Sunday, 13 July 2014

Votes in A Divided Singapore Iceberg

From the intercultural communication point of view, it may be difficult for some groups of Singaporeans understand and communicate with another group of Singaporeans. The fast changing social and economic landscape has created three groups of  Singaporeans: Traditional, pro-PAP and Western co-culture.

The Presidential Election 2011 showed such a trend. The recent Pink Dot event and the NLB books ban further indicate and confirm this divide. Of course, the debate on Public Trust, CPF, MediSheild Plus are other proofs too.   Pro-PAP Singaporeans will certain claim the government public trust is high. Western co-culture will say no and Traditional may say yes or no.      

Professor Mira Bergelson of Higher School of Economics, Russia explains there are three types of Russians: Tradition, Soviet and Western co-culture.  In the past 20-30 years, from Soviet Union to  Russia, Russia has experienced big political as well as economic  changes. The development until now has divided Russians into three groups of people.  For communication viewpoint, it may be difficult for Russians to understand each others.  Further complications arise when we think of geography, rural or urban, Europe or Far East.

To understand a Russian or to do business in Russia, one may have to  under their background.  Perhaps, the same thing is going to happen in Singapore.    

Russians first experience big political changes and then economic changes. Singapore first experiences big economic changes and now politically normality.

Singapore Divide

Big political and economic changes result to 3 groups

Russia experiences big political (and later economic) changes in the recent past, so do Singapore in economic (and later political) front.  We claim we only take  one generation from third world to first world.  Singapore is now one of the wealthiest countries in the world. However, we also have higher rich-poor gap. Comparing to Russian's tradition, Soviet, and Western co-culture, a similar trend is emerging in Singapore. We have people want to keep the tradition (e.g. preserving Asian values or conservatives). Another group like the Soviet memory, these Singaporeans strongly believe in everything from the People's Action Party(PAP). They believe only PAP can keep Singapore's glory and prosperity in the long run. The last group obviously belongs to co-western thinking and behaviours. A clear evidence is the 2011 Presidential Election and its result shows 3 groups of voters. No single candidate scored more than 36% of the total votes.

We can briefly define them:

Traditional: Conservatives,  strong values (religion or culture), for example, wear-white, or in some degrees Chinese educated.
Pro-PAP: Believe everything reported in the mainstream,  everything in PAP, for example, grassroot leaders, businesses etc.
Western co-culture: Modern and social justice, pro-Western and critical of the government policies, for example, Pink Dot, #Return My CPF, anti-ISA etc.    

Reactions on social  topics

Let’s take three headlines of TODAY (Saturday, 12 July) to see how the three groups react to them:

1. NLB’s decision ‘guided by community norms’ (page 1):  Clearly,  here the community norms are referred to the support from Traditional and Pro-PAP not the Western co-culture. Can we considered this a ‘community norm’?

2. New Video rejects MDA’s self-regulation scheme (page 2): Here, we see the strong reaction from Western co-culture. Pro-PAP will, of course, stand with the PAP and believe MDA is doing the right thing. How will Traditional react? Side with the PAP government or believe in the right value of creativity and no self-control?

3. PM Lee applies for summary judgement in blogger case (page 4): Similar to the MDA’s case, will more Traditionalists stand away in supporting Lee or agree with his action, especially summary judgement without knowing the details?

By the definition of the PAP’s high public trust and ‘community norms’, the PAP will win the three social topics with more than 50% of the votes.  However, we don’t know the latest approving of the government and Lee.  How strong is the pro-PAP group’s support? Will the 36% support for Tony Tan for President still hold? How is the growth rate of Western co-culture as well as the possible decline of Traditional and pro-PAP groups?

What will happen if we add all the social, political and economic issues together and make a final vote? The picture will not be so clear but rather complicated. We cannot rule out Traditional and Western co-culture work together and vote against the pro-PAP. The Traditional may also break into two, one section like the senior citizens, Chinese educated, assets rich-cash poor, supporting the Western co-culture and the other section of wear-white supporters supporting the PAP.  The result then become not so clear cut and the quality of candidates can be a decisive factor in the end.

Iceberg - below water activities    

Since 2011, we have seen few changes in economic front but there are more political challenges, year after year. The social disorders (Little India Riot and SMRT strike etc.) and social protests in Hong Lim Park  add more uncertainties to Singapore society.  All these will affect the interrelationship of the three groups.  The result of PE2011 may not be a correct indicator anymore. One group may have more members and another group sees declining membership.

So, the iceberg of 2011 we saw will be quite different from the coming general election. The undercurrent changes and below water activities cannot base on the assumption of PAP’s public trust and SG Conversation.  Certainly, the ‘PAP to mark its 60th year with series of events’ (page 15) is just an iceberg in the surface.  It will never give Singaporeans a full and clear picture of the current situation.      

Even the iceberg’s shape may change. It can reform. It may melt down. It may break into smaller icebergs.

The vote outcome in a divided Singapore may surprise ourselves, Singaporeans.  With climate change, we cannot predict the movement and shape of Singapore iceberg like before.

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