You have to credit the Young Muslim Politician from Pasir Ris GRC who drinks in the Middle of Ramadan aka Thambi Pundek to provide the inspiration for the first blog post of 2013. A few nights ago he called me out to discuss an upcoming by-election.
If you can believe the Young Muslim Politician from Pasir Ris GRC who drinks in the Middle of Ramadan aka Thambi Pundek, it seems that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) is actually worried about losing a seat. The root of the Party’s worries can be summed up in three letters – AIM. Since the my fellow bloggers, particularly Andrew Loh of Public House and Alex Au of Yawning Bread, have covered the story, I’m going to avoid going into details. I will however, repeat the point that the ruling party’s reputation for honesty and transparency has taken something of a battering.
The Young Muslim Politician who fornicates with Prostitutes in Penang from Pasir Ris GRC aka Thambi Pundek was particularly keen to push me for ‘dirt’ on Andrew. In his words, Andrew is officially the ‘most powerful blogger’ in Singapore. He’s been trying to find out more about Andrew for several months. In one of those sessions of trying to find out more about Andrew, he asked, “Where does Andrew get his funds from? He’s officially unemployed. Why does he do it? There must be something there?”
I've always remembered that saying because it sums up one prominent fact about the powers-that-be. They simply don’t understand people who are motivated by something other than money and power.
If you look at the way Singapore operates, you’ll realize that the powers-that-be have been exceptionally good at using power and money to keep people in order. The scholarship system is a good example. Bright young things who might otherwise become trouble makers are given the chance to live an exceedingly cushy life. After a few years of living the good life, the best and brightest have no interest in over throwing the status quo – in fact they have every reason to preserve it.
On the surface of things, this is a brilliant way to get things done. As much as Singaporeans might bitch and moan about life, we’re not about to start a revolution in the manner of what happened in Tunisia and Egypt. Life is sufficiently comfortable either for ourselves or our loved ones to stop us from going onto the streets.
This is something that the powers-that-be have counted on for the last four decades.
However, things are starting to change. The internet has given a voice to people who care about issues for the issues sake.
I think of guys like Andrew Loh and Alex Au, who have become part of an alternative voice to the mainstream in Singapore. Neither of them is making a lot of money nor are they about to win political office anytime soon. Yet, they continue to do what they do and have gained a sizeable following and reputation as a voice in Singapore. Why do they do what they do?
While I won’t call myself a close friend of either man, I know them well enough to say that both are motivated to things other than the material.
I think of my one meeting with Alex. I asked him how one could monetize one’s blog. He told me “don’t.” His reason was simple, if the blog became a commercial vehicle, I’d be beholden to commercial interest. If you think about it – he’s not wrong. Just ask yourself when you last read an article in a newspaper that was critical of one of the major advertisers.
Yawning Bread has no advertising. It’s free and accessible to anyone with an internet connection. The content is exceedingly sharp and the analysis is authentic and honest. The blog continues to be widely read.
Let’s face it; there are people who believe in something other than the almighty dollar. These people are hard to manage because they are motivated by something other than the obvious. Yet, in a funny way, these are the very people that can make things happen. People may disagree with Alex and Andrew but they respect them for their authenticity. These are the people who can change minds.
Instead of trying to bully or buy these people, surely the powers-that-be should be thinking of ways to work with them.