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Thursday January 24th 2019

JC student: “Why GE2015 will go down in history as the biggest fluke election ever!”

An essay concerning swing voters, pluralistic ignorance, and opposition unity.

Firstly, I would like to begin by stating my opinion that designating 9/11 as polling day is inauspicious. It is also insensitive for obvious reasons.  Sometimes I wonder what is going through the head of the current administration.

The opposition was soundly defeated not on the grounds of incompetence, credibility, or likeability. The candidates were on par, if not better, than soldiers of the PAP. In fact, I would say a fair number of them are more deserving of the now famous million dollar salary. They had the iron in them. Unfortunately, it was not to be as the tides of fortune favored the opponent.

Some of my friends, local and overseas, asked me what I thought of the watershed elections since the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. In particular, there was a certain buzz on how the PAP could have achieved an unexpected landslide victory. The catchphrase here is ‚Äúunexpected.‚ÄĚ Herein lies my views.

First,  there are those who may be identified as having an obligation that can be attributed to some form of tradition, certainty, or principle  to vote for the opposition. They invariably mark a cross on the opposition logo with gusto and irrevocable determination, so will the individual who feels the same for the incumbent PAP. Those who do not possess a predisposed inclination for either will equivocate. These are what has been known in political lingo as the swing voters, an endearing term, but no less powerful.

Put in this context, it all boils down to one thing ‚Äď Psychology.

In¬†social psychology,¬†pluralistic ignorance¬†is a situation in which a majority of group members privately reject a norm, but incorrectly assume that most others accept it, and therefore go along with it.¬†This is also described as “no one believes, but everyone thinks that everyone believes.”

Pluralistic ignorance may help to explain  what is known as the bystander effect. If no-one acts, onlookers may believe others believe action is incorrect, and may therefore themselves refrain from acting. Let me elaborate.

If you were holding a voting card, you may be thinking that voting for the opposition is the right thing to do. However, you may also assume that others are feeling an obligation to vote for the PAP because the balance is overwhelmingly tilted toward the opposition scale. This conclusion is easily arrived at based on massive rally turnouts, the heroics of CSJ that appealed to compassion over and above reason, as well as the unprecedented contesting of all wards.

Therefore, you give the vote to the PAP.

Pluralistic ignorance was blamed for exacerbating support for segregation in the 1960s. It has also been named a reason for the illusionary popular support that kept the communist regime in the Soviet Union, as many opposed the regime but assumed that others were supporters of it. Thus, most people were afraid to voice their opposition.

Does it make sense now to you, the reader? Here is more.

Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”¬†¬†highlights a case of pluralistic ignorance. In this story a whole town fears speaking out on an obvious injustice out of fear that they would stand out believing nobody else could see what they saw. Two con artists came into the Emperor’s kingdom and convinced him that they made the finest clothes in all of the land that could only be seen by anyone who was not stupid. The con artists continued to steal gold, silk and other precious items for their “unique creation”. Out of fear for being seen as stupid, all of the emperor’s men and townspeople kept their mouths shut about the fact they could not see the outfit and the emperor was prancing around seemingly naked until finally a small child came forth and declared that the emperor was walking around naked. They believed that if an innocent child ¬†could see it, then they must have all seen it, and finally came forward to admit that the emperor had been tricked and that there was never an outfit being made.

Pluralistic ignorance has been linked to a wide range of deleterious consequences. In particular, pluralistic ignorance can lead groups to persist in policies and practices that have lost widespread support: This can lead corporations to persist in failing strategies, and governments to persist in unpopular foreign policies.

Before I move on to the topic of opposition unity, an issue that I would like to expound upon is the population growth. I recall someone making a comment about a 10 million population. Does he know what he is talking about? I wonder. Overcrowding will bring the country to its knees.  I really hope the current administration has a good plan for this. Competition for limited resources places tremendous strain on the populace. Mental institutions will be flooded with those who cannot cope. Suicide rates will rise, not to mention crime. Greed threatens to overrun the nation.

These administrators, men with their machine minds and machine hearts, what do they know of the suffering of the people? Is the government too hasty in announcing the successful integration of locals with new citizens?  Integration or disintegration? Are Singaporeans truly integrated with new citizens?  The true decision makers, men and women obsessed with development, urbanization, and wealth, are mad.  The current population trajectory is tantamount to a government biting off more than they can chew. What next? A suburban housing project on Coney Island?

This is not a game of cards. Putting the future of Singapore in the hands of a select few industrialists is akin to playing Russian roulette. They will screw things up faster than a Napoleon who leads his grand army deep into the arctic steppes of Russian territory, spurred by the shrewd incitation of Alexander, only to find his horses frozen and the men all but defeated in spirit; the Patriotic War of 1812.   Economic expansion will not bring happiness, instead it will usher in unprecedented misery in the people. Why do the people not learn from history? Perhaps they believe that they are capable of great miracles, a narrative familiar to all in Singapore. Time will tell.

Somebody remarked that reputation is temporary, and character permanent. And Lee Hsien Loong has the cheek to agree! How does it profit the nation if she has the reputation for having the best airport, the busiest port, and the glorious title of a ‚Äúlittle dragon,‚ÄĚ if it also holds the dubious distinction of having the most unhappiness, the longest working hours, and the fastest erosion of cultural values, not to mention precariously sliding national solidarity, freedom of the media and trust in the government. Furthermore, is a one-party rule typical of character? It reeks more of despotism and insecurity. Yes, insecurity.¬† Fear is insidious. It does not greet you in the morning but creeps up to you in the throes of life. It does not manifest in newspaper headlines but permeates the private sphere, relationships, and the family unit. It causes unrest. The way to assuage this semblance of uncertainty is active debate, dialectics, and resolution, not ¬†one Internal Security Act. A grand voice used to call Dr Chee Soon Juan a psychopath. I think the real psychopath is hiding somewhere else. Lee Hsien Loong is not, and will never be, a brilliant statesman. The historians will take care of that.

Forgive me if this seems a bit harsh. Few would disagree. To be fair, not many can claim to be his father’s equal, in terms of merit, as well as ruthlessness. Some people who are inclined towards invoking cultural references have drawn comparisons between Lee Hsien Loong and the son of Liu Bei of the Three Kingdoms. That is indeed rather harsh. I prefer to draw parallels with someone else from the Warring States. But I digress. Suffice to say, the Machiavellian ethos of the ends justifying the means seems to run in the family. One can build a casino, one can also ignore the harmful effects of gambling on the citizenry, individuals, and families.

How can one make such a premature evocation of and lay claim to the title of the British natural aristocracy?  This, when voices of dissent, the rich-poor divide, and disillusionment with government policies are at an unprecedented high. If this is not arrogance, I do not know what is.

The only way to rattle the ironclad grip on power of the PAP is opposition unity, bar none. It became an issue of contention and garnered quite a bit of media interest early on even before the campaigning started. Its neglect, underestimation, and eventual  feature of indifference, especially evident in one particular camp, came back to haunt all parties. Do remember, pride comes before a fall.  The Chinese have a saying, I would like to repeat it here: Unity is Strength. A band of bandits without aim is susceptible to nothing more than a single blow.  A united opposition front requires time to build, necessitates the sharing of resources, and demands the leadership of charismatic individuals who are not afraid of making a hell lot of enemies. This, in tandem with a powerful and concerted presence on social media.  In time, these men and women will attract allies from all quarters. That is a universal law.

Therefore, it took only a bit of inertia, a state run media orchestrated to overplay the huge support for the opposition rallies, and a photograph of the prime minister sound asleep in the comfort of his Mercedes Benz to wipe the smug off the faces of the opposition leaders and restore the swagger in the footsteps of the PAP. Knuckleduster politics of the highest order, when not a single troop is lost.

It is important for stakeholders to understand that the take-home message for the defeat of the opposition in GE2015 is that a single straw alone breaks easily but when placed together in a bunch, is all but indestructible.

Please share if you love your country

 JC student

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6 Responses to “JC student: “Why GE2015 will go down in history as the biggest fluke election ever!””

  1. Dico says:

    JC student.

    I used to asked a friend from Philippines why the people voted for the Marcos family to political positions again since they ousted the family in 1986.

    My friend replied that it was in retrospect of the Marcos generation. ‘What?’ I exclaimed, ‘I thought that you guys kicked the Marcos’ asses!’

    There was a long silence and the conversation ended.

    Today, after this GE 2015, I finally understand the meaning of that silence. People just keep making the same mistake!

    Humans are emotional animals who are not logical most of the time!

    What we see as right may not be right in the eyes of the majority.

  2. Cheers says:

    Very well written analysis, but would like to add Stockholm Syndrome in addition to the Bystander Effect.


  3. Ang Sar Lee says:

    perhaps this article will give you a clue of why 9-11 was chosen, you may call it coincidence but the result speaks for itself.

  4. Bullshit says:

    Useless writer, from JC? Laugh out loud, more like some uneducated shit. Seems that JC had failed you, please suiside and just die. Singapore don’t need people like you. Don’t like here? Feel free to go away, oh wait, if you emigrate to other countries, you are foreigners there, but i bet you this brainless idiot didn’t think of it. haha.

    So seems that u want the opposition to win? Just because ppl like you in SG, singaporeans never appreciate anything, opposition win you think everything solve? hahahaha fking dumb jc kid, please tell us which pri/sec/jc you went, so we won’t enrol our future children in those schools. Or maybe u hate your parents, you hate yourself for being so king useless that u want opposition to win, so they can come out with a policy that no foreign people in SG, then all the SME, all close down, then economy goes down, no jobs for Singaporeans, then you will be happy right? hahahaha ok i get your point, its okay, this 21% of Singaporeans that are uneducated and brainless and fking useless thinks like you too, you are not alone :) have a great day ahead, oh watch out for cars when u cross the road, i don’t mind helping SG to get rid of those idiot. Have a singapore passport, being a sg citizen don’t even appreciate hahahahaha loser.

  5. Thistoo Shallpass says:

    Mr Goh,

    That is a very good analysis, but you missed two important points.

    The first is the external factor, namely all the things that are happening outside Singapore. Over the past year the world has gotten a whole lot more dangerous, politically and financially. The political paralysis in US, ISIS in the Middle East, the financial and refugees crises in Europe, the China’s economic slowdown that may lead to a world’s recession, Russia’s re-asserting itself, climate change, the gyrating stock markets, and others all add to a sense of an uncertain future. As the saying go, “you do not change horses at mid-stream”. Many feel that you do not want to leadership in the middle of a crisis, especially when the alternative only brings in more uncertainty.

    Which brings me to the second point, the oppositions. It is pointless to blame the ruling party to handing out goodies to get votes. That happens is every democracy, we hear it every time there is an election in the UK. Yet the government changes hand on a regular basis. For the opposition, it is not enough to offer candidates that are “as good as” the other side and hope that the “throw out the bastard” sentiment will carry the day. The opposition needs to have someone better. But honestly, are the opposition candidates in this election really significant better than their PAP counterparts? Do they really have a coherent plan of how to govern? Can they provide a compelling vision? Can they help Singapore, a small country, navigate in the choppy uncharted water?

    Let’s take your team as an example. In the last four years, how many times have the team walk through Ang Mo Kio talking to the residents and learning about their concerns? What do you really have to offer besides a distaste for the PAP?

    Singapore opposition parties need to build themselves up slowly. It may make you feel good to say that every seat is contested. But it is a warning sign to the voters. The PAP members may be a bunch of yahoos. But many who would cast a protest in order to have more opposition voices in the parliament voted for PAP instead just so that there would not be a fluke and a bunch of unknown and inexperienced yahoos ended up running the country.

    So the opposition parties need to reflect and come up with a better strategy. You did some analysis of the percents of swing votes that could have been the result of one action or the other by the ruling party. Here is another way to look at it. If those constituencies where the PAP won more than 75% (which meant they were PAP strongholds where the opposition parties have no chance) were uncontested, the PAP majority would have been only 67%, meaning that the decision of the opposition to contest every seat actually gave the PAP at least a 2% margin. Your own slate contributed 0.72% to that 2%. So the delusion of grandeur of the oppositions actually contributed to the PAP landslide.

  6. ABC says:

    Perhaps you could be over-analysing. I voted PAP. Why? They improved since the last election. The opposition did not deserve my vote. Simple as that.

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