had intended. It is not reassurance, concern and empathy that he is striving for, but a sense of these undefinables. The fundamentals of the discourse remains uncannily, in fact rather disrubingly familiar: “rapid changes,” “standards of living are rising,” “progress,” “raising people’s income,” “GDP,” “upgrade productivity,” “challenging tasks,” “job ready and deployable” workers, “the restructuring of Singapore’s industries.” And most importantly, “To secure our position economically, we must get our politics right. We have to maintain political support for policies which benefit Singaporeans.” Show support for us and we will show empathy. We are good enough to pass the Voight-Kampff Test.

Elsewhere in the news, the police have stopped an illegal assembly of rebellious subjects petitioning for a by-election in Potong Pasir and the Aljunied Town Council suspending its services before the Workers’ Party MPs take over the management of the constituency. We know these have nothing to do with the PAP or the way it has shaped Singapore. We should watch in anticipation as the PAP changes its image to please us and prepare to applaud them for their successful efforts.

Change for Singapore is an unattainable possibility that has to be taken as an attainable impossibility. More than ever, Singaporeans have to struggle harder for change because the static has now grafted the mask of change onto its face. Somehow, though one may never articulate how, resistance is futile has to be taken as resistance is fertile.


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10 Responses

  1. […] – The Gigamole Diaries: Doing the right operation….. ala Dr Vivian Balakrishnan – Molitics: Expect no Change, Singapore – Yawning Bread: The apology manifesto – funny little world: “From whence we came”: A young […]

  2. Sounds like a nation-wide Stockholm Syndrome.

    • In a rather perverse way, yeah. Except many PAP-voting Singaporeans do not even feel as much for the PAP as hostages feel for those holding them hostage.

  3. May be he didn’t have time to change his speech without having the hindsight that the PAP will be badly bruised in the 2011 GE.

    I’d say this is early days for him to make course changes.

    Indeed the statements made by GY and LHH show the depth of complacency, arrogance and narcissism among the incumbents. But no use crying over spilled milk. Why can’t you say what you say at your press conference to your ilk when you were so confident that you will win? Group think, Yes-men, cocky. That was your malaise. As a consequence you deserve to lose.

    • There are a few possible ways that the PAP conceives of change:
      1) execution of plans/implementation of policies
      2) the nature of policies
      3) fundamental shift in attitude

      With (1), the way policies are implemented may change without any change in the nature of the policies themselves. E.g. instead of telling people that the government is forcing them to pay for compulsory annuities, they may package it as some elderfare fund. Same shit, different delivery.

      (2) would involve a deeper change. They would see the flaws of certain policies that cause dissatisfaction and change the policies. The limitations here would, however, be that there would only be tweaks to a system that may not be working well to begin with. It’s like taking painkillers without eliminating the source of the pain.

      (3) would imply a more thorough change. It would take time because the change would involve more than just the PAP but the whole country that it has shaped. But if there is going to be such a fundamental change, it would be apparent by now. Other than promising to change, the PAP would already be making concrete long- and short-term promises that will be proof of this change instead of holding on to change desperately as a buzzword. I don’t think it has happened.

      I think there will be change that amounts to no change. Change that is closer to (1).

  4. After paying this bill and that bill, GST, ARF, PARF, ERP, Income tax, etc., I also have no change left…..

  5. http://www.xtremeplace.com/yabbse/index.php?topic=94954.msg667989#msg667989

    An example of how out of touch a staunch PAP supporter fed the BS can be.

    To see citizens as workers of an MNC rather than as shareholders of a country.


    Words fail me. Maybe Molly can help 🙂

  6. […] – The Gigamole Diaries: Doing the right operation….. ala Dr Vivian Balakrishnan – Molitics: Expect no Change, Singapore – Yawning Bread: The apology manifesto – funny little world: “From whence we came”: A young […]

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