In my previous post, I argue that the PAP has missed the golden opportunity to change its image - from hard to soft immediately after the passing of Lee Kuan Yew. Events like The Real Singapore, Amos Yee, degree mills, The Peaks, .. are some examples that shows the PAP government continues to use hard approach towards Singaporeans or only towards the trouble making Singaporeans defined by the PAP.
Imagine if PM Lee could meet and counsel Amos Yee when the so-called anti-LKY video was uploaded, the image of PM Lee and the PAP will certainly make a right turn, not a bad turn in at least the digital world. However, PM Lee refuses to talk, discuss and continues to use hard approach, use state machinery to solve a Smart Nation problem. Perhaps, as what LKY believed, a soft approach will produce more trouble makers. PM Lee worries his investment in soft approach will result to no return but bigger losses.
In a Smart Nation, when almost all Singaporeans are wired up and well connected in the digital world, many definitions under SG50 will need to find new meanings and flexibility. These include race, religion, language, nationality, and social value etc. These continue to be important in future Singapore but the interpretation is no more an one-side story of SG50 and the PAP. Perhaps, after one or two general elections, the PAP will have to give up their monopoly in defining these terms.
Co-destruction is what PM Lee and the PAP are doing now. The hard approach has led to a divided Singapore, dividing Singapore into 2 camps. Events mentioned above create pro-PAP and anti-PAP camps. For Amos’s case, pro-PAP supporters even openly endorsed the act of Amos slapper. If PM Lee could meet and counsel Amos, then he might turn the situation into a co-creation - a win-win situation. It means the PAP is willing to solve problems in a different way. And PM Lee is doing something different from his father. Would he dare to make a U-turn? Would he take such a risk?
PM Lee obviously sees the risk of co-creation of opening up the society and soft approach. Of course, he also knows the (old) advantages of co-destruction under authoritarian rule. The past practice of ‘Divide and Rule’, for example, English vs. Chinese schools, graduates vs. non-graduates, race-base development councils, HDB vs. Private housing and now locals vs. foreigners, worked well under SG50. However, to continue practice this old and hard approach will lead to co-destruction in Singapore. This will encourage pro-PAP supporters to air their views, even in illegal way like the Amos slapper. It will also produce more so-called trouble makers in the eyes of the PAP government.
Amos’s case has a wider meaning. It is related to education, value, religion, social media, freedom of speech, and most importantly youth - the future of Singapore. The younger generation will one day take over Singapore from older generation. Just like PM Lee is selling his new and younger team of PAP leaders. By meeting and counselling Amos Yee, PM Lee would have the opportunity to understand the youth in Singapore no matter they are majority or not. These young Singaporeans will have influences in Singapore’s future whether the PAP government likes it or not.
By not engaging them, thinking them as nightmares and trouble makers, it will lead to more social problems. Using adult law and hard approach is just adding more oils to the fire. A Smart Nation is different from SG50 where there is no digital world or alternative channels.
SG50 is a programmed world, perhaps in C++ language. Decision making is very straight forward. Voters have only one touch point - from boundary re-drawing, candidates announcement, parliament dissolved, mainstream media coverage, PAP rally (skipped), cooling-off and voting day. This one-touch-point model only creates value for the PAP. And it is made possible under the hard and authoritarian approach.
In a digital world, there are many touch points in the decision process. It is a not a straight line or an algorithm. People make decision by reading reviews, attending rally, comparing policies and candidates (may not base on qualification), checking the authenticity of the PAP stories, exchanging information, and personal experience etc. These touch points will affect voters’ choice. It is difficult to use hard approach to influence a person’s choice in the digital world.
Interestingly, like degree mills, voters want to check and scrutinize the authenticity of the PAP. In SG50, people have no tools to check. However, in a Smart Nation, voters are interested to find out the inauthenticity of the PAP including comparing the past and present performance. How authentic is men-in-white today as compared to their pioneers? No matter how hard the approach is, the PAP really cannot stop people in engaging the authentic check. A check that will make the PAP regrets!