The Young & The Politics Of Singapore
It is said that young Singaporeans are apathetic, self-serving, self-engrossed and ignorant when it comes to Singapore politics. I have always taken a slightly different view from this.
Sure, they may not - as a whole - be as knowledgeable as older Singaporeans about local politics. However, could that be due to older folks simply living more years than the young , thus having been exposed to more politics? Even if that were so, there are many older folks who are just as uninformed as the young.
To me, the real reason why the young are regarded as apathetic is also a very simple one: The environment in Singapore is not one where politics are openly participated. It really is as simple as that. We have an education system and schools (where kids spend an increasingly larger amount of time daily) which do not actively encourage political discourses or involvement.
Sure, you have your occasional NUS political forum but that's about it, really. There are a few hundred thousand students in our hundreds of schools. How many are exposed to such forums? A miniscule number, no doubt. That leaves the vast majority out.
Having said all that, however, the Workers' Party so-called "Suicide Squad" team in the recent elections has raised political interest among the young - simply because the 6 are in the young age groups of 20s & 30s. (Gopal Krishnan may be 52 but he's young too - at heart!) It was a masterstroke by the WP leadership to pit this young team against the man at the helm in the PAP (and Singapore), PM Lee Hsien Loong himself.
That caught the imagination of Singaporeans.
What perhaps even the WP didn't suspect was the 'positive fallout' effect of fielding such a team. This 'positive effect' was the raising of awareness not only among the general public but especially among the younger set. Granted that the level of awareness of the WP team was not as phenomenal as could be - but this is because of the media which shunned giving 'undue' publicity to the them.
Even so, the interest generated by the young team is undeniable.
Would younger Singaporeans take this team as a sort of role model? Would this awareness encourage the young to be more involved in the politics of our country? That is left to be seen. It will depend on how the team fares in the coming years and beyond. However, there is much that the team can do to further promote engagement of young citizens in the present moment. There is a need to keep up the interest through continuous engagement. What and how this can be done is best left to the Workers' Party itself.
I would also say that the local mainstream media has a role to play. Instead of shunning the team, they should engage it and help raise political awareness among the young especially. This is a golden opportunity for Singaporeans - everyone: the media, political parties, ordinary Singaporeans - to take part in something which until now has been the domain of the few elites.
The WP's AMK team could be the catalyst for a new political awakening. Indeed, when asked for his assessment of the recent GE, the WP's Goh Meng Seng used two words to describe it: "Political awakening".
But an awakening can also fizzle out. We should not let this happen as this awakening was borne out of what was truly a 'baptism of fire' - something which even the PAP cannot claim to have for its new candidates. Thus, all Singaporeans (and not just the Workers' Party) shoudl cherish it, embrace it and further it in whatever ways they can.
The young are at a threshold. We should not keep harping to them about just jobs, money and material wants (or greed). There should be a new dimension to their lives in Singapore. I would offer that a political dimension or outlook in the lives of young Singaporeans would be most fulfilling, and exciting.
Those who have important roles to play include:
1. The media
2. The Workers' Party & the AMK "Suicide Squad" in particular
3. The govt : They should not put obstacles in the way of such awakening.
4. Schools : Teachers & principals should also use this interest generated by the elections to further allow and engage students politically.
5. Ordinary Singaporeans : Everyone has a role to play.
Of the above 5, the Workers' Party has the most important role. For it is from them that Singaporeans took notice of how things can be done another way - instead of just the "PAP way".
Thus, I hope to see more activities and engagement events from the Workers' Party in the coming months and years.
It would be a shame if such a hard-fought opportunity is left to chance - or worse, wasted ignorantly.