For the past 30 years since 1984, Singapore has been celebrating Total Defence Day. A day where we attempt outline the importance of maintaining peace and harmony that we have enjoyed in Singapore, having overcome what was considered the most tumulous period of Singapore’s history in the early 60’s through to the early 80’s.
Over the course of the time that I’ve been a student, I’ve watched, listened and even participated in Total Defence Day proudly, pledging my allegiance to defend Singapore.
But alas, in recent years, I’ve come to noticed that Total Defence Day is all but a mere celebration of peace and harmony. The structures and policies that we have been accustomed to, have not been adjusted to manage the changing times. Singaporeans have continued to be told over the years to toe the line and not to fall over onto the other side, but the truth is, many have and many want to.
The sudden boom of the internet in the late 90’s and the way people have been able to connect to one another since 2006 with the advent of Facebook has seen the world take to the internet, and to people differently.
- Human to Human connection is at best, defined through social media connections – however best you define it.
- Individuals are the best source and worst source of news – but they still provide better insight and perspective than mainstream media.
- Individuals are creating news through their own social media outlets – some good, some bad.
And all these connections on the internet play a big role in Social Defence.
If the Singapore government considers manpower our biggest asset in nation building, Social Defence is no doubt the biggest and most important from the rest (Military, Civil, Economic and Psychological) in this current day and age.
Our Social Defence is weak and here are my reasons why:
- Quite a number of Singaporeans are a bunch of racists, when it comes to foreigners. Have you read the online chatter every single time a news about a foreigner committing a crime? One of the few things you can expect to read is “Send them back home” or “Must be from (country)”.
- Singaporeans lack an understanding of the different cultures and faiths. We are no longer just a majority Chinese, Malay and Indian nation with a very small minority of Others. Singapore has a diverse population of Others and this needs to be acknowledged and accepted by all Singaporeans.
- Singaporeans lack in compassion. No need to talk much, just look at the kind of things people post up on STOMP.
- Community Programmes are focused on how to react, rather than how to prevent. Think about all the community programmes that you have attended? How many actually teach us how to prevent things from happening. Most are a reaction to something that happens. It’s what I’d describe as a Preventive-Reactive Measure, the act of prevention in response to something that might happen again.
On point 4, I really don’t know if it’s fair or not to pin the blame on the government. Probably our government just doesn’t have the social foresight or simply refuses to listen to its people who share or practice selective listening, because most of the recent issues we see today could have been predicted years ago.
From the recent Little India riots to Anton Casey to Amy Cheong to our ‘Liltte Terrorists’, these were all incidents that could have been avoided but our sights were set on Military, Civil and Economic Defence. Little attention had been paid to Psychological and Social Defence, not until the recent General Elections.
As how most of us know, we are a nanny state and in a nanny state like Singapore, Peace & Harmony is determined by a set of rules and guidelines, one of the best being ‘no speaking or discussion on topics related to race or religion publicly’. Not unless it is done with full government support and under government purview, which would likely only end up in something surface value and celebratory, like how your mother would ‘hush’ you when you tried to say something she prefers not to hear but is extremely important to you, and if word does get out, she pinches you to silence you.
She hopes that the pinch will give you enough pain to remind you not to speak of it again, ever. If you slip it out, you’re getting a slap next until the pain is delayed to when you get home and receive a good caning. Throughout all that pain and suffering you go through, your mother still loves you and you still remain dependent on your mom.
And that’s exactly how I see the Singaporeans relationship with the Singapore government.
Singaporeans are over-reliant on the government to do the things for them and when the government does something wrong, Singaporeans whine and then the government corrects it and hands over goodies for us to suck on. When Singaporeans do wrong, the authorities acting on behalf of the government punishes us, with hopes that we learn to correct our mistake and never commit them again.
“Spare the rod, spoil the child”
But things have changed, when I was in the States, I was introduced to the concept of Restorative Justice and I loved it. It defines what peacebuiling is all about, separating the sin from the sinner, and giving the sinner an opportunity to contribute meaningfully back to society.
Unfortunately, this is probably something both the Singaporean government and its people will have trouble adjusting to because it would mean that for every person sentenced to prison, we are putting them back into society to perform ‘community service’ as part of their prison rehabilitation. They are given the opportunity to learn how to rebuild the trust that has been lost not just to the victim, but also to the community and society they have hurt, vice-versa.
I found this to be extremely empowering and serves to be a very humane tool of rehabilitation, opposed to our current jail time and caning system and this is what I would consider as a pretty good form of Social Defence since it works on Singapore’s favourite preventive-reactive measure.
Economically, it’s also been proven to reduce cost. USD$150,000/year to put someone in jail as opposed to USD$10,000/year for such a programme.
I SAY IT’S DAMN GOOD!