Sg: In Memoriam, JBJ. Move over JBJ, it's 'ed' Turn





There is only one thing that I learnt from JBJ, who will always have my respect, and that is, the significance of the individual in attempting to see beyond what is being promoted via the prominent, powerful, and popular. Even where many ignored him, and I couldn’t help noticing that the Chinese attending a Chinese martial arts performance at a well-lit stage a placard’s throw away significantly outnumbered those attending a memorial candlelight vigil for JBJ at a hardly-lit ‘Speakers Corner’, he still plodded on.

Unfortunately, the people, on both sides of the illusory divide between the proposition and 'opposition', well-practiced in following the prominent or/and powerful, never appreciated this point, and to this day, they still abide by the Confucian notion of, ‘if you aren’t someone, then your ideas are not worthy of discussion or consideration.’. That is the problem with many activists, be they Chee or JBJ or their bevy of sheep. They fail to realise that whilst they are occupying the limelight amongst those whom are inclined to be mesmerised by the visual pitter patter of fairy lights, they are simultaneously devaluing the significance of the individual whom they hope to fight for. That is a paradoxical situation that generally arises within societies used to leaving politics in the hands of the politicians.

Hence, when you look at the ‘activists’ of today in singapore, they are most inclined to only discuss the ideas of the prominent, be they Obama, their own oppositional leaders, and those of the party they purport to oppose. But there is little equitable appreciation of each other. It seems that the formula by which one’s ideas might be given serious and popular consideration requires little more than the propensity to be burdened with government-initiated lawsuits, be seen to oppose, and be arrested for it. Originality of ideas, or true insight seems to have little to do with it as, I have to admit, none of the ideas of JBJ or Chee can be accused of it. They were just aping western methods and approaches for the realisation of democracy without appreciating how local conditions and culturally-induced biases had to be taken into account, and added steps taken to counter these. Not appreciating this led to them being undone by these oversights. It is all too easy to blame the authoritarianism of a government than to consider the impotence of one’s methods. Hence, people are still inclined to hero-worship Chee or JBJ as an unwitting and subconscious effort to relieve themselves from doubt-inducing introspection whilst absolving them and their respective cultures and perspectives from complicity.

In Chee’s reverential homage to JBJ, he presents him as one who constantly fought against apathy and indifference. Unfortunately, as JBJ and Chee, rarely, if ever, touched on cultural factors, all that one can say is that both put up the 'good' fight whilst indifferent to the cultural foundations and means upon and through which apathy and indifference is based and reinforced. The party in power, however, and unfortunately, did not make this mistake.

Hence, today, thanks to their oversights, activists are inclined to simply follow their leaders; not give as much consideration for each others’ ideas; view critique of the opposition as indicative of one’s support of the party in power; discuss ideas of the prominent; whilst embodying in practice and oversights, their ethnically and hierarchically ordered depreciation of reality which is nothing short of culturally and racially fascist. A wholly Confucian/Legalist paradigm seems to encapsulate and insulate the populace and singaporean ‘activists’ from that degree of empathy and appreciation of each other’s significance that is required to enhance their understanding of the essence of democracy. How does one attempt to promote that which one has little understanding of?

That is why the ‘opposition’ is, today, not truly a product of the insights of the past, but of its oversights. The significance of ‘ed’, in the context of the title and this observation, is not about the author, but of the significance of the individual which Confucian/Legalist cultures is by definition incapable of grasping. Whether people are on the side of the proposition or ‘opposition’, they always seem to engage from within the overarching paradigm instituted by Confucian governments. In that is their undoing, or in the best case, slows down democratic progress immensely whilst the redefinition of the idea of ‘progress’ is itself redefined via the socialisation of subsequent generations. The significance of ‘ed’ lies in the significance of every individual to see beyond the perspectival fashions of the day. That is, to question their leaders, to deem oneself worthy of going past these leaders in perspective, to appreciate revered icons not only in terms of their achievements, but also in terms of their oversights. In other words, not to live within the shadows of the giants of the past, but to realise that the ‘giants’ of the past and present appear as such on the basis of our ignorance as opposed to their aptitude. (Hence, my being able to produce perspectives appreciating the phenomena of democracy, indifference and apathy in consideration of local/foreign cultural factors that verifiably cuts deeper than the perspectives of Chee and JBJ put together.)

To ask JBJ to move over for ‘ed’ is to direct the local populace to appreciate the value of their own significance in building upon and past the giants of the past and present, and to focus on both their achievements and oversights so as to present the best challenge to the Confucian/Legalist/Orwellian milieu that can be afforded it by way of horizontal valuation – that is, the popular appreciation of each other and oneself as opposed to the reverence of leaders and those whom are more known for a resume of arrests as opposed to insight. That is the essential and only valuable message that is the stance and approach of JBJ. And it is only in replication of it that we honour his memory.



according2,


ed

2 comments:

  1. Very interesting article, in fact, I ought to say it is very insightful and definitely most stimulating article that I can find on any singapore sites.

    Regarding your view on 'whilst they are occupying the limelight amongst those whom are inclined to be mesmerised by the visual pitter patter of fairy lights, they are simultaneously devaluing the significance of the individual whom they hope to fight for', that is a very fine line between a leader and the people. I am not sure how a leader can avoid being in the limelight while leading his/her people.

    That is a very shrew observation -'both put up the 'good' fight whilst indifferent to the cultural foundations and means upon and through which apathy and indifference is based and reinforced. The party in power, however, and unfortunately, did not make this mistake.'I wonder how many people in singapore actually realise this.

    I absolutely love this - 'The significance of ‘ed’, in the context of the title and this observation, is not about the author, but of the significance of the individual which Confucian/Legalist cultures is by definition incapable of grasping.'Many can actually learn from this - significance of ‘ed’ lies in the significance of every individual to see beyond the perspectival fashions of the day.

    Looking forward to more stimulating articles from you. Hopefully, the Oppositions would learn a thing or two from you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello Maria,

    "I am not sure how a leader can avoid being in the limelight while leading his/her people."

    In answer to your question, let me relate something i experienced with the opposition about 8 or 9 years ago.

    I had met with Chee for a couple of hours to find out more about his party's view on things, and perhaps, to enlist. During this time, he asked me to join the SDP, and specifically, the SDP youth. I, however, withheld my decision till I got to know them a bit more.

    Shortly after, i realised, that the ranks were quite accustomed to playing follow-the-leader when it came to ideas. When i suggested to the president and vice-president of the SDP youth - whom were both less educated than I in the relevant fields - that we start a library of 'required reading' in politics, political philosophy, global issues of related content, conduct seminars for discussions, invite the PAP youth to debates, etc, so as to educate new members on the intricacies of democracy and so on, they remained silent, and even began to imply that i might be working for the PAP. At one point, they even remarked to each other, 'he doesn't look like SDP' because i was accustomed to jeans and turtle-necks. They even seemed to take offence at my referring to Chee as 'Chee' and not Dr. Chee. Hence, i began to realise that there was a certain kind of mindless regimentation amongst them that illustrated their belief that everything had its rightful place(what Confucius termed, 'the rectification of names' or 'cheng-ming'. I realised that their approach was no different from what i observed amongs most Chinese all arenas.

    When i wrote Chee about it, he very politely (he is actually quite a nice fellow) told me that i was new and ought to tone down and just follow. Thereafter, i had nothing to do with them as i realised that both Chee and his infantry were no different from the masses in their relationship with the PAP in terms of both not appreciating the value of popular intellectual individualism. In that lies the basis for much of the problems singaporeans encounter, along with those they inevitably will not be aware of.

    This is just one example of many that I've witnessed in the course of the past 10 years - and when i think back, throughout most of my life in singapore amongst the Chinese. Now, i understand, that when we live within less than favourable conditions for long enough, we will tend to manifest in our own persona the essential bases upon which the superstructure the thus-created 'reality' emerge. We can easily, at this time, confuse our opposition to evils as evidence of our enlightenment. But that would mostly be true in terms of our addressing the consequences of evils as opposed to its root - which we might be embodying in our fundamental perspectives. Till now, the 'opposition' still hasn't got it right - and the government has had 30 years to ensure that they will get it wrong.

    Whilst leaders occupy the limelight, what they have to do is to promote intellectual individualism amongst the ranks. The leader must always promote the notion that whilst s/he leads on the basis of the party's manifesto, they will have to lead in the generation of ideas as they outnumber her/im, and hence, logically, will be able to generate more ideas from more angles than any single individual. But neither Lee, Chee, or even JBJ realised the importance of this, and hence delivered them to a Confucian culture of kowtowism on both sides of the hence illusory divide between the opposition and proposition. This goes significantly into undermining their own position as their own ranks will not be able to operate from a maximal perspectival state.

    Thanks for your thoughts Maria. Hope to learn from your insights as well :)

    ed

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