Why we should care about the elections

Posted on 04 May 2011

Visakan Veerasamy ponders on the significance of the General Election in bringing people together.

Worker's Party rally at East Coast GRC. Photo: TERENCE LEE

I AM the ultimate virgin voter: Since I was born in 1990, I won’t be able to vote this time around.

But I’m here to share why we should care about the coming elections, even if we can’t vote, or feel that our vote doesn’t count:

The coming elections are symbolic of something far greater and more profound – the elusive, indefinable entity that we call the Singapore spirit.

It’s much more than a matter of deciding who gets to receive our tax money and sit in a bunch of chairs in a big room on our behalf. The elections serve as a focal point for us to rally around, to discuss and have conversations about, to foster closer bonds between Singaporeans across individual social circles and create social capital that we haven’t seen since the pre-war kampung days.

People naturally crave to be a part of a community that is something greater than themselves.

Singapore can and should be more than a collection of individuals working to make ends meet independently of one another. It has to grown and evolve to be a community, a team – and I’ll gladly bet my Grow and Share package that I am not alone in feeling this way. It’s a simple but poignant idea that really ought to permeate our collective psyche and become a part of our collective vision.

It is no longer pragmatic for Singaporeans to remain apathetic.

Singaporeans have been politically apathetic for several decades – It was forced upon us for our own good, so that we would focus on jump-starting our fledgling economy. I can see the logic behind that. Political freedom is worth very little without economic freedom, and I would’ve probably made the same decisions were I faced with the same situation as our heroic forefathers.

But times have changed. Now that a substantial majority of us are fed and have roofs over our heads, our needs have changed as well. If we are to evolve into something more than a pit-stop and a piss-break for the international community, we will need to have something more to offer. Our industrial-age selling points- safety, political stability and a compliant, competent workforce- are all quickly becoming obsolete. Let’s be pragmatic here- the growth that we have sustained for so long cannot continue without a more enlightened and proactive citizenry behind it.

The coming elections won’t magically change everything, but things won’t be the same

For most of us, life will go on as usual after they’re over, whether the opposition seizes several GRCs or the PAP dominates all the seats. And yet, things will not be the same. Because it is ultimately the electorate itself that is changing, and will continue to change. We have a unique opportunity to shape our culture – never before have ordinary Singaporeans have had so much power to influence what it means to be Singaporean. Social media – Twitter and Facebook – give each individual greater leverage than ever before.

Powerful ideas are harder to suppress than ever. The #SGelections hashtag is positively bursting at the seams. As I sit here writing this in Siglap Starbucks, I can hear several tables of people talking about the elections, too. The atmosphere is electric, and I’m glad to be a part of it.

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While the buzz is evident, let’s not get complacent. Let’s get more people involved. Talk to your families and friends – especially older voters who have been around for a long time. Grill your teachers about it in school. Use it as a conversation starter and discuss it with strangers at your favourite watering holes, and with that hot girl you wordlessly share a cigarette break with in the Butter Factory. Whatever it takes.

The benefits are intangible and unpredictable, but I’m betting that they will improve the quality of life in Singapore far more substantially than a lift upgrade or a Grow and Share package.

Do you feel like a valued member of Singapore? I’m guessing that you probably don’t – and that’s dangerous for the future of our nation. If you feel valued here and have a sense of belonging to this country, you have an opportunity to contribute tangibly beyond yourself, to be a part of something greater than yourself.

Paying tax dollars somehow doesn’t quite cut it, and voting isn’t really very much of a big deal either, realistically speaking. I’m after something bigger than that. Ask yourself what is it that you want Singapore to be. Let’s turn this place into something that we can be proud of, that we can all feel like we belong to. Let’s start by talking about it.

Visa is the ringleader of a secret community of non-partisan, non-apathetic young Singaporeans. Hit him up on Facebook (facebook.com/visakanv) or Twitter (@visakanv) if you’d like to join the conversation. He also blogs about Singapore and pretty much anything else you can possibly imagine.

This post was written by:

- who has written 555 posts on New Nation.

Belmont plays the guitar, made Jamie Yeo sing his song, shook hands with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, swam in the river above Bangladesh, visited Nagaland, outsmarted pickpockets in KL, was the editor of The Campus Observer and worships the writings of Nassim Taleb and Christopher Hitchens. He intends to be an astrophysicist, take up salsa and watch Led Zeppelin live at least once before offing it.

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  • Something to consider

    I ain’t apathetic, I feel hopeless that they don’t see the long-term structural good foundations of really good policies. Where’s environmental concerns besides the Orchard floods?