How can we define whether a person or a book is important, most important or not important at all? Should it be defined according to public opinions, the applicants, the author, or history? We don’t know. It is especially difficult to assess the importance of a book when the author is alive. Just like many art pieces, their intrinsic value will only surface (unfortunately) after the passing of the painters.
Lin Yutang wrote an interesting book about Su Tungpo – ‘The Gay Genius – The life and Time of Su Tungpo’. Su’s works were banned and the Song government even imposed fine for possessing the poems, prose and paintings by Su. However, century later, the government had to withdraw the order and praised Su again with highest respect.
History is very funny. It records the past for future readings and assessments. The current happenings may not be the true pictures of the events. Hopefully candidates who apply for the Nominated Members of Parliament know what they are doing and applying for. And also, those who have said they have written the most important books in their life may have to take notice that this is only their own assessments. What the future generations think and evaluate may be very different from the current reality.
Just like Lin said in his book:
<There is a current Chinese saying that final judgment upon a man is possible only when the cover is nailed on his coffin. (盖棺定论)
A man’s life is like a drama, and we can judge a drama only when the curtain drops.>
In explaining the difficulty of assessing a living man, Lin has this to say:
<It is really not so difficult to know a man dead a thousand year ago. Considering how incomplete our knowledge usually is of people who live in the same city, of even the private life of the mayor, it seems sometimes easier to know a dead man than a living one. For one thing, the living man’s life is not completed, and one never knows what he is going to do next when a crisis comes. …… That is why it is so difficult usually to judge a contemporary, whose life is too close to us.>
On blacklist and treatments of Su Tungpo, Lin further described:
<One year after the death of Su Tungpo …, a historically important episode occurred. This was the establishment of the famous Yuanyu Partisans’ tablet, a symbol and a summing up of the struggles of the whole period. ….. the tablet was a black-list of 309 men, headed by Su Tungpo, of the Yuanyu regime. It banned for ever by imperial order these persons and their children from assuming office in the government. …….. For over a century, the children of the black-listed men boasted that their ancestors’ names were included in the tablet. >
Yuanyu Tablet Source: ghbl.org.cn
However, Lin stressed the importance of integrity in writings:
<Su Tungpo’s peculiar position in China’s history was, therefore, based on his courageous stand for his principles and opinions, as well as upon the charm of his poems and prose. His character and principles constitute the ‘bones’ of his fame, while the charm of style and language forms the ‘flesh and skin’ that embody the beauty of his spirit. I do not think that we can, at heart, admire a writer lacking in integrity, however brilliant and charming his writings may be. >
Tablet, History and NMP
In 1990, the NMP scheme was introduced when there was an overwhelming majority of PAP MPs in Parliament.
A Nominated Member of Parliament(NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed instead of being elected into office by the people, and who does not belong to any political party or represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament. The introduction of NMPs in September 1990, effected to bring more independent voices into Parliament, was an important modification of the traditional Westminster parliamentary system that
had. (Source: wikipedia) Singapore
Applicants who are aiming for NMP posts have to learn a lesson from the Yuanyu Tablet. The have to always remind themselves that they are appointed, to be independent and their present is an important modification of the parliament system.
Furthermore, the political situation now is very different from 1990. The past performance of majority of NMPs and whether the NMP scheme is appropriate at the first place are all still in doubt in the historical perspective. It really takes some courage and motivations to stand before the Select Committee.