Not too long ago, I had a conversation with an old friend. The topic turned to success and the pain of failure. My friend expressed concern that his son may not know how to deal with the disappointment and pain of failure. As a doting father, he makes every effort to facilitate his son’s success.
For example, if his son forgets to bring an assignment to school, he would rush it to school for him. He gets the best tutors to help his son in his weak subject areas. This has gone on for so many years the son does not think much of it. He believes his success was his own achievement.
This sets me thinking about how the government is often like a father, quick to act to shield Singaporeans from crises.
This has helped – thus far – to keep unemployment low. As of now, unemployment is lower than during the SARS and the Global Financial crises.
Consequently, during the election, many Singaporeans did not identify with the government’s repeated statements about being in a crisis of a generation.
The government’s success in protecting Singaporeans has, ironically, resulted in a disconnect between government and people.
The government was left to talk alone about the burden of building a new future in a new normal while the people talked about how to stop the government.
There was no shared burden. What crisis? Life went on pretty much as usual save for the ‘inconvenient’ restrictions.
How can Singaporeans know a government has done well if they cannot know what it’s like when a government does not do well?
Like how a child does not know the pain of failure and disappointment because his parents are always there to intervene to protect him, a people will not know the pain of crisis because the government is quick to act to either pre-empt the crisis or take measures to mitigate it to protect the people.
No one recognises a hero who prevents something bad from happening, and it didn’t happen
Such is the irony of life.
There are many things Singaporeans have taken for granted. Peace and stability is one of those things, so much so that provisions meant to preserve and build peace and stability actually come under attack.
Why need an ethnic quota for HDB flats, some queried.
And then there is the GRC System. The GRC system is not just about ensuring minority representation in Parliament. More importantly, it ensures that political parties must be multiracial in their composition. No party can stand for election in a GRC if they do not have a multiracial slate of candidates.
But multiracial parties and politics are taken for granted as a natural state of affairs.
Few recognise that it is the result of the GRC system. Some even want the system abolished.
CAN SUCCESS BE LEFT TO SPEAK FOR ITSELF?
When a bad state of affairs is prevented with a good degree of success, few will be able to recognise the effort. How do you appreciate ‘badness’ when you don’t experience it? And if you cannot appreciate the ‘badness’, how do you recognise the effort that prevented it?
What this means is that a government cannot think they can win elections by solely relying on their success to speak for them. When the people have enjoyed continual success for so many years, they don’t think of it as ‘success’ they are experiencing. It’s just a normal state of affairs.
Political leaders and Politicians
PAP leaders are political leaders, not politicians.
A politician is aligned with popular public opinions while a leader is aligned with proven principles and values even when they are not in line with public sentiments.
A politician thinks about his prosperity while a political leader thinks about posterity.
For a political leader to carry out his vision for the people, he has to be elected first. To be elected, he must be a politician.
Therefore going forward, it is not good enough to be good political leaders, as important as this is. The PAP leaders will need to be politicians as well.