Sunday, June 03, 2012

A Response To A 17 Year Old Cynic

Earlier this week, I came across on my Facebook feed this post (for those of you all who are sensitive, please note that the post contains a little bit of explicit language) which expressed a very negative opinion on what transpired during Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean's dialogue session with the participants of the 2012 Pre-University Seminar (PUS) (apparently, besides making the rounds on Facebook, this post is also being shared on various online forums and websites).

This post, it seems, has garnered quite a lot of "Likes" and positive feedback. I however find it to be a rather confused and biased piece.

To start off, judging from how the author of the post dismisses what DPM Teo said at the dialogue session as "PAP manifesto" and "vanilla PAP policy", the author appears to have rejected outright the official/PAP/Government thinking on issues even before he attended the dialogue session. With such an attitude, I suppose no matter what DPM Teo said, the author would have seen it in a negative light and rejected it. Nothing can enter a closed mind. Or to borrow a Zen analogy, a full cup cannot be filled further.

Yet, despite evidently dismissive of official thinking, the author expects DPM Teo to provide him and his fellow PUS participants solutions to the questions and issues they raised. As mentioned above, this begs the question of whether the author would have accepted the solutions provided by DPM Teo. And it is a rather confused and contradictory stance to adopt - to reject/dismiss the official thinking but expect to be given an official solution.

Also, the author appears to think that just because DPM Teo is a member of the government, he should or must have all the solutions to all the questions and issues raised at the dialogue session. I find this rather funny, in light of how there are those arguing that the Government does not have a monopoly on wisdom, does not have all the solutions, that the Government should be humble enough to seek the opinions and inputs of the people and not impose its thinking on the people. But here we have the author expecting the Government to be an omniscient entity that can and should come up with all the solutions. As a friend of mine puts it on Facebook, it seems that the author expects to be "spoonfed for answers" (sic). And I suppose if DPM Teo had provided solutions, the author would then perhaps accuse him of imposing his thinking on him and his fellow PUS participants.

Furthermore, I find it rather disappointing and sad that when faced with DPM Teo's question of "What do you think (can be done)?", the author cites his youth and inexperience as excuses for not having any suggestions. I may be mistaken but my impression of those who are able to attend PUS is that they are  intelligent young people who are usually more socially and politically aware and more opinionated than their peers. In light of this, I find it rather unsettling that the author openly declare that his and his PUS fellow participants does not have any suggestions just because they are young and inexperienced; even more worrisome is the applause received by the guy who openly stated: "I am 17 years old, I don't know what to do". Well, my advice to the author and his peers would be: you all better start thinking of your own suggestions and solutions because when you eventually mature and become the leaders of this country, you all can no longer cite lack of years and experience as excuses for not knowing what to do. (And in another blatant case of contradictory thinking, towards the end of his post, the author lauds himself and his fellow PUS participants as "the future leaders of our nation" who "knows their shit" and are not "average apathetic youth". Sigh.)

Ironically enough, while the author underestimates his and his fellow PUS participants' capability to come up with suggestions or solutions, DPM Teo, it seems, thinking that he was speaking to "the future leaders of our nation", asked/challenged them to come up with suggestions but only to be told that they have none, that they expect him to come up with all the solutions. I suppose he must also be slightly disappointed.

Lastly, it is rather telling how biased and immature the author is when he wrote that even if he and his fellow PUS participants did manage to come up with suggestions, DPM Teo will rip them apart and replace them with "vanilla PAP policy". Judging from this statement, the author appears to think that: one, DPM Teo is out to belittle him and his fellow PUS participants and two, DPM Teo should just accept any proposed solutions without critically examining them. In the end, it is your right to suggest but it is also DPM Teo's right to critically examine your suggestion and show why it might not work.

To conclude, I will say that it is okay to be critical or even be a pessimist but it is a sad thing to be a cynic (here, I am assuming that when the author says he is a "cynical agnostic atheist", he refers to the contemporary meaning of what it means to be a cynic), especially one is just 17 years of age.


M&M said...

Nice piece, may I share this? Resonates with my take on this incident as well. :)

Anonymous said...

You must be a spin doctor, trying to control damage

Daniel Yap said...

Well, that author was, in all likelihood, a 17-year old. I'm not surprised at his anger or tone (being a teenager). Why do you seem intent on giving a 17-year old no credit for what he had the courage to express? Are our children not to be heard, even if they only end up saying things in an immature way?

Isn't your own blog post very one-sided, just like his?

Anonymous said...

Well, shall I say that it was just too bad that the DPM had shown that he(DPM) was very capable of
casting aspersion at Hougang By-election.

Would not fault the Youngster from being apprehensive and cynical, it just show that he/she did not have any trust in the DPM. There should be many like him.

LCC said...

I am not a spin doctor. I am not sponsored by anyone to write this post of mine - I sincerely think that the points raised by the author are flawed and felt the need to point out, in my view, where the flaws are. And if I am a spin doctor just because I wrote this post, can I then say the author is an opposition propagandist?

Although I acknowledge the courage/youthful bravado of the author and will encourage him and his peers to continue speaking up, that does not mean I cannot or should not disagree with his points and to point out where I think his points are erroneous. As much as the author has a right to voice his sentiments, I too has an equal right to disagree with him. The author's age should not grant him immunity from being criticised or corrected. And I suppose by posting his views on the internet, the author is open to people disagreeing with him or correcting him.

And to those of you all who wish to share this post, feel free to do so.

Anonymous said...

@LCC, were you there to listen to the dialogue? If you were not, your comments here are biase without taking the actual situation into consideration. Somehow, I read the student's post with a different perspective. Although I agree with you that explicit language is inappropriate, it does reflect the inadequacy on the part of Mr. Teo based on the responses from most present. If in deed if Mr. Teo wished to challenge the student, the norm response to the student should have been "I would share with you my solutions/thoughts, but before that I would like to hear from you". If Mr. Teo thinks that he was dealing with the future leaders, the more he needs to be careful with his choice of words, and how he positioned the questions.

Anonymous said...

You have a point there but the recent publicity of DPM Teo does not exactly work in his favor. What he said during the elections, many felt they were poorly substantiated and unnecessary. It was raw and perhaps even disrepectful, but the student merely spoke what many had in their hearts.

LCC said...

I will admit that I was not present at the dialogue session so I will not know exactly what transpired during it. That is why my criticism is focused on the logic of the author's reaction towards what happened during the dialogue session based on the author's own account. I am not arguing that DPM Teo gave superb and subtantive answers at the dialogue session, I am arguing that the author's reaction was biased and contradictory.

As some have pointed out, DPM Teo's conduct during the recent Hougang by-election could perhaps have negatively coloured the author's opinion of him. But that is exactly my point! That the author perhaps already have a rather negative view of DPM Teo and of the PAP/Government even before he attended the dialogue session and this prevented him from evaluating DPM Teo's answers and conduct during the dialogue session in a more objective manner.

It is as though the author went to the session with this in mind: "I am going to a dialogue with you but I think anything you will say will be crap". So I guess with such an attitude, even if DPM Teo spouted gold that day, the author will perhaps see it as him spewing crap.

Anonymous Craven (AC) said...

The author did bring up examples - e.g. where TCH skipped 7-8 questions in a row. It could be that Teo was cherry picking questions; or it could be that the audience were asking the same question repeatedly because they were unsatisfied with the answer(s) given by him.

On the topic of the freedom of speech, TCH brought up that UK \ US press are slanted by vested interests while ignoring the fact that a much wider variety of views are available as opposed to Singapore's monopoly. TCH also stuck to the standard rhetorics of the responsible Singaporean press while glossing over what constitutes responsible in his context. I feel that these are valid criticisms.

Sometime we give our youth too little credit - on their ability to know that they are being "smoked" or them being willing to stand up and challenge back as opposed to taking things meekly.

The expectations I have of a 17 year old and the expectations I have of DPM Teo are two very different things. The Pre-U Seminar is an exercise for government reps to reach out to the youths, and if the original blogs views are indicative of the general response - then Teo did not do well at all indeed.

Annon0770 said...

Your post is well written and I agree with most of it, but I'm sorry, there is a point I have to disagree with. Shouldn't general information, such as publicity be factored into while listen to anyone?

If a person is already has a bad reputation, would you be as inclined to listen to him? This student might be biased when entering the session, but is he wrong for doing so?

We are thought to evaluate the reliability of sources in secondary school. Can you blame us for not taking what was said at face level? For not trusting his worlds?

As none of us are him, I don't think it's fair for you to claim that his mind was "made up".

He could be for all intents actually looking for answers to questions that he feels are important, but got "smoked" by the DMP. In this case, would it not be natural to be angry?

fenix said...

Most of us, being the ordinary mortals that we are, expect to be enlightened on issues when we meet senior officials. Whether govt or biz leaders, we want to hear the rationale behind the decisions. I certainly don't want to hear what my fellow mortals are thinking.

Anonymous said...

really fenix? in that case why do you question the decisions made by senior officials without any basis? you are after all an ordinary motal with limited insight

your attitude unfortunately simlar to that of many youngsters is rather pathetic- you don't want to put in the effort to understand and think but want a ready made explanation to every stupid question of yours

Anonymous said...

A post without substance. Arguments are bland, simplistic and above all, one sided. Your entire post can be summarised in 1 sentence -

'He was prejudiced to start with and made no intellectual effort to think about his own questions prior to asking them'

The real point to assess is how well did Teo handled his audience and the answer seems to be rather badly.

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