The boy who called out the King’s nakedness did not undermine the King or the country. The King’s stupidity and the sycophantic echo-chamber that surrounded him undermined the King.
The same goes for Singapore and its leaders if we don’t learn the right lessons.
Too often, people don’t want to hear uncomfortable stuff. They want to sweep things under the carpet. The sound of people squabbling is so painful for the ear that many assume that the entire nation may fall. Better the sound of crickets than the thrashing out of information, ideas, and opinions. The unfortunate tendency in Singapore is to see anything that appears mildly disruptive to established narrative as being unproductive and destabilising to the state of peace and order.
The truth is that some disruption and chaotic argumentation is good for clarifying what ought to be the best way forward.
When the boy cries out that the king is naked, one should examine if there is truth in that assertion. There may, or may not be, any truth in it. But, to simply condemn the boy for disrupting our peace by daring to point out the nakedness of the King is to allow the King and his courtiers to remain in an ignorant stupor.
Perhaps, there is no validity in the boy’s assertion. If so, the King can parade his finest robe for all to see. What is there for the King to lose or even for the nation? But, there is the possibility that the boy speaks the truth. If he does, and we don’t ask further questions or turn a blind eye, then not only does the truth get buried, but also the King’s nakedness will be his own ruin.
If allegations of abuse of power are to be ignored and swept under the carpet, then we are just allowing the rot to continue and undermine the foundations of the system if the allegations turn out to be true. If those allegations are untrue, then a frank, open, transparent, and robust debate would strengthen confidence in the system.
Many of my friends have been quite put off by the Lee siblings’ accusations and the drawn out soap opera unfolding on facebook. Many prefer that the Lees settle their issues privately as this is a private family affair.
I disagree. Once there arose allegations of abuse of power and allegations that state institutions were used in a particular manner, it moved beyond a mere private affair and into the public domain. If the allegations are true, then the institutions of the state can be easily used by political leaders for their own personal ends. These allegations ought to be investigated and addressed. If they are shown to be false, we are better for it. If they are shown to be true, then actions ought to be taken to remedy these problems. Again, we will be better off cleaning the system if we find that it is rotting.
Transparency and open debate is a win-win situation.
(Of course, at a personal level, I have some difficulty in cheering on the PM’s siblings simply because of the fact that many of their allegations come across as either being hypocritical or naïve. My first and most instinctive reaction when they alleged abuse of power was “Get out of here!” Leaving aside that inherent bias that I have to admit to, if this was just any other family affected by abuse of state organs, then I would readily support a public inquiry. Thus, a public thrashing out of the issues is appropriate.)