Get Past the Shock!

Posted by Mohamed Abdullah under Breaking News on 4 February 2000

Self-Censorship: Singapore's Shame by James Gomez, Think Centre, 98 pages, S$18.90

Get past the shock that this book is available, and there are some worthwhile points to this tome that attacks more the people who accept censorship rather than the powers that may have imposed it.

Written and published by Think Centre, an independent political research outlet based in the Asia-Pacific region, the book dissects our political reality. In what is perhaps the most critical analysis of the nation's citizenry in the political arena, the book takes up the issue of consequence of the prevalent low level of political awareness and its implications. The book also explores the malfunctions of a population, which, it postulates, is lulled by healthy economic data and yet list in the know-how of exercising its right to harness its political participation adequately.

Attacking the psyche of Singaporeans for the lack of active political participation, this book doesn't blatantly challenge the government. Rather, it chooses to delve into how the political climate here has evolved itself to one that is viewed to be oppressive by the public eye. Eventually, Self-Censorship: Singapore's' Shame induces the electorate to be more involved in the local political arena.

In arguing that we have become too intellectually straitjacketed for own good. Gomez also trots out the familiar argument that a lack of political development may well hinder the progress of the nation and the aspirations of becoming the "world class' home we are always hearing about. The book also cites instances that have suggested more that the public could have done in order for democracy to mature. For instance, there are mentions of the lack of a by-election in Jalan Besar GRC and the lack of interest in understanding the inconsistencies of the elected president issue from a "sleeted" to a "custodial" role. The book also goes on to argue that the Singapore public has now to grapple with the effects of self-censorship.

But what holds as a unique emblem for this book is that it holds no alternative political agenda as it tackles the more pertinent issue: how far we Singaporeans have come in the political discussions of today and how much are we part of the nation's progress. While we may have registered healthy economic growth we may not have quite developed in the political arena in terms of having a worthy two-party debate in Parliament. This lack of society's ability to come forth and induce a higher level of political development is deemed to be one of the major impediments for creativity to flourish: a trait that the government has always hoped to encourage from the electorate.

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