In response to the article: How articulate are Singaporeans?

Comments (3)
  1. Choon says:

    1) You say media is state controlled, to clarify I think you mean traditional media. New media (ie blogs/news blogs) COULD be state controlled (how do we know? well when that sg racist blogger got jailed. so we know the govt is trawling all our sites. BUT despite all that trawling lots of “anti-govt” sites, or sites that express critical views of the govt are still THERE. they’re not being put down. There is actually greater freedom of speech in Singapore than has been given credit for, I mean definitely not to the same degree as the west but we’re getting somewhere. give it some credit.

    and anyway just to point out also media is always controlled by smth… here its the state, in the US for example its big businesses/elite aka Chomsky theory… its always gonna be biased and unfavourable povs to entrenched interests always face the risk of getting screened)

    2) Chinese society’s fear of losing face…………. Okay so we’re separating out the Chinese from the other races in Singapore? Is this an empirical fact? Some survey thing you read from? I mean I know some pretty shameless Chinese when I was in Taiwan on an immersion program the Chinese students there were REALLY vocal… I mean what do you mean by Chinese? I agree that generally Singaporean students have been known/observed to be a bit more reticent, I didn’t see it as a race thing.

    my take on this is that okay, we’re reticent, we gotta work on that, but let’s not look too much to the US as a model where everybody there JUST TALKS but raise mundane points.

    3) agree with you about the vapid speeches thing.. seems a bit odd to BLAME the speech-giver for our reticence… like oh it’s not our fault for not responding to your speech sir it was just too boring. haha well well well

  2. Kelvin Teo says:

    Dear Choon:

    I am not sure if you have observed this but if you trawl through these “anti government sites”, a lot of them are anonymous. There is still a prevalent fear of being prosecuted, which explains the anonymity. Those who write with their real names are those who are living overseas, beyond touching distance from the Singapore government.

    Another reason why such anti-government sites remain is due to legal reasons. Such sites are hosted overseas, and thus, the administrators of such sites are subjected to the laws of their countries and not Singapore’s laws. And there are laws to protect free speech in such countries. Put it that way, what is considered free speech may be anti-government speech but it is still free speech nonetheless. And getting the administrators to remove such sites would mean that they would be violating the laws protecting free speech. Does it surprise you that some aspects of Singapore’s laws are not applicable elsewhere?

    Sincerely yours

  3. Chetan says:

    We have spoken about your two disagreements, but here are my responses to them anyway:
    1) While true that there is greater scope now for one to be critical of the government, we must remember that most choose to do it under the cloak of anonymity as Kelvin pointed out. The internet media provides a means like never before for Singaporeans to engage in a discourse on political issues. I must admit I have neither been a part of the blogging circles nor kept up with the discussions that go on there, and that this is indeed a development from yesteryears when the internet was not ubiquitous.

    However, it is still significant that the central mediums of information that are accessed by most Singaporeans are the newspapers, television and radio. Barring the youths and some second-generationers who make up much of the blogging population, the rest of the country forms and expresses its political and social opinions through the traditional media. When blogs begin to command the attention of a significant number of readers and therefore start to shape opinion, then they can be seen to provide a genuine medium of expression. Right now, it seems most online forums and blogs are filled with fretting individuals who communicate their domestic ranting online to others like them.

    Not that this is necessarily bad of course, as this medium of expression could be utilised better in the future. But it is worth reminding ourselves that it is precisely because these bloggers and forum posters are all too aware of the consequences of verbalising their aberrant thoughts through the mainstream media that the express them here. The blogosphere represents a much safer and marginalised sector of expression – at least for now – but one which can still be monitored by the authorities and stifled when it becomes sufficiently dangerous. It is the media equivalent of the coffee shop, where disgruntled folk can pour their hearts out within a contained environment.

    The perpetuation of a climate of fear, which was my main point in expressing this issue, is still prevalent, although to a lesser degree than in the past. More of the present generation are daring to challenge the establishment by voicing their dissenting opinions. The recent changes in laws limiting political expression are an indication the government‘s recognition, albeit a deeply incommensurate one, of the changing times. But honestly, it is not good enough. The incremental political liberation of Singapore is always several steps behind the liberalising minds of the new generation, and for good reason, the PAP will say.

    2) I still think the point about the ‘face’ issue in Chinese culture is a fair point. I agree that it might be a gross generalisation to make, but as someone who has studied in neighbourhood schools all throughout and has many Chinese friends – some of whom agree with me on this, I feel that there is definitely at least a kernel of truth here. Yes, it is, as I also mentioned, as issue in Asian culture in general. I perhaps did not make the point clear enough there but it is not the presence of these cultural traits that automatically engenders reticence amongst people, but rather the presence of other forces of suppression that restraints our voices and so allows the influence of these traits to pervade our habits unopposed. The Indians, as you pointed out in our conversation, are still argumentative, but less so because of the documented fears, and the pragmatic attitude to life that the government engenders in all of us puts greater emphasis on avoiding risk and damage to the self that speaking up freely in class or the hall can expose one to (assuming of course that he/she is not totally certain of what to say). This applies as well to the other racial communities.

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