I used to run a blog several years back, called "The Intelligent Singaporean" Back then, the Singaporean political blogosphere (plogosphere) was small, young and fledgling, and there were only a few voices out in the internet who dared to write and criticise the government. Most were anonymous - including Mr Wang (who actually helped me kickstart IS). Only a couple used their real names to write, like Mr Alex Au of Yawning Bread.
While I was running IS, there was still intense skepticism from many parts of society towards the plogosphere. ST Journalists were very critical of bloggers and generally looked down on us. Society at large viewed us with suspicion, and I'm sure the PAP was watching us with a close eye. No one thought we had a chance to make a difference, no one thought we would succeed.
I closed down IS on August 25, 2007, almost 3 full years ago. I had just finished my studies and had other priorities in life, and couldn't afford the time that IS required. Since then, the plogosphere has exploded.
The chaps at Singapore Daily took over my job of aggregating the plogosphere. They have done a remarkable job since then. Andrew Loh, together with Choo Zheng Xi, started the fledgling theonlinecitizen, and together with their expanding team, have since brought it to new heights. Sometime later, the guys at Wayang Party decided to get serious with what they were doing and reorganised themselves into the Temasek Review, they have done a commendable job indeed. Of course, there are countless other bloggers who have come onto the scene, they are too many to mention.
Although there are differences and disagreements amongst bloggers today, political blogging has now become mainstream. Nobody questions the impact that it is having in shaping our national dialogue. Indeed, the mainstream press today often picks up where the blogosphere has left off. Internet media is now an unavoidable voice in Singapore and several have even crossed from the virtual world into the political sphere, such as Gerald Giam, now of the Workers' Party. Meanwhile, aspiring YPAP leaders face indefatigable scrutiny of their behaviour, any slip-up on their part is now publicised for all to see.
But lest we all grow to take this state of affairs for granted, let us not forget that we have had to fight to get to where we are today. As National Day is soon arriving, I would like to re-publish some of the gems that I found during my tenure at IS. Many bloggers from that pre-2007 era have since shut their blogs down. Fortunately, I managed to archive some of them on the blog.
The first of this is one of the earliest pieces I received in the IS email inbox. I hope it rings a bell with you today, just as it did so many years back.
I am a Singaporean, by Dan E
I was born in 1970 at the KK hospital and grew up in a kampong near the old airport. My parents stopped at 2 after having my younger sibling.
I moved from my kampong to a HDB flat in the west-end of Singapore when the government exercised the Land Reclamation Act on my kampong to build new flats.
I schooled through PSLE, O-level, A-level, and took a 2.5 years Army conscription break before disrupting to return to NUS for a degree course.
I followed the Singapore dream: study hard, serve the country, work hard, listen to the government and have a good life.
I remember vividly an illustration from the National Education text in primary school where it depicted a happy family of four walking towards their car from a high-rise apartment.
I observed the property market riding waves after waves of increase and read the dosage of how “investors” harvested profits within weeks without even seeing the apartment they bought. Inspiring.
And I quietly wondered how I can afford a high-rise apartment. But I thought that the government has a plan and I went for my Reservists and IPPT.
I watched my mother fell sick, admitted for emergency treatment and ICU observation. I saw the hospitable bills piled to intimidating figures but I have one and just only one mother – priceless. I knew I had enough CPF savings to cover her.
I thought I knew, but the CPF Board knew better. I watched in horror as the clerk punched her calculator and calmly informed me that the combined CPF of my 3 family members could only pay for less than 15% of the $25,000 bill.
I wiped out my first few years of cash savings in one cheque. Little did I know, then, that this one cheque would go on to change my Singapore dream.
I researched the CPF and learned about the limited medical scheme, housing scheme, and the ever-rising minimum sum requirement. I found out that I can’t access my money even if I have a dying mother requiring an operation for which I have no cash to pay.
I finally understood why some old people say, “in singapore you can die but you better don’t fall sick”.
And I went for my Reservists and IPPT – but I began hating it for its inflexibility and infringement on my personal life.
I started asking “why”. I questioned and discovered that no one had a satisfactory answer, (or perhaps they just didn’t want to answer) – except for slogans like “More Good Years”, “Swiss Standard of Living”, “First World nation”.
No one, in fact, could tell me what constitutes a “Rainy Day” or who can decide if its going to be a rainy day. Certainly not the weatherman, I know.
I took up a job that led me away from Singapore, relocating to a few locations. Someone called me a quitter subsequently.
In Japan, I concluded that World-class transportation network is quite a bit more than just 4 lines running through the city.
In Taiwan, I realized that Singapore is really a western society that happens to speak functional Mandarin. I learned what is civic participation, media independence, and how absolute power will corrupt absolutely eventually.
I now know it is the electorate’s responsibility to ensure that the government does its job – not the other way around.
I married and bought my own high-rise apartment (not a cent from the CPF) – all outside of Singapore. I found out that I don’t need a car to complete the picture in order to be happy, or to support my ego.
I watched the post-911 GE and the recent Lee-junior GE. I saw Martyn See’s documentary on CSJ. I observed the emergence of political forums and their haste relocation from singapore, the evolution of the “persistently non-political” blogs, not to mention the blogs’ coverage of GE-2006.
I read with interest the emergence of civic awareness that are well articulated and presented on the Internet.
I am amused at the PAP’s apprehension of this new media, as well as its instinctive need to “fix” this emerging trend. I wonder how the new fix will reconcile with the new slogan, “Open and Inclusive Society”.
I continue to be amused by a shriveled 80+ years old man who persists in putting on his gauntlets and meeting his imaginary opponent in a cul-de-sac. And yet when the time comes for reckoning he backpeddles and calls out for judgement without trial.
I pay the government to do its job of providing governmental services to the country, including a fair, equitable and non-partisan method of upgrading older estates.
I didn’t pay to be told what can or cannot be expressed as opinions, be it constructive, partisan or otherwise. I have my wife at home to discuss freedom of expression – it is not the call of a civil servant or a minister employed by my tax dollars.
I have this to tell the civil servants and ministers: create more jobs, keep prices steady and try to move singapore upwards a little more in the Happy Nation Index. And stop complaining about how you cannot cope with rising oil prices, globalization, terrorism – you need to think really hard and come out with solutions.
And you do really need to worry about losing confidence because you are already there: through non-performance.
I am a Singaporean, who now understand the separation of State and Government, and who knows government must be managed and can indeed be changed (as opposed to some misguided musings).
I am a Singaporean, and I want a democratic society based on justice and equality. And I believe we will slowly but surely dismantle the obstructions accumulated from years of apathy.
So say we all.