Dr. Catherine Lim wrote “A Great Affective Divide” 21 years ago, a sharp and eloquent critique of the PAP ruling party.
If only leaders had heeded her advice.
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Excerpts from Selection of Articles by Catherine Lim
1) It is no secret that while the PAP Government has inspired in the people much respect for its efficiency and much gratitude for the good life as a result of this efficiency, there is very little in the way of affectionate regard.
2) While the PAP ideology remains the same, the people have not. Higher education, a more affluent lifestyle and exposure to the values of the western societies, have created a new generation that is not satisfied with the quantitative paradigm but looks beyond it to a larger qualitative one that most certainly includes matters of the heart, soul and spirit.
3) The absence of this affective dimension in the PAP framework is what has alienated the people from their leaders. It is easily seen that the main criticisms levelled against the PAP point to a style deficient in human sensitivity and feeling – “dictatorial,” “arrogant,” “impatient,” “unforgiving,” “vindictive.”
4) In other countries, political parties come and go, but the country remains the rallying point for the people’s feelings. [In] Singapore, the Government has become synonymous with the country. Indeed, Singapore is often seen as the creation of the PAP, made to its image and likeness. Hence, dislike of the PAP, even though it does not translate into dislike of Singapore, effectively blocks out any spontaneous outpouring of patriotic emotion. The best evidence is in the attitude towards the national flag. Singaporeans continue to be reluctant to put it up in their homes on National Day for fear of being thought PAP supporters and sycophants.
5) If loyalty towards the country is blocked, it has to be directed elsewhere. In Singapore, it is directed at the good life which the country has come to represent. It has been wryly described as the new religion of “moneytheism.”
Source: “A Great Affective Divide,” by Catherine Lim (1994)
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1) The fear in Singapore is a special, almost unique kind, for it is self-imposed. Its most obvious form is self-censorship.
Source: “A Climate Of Fear In Our Society?,” by Catherine Lim (2010)
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1) The PAP is incapable of reinventing itself.
2) Reinvention would require the opening up of one crucial area that the government is determined to have tight control over. This is the area of political liberties — open debate, criticism, independence of the media, public assembly, street demonstrations for the cause, all of which are taken for granted in practising democracies.
3) Pointing out the case of the 16 political detainees who called upon the government in September last year to set up a commission of inquiry to look into the allegations said against them, Lim noted that the petition was promptly dismissed and no further action was taken.
“I thought that the government had missed a fantastic opportunity to show Singaporeans that it had the honesty and courage to face up its past excesses or to take responsibility for them,” said Lim.
Source: “Yahoo News: “PAP incapable of reinventing itself: Catherine Lim” (2012)
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You transformed little, obscure, resource-poor Singapore into one of the most successful economies in the world. If today Singapore is described in breathless superlatives—‘best’, ‘richest’, ‘cleanest’, ‘brightest’—it is all because of you.
If only you had done so without so much human cost. If only the high ranking of Singapore in international surveys on economic development were matched by a similar ranking in surveys on human rights.
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1) The exuberance, boldness and defiance of the young voters, operating in the new media world of instant, dazzling communication, could be infectious enough to have an unstoppable snowball effect, engulfing other groups of voters, including even those normally sympathetic towards the PAP.
2) [Political] reform there must be. For only then can Singapore come into its own, only then can it claim to be a successful society in every sense of the word, and take a proud place among other societies in the world.
Source: My best hope lies in the young Singaporeans (2012)
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1) We are in the midst of a crisis where the people no longer trust their government, and the government no longer cares about regaining their trust.
2) There are [clear] signs that the present situation has reached crisis proportions, that it is not just an affective divide, not just an emotional estrangement between your PAP leadership and the people. How did this crisis arise in the first place? With utmost respect, Sir, I must point out that it is ultimately your inability or unwillingness to listen to the people.
3) While you see yourself as simply going by the rules, Singaporeans see you as the PAP juggernaut ready to mow down the little people in its path.your PAP leadership and the people.
4) . . .even if it meant an apology and the need to make amends, that would have been a gesture large and empathetic enough, to win over even the most vocal critics. It would certainly have begun the process of creating, for the first time in the history of the PAP government-people relationship, a nexus of understanding and reciprocity.
5) In the absence of the people’s trust, effective government is virtually impossible, as every leader knows.
Source: An Open Letter to the Prime Minister (2014)
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Snapshot with Catherine Lim (2015)
CATHERINE LIM’s works deal largely with the East-West divide, Asian culture, women’s issues, as well as Singapore’s culture, history and politics. She has won national and regional book prizes, and was made a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture and Information. (bio from SWF)
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3) On Respect and Elitism (FB Comment, by Neo Swee Lin)
4) On PM LHL’s lack of sincerity and humility (100+ likes in 2 hours / FB Comment, by Edrei Valath)
5) Funny Comment by an ardent admirer of Catherine Lim