There was something strangely familiar about this feeling, this weird sense of rootlessness. Then, I understood.
What's a First World Parliament?
I recalled the times when I had to make difficult decisions by myself along major junctures in life. All along, I was repelled by options that are less desirable. I was a positive charge, a cation, that shifted in directions opposite to those that did not attract me.
Simply put, I knew what I didn't want and I shifted away from these options. It wasn't because I had a firm idea of what I can pursue with relentless energy. It wasn't because I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Very few people do. The directions I moved in was, more or less, guided by the most attractive opportunities that Life presented me with.
I remembered telling the kids I tutored to envision a future for themselves, to move towards their goals in life, to study hard so that they can fulfill their dreams. Their responses? They didn't know what they want; where can they move towards?
As a nation, it feels as though we are striving towards a vague idea, one modelled on flawed faraway systems.
Yes, we want alternative voices in the parliament. But what exactly do we want in the long run? What is a first world parliament anyway?
Do we want to be our system to resemble that of the US or UK? People there seem to treat political parties like football clubs. There are always some political crises in these nations: the Democrats trying to pass a bill, the Republicans blocking it, then the Democrats try to pass the bill again. How about the UK? Many countries are in a political limbo there. Germany placing the interests of the political party above the collective good of the EU while Spanish ministers seem to be quiting with alarming reguarity. Closer to home, Japanese prime ministers changed once each year for the past four years. These countries are considered First World Countries (right?) but do we want parliaments like theirs?
Yet, we all know that we do not want to end up like any of the Middle East and African countries. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." A single influential party renders the act of voting a mere ceremony; autocracy repositions itself as democracy.
So where does this leave us all? We don't really know what we want. We don't want to have our political system in a limbo. We don't want all the power to lie with one political party; yet it is difficult to straddle the line with the first stated aim. We want to model our system on a successful foreign political system but none can really address our unique geopolitical situation.
Towards a first world parliament? That's a great idea. But can we first decide what constitutes first class? If we only know what we don't want, if we don't know exactly what we want, it would be difficult to move towards anything.
History: making sense of it all
During the rally, as Mr Low explained the history of the GRC system, I realised that I need a crash course in the history of Singapore's politics. Without such background knowledge, I really can't appreciate how nuanced the policies are.
Back in secondary school, I had offered Literature in favour of History. Why study about dead people and past events? I rationalised to myself. Literature was alluring and still is. But with the passage of time, I realised my myopia.
书到用时方恨少. I now wish that I know more about Singapore's past.
The GRC system came into effect on 1 June 1988. Prior to that, all constituencies were single-membered. Apparently, after J B Jeyaretnam from Workers' Party and Chiam See Tong from Singapore Democratic Party won two SMC parliamentary seats, the GRC system was conceived to ensure that the ruling party remained in power. Instead of contesting as individuals, parties must now contest in a group of three.
In 1988, when Mr Low Thia Khiang, current Secretary General of WP, and his two fellow party members nearly won the Tiong Bahru GRC with 42.2% of the vote, the GRC system was tweaked further. GRC contesting groups can range from groups of 3 to 6 people. Now, this has many implications: Opposition parties couldn't find enough quality candidates to form credible teams while PAP owned the parliament with many GRCs simply being walkovered.
The shifting political boundaries - residents in Khaki Bukit leapt from Eunos to Aljunied to Marine Parade GRC in the past 3 GEs - hint at a greater underlying problem. More capable people have elaborated on this issue. Seek out their articles and inform yourself, please.
The Nature of Rallies
Rallies, by their nature, are rousing but brief.
During tonight's rally, I was swept away by the palpable adrenaline, the excitement which vibrated in the atmosphere. Rhetorics and humour were used to great effect. I admire Mr Low and Ms Lim for their eloquence and stage presence.
But, as I jogged home, I realised that I didn't found out much about what the Opposition planned to do. I have learned about the history of the GRC system, found out that casted votes will be guaranteed secrets and heard many anti-PAP remarks. But I still didn't know what is WP's stand on certain issues! Except for vague promises to help the poor, aged and young, working adults, I didn't hear any concrete plans.
I suspect that the concrete plans I want to know about can be found in their manifesto. And I can't help wondering how many people would actually take the time and effort to find the manifesto online and read through it.
Couldn't help feeling that emotions were riled while logic queued far behind. I can only hope that state-recognised voters comb through the manifestos of the respective parties - yes, even PAP's - before passing an informed judgement. Not base their votes on intuition, emotions and hearsay.
Support WP's policies, if you think they are good, but don't support them as though they're a football club. Too many people around me, it seems, are treating this like a mega entertainment.
*Again, our political issues elude easy understanding and answers. I am inexperienced in the realm of political science. I can't apply theories on organizational behaviour and mass media communications. I can't pass a judgement that all can share and relate to. I can only delineate my thoughts and attempt to reach a choice that I can live comfortably with. That is the best we can all ask of ourselves.
In this age and time when it is popular to bash the ruling establishment and identify oneself with the alternatives, I feel a need to state the beneath disclaimer:
I am neither pro-PAP nor pro-Opposition. I am pro-Singapore.