The past few days has been quite unusual for me – I was actually paying attention to politics in Singapore. Not just interested. My thoughts and remarks came at such a fast and furious pace even I am a little breathless. I surprised myself on how strongly I feel about many of the issues that are being bantered around and discussed in public media, and even more by my own urge to be a part of the conversation.
A friend commented recently that one of the best things about the upcoming GE is seeing his intelligent Singaporean friends getting passionate about politics. I remembered the sense of thrill that went down my spine hearing that. I am excited and I can’t quite contain it. Hmm. I don’t want to. What exactly is my excitement over??
This reminds me of one beautiful winter afternoon almost 10 years ago, where I watched my first ever Aussie rules (Australian footy) game in the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I didn’t have anything planned for the trip and decided to drop by the local Ticketmaster to get some ideas. I told the lady manning the counter that I was a tourist and it was my first trip and I was looking for something that will show me a side of Melbourne life. She immediately said “Has to be Aussie rules then, and you are in luck cos two of the most competitive clubs are playing each other at the MCG this afternoon. You will enjoy it.” I didn’t know what Aussie rules was and was too shy to ask but I decided to be brave.
That afternoon I found myself cheering like a hard core footy fan alongside tens of thousands of locals and visiting supporters of the two teams. It was a fascinating experience. The stadium was split into two halves by team colours, filled to the brim. I was told the two teams are local and not the top teams but man do the Australians take their footy seriously. I had no clue about the rules; I was intoxicated by the atmosphere – it was electrifying, passionate and the supporters didn’t hold back their praises for their team and criticisms for the opponent. I mean, it was the rawest form of passion about something inanimate called Aussie rules, unbridled passion.
After overcoming my initial shyness and apprehension (I didn’t want to be too conspicuous then quickly realised that being the only Asian woman who didn’t partake in the fanatical fan behaviour was a dead give-away), I started to get a sense of the game rules. It is not a complicated game and I begin to join in the chorus of chants and irrational screams surrounding me. It was such a thrill to just lose myself in the amazing atmosphere. It was surreal.
I realised that the sense of excitement I am experiencing now about Singapore politics is like the thrill I felt that afternoon in the MCG.
It wasn’t the politics per se that excited me. I was drawn into the ‘atmosphere’ where Singaporeans seem to be waking up from a slumber. People are making comments, responding to what the political players are saying. What used to be a top-down, predictable monologue now sports some new voices.
I lapped up every article in our national broadsheet about the election and party candidates before quickly realising TODAY provided a much more balanced coverage. Kudos to the ST though. It seems to, at least attempting to, come across less of a PAP newsletter by expanding coverage of all parties even though its election website sends shivers down my spine for all the wrong reasons.
I am like a new sponge (I never used to be interested in what the opposition had to say, dismissing them as irrelevant, irrational and incompetent) and my eyes and mind expand in wonder with the information I am now immersing myself in.
The public started a little slow, perhaps preferring to err on the side of caution and conservatism. Then suddenly it felt like everybody had something to say about everything and anything. Like a barrier was broken past, with a flourish. And it is such a pleasure to watch and now participate in.
Singapore is waking up and the campaigning has not even started yet. The game is on. Sure most of it is rhetoric right now but it is such a thrill to see Singaporeans – especially the youth – standing up for something, questioning, speaking up and being bold self expression.
Singaporeans are proving many skeptics wrong – they have become smarter than they have let on, they have been watching in silence, quietly shedding the apathy cloak. They are beginning to realise their voices do count. The quality of the comments is not the focus of this post but I must admit I am pleasantly surprised at the level of critical thinking that has come through some of the comments.
I am drawn out of my own slumber and skepticism into a dialogue where people actually give a damn about one another, rather than suffer in silence or complain about everything (even the things that work) or switch off and withdraw into their own shells. Some of the simple logic provided by the opposition members have been hard to fault and raising some eyebrows. I have met more people saying “it’s about time.”
Perhaps my husband is right. 2011 is the year of the people. This, to me, is the awakening of the human spirit, a step in the right direction. THIS is what excites me.
I wonder if I will live to see Singapore usher in a new political era. Perhaps Singaporeans will save the biggest surprise for the last and stun everyone sooner rather than later. Stay tuned.