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.
Jin Yao, Kwan