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An Email Reply To Fifth Azure, Author Of “**** You, DPM Teo”

Dear Fifth Azure,

Thank you for penning your perspectives on the Pre-University Seminar (PUS), and for articulating your opinion about Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean’s performance during the dialogue session. As you might be aware, your commentary has been making its rounds around the Internet; furthermore, many individuals have praised you for your chutzpah (for good), and willingness to speak out poignantly to express an opinion – which, as you posit, is rather representative of general sentiments – of DPM Teo’s sharing.

I am cognisant of – and to a certain extent, agree with – your contentions and frustrations when it comes to interactions with parliamentarians or senior members of the administration. We appreciate opportunities like this to interact with our policy-makers (though I do question the general effectiveness of these huge settings), but feelings of annoyance or disappointment are inevitable if we feel that we are discoursing on dissimilar tangents. I have had my fair share of experiences when forums felt more like pedantic lectures – probably the guests too were quick to jump to conclusions because of the age, not intellect of their audience – rather than platforms for meaningful exchanges on an assortment of socio-economic concerns.

The Use Of Expletives

But that leads me to my first disagreement with your method of expression: the use of expletives and vulgarities in your post, directed specifically towards DPM Teo. You have your justifications, and it is your prerogative; but I cannot agree with your choice of words.

You could contend that respect has to be earned, that it goes both ways, and that DPM Teo’s responses and approaches did not merit your respect, but I believe that this notion – for me – forms the basis of effective communication. This is not a form of reverence or deference that emerges because of his authority or mandate as an elected representative; rather, the nuanced postulation of points is a form of basic respect for another person (any person). More significantly, if you choose to voice sincere criticisms or feedback in a more cordial and cogent manner, your views would not be conveniently dismissed by stakeholders.

A quick scan of your other posts shows that you have a clear comprehension of the problems that plague the country, and that you are extremely candid when putting forth suggestions or musings. I think it shows a staunch unwillingness to relish in the comforts of the status quo, and the understanding that our predilection for change stems not from the desire for disorder, but – conversely – from aspirations to make Singapore an even better place to live in.

Pondering Policy Recommendations

Was it fair for DPM Teo to question the students on “what do you think (can be done)?” You would certainly disagree, but I do appreciate his intentions for doing so. As selected participants from different institutes of higher learning, DPM Teo probably had the expectation that you and your peers might have a plethora of recommendations in mind. It is one thing to state persisting problems, and another to carefully think about policy options, before properly evaluating the respective trade-offs and considerations; that is definitely more challenging, constructive, and intellectually stimulating.

I think the government finds itself in a curious conundrum: if it dispensed solutions per se without taking into account alternative views from the ground, it is accused of being haughty and aloof; if it chooses to ask the questions, it risks being seen as unresponsive. Of course, I cannot comment on DPM Teo’s responses during the PUS (even though I have managed to watch the clips briefly), and it would be great if you could follow-up to provide more information on the questions that he chose not to respond to, or on the cursory answers.

So, you are not wrong, because everyone has the liberty to write their afterthoughts the way they desire (particularly on a personal weblog). I just wanted to type out my reply to you – which I will also be publishing on my own website – because I have faith that if you continue to do your part in the community, and exercise the right to express yourself convincingly, then your tangible contributions to this society would be affirmed and recognised.

Yours truly,
Jin Yao, Kwan

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.


23 thoughts on “An Email Reply To Fifth Azure, Author Of “**** You, DPM Teo”

  1. you devoted half your reply to how he was using bad words…

    Posted by loh yi cheng | June 3, 2012, 9:44 pm
    • Most were uncomfortable with the expletives, and for good reason. Discourse – online or offline – cannot progress if one cannot conduct himself in a civil and respectful manner. Attack the points, not the person.

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | June 3, 2012, 9:47 pm
      • I agree with your points. Too bad during the Hougang by-elections, DPM Teo himself did not conduct himself in the manner you described in your last sentence. Lead by example eh? Form a bad impression in people and they probably would not take kindly to his words and actions as they would be more quick to judge negatively and not be willing to lend favorable opinions of his intentions. Reap what he sow, I hope.

        Posted by Sgcynic | June 4, 2012, 1:33 am
      • Ah, that’s another issue altogether (though I am certain we all, including fifthazure, are cognisant of the events that transpired recently). To your comment I simply posit: it is about being the “bigger man”. Person A has chosen to mud-sling and show disregard for others, but I won’t choose to lower myself to his level. I think this applies to language and expression as well.

        Jin Yao

        Posted by guanyinmiao | June 4, 2012, 7:52 am
      • Agree. Unfortunately for Singapore, We have many such “role-models” at the supposedly highest level of society and “leadership”.

        Posted by Sgcynic | June 4, 2012, 10:34 am
  2. There is nothing wrong with using the four letter. It is a very compact and economic way to express a range of emotions that can never be captured by any other word in the dictionary. Where the problem comes is when we project our own beliefs as to what that word may mean which is often entirely different from what the author may have conceived when he had used that four letter word. So the problem lies with us and never the person who uses the word. A word is just a word. Nothing more or less.

    Besides he is just a kid. Kids experiment all the time with vocabulary. It is not such a bad thing IMHO.

    Darkness 2012

    Posted by dotseng | June 4, 2012, 12:56 am
    • I use the word in my interactions with my close friends (and in the army, of course), but never in proper discourse or commentary. Furthermore, a quick scan through his previous posts shows that he can present himself in a cogent and civil manner; so why give members of the administration the chance to dismiss his opinions just because of his language? It is to his advantage.

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | June 4, 2012, 7:48 am
  3. Agree that respect must be earned. After his contributions to Tang Liang Hong http://www.singapore-window.org/tangpage.htm…… And actions in the Hougang by elections….he is getting on the nerves of people who took the red pill. It is refreshing to read the candid views of 17 year olds instead of the YPAP drivel.

    Posted by Red pill (matrix) | June 4, 2012, 7:38 am
  4. I think you aren’t interpreting Teo’s replies in context. The context is that he was asked questions about what policy responses the PAP had to certain problems. Instead of describing the PAP’s policy responses, he chose to put the questioner on the defensive and ask the questioner what policy responses the questioner had. So he is dodging the question and then making it seem like it is the questioner’s responsibility, and not the PAP’s, to provide policy responses. This is a common tactic used by the PAP.

    Of course, there are other contexts in which it is OK to ask what the questioner himself would choose to do. For example, I might be in a moral dilemma and seeking advice from friends, and I might ask for their opinions. But when it is asked in the context where you are the one who is in place to do things and you were asked what you are doing about certain problems, it’s clearly dodging the question and trying to put the questioner unfairly on the defensive if you don’t talk about what you’re doing and merely ask the questioner what they would do. The questioner has no responsibility to provide solutions; one can legitimately question policies without having alternative solutions. (I can legitimately criticise a mathematical proof for containing an error even if I don’t have an alternative proof.) But it is a common PAP rhetorical tactic to make it seem as though you are being irresponsible for asking for answers when you don’t have any yourself.

    Posted by Ponder Stibbons | June 4, 2012, 9:18 am
  5. Also, the dichotomy you set up between not taking in to account views from the ground and asking the public to provide solutions when they question policies is a false dichotomy. One can take into account views from the ground, by taking into account views about the weaknesses or strengths of policies, without insisting that the public provide policy solutions.

    Posted by Ponder Stibbons | June 4, 2012, 9:21 am
    • 1. Ah, that does make sense (as aforementioned, my evaluation on the policy recommendations was premised upon fifthazure’s commentary and some clips from Razor TV).; although I would venture to make the presumption that since it was a Pre-University Seminar – where policy problems and solutions would have been discussed – the students could have had the awareness to challenge DPM Teo further. They probably did that; and if they did, then kudos to them.

      2. On the presentation of the false dilemma: I am perfectly aware that both scenarios are not mutually exclusive, and that there are other plausible options or alternatives. I just wanted to postulate the two extremes (in terms of expectations) when it comes to forums or seminar sessions like these.

      3. Suppose that DPM Teo, after questioning the participants about what they think can be done, furnished his responses with explanations on present government strategies. Would this have been a more constructive mode of exchange? On the one hand, DPM Teo himself should provide the answers, and the students are also challenged to think about different options to address present woes.

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | June 4, 2012, 9:35 am
  6. Hi Guanyinmiao,

    I agree with some of the comments here that you may be criticising the author of that post from a distance, not having been at PUS or having had many other reliable accounts of proceedings. Bear in mind also the fact that his manner is a product of his age.

    What was the context? Has TCH been sidelining the students the whole time? Ignoring their issues? Was his “what do you think?” question condescending, constructive or designed to shoot down all answers that came? What is the background of the writer’s general frustration (and excessive use of the f-word)?

    I personally asked a PAP minister once what he planned to do about his party’s general inability to handle PR and the tide of social media well, and his reply was simply that PAP lacked the resources to do so! I had a suggestion for him, but he shot it down citing lack of resources – he had not even done the basic thinking on critical issues, or at least provided an evaluation and an admission that he was out of ideas.

    Posted by Daniel Yap | June 4, 2012, 1:40 pm
    • Hey Daniel!

      Agreed. Since I couldn’t comment fairly on the comments and approaches made by DPM Teo, my main postulation was on the manner in which the gentleman chose to articulate his views. We have actually corresponded through email, and that was quite meaningful I thought.

      Haha; I’m sure we’ve all had our fair share of experiences when we felt that our questions were not addressed, or that we were communicating along entirely different tangents. We are cognisant of the limitations of these settings, and there is always room for improvement.

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | June 4, 2012, 2:03 pm
      • hmmmm…

        This is not good…

        We know the PAP Ministers do not prefer direct dialog and Q&A with adults…

        So they try the univerisity students with their Q&A to show folks seriously they “feel” the ground..but that did not work out…

        Now they try such direct engagement with pre-uni students…

        So what’s next…go to the secondary school and kindergarden students to “engaged” and showed how matured they are…

        And if tat dun work..

        Wat then…direct dialog and Q&A with babies huh?

        This is simply pathetic.

        Posted by Kute Steiner | June 4, 2012, 3:31 pm
      • I don’t get your logic. The PAP does engage ordinary citizens in dialogue sessions and forums.

        Jin Yao

        Posted by guanyinmiao | June 4, 2012, 3:50 pm
      • Often I would not use “engage” to describe the “process”. Wayang to some extent perhaps, seeking to persuade and convince, yes, if repeating the same points ad nauseum is a strategy, engage, that’s self-deception.

        Posted by Sgcynic | June 4, 2012, 4:24 pm
  7. Problem Jin Yao…

    It is all staged when PAP do dialog (everybody have to follow a script)…

    please kindly re-look at the PAP ministers and MPs…seriously..how many of them are really truely wise…and truely independent in their thinking…please think over the actions they have done…it is the actions of these people you should look at..instead of the BS words coming out from their mouths or via others who “dictate” to them..you call this “living”…i don’t think so…

    To paraphrase LKY quote roughly (this is his quote..and i have no ownership over it or even wish to own such crazy thinking which is self defeating to all in the end)…it goes like this…”It is better to have department store dummies in parliament…etc”….from there u can infer how “wise” this “leader” is…it is sad….how about those 1st generation PAP MPs and ministers like GSW, David Marshall, etc…they do action more than talk a lot of crap and BS…talkers are only jus talkers…it is actions that speak louder than words…

    Wolfgang Von Goeth was right abt ppl like LKY and various others…he is a very wise man for gentleman who lived in the 17th century. Compare with LKY…LKY is nothing…what has LKY contribute to the world and mankind in general…really contribute to ensure mankind can last the distance…nada…zero…

    And you can take that to the bank.

    Good day all.

    : (

    Posted by Kute Steiner | June 5, 2012, 11:58 am
  8. I support the 17 year student’s right to express his frustration at DPM Teo – especially since its his own blog. I have as a student experienced such responses from PAP leaders and wished I had done likewise. He is indeed a hero amoung the students and in my books.

    If PAP supporters and MSM choose to write more such articles suggesting otherwise and calling him a keyboard hug, its their right too and I support that too. However, ignore it if you like but by GE2016, you have will this group of perhaps 30,000 new voters who view DPM Teo and many other PAP ministers negatively – think how they will vote? Ignore it at your own peril.

    DPM Teo still have 4 years to reflect and change. Is it too late? Well, only these 17 year olds will know.

    Posted by Singaporean | June 7, 2012, 2:13 pm


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