There Is Gorblok

 

So apparently some super gorblok decided to anyhowly make comparisons between criminal misappropriation of funds in an ongoing court case and the PM’s role in how our CPF monies are handled. While simisai also suing people is a heavy-handed tool that has been wielded before, this fracas is the consequence of sloppy writing and sloppier logic.

Roy’s inflated and melodramatic rhetoric about being silenced might hold some water if it were accompanied by a call to action that might actually generate some positive change. But no, Roy decides to rally Singaporeans to …

 

 

Wait for it …

 

 

Gather at Hong Lim Park (the officially designated place for people to kao pei kao bu).

He also tells them to … sign a petition.

 

What. Is. This. I. Don’t. Even.

 

 

And There Is Super Gorblok

 

There is so much gorblok in this situation, I don’t know where to start. Let’s first look at the hyperbole-drenched tone of martyrdom in Roy’s post announcing that he had been sued. The post which, by the way, complained about being put upon, unjustly silenced, and “turned against” by the government for comparing the PM’s role in the CPF system to criminal misappropriation of funds in an ongoing court trial. Choice pathos-laden phrases abound in this post. I have selected the best for your reading pleasure, because reading that whole post will give you cancer. (Opinion, not fact, Roy. See, it’s not so difficult to separate fact from opinion in a blog post, is it?)

 

“I have advocated for a fairer and more equal Singapore where every Singapore and every person in Singapore can be taken care of and protected by our country.”

How many Singapores do we have? I know Boon Lay is damn ulu but it doesn’t count as a separate country, you know. Perplexing “every Singapore” aside, this first statement sets a worrying tone. In an age where its clear that the political landscape is changing and citizens need to be more proactive about making informed decisions about their future, it goes back to the same tired old idea that we should be “taken care of.” No. No. NO. We don’t need people protesting about how their gahmen is so unfair. We need to start taking care of ourselves. We need people to start asking intelligent questions, starting with a little discernment when it comes to sources of information.

 

“However, today, I am sued by the very government which should be protecting its citizens, such as me. This is disappointing.”

Wait, what? Eh Roy. Back up there. First of all, you haven’t actually been sued yet. How am I to trust the veracity of your sparkly infographics if you can’t even distinguish between getting sued and receiving a letter demanding the removal of the article and apology? What does protecting the citizens of the country have to do with being sued for defamation? And what context do you intend for the word “protecting”? See, this is the kind of sloppy writing that started the trouble in the first place. No context, no accuracy, no logic, anyhow whack for the sake of emotionalism.

 

I have exposed many truths about the Singapore government and how they have intentionally planned since 1984 to gun down on Singaporeans. Today, I am finally being silenced. It is disappointing that the government has decided to turn against ordinary Singaporeans.

While the unintended hilarity of the usage of the words “gun” and “1984” to suggest that the government is oppressing you (George? You hearing this?) provides some comic relief, the tone of martyrdom here is nauseating. So is the inaccuracy. First, there was no term in the letter stating he had to stop blogging. What the letter did demand was the removal of the defamatory material, an offer of compensation and a public apology, failing which, legal action would follow. Rockstar genius data slinger, can you not tell the difference between “I may be sued if X doesn’t happen” and “I have been sued”? So this whole “I AM BEING SILENCED WOE IS ME” hyperbole is kind of … to put it mildly, it’s self-aggrandizing misinformation. (Pretty much sums up the whole blog, in my opinion.)

Then the narrative goes completely batshit crazy, stating that the government has intentionally planned to … what? Oppress? … Pauper? … Harm? … citizens since 1984. First, that preposition shouldn’t be there. SMLJ “gun down on”? Second, with a whopper of a statement like that, you should really follow it up with facts. Not opinions, not opinions couched as comparisons that are actually implied facts, but FACTS. Do you have a Wikileaks document the rest of us don’t know about? Evidence of elected members of Parliament intentionally plotting the … I don’t know, demise of Singaporeans? No? What’s that, Roy? You only have links to lengthy reports which we must sift through to verify your vaguely worded assertions? Infographics that you created, paired with flawed logic? Bro, do you even cite?

Looks like “gun down on” wasn’t the smartest word choice, then. Are there a lot of things about this country and its government that are deeply worrying? Yes. Has our government fallen short of the task of preparing our infrastructure for the influx of new citizens and PRs? A look at rush hour on the roads and in the trains would suggest they did. Does the GRC system make it difficult for opposition candidates to contest, let alone win? Well, changing GRC boundaries, increasing numbers of seats per GRC (6-man GRCs, are you kidding me?!), and a whopping $16,00 per election deposit would suggest so. Should they have been spending a lot more on development infrastructure than they have in the past 5 years? Most definitely. But have they been actively, consciously plotting our demise in their lair since 1984?

*crickets*

Yeah. I didn’t think so either. Don’t get me wrong: I would dearly love to see an increasingly diverse Parliament with the passing of each GE. A vast amount of change is needed. The education system, freedom of information, barriers to entry in the political ecosystem … the list is long. And we most definitely need a more diverse Parliament for more robust debate and deliberation over policy that affects all of us, not just for the next 5 or 10 years, but for the next 50 years and beyond.

But wringing your hands and spewing empty rhetoric accompanied by flawed logic that is misleading people? That’s not helping anyone. Oh wait, our intrepid Hyperbole Hero has an answer:

When faced with tyranny and treachery, we have to remain strong and united, and fight the wrongs that are wrought upon us. For our future, for our rights and for our families and children, we need to stand and fight. It’s time we stand united. It’s time we fight.

 

What is this fight he speaks of, you ask?

Also, on 7 June, we will be organising an event to demand to the government to #ReturnOurCPF. It’s time we stop the Ponzi scheme for tearing apart our lives.

 

There is also a petition. A PETITION, YOU GUYS. The thrust of the petition and the protest is a list of requests pertaining to the CPF monies of Singaporeans, which are:   1) Increase our CPF rates by pegging them to what the GIC and Temasek Holdings earn. 2) The right to opt out of the CPF Minimum Sum and CPF Life schemes. 3) Full reports from the GIC, Temasek Holdings, and the MAS on how the CPF monies are being invested. 4) Increase the CPF payout.

I’m not going to comment on the requests in detail, because I don’t have the data or training for a reasonably intelligent critique of these suggestions. However, at a glance, (1) seems to nudge the CPF away from being a zero-risk savings scheme by introducing some risk, which defeats its intended purpose as a zero-risk savings plan. (2) does not seem viable. A segment of the population will opt out, and some of them will lose their nest egg on bad investments or poor spending habits. This defeats the purpose of the CPF as a savings scheme, too. (3) is the only one that makes sense, and (4) is just … huh? What do you mean, increase the payout? Where is the money going to come from? The existing monies in the CPF fund? The reserves? Budget cuts? New or raised taxes? And by how much should the payout be raised? Just a 1% increase in the monthly payout will cost at least 6 billion a year for citizen payouts alone. (No, I am not going to give you fancy infographics or lor sor worked sums here. Go use the CPF life payout calculator and the latest population census data and work it out yourself). Where will this money come from?

 

 

Then There Is Super Gorblok Until Cannot Tahan

 

This is the solution? This is what all that grandiose sentiment was about? A protest at Hong Lim Park and a petition? Please tell me that was ironic and clever and … something. Anything but an actual protest at Hong Lim Park and an online petition. Honey child, let’s not fool ourselves. The government does not care if you go to the government-appointed public speech areas to protest the CPF system and demand to have your CPF money returned.  Nor does it care if you collect 1,000, 10,000, or 100,000 signatures online. There are far more effective ways to engender change.

Like encouraging citizens to be proactive and discerning when seeking information about how this country is run and the policies that affect it, instead of feeding them misinformation that is sloppily cobbled together with poor logic. The way to get people to start taking ownership of their lives and their children’s future does not lie at the MRT exit to Hong Lim Park. It will not be found in lazy reporting and misinformation from either camp. It requires people to first understand why they need to pay attention to the policies and decisions that affect us all, and after that, people need to be empowered to seek and process information about how the country is run so that they can make more  informed decisions once in every 4 years.

For all his impassioned exhortations rallying Singaporeans to step up and make a change, Roy is simply dressing up the notion of “cry mother cry father” in plumage of a different hue. That was the old way, the only way we knew. Not happy with policies, complain, feel vindicated, but then the policies are still there, at the end of the day. The only difference is that we feel we achieved something, because we went for the rally and signed the petition and even changed our Facebook profile picture for a week.

No. Feeling vindicated in your mind is not going to create change.

The new way to get things done if you’re not happy about specific policies affecting your life is not at all like the old way. It’s new and strange to us, because we’re only just getting used to a … gentler political ecosystem. The new way is first, to seek the information yourself. Question everything. We have been taught not to question, not to speak up, since we were old enough to string a sentence together on paper. The natural human inclination towards curiousity has been crushed out of us by the monolith that is the education system here. But it’s never too late to start asking questions.

If the media tells you A is true, and your favourite online blog tells you B is true, what do you do? Believe neither? Believe the source that aligns with your political views and what you want to believe? Or do you question both and seek the answers yourself? If you know both A and B cannot be true at the same time, then either the media or the blog has misinformed you. There is also the possibility that both are untrue, and C is true. Let’s say  you dig up all the info you need, and you find that both A and B are untrue, and you have some facts suggesting that C is true, but not enough to prove it. What then? Do you forget about exploring the possibility that C is true and force yourself to believe either A or B is true, although you’ve found evidence to the contrary? Of course not. If you’re human, you’re curious. If you’re curious, you would keep searching for the truth.

The new way is not easy, nor is it comfortable. It requires action. And not the temporary hey-let’s-go-protest-at-Speakers-Corner kind of action, either.  Keep asking questions. Isn’t it better to be wrong and get closer to the truth as a result than to keep quiet and assume everything that gels with what you want to believe is 100% correct? Debate and discuss with your friends, your family.  Debate can birth ideas and spur people into action. Why? Because it gets people thinking. Commiserating and rehashing the same grievances in a group, whether it is 5 of your friends or 500 protesters, does not achieve anything. It is fantastic that this country is coming of age and finding its voice in the form of protests. But in any fight, the victors are the ones who fight smart, not necessarily the ones who punch the hardest.

Isn’t it better to stop wasting your time and energy on protests and petitions when you could be informing and empowering yourself? The truth – the factual truth, not Roy’s sort of truth – is liberating, and it is galvanizing. Yes, not everyone is cut out to be in politics. However, a well-informed, rational citizen who thinks critically is the basic building block of a more empowered electorate. A certain percentage may go on to enter politics, but no one is going to get anything done if all you do is sign online petitions, go to Hong Lim Park, and change your Facebook profile picture. One week later, the storm has died down, nothing has changed, and the closest you are to political change is watching Game Of Thrones on your tablet.

The protest against the population white paper, for example. Of those who attended the protest, how many read the entire population white paper? Or read the hansards of the Budget and COS debates in Parliament? What is the point of doing things that will not spur the government to change in a million years when the real catalysts for change – information and an empowered, discerning electorate – are not being used? There is no point fighting for your rights if you are holding a rubber sword that only elicits amusement from your enemies.

This is why self-anointed martyrs like Roy and opportunistic wannabe politicians championing any Gahmen-is-evil narrative that avails itself – no matter how untrue or morally abhorrent – worry me. They are no better than the gatekeepers that lie on the other side of the camp. By distorting the truth and amplifying half-truths for their own motives, be it ego, a personal vendetta, or to score points with the electorate, for example, they make it more difficult for a newly awakening electorate to find their voice, and more importantly, the instinct for critical truth-seeking and debate that will grow as their voice comes of age. It is this instinct that the country needs at this juncture of our history, not another protest in Hong Lim Park organized by “heroes” with motivations as muddied as the ground beneath the protesters’ feet.

 

**Note: The news of Roy’s NMP bid had not broken when I wrote this. I’m going to refrain from commenting on it, because the NMP system and Roy’s perplexing wish to be part of it – despite his noble intentions to uphold democracy – comprise a rather large can of worms that deserves its own post.