Friday, May 13, 2005

Change it

One of the exhortations that we commonly hear in Singapore is this - if you don't like something about the country, come forward and change it.

Now, this kind of exhortation is usually supported by a number of sister arguments or claims, which some Singaporeans like to make. First, there is the criticism of 'NATO' ('no action, talk only') - directed at people who only point out the flaws, blindspots, and paradoxes of the system but do not actually come out and do something. Second, there is the implicit suggestion that social critics or observers are in fact rather immature people who only know how to 'grumble', 'whine', or complain in a somewhat childish way. In this post, I wish to present a counter-critique of the 'NATO' criticism which I consider to be a real conversation-stopper.

The 'NATO' criticism wrongly accords a certain moral superiority to actions and activities rather than discourses and mental processes. What is implicitly suggested is a scenario of busy bees flying around doing 'real' work, while the idle critics merely watch, observe, give suggestions, and basically indulge in arm-chair theorizing. The metaphors of 'grumbling' and 'whining' are truly unflattering, and serves to make the social analysts/observers/critics look silly and immature. It is as though one cannot talk if one is unable to find the time, the energy, nor the inclination to commit to the logistics of social improvement or political activity. But I think people should be allowed to contribute in ways that fit with their capabilities. If people are good at analyzing issues, let them analyze issues; carrying chairs, pinning up posters, and shaking hands with uncles and aunties are not the only ways to contribute to society.

My next target is the sister argument which I mentioned above - that one should not complain but should instead change whatever one is not happy with. I do have friends who have said that they are contemptuous of people who complain instead of changing what they are not happy with. But this view is very flawed. Firstly, it assumes that what one is unhappy with can be changed! Secondly, it assumes that the change can come about without people complaining! In my experience with various events, if you don't complain with enough force, nothing gets done. Complaints that have the support of the masses and/or the force of the argument/rhetoric are good for the betterment of society!

*To be continued....
(I need to recuperate from my severe internal injuries incurred during IPPT...) :-(

3 Comments:

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Thu Dec 08, 07:03:00 AM 2005  
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Mon Mar 05, 12:45:00 PM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Thu May 10, 12:41:00 AM 2007  

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