Tuesday, September 08, 2015

political awakening

This is the election the kids had a political awakening.

In this regard, they, of this generation, would be far more politically aware than I ever was at their age.

Me, I didn’t know anything. I had never needed to vote, never needed to care, until the 2001 General Election when I was a 26-year-old newbie reporter tasked to cover the Opposition. I was young, fresh, utterly stupid, accused by the people I had to cover of being a Government spy, and publicly lampooned when one of them mocked me at a public rally for being a stupid reporter who asked him the irrelevant question of whether he had a girlfriend (the editor insisted I ask and I didn’t have the will to refuse). He was trying to whack the mainstream media.

And then it was only 10 years later in 2011 that I got to vote.

The point is, I was incredibly politically naïve (I still feel somewhat naïve) until a very late age, when I was well into adulthood.

My trio, they cannot help but be aware that something has been going on.

2015 is the election year when every single constituency is being contested. Where we live, and where their grandparents live, they see posters everywhere. They ask: Who are these people?

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Along the road – especially since we live by a main road – they hear the propoganda trucks wailing past. They ask: What’s that for?

At our neighbourhood kopitiam, they see men in blue distributing leaflets and they recognise the same men in the poster. They ask: What are they doing?

On my computer screen, on my Facebook feed which they sometimes glance at, they see me watching rally videos. They ask: What’s that about?

I sit the girls down one evening and I explain the entire thing. I reckon the easiest way to make it relatable, is by telling them to imagine that all the pupils in their school can now choose who they want to be their leader. David stands for the No School Uniform policy, Adrian if elected will get rid of homework etc etc. 

I put in all the terminology – Nomination Day, Campaigning, Hustings, Polling Day. (so on Nomination Day, David and Adrian go to the General Office to check through their report book and make sure they are good enough to stand for election)

And it works. Thereafter, Jo and Lu know exactly what a General Election is. They know what a GRC and a SMC is, they know about walkovers.

A few days after, I think Lu forgets all about it.

Jo doesn’t. She innocently declares herself a PAP supporter, the way she declared she was a Christian two years ago. I think she likes an all-powerful party which preserves the status quo, and which has been around for a long time. I tell her to take a look at the other parties, too.

Day, ah. He wasn't part of my briefing. 

Part of the reason why I made sure I sat down with the girls and explained everything, was because I became alarmed at how politically-informed (or misinformed) Day was. Unlike Jo’s innocent political declaration, I sensed some of the vitriol which had been soaking through my Facebook feed of late, being verbally spewed by my son.

He had turned to me and, with light in his eyes, declared that Chee Soon Juan is amazing. The lad, with all his connectedness to the Internet, had seen the video of Dr Chee making his rally speech. Then he whacked the PAP – I hate XXX (a specific politician), he said. Every time I saw him online these few days, he was viewing rally speeches. And much of his knowledge of the General Election came from watching an Amos Yee video. 

I am glad he is independently learning. I am glad he is passionate about the country’s future. And I’m glad he has opinions which he is not afraid to express (which is more than I can say about myself even now).

I am the most agreeable person and I don't disagree with his viewpoints. But over and above everything else - and I have stressed to him time and time again - he must be fully informed before he can conclude. I refuse to raise an opinionated idiot who makes sweeping statements without knowing the bigger picture or being aware of the counter-argument.

He whacks Singapore's education policy - too stressful, he says, he lambasts Singapore as being a too-expensive place to live in, he looks around him and says Singapore is too crowded. With what experience and knowledge does an 11-year-old boy (raised in what I objectively have to say is a very wholesome and secure environment) have to measure this against? 

And so I tried to educate him, as best as I could; although, as with gaming and certain attitudes, I know there are many things quite beyond maternal control. He is a child of his generation and he will be what his friends are, to a large extent. I can only enlarge the frame of the picture so he sees more, and not the online pinhole which he seems to be gazing through.

I showed him more videos, tried to de-mystify some of the big-picture things which he won't have any experience with until a much later stage in life, balance out some of his viewpoints.

I also brought him to a rally just so he knows that there are many people who do care about the country’s future. 

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He is incredibly absorbed. Unlike any concert or performance I have brought him to, he worms his way almost to the front (through an apparently 20,000-strong crowd), listens fervently and claps enthusiastically like he agrees with everything which is being said.

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* Just Day and I at the rally

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