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Voices in the Wilderness? May 21, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.
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Just last week, I came across this story from a Channel 55 drama (some Hong Kong Drama about a Cop who is transported back in time to the Warring States Era).

Moziwandered the realm spreading his teachings of universal love. One day his friend came to him and told him to stop what he was doing for his friend felt his efforts were wasted. Mozi then asked him a question,’ If a farmer has ten sons, and nine of his sons choose to idle around, what would the tenth son do?’

The answer to that question is thus,

“The tenth son will put in 10 times the effort, so as to be able to feed the whole family”. 

Indeed. Isn’t such a situation occuring in Singapore right now?

Recently, Mr Lee Kin Mun, better known by his moniker Mr Brown, was listed in the World Business Magazine as one of Asia’s top 20 progressives. The write up accompanying the list was rather accurate in its depiction of the Mainstream Media vis a vis what has come to be known as the Blogosphere:

Singapore has some of the world’s tightest media restrictions. Little genuine public debate is permitted and investigative journalism is largely non-existent. The role of the media is to report government announcements rather than to hold the government to account. And so Singaporeans are fed a bland diet of lifestyle articles, world news often slanted to show Singapore in a good light by way of comparison, and news about government policy. Not surprisingly, Singapore has one of the world’s most active blogging communities. Genuine debate, opinion pieces and news appear on many Singapore-related websites…Lee continues to publish and broadcast his satires and commentaries, providing Singaporeans with a vibrant and diversified media otherwise denied them.

And not too long ago, Mr Bernard Leong did a post regarding sociopolitical bloggers, namely their motivations and the problems they face.

The situation now therefore is not so different from the situation faced by Mozi during that time. Those who blog on issues are akin to the proverbial voice in the wilderness; wilderness because these people have been cast there by the sanctioned media or powers that be, through veiled threats, scorn or sheer disregard. There are also some mindless people who are all too ready to jump on the bandwagon and start labelling bloggers as “ungrateful”, “disloyal”, and any other remark which is rank falsehood in so far as I am concerned.  Besides disturbances from the “PAPanons”, there are also disturbances from some fellas who seem to think that bloggers are here to lead revolution or change the world or to perform any other grandoise task, which is inherently not true as can be seen from Mr Leong’s post. Bloggers are not here in the name of world peace or anything, although they can play a  role by fostering debate and getting more people to think of issues.

Ultimately, the crux of the matter is creating awareness which will, hopefully translate into more action, destroy the “scourge” of apathy and ignorance and prevent the decline of Singapore, socially, politically, economically (this is where the part about feeding the whole family comes in. As the Chinese say, Guo Jia Xin Wang, Pi Fu You Ze [Rise and Fall of
Country is dependant on the People] ). My learned friend Guojun has described it as the “enlightenment”, whereby Bloggers try to foster awareness among their own circle and, with the help of aggregators and websites like Intelligent Singaporean and The Online Citizen, reach out to a wider “audience”. This process is often hampered by laziness, impatience, complacency and ignorance. No doubt about it, this is an uphill task bloggers face, akin to the situation faced by the fictitious tenth son in Mozi’s story. Perhaps Singapore is not ready or will never be ready to progress socially or politically, and thus attempts to foster awareness may not bear fruit.

Out of the blogosphere, there are many other voices in the wilderness. Just recently, one of them managed to throw away the financial shackles which were the consequences of choosing to be such a voice. He is the one and only Joshua Benjamin Jeyeratnam. Rather than enjoy his twilight years, JBJ is unfazed and raring to go; to be the public “Voice” in the wilderness. His methods notwithstanding, one must salute Mr JBJ for his unwavering dedication to his cause. Such dedication is, sad to say, is nearly extinct in this souless and pragmatic Society people call Singapore. Of course, much like the bloggers, he and others like him face and uphill battle, a battle littered with libel minefields. And like the bloggers, there will always be those detractors ready to pull them down.

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