Thursday, 4 October 2012

National Conversation vs. Social Media, who is the winner?

What do you think? National Conversation competes against Social Media for awareness and influences over Singaporeans and who will be the final winner?

From the perspective of learning and sharing, National Conversation and Social Media have different reach and coverage. The former is a privilege and is for selected group of people and the latter is open to everyone, anyone – good, bad, or ugly provided they are online.       

National Conversation is a small circle and participants are seeking a consensus. They know what they are doing and their aim is to agree among themselves what is best for them as well as for the country.  Furthermore, they want to push these consensuses to others and make them representing all Singaporeans.   

Sharing and learning among peers

We may call this sharing and learning among peers. These peers have the same background, same spoken language, same life style and even same attitude towards non-peers.  For reasons like these, it is easy for members and participants of National Conversation to get a consensus or consensuses if there is more than one.  

There is a famous saying in the ‘Analects’: Three of us travelling together, one of the other two persons can be my teacher #.  What Confucius wanted to stress here is that among students, scholars or officials, there must be someone who has better knowledge than the rest of the peers.  Therefore, they can learn from each other.

Similarly, for National Conversation, the discussions, conversations, talks, and the final consensuses are all among the peers.  They really discuss, debate, and seek views and opinions from each other.  However, they never reach out to non-peers.

This is why people criticises elite schools, students there only discuss among themselves. Same for scholars, they all debate among themselves. This leads to a narrow conclusion that only represents their views – the best views among them.

Of course, the phrase from the ‘Analects also mentions about learning from persons who are better and smarter than us.  At the same time, we also learn the mistakes and shortcomings of those less smart and less capable than us so that we can improve or avoid the same mistakes. However, all these happen within the small circle of peers.  

Learning and sharing from everyone, anyone

However, it is important to recognise that there are more ‘teachers’ beside the peers.  Perhaps, this is why the Ministry of Education wants to come with the idea of ‘every school is a good school’.   Since there are good schools, there are sure to have something that elite schools can learn from these good schools.

It is important to broaden the horizon to outside the peer circle. A hawker, a cleaner or a driver can teach us something that we do not know - how to cook a delicious meal, how to clean a toilet, and how to handle a vehicle.  

In the internet era, the new learning and sharing platform is everyone and anyone not only for peers.

The only handicap of the social media right now is those people who are less familiar with internet.  20 years later, when more and more Singaporeans are familiar with internet, National Conversation type of consultation will be irrelevant.

Perhaps, this shows that the PAP government is living in the past.  They are still comfortable with the old, narrow, and PAP defined style of discussion. They like single minded talk with peers.

While social media is a new approach, that is an open platform (negative, positive and neutral comments, some even nonsenses or misleading).  It is multi-minded and there is no restriction.   Of course, it is difficult to control and individual has to make his own judgement.  But it presents a real case just like the society you have bad guys, good guys, ugly guys, or even helpless and hopeless guys.

While, National Conversation presents a world of all the good guys, pretending there are no other guys.  Therefore, it is not realistic.

Just like the following, how PM Lee, using his National Conversation point of view, views ‘not poor’ and ‘entitlement’ is quite different from the netizens in the social media.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says Singaporeans think their government is not poor - and as such expect the government to do more for them. 
He said this in a wide-ranging interview with The Australian newspaper - ahead of his second official visit to Australia next week. 
Mr Lee was asked if there were any lessons Singapore could learn from the Western world, which is suffering from a crisis of entitlement spending. 
Mr Lee said Singaporeans are not poor, but feel less well-off relative to others in society and that there is a relative sense that they should get an entitlement. 
Mr Lee said from giving very minimal welfare, Singapore has gone on the basis of growth, high employment and low unemployment. 
He said Singaporeans will get help, but the help is not something they are absolutely entitled to. 
Using Europe as an example, Mr Lee said besides entitlement spending, the idea of state welfare is also entrenched among the Europeans. 
He said Singapore needs to adjust accordingly without going overboard.

# 处《论语·述而》:三人行,必有我师焉。择其善者而从之,其不善者而改之。

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