DON’T TURN POLITICS INTO A HATEFEST, LEARN TO APPRECIATE ALL PARTIES

A reader has shared a Facebook post by Darren Lim, son-in-law of Quah Kim Song, famous soccer legend and boyfriend of Workers’ Party chairwoman Sylvia Lim. He is also the cousin-in-law of People’s Action Party candidate for Ang Mo Kio Daryl David. In his post, he wants Singaporeans to put aside their differences and to see that the general elections, while a time to scrutinize political parties, should also be a time for Singaporeans to reflect on how best to work together and move forward. Read his full post here:

I apologise for this paragraph. It contains what is in all likelihood far more angst than the issue deserves. Seriously, I’m sick and tired of the mind-numbing posts about BOTH ends of the political spectrum. Please stop regurgitating the mass / social / whatever media that you’ve been swallowing… I get enough of it shoved in my face and I don’t need you shoving your regurgitation into mine as well. Before you go consuming and digesting the PR parade, here are five points you should probably be reminded of:

1. Political parties ARE in the midst of a battle for your vote, and it IS a dirty game

Let’s not forget that politics ALL OVER THE WORLD is a dirty game, regardless of the mode of government. For democracies, the MO of politicians is to play a very strong PR game to get your vote. Clearly, a “strong PR game” is a mere euphemism for a gamut of tactics that we have witnessed. Both ends of our political spectrum have thrown personal attacks, have brought to question the capability of the other, and have embellished their achievements. Parties with more power will naturally use their added leverage and access to a wider range of tools for greater PR effect and also to impede the ability of the smaller parties from reaching you or serving you.

You can’t really fault them for what they’ve been doing. The game, unfortunately, is structured as such. The system necessitates that they spin to win.

The idealists among you might say, “Oh, but they should move BEYOND that sort of dirty politics! That is unbecoming of someone who intends to be our leader!”. Whilst I might emotionally agree with you, the facts are that history is littered with the corpses of people who have refused a street fight. The most obvious example is going on right now in the States. Ever since Donald Trump started attacking Jeb Bush, Jeb’s ratings fell while Trump’s skyrocketed. Now Jeb’s finally trying to fight back, which again shows the clean way is seldom the winning way. Dirty politics have been shown time and time again to work. It’s our fault and not the politicians’ that it does.

Now having been reminded of the above, what I wish of is for some of you to be more discerning of what the party that you worship is telling you. Please do not swallow and spread their words like the gospel truth. When I read a post about how the PAP is out to intentionally screw you or how the WP is making off like bandits in Aljunied or how Chee Soon Juan was an asshole and hence must always be as asshole, I think “I can’t wait for these 2 weeks to pass so I can finally have politicians tone down their nonsense.” Then I see the same post on my Facebook feed and I put my palm to my face.

Simply put, stop believing everything that the party you support tells you! It’s ultimately a performance from all sides, so let’s just kick back, relax, and enjoy the show.

2. Regardless of how perfect you think the party you support is, there will ALWAYS be people against them and their policies, because that’s how the allocation of resources works. Please respect that.

The key reason of being for a government is the allocation of resources. Given a finite amount of resources, there will always be people or areas that receive more than others. We hear about healthcare plans, pioneer generation packages, and a whole host of other ways with which to transfer assets from one party to the other. It is easy for us to sit at our desks and say “If you don’t support minimum wage, you’re a heartless evil person” or “A universal healthcare plan? Where will the money come from? Raising taxes will destroy our economy!”. But let us not forget that EVERY plan will always result in losers. Yes, we try to minimise the number of people negatively impacted, but there’s always someone who has to take the short stick.

Because of this, let us not disregard the people who don’t support your party, regardless of how silly or dumb or gullible you might think they are. They could very well be the ones who are receiving less, so that you may receive more. These people may not necessarily explain themselves well and might lash out in an unconstructive manner, but you must always remember that for someone in that position, the anger and pain that they feel is very, very real.

The same logic extends to party policies. You may not agree with a specific party policy, but that doesn’t mean that party is dumb, it just means that that party was looking out for some other group. That may or may not be the right policy for Singapore, but I don’t believe that anyone has a monopoly on what the right policy is. I, for one, have issues with specific policies in ALL of the parties we have, but that doesn’t mean I should automatically disqualify all of them!

3. Politicians are not the caricatures that they have been made out to be

Breathe. Please. The PAP’s mission is not to rob you and neither is WP robbing the town council. Your CPF money isn’t going into Lee Hsien Loong’s account. Our efficient civil service will still be there even if the PAP goes away. Singapore will not burn if the opposition takes over. Both the WP and SDP are not fly-by-night parties and both have released detailed manifestos and papers that even include the costs and source of new revenues for their policies. The number of voting opposition MPs does indeed introduce different types of rights at various percentage levels. The government really is trying to do better and they have indeed been listening (somewhat) as evidenced by the sudden nudge towards the left.

Remove your tin foil hat and stop drinking the kool-aid.

To be fair, there are indeed jokers in these parties. I have witnessed jokers in all three. Name me one organisation in the world that does not have one? Let’s not judge them by their worst, but by their best.

4. They have ALL made mistakes before, just as each and every one of us have

Yes, the YOG was over-budget and our trains are still breaking down. Chee Soon Juan was a heckler and was thrown in prison before. There were accounting errors in organisations under the care of both PAP and WP. Sylvia could have had better taste in men (I’M JOKING! Sorry Dad!).

Stop repeating this to me over and over again. I, too, must have made countless mistakes in my career, some more severe than others. But if I were to have been released over a short period of poor performance, I would never have been able to keep myself employed and to have improved to the better employee that I am today.

Let’s select our candidate based on how we think they’ll perform for us in the future. Yes, a track record is important, but as any broker will add to their disclaimer, past performance is never an accurate indicator for future performance.

5. We are incredibly fortunate to have both a corruption-free government and a constructive opposition (well, the two main groups, at least). Better still, both sides ARE listening and learning. Let us PLEASE be thankful of them

It takes a special type of government to have the authoritarian power that they have and still remain pretty corruption-free. Many would long have fallen into that trap and doomed their country in the process. Likewise, it takes a special type of opposition to stand up against what is one of the most powerful and entrenched parties the modern world has seen and to fight over and over again for what they believe is the betterment of Singapore. Trust me, no one ever goes into the opposition to take the easy way out.

We Singaporeans are so, so fortunate on both counts. But still, we see politicians on both sides being abused by supporters from opposing ends. Please, friends, let us be thankful for them, and not hateful of them.
Better still, all three groups have seen significant improvements since the last election. PAP is bringing in very interesting candidates like Louis Ng and Darryl David (Yes, I’m happily biased), and they have introduced populist moves like MediShield Life, the purchasing of buses and an increase in top bracket tax rates. WP, too, has great new faces, like He Ting Ru and Daniel Goh, who contradict their dialect-spewing stereotype. Their approach to education with a 10 year throughtrain, to prevent stressing out 12 year olds, is the closest that I’ve come to agreeing with (though, I still have fundamental issues with throughtrain as a concept in general). Chee Soon Juan seems to have wisened considerably in the past 15 years since he last stood and has taken a much more constructive approach. Paul Tambyah’s expertise in healthcare has lent incredible weight and thought to their healthcare proposal as well.

How fortunate we are, as Singaporeans, that the main parties we see are continually trying to improve themselves and refine their policies for the betterment of our country. Please, let us be thankful, and not hateful. We want our best citizens to join these parties, and not to be turned away by the hate. It is for the best of Singapore that we treat our well-intentioned politicians with admiration and respect for when we chase away our very best, we will only be left with our very worst.

Update: Wow! This has gone far further than I would have imagined! Thank you so much for sharing. I am humbled and appreciative that so many of us share the same views. I’ll try to respond to all substantive comments, regardless of your views. I’ve noticed comments on my relationship with various parties. I did not disclose this as I did not think it important given the original intended audience was for people who know me. Now that it has spread, I thought I’d better be upfront about this. I am fortunate to have Quah Kim Song as my father-in-law and Darryl David as my cousin-in-law. This has had no impact on my views, but provides context on some of the inside jokes in the essay.

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