A S’POREAN TEACHER’S PERSPECTIVE TOWARDS THE AMOS YEE SAGA

Offbeat Perspectives has returned with a second interview on the Amos Yee saga. In this interview, they approached a Eurasian teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous.
 
Age: 26
Race: Eurasian
Religious Belief: Agnostic
Teacher
 
Do you think the public response would have been more receptive if he Amos had expressed his ideas in a more respectful manner?
 
I think people in general tend to bristle at vulgarities in general, I think they focused a lot on how he said things rather than what he said.
 
So the focus should be on what he said? 
 
I think he did it purposely to illicit a reaction. Also, I think it was thought-through to not be kind, to not be, polite, civil. It was a very purposeful choice to do it that way and to say that he should have done it another way is to ignore the fact that he purposely chose to do it to get a reaction.
 
So you felt he should have stick to the way he..
 
I think it depends on what his outcomes were. If his intention was to ignite discussion or to prove a point, how he did it would have been more civil than that.  But if he was trying to persuade people to reason of logic that Christianity or LKY had flaws, then I think that he could have and should have chosen a different way. But that said, I don’t know what his end goals were. So, I won’t comment on his choice of..
 
Do you feel the way his expressed it (his ideas) would be acceptable to Singapore’s society?  
 
Erm…What do you mean by acceptable?
 
Like people wouldn’t feel offended by what he said, like the general population.  
 
But why would they feel offended, you know what I mean? What was offensive? He went to church, he was frustrated with going to church, and he express that frustration in a very colourful language.
 
And the offence, and I think that was something that Jolene had once mentioned to me during our conversation; that this was someone who was processing his own religion. It was not like someone who was from outside the church who was saying something upsetting about it.
 
This was someone who had gone through the system and likewise in Singapore, someone who had been though the system and was expressing his view. So I don’t know what should have been more acceptable or if people should have been offended a not in the first place.
 
Do you think the authorities could have handed the situation in a more effective manner?
 
To be fair, I think the persecution didn’t come from the top. It came from the bottom. It was people like you, people like me who was making police report. It wasn’t Lee Hsien Loong who you know, sued him you know or anything, this wasn’t a top down prosecution.
 
It was essentially someone who everybody had, random Singaporeans had, decided to send a cops on him. So I think that (for) the authorities, it was very difficult for them to do anything about it also because the police did get like, 30 something police reports.
 
To not response is so very difficult on the police part. You know, what kind of police is this? You know you don’t response. Bla bla bla. Erm.. With that said, I think that I would have liked firstly that, nobody to have called the police on him.
 
Number 2, seeing if the police did, I don’t think they have very much room to do that. Secondly, I don’t think the judgement should have ruled that it offended anybody because erm.. because ya la I think these views was not rude but I don’t think we should be criminalizing people’s offending feelings, offending people’s feeling.
 
So do you think we should be more opened as a society?
 
I think we need different mediums and outlets to engage in difficult conversations. I think it is very difficult to do that over the internet, and I think even in person – it’s very hard if someone offends you, it’s very difficult to tell them “I was upset by what you said” because it’s very confrontational.
 
I think Singaporeans in general, it’s very difficult to engage with a person who upsets you and to tell them that you.. as you might get beaten up, and nobody wants to start a fight. It’s very easy to get somebody else to do it for you, the police, the authorities, anyone else.
 
As a society, we have to think how we want to have difficult conversations. What kind of avenues we can have to do it constructively without criminalizing people.
 
Do you feel he was locked up in jail (in remand) for too long or the assessments, they were dragged on for quite a while?
 
I think he shouldn’t have been in remand for as long as he did. I think they were also at their wits ends but I think the fact that they chose to stick with that, suggested that another option was out. So I think, they should have considered more options to this case.  
 
Like what other options?
 
Not like home arrest, but basically, he shouldn’t be institutionalized, you shouldn’t be trying to insulate that he was mentally ill. If it was political, it was political and I think it is something he they were trying to get him to crack or to bow and he didn’t.
 
I think where he is now is a reflection of what our laws has written, their logical conclusions, what happens if you sieve them out and if that is what it is, then we should ask if our current laws are just.
 
The thing is that Autism is not even a mental illness.
 
No, exactly. Ya, I think, what I took away from Jolene speech is that it really takes a lot of nerve to stands his ground. Even then, the way he is being treated now is not excusable. * [Autism is a learning disability, and not a mental illness. Amos Yee was initially suspected of having Autism but this suspicion was later found untrue.]
 
What is one change you would like to see in Singapore, in regards to freedom of speech or censorship?  
 
With regards to freedom of speech, probably the thing that I said just now. We need to think very long and hard about what kinds of avenues we need to build or to refine, in order to have difficult conversations with people that we not necessarily agree with, in a manner that is productive even though we may never see to eye. But to have a space to do that without turning to the police, I think that would be my hope.
 
“I think where he is now is a reflection of what our laws has written, their logical conclusions, what happens if you sieve them out and if that is what it is, then we should ask if our current laws are just.”
 
 
Stay tune for a new post in the week ahead! – Are Singaporeans too afraid to speak up?
 
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