8.22pm, 9th August 2009 – A moment of no real significance for our nation. But, as trumpeted by the mainstream media, it was ‘the universal pledge moment’. A moment of ‘significance’ manufactured out of thin air. An insignificant point in time artificially grafted onto the nation’s collective consciousness.

10am – That would have been my preferred time. 10am – The moment that the independence of Singapore was proclaimed on the steps of the City Hall.

Wouldn’t that be more significant? Wouldn’t we at least have a greater historical sense of what we were doing when we took the pledge? Wouldn’t it be emotionally significant to those old enough to recall where they were and how they felt at the precise moment of independence?

As with the general plasticity of many things in Singapore, the 8.22pm moment was just another plastic moment. Well, it doesn’t really matter in the end what time the pledge was taken. The larger question that we should ask is how many of those that took the pledge at that appointed time meant what they said?

If you watched the parade on tv, you would have seen a short ‘preamble’ appear on the screen……. ‘say what you mean. Mean what you say.’ I really hope that the citizens of Singapore taking the pledge on that day said what they meant and meant what they said.

My challenge to the pledge takers is this. Ponder very carefully on what you pledged. You pledged…(amongst other things)….

…. to build a democratic society based on justice and equality….

How have you helped to build such a society? Do we have such a society? What can we do to live up to our pledge?

What does it mean to say that a society is democratic? Is democracy defined by the conduct of elections? If the electoral process does not involve a level playing field, does it warrant being termed as being reflective of democracy? If the ballot is cast without an informed choice, is that democratic? Is it democratic to group constituencies together thereby shielding potentially weak candidates from electoral fire? Or even to use such a system to allow candidates that may have otherwise lost their seats to nevertheless become representatives of constituencies where they do not enjoy majority support? Is that democratic?

What is the meaning of justice? What do we mean by equality? Do we have due process in all instances? Or can we be arbitrarily classified as a security threat and incarcerated indefinitely? Do we enjoy equal treatment or does political persuasion play a part in decision making by the authorities?

These are questions that we have to ask ourselves.
If you believe that we do have a democratic society based on justice and equality, good for you. Blessed are the ignorant.
If you do not believe that we have a democratic society based on justice and equality, then you have to consider what is the peaceful and constructive way to accomplish such a society. You have to do this in order to live up to the pledge.
However, if you do not believe that we have a democratic society based on justice and equality and do not think that you need to even ponder about how such a society can be accomplished, but nevertheless gleefully took the pledge, you are a hypocrite!

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