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“Death by Regulation” screamed the tombstone erected at the Speaker’s Corner at Hong Lim Park on 8 June 2013 to protest against the new licensing rules for news website by the Media Development Authority (MDA).
The measure spawned a “Free My Internet” campaign and a rally at the Speaker’s Corner during the weekend organised by a group of bloggers.
There have been calls for Singaporeans to be passionate about Singapore. Our leaders would do well to see the rally as an expression of such passion. There must be room for sharing and discussion of ideas as well as expressions of criticisms and grievances if we want Singaporeans to be involved in the community.
A climate of fear that prevents concerned Singaporeans from speaking up is counter-productive and inimical to creativity.
If we are to be a vibrant, creative and compassionate society, there must first be freedom from fear. It may be easier to govern a people by fear but this will only lead to a deafening sound of silence with citizens voting with their feet. What will it profit our nation to gain highly skilled immigrants but to lose our own citizens through emigration?
True democracy is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. In a documentary for visitors to the White House, President Obama made the point that the presidents of the United States are only guests in the White House and the White House is the symbol of democracy in the US. It is an inspiring example of how leaders need to be ever conscious of their accountability to the people.
True democracy is a politics of community rather than partisan politics where political parties seek to score points against one another instead of challenging one another to provide creative solutions to the problems of the community. Great leadership is the ability to bring people together in the spirit of love. We need leaders who “rise alongside those they lead” rather than lording over them. Great leaders seek to provide their people with the freedom from fear so that they can live with the freedom of love. We do not need a leadership of the elite but a leadership that comes from the grassroots.
In his book, “The Soul of Politics”, Jim Wallis described how the gang members of LA identified the sources of their community’s problems after the riots in LA in January 1994. Wallis noted that politics can reflect our worst values of selfishness, greed, divisiveness, fear and power.
Everyone longs for a politics that could reflect the best values of compassion, community, diversity, hope and service. A reawakening to a politics of renewed moral conscience will, in his view, shake us to our very foundations. There is a need for a politics of personal and social transformation.
The young people of LA told Jim Wallis, “Don’t rebuild LA the way it was. Revitalise and restore the hope of the people, and the people will rebuild LA.” One of the former gang members said, “Hope is the evidence of things not seen.”
Where there is freedom of love, there will be a revolution of compassion. Dr Martin Luther King Jr noted that a social movement that only moves people is merely a revolt. But a movement that changes both people and institutions is a revolution. Wallis drew attention to the important truth that ordinary people can create the vision our society needs and put them into practice. We need to discover how our lives can make a difference instead of just complaining about the problems of our world. Towards this end, we need a spiritual movement that will lead to both personal and social transformation.
We need to wake up to the truth that it is love and not money that will bring us fulfillment in life. And love is not a feeling but the commitment to live beyond ourselves and for others. Love is living at a higher level of existence so that we can find the true meaning of life, death and suffering which is the common destiny of us all.
Perfect love casts out all fear and the most important freedom that we should seek is the freedom of love that will set us free from the fear of loss, failure, suffering and death. Freedom without love can lead to chaos when everyone seeks only to fulfill their own selfish needs rather than the common good of the community. We may have the freedom to do all things but we need the freedom of love to choose only what is best for the community even at the sacrifice of our own personal desires or needs.
The love of freedom may drive us to seek greener pastures but it is the freedom of love that will move us to be agents of a revolution of compassion that will make Singapore a shining beacon of light in a world that is darkened by greed.
Dr Patrick Kee is a member of SDP’s Healthcare Advisory Panel. He is a specialist in Palliative Medicine who has been caring for the terminally ill for the past 10 years.