Saturday, October 07, 2006

From Hip-hop to Bland Blogging: Are our new MPs really so shallow?

Subsequent to Lee Hsien Loong's annoucement earlier this year that the PAP was trying to make itself to be more 'hip' and 'cool,' the post 65ers have so far engaged in a couple of initiatives to execute this 'hip' strategy. The first of which is the P65 group blog, where the MPs try to write short snippets about their lives, the second is the plan to participate in a group hip hop performance. And, as we can probably guess, more such PR initiatives are probably on the way. However, I can't help but feel rather concerned about the direction that the PAP is taking, and the attributes of PAP MPs that these initiatives seem to reveal.

Certainly, the thinking behind this new direction must surely be one of innovation and breaking new ground - the PAP has never engaged in such 'hip' acts in its history. And for some reason, it has felt that it has to engage in such activities to connect with the younger generation. But is this really what the younger generation want from our MPs? Me thinks otherwise. The younger generation is more politically aware, and has a greater thirst for substantive political debate on real issues, not trying to put up a blog which they "didn’t intend ... to be a discussion place on policies." Seriously, if politicians don't discuss politics, what do they discuss? Anything else is really out of the interest of the public sphere, and has little relevance to Singaporean citizens.

But perhaps these initiatives really show up the inexperience and naivete of our MPs. Michael Palmer's protests that the MPs are not 'trying too hard,' claims that

The idea behind doing the hip hop is not about connecting with the youth through hip hop. That’s missing the point. It’s about connecting by showing that we’re willing to have a good time and laugh at ourselves once in a while.

But seriously, does he really believe in this? There are ways to have a good time and laugh at yourselves, ways that genuinely reveal one's personality and character to the people, and activities that do not need to take one so far out of one's comfort space. Seriously, I doubt Singaporeans have any expectations of our MPs to be dancers - that's not what they voted the MPs into power for. The MPs could engage in a thousand and one other activities that are publicly visible and yet do not seem so ludicrous to the public. And none more so than generation Y will be quick to see through this marketing gimmick.

Speaking of marketing, this brings me to my next point. Are the MPs really simply about putting up fronts? I certainly hope not, for then our future is in a precarious position. When Lee Hsien Loong talked about being a more inclusive and open government, this was certainly not what Singaporeans expected. In fact, the behaviour seems absolutely baffling and incomprehensible. That the MPs are willing to dedicate precious time and effort into such relatively shallow activities as hip-hop dancing, at the expense of other more important activities, is really no laughing matter.

But perhaps, given the we-know-all attitude of the PAP and the Yes-men culture within the political party, perhaps the initiatives are not so surprising after all. Couple this with a tendency for top-down policy making by leaders out of touch with the common populace, and you get 12 MPs hip-hopping away. These activities that the PAP are trying to pursue are simply showing up more and more the cracks and weaknesses in the power structures behind the ruling party. And while not yet disastrous, the overall direction that the PAP is taking is cause for concern.

Perhaps Singaporeans should step back and challenge the notion that a parliament full of PAP MPs is the best for Singapore. Just like so many other policies like the 4 million smiles campaign or the attempts to create love amongst singaporeans, the hip strategy doesn't look good to me. And if Singaporeans continue to let them engage in such intitatives, Singapore may soon start to look rather unhip.

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