“The video that Amos Yee created crossed the red line on religion. I think Amos Yee is not doing himself or his family any favours by challenging the conditions of the bail. From my own understanding and also from what I read on the internet, not everyone is on his side. Many would question his motivation. Also, how do you deal with a 16-year-old that is not able to comply with rules in the society. It’s kind of a parents’ nightmare I think. I have a lot of sympathy and empathize with the parents. The parents tried as much as possible to get him to comply with the decision of the courts for conditions of the bail but I think that he’s just not able to follow.”
“I hope that Amos will come to realise the distress that he has caused his family and try to work things out with his parents.” Grace Fu, PAP CEC Member, Minister.
One of the most quoted definitions of corporate culture and, by far, the simplest is the ‘way we do things around here,’ Deal & Kennedy, 1982. The definition captures the essence when applied to a country’s culture. For e.g., in Singapore, we (like to claim we) practise a culture of meritocracy, we advance a person’s position/responsibilities based on an individual’s ability or achievement. And, accordingly, the cabinet of this Tiny Red Dot are paid millions. We also (like to trumpet that we) practise accountability. The responsible person is answerable for his performance whether successes or screw-ups.
That’s a part of Singapore culture. That’s the way we do things around here. Culture practised over time gives rise to rules. Rules help to make more clear-cut how we define our culture.
But culture is neither unalterable nor immutable. It is changeable and constantly changing. Likewise, ‘rules in the society’ even as no society remains static.
Grace Fu has correctly summed up Amos Yee’s series of actions – from his message, the media (youtube, blog) he used, his manner of presentation to his post-arrest behaviour and belligerence towards his bail conditions – as a matter of compliance with ‘rules in the society’ or his failure thus.
She, as a minister, in clarifying her originally reported remarks, also seemingly as a parent emphasizing with Amos’ parents, appears to suggest that Amos being ‘not able to comply with the rules in a society’ can only be a bad thing. Our leaders want Singaporeans, both young and old, to merely comply with whatever the rules are that have been the norm here. Just stick to ‘the way we do the things around here’. Period.
Grace should know better. If rules must only be strictly followed and never challenged, guess where would Grace be now as a Chinese female? Most likely as someone denied an education and, perhaps, even be living with size 3 ‘lotus feet’ from foot binding.
She should count herself lucky to be born in the 20th century. Instead of taking for granted her good fortune, she should be thanking those before her who refused to comply with societal rules of no education for females and foot-binding as a form of beauty.
Having said that, we can agree that NOT all challenges to ‘rules in the society’ is a good thing. We should always try to improve on the good while jettisoning what is no longer relevant to our times or our goals to further strengthen our unity, our progress as one nation.
But what have we been seeing for the last 10, 20 years or so? The rules or, more specifically, our governance culture that our recent forefathers have painstakingly built up to propel us into the the ranks of First World nations are being chipped away.
Take the 2 earlier mentioned; Meritocracy and Accountability. Instead of Meritocracy, PAP leaders have been covertly converting it into a mutated ‘Merito-guanxi’ – a little merit but lots of guanxi. The results? At the highest levels, ministers who are unable to resolve transport problems or decelerate the rate of Singaporean PMETs losing ever more jobs and remaining unemployed or under-employed are not removed but instead reshuffled or given additional ministries to helm. Witness also the many businessmen being served the plump pickings of town council or other government contracts due to the ‘guanxi’ built-up at RCs and other grassroot organizations.
How about Accountability? On the non-negotiable issue of national security, Singapore’s most dangerous terrorist’s (Mas Selamat) escape elicited only a sissy ‘This was a lapse. What to do, it’s happened’…’Let’s move on.’ Nary a minister’s head rolled, only a kah-kia (low-rank). On another matter with broader collective cabinet responsibility, in allowing more Foreigners into SG, the lapses in building insufficient houses, hospitals and transport infrastructure are similarly non-accountable.
What about our retirement adequacy? It’s the PAP that has been in power for more than 50 continuous years. What do they have to say how their own brillance failed to achieve retirement adequacy for an estimated 70-80% of our elders currently? They and only they have been at the helm exercising unfettered use of our CPF monies. Instead of admitting their lack of foresight, they now insist that our parents must abandon their familiar environs to either downgrade or live with strangers in their house to earn rental income to retire on.
Grace, like it or not, the ‘rules in the (SG) society’ are changing.
It is obvious that the current PAP’s merito-guanxi and no-need-for-accountability rules are a regression to the Singapore culture.
But in the case of Amos’ non-compliance and rebellion to the norms, even if his method and methodology are not within most of our comfort zone or appropriate, it remains to be seen if Amos is, in fact, doing what Rudolf Bahro observes, “When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure.”
Law Kim Hwee
Postscript: Amos actions and words re Vincent Law (no relations with me) must be categorically condemned as uncivil and immatured and run contrary to his original actions to test the limits of being able to freely speak one’s mind in Singapore without succumbing to lies, innuendoes and defamation.