In a recent speech by Law Society Chairman Michael Hwang, he described Singaporeans as apathetic and urged lawyers to stand up for justice.
"You must care about justice, and fight for justice where you see injustice, not just for your immediate client, but for the community at large" - Michael Hwang[Link]
In his speech he cited a few examples of apathy among Singaporeans. But he didn't explain why and how ordinary Singaporeans and lawyers became so apathetic. After a number of lawyers in the law society were detained under the ISA[Link] in 1986, I remember the then PM telling lawyers they should focus on their legal practice as there were plenty of opportunities for them (to make money) as the economy expands. MM Lee made it very clear when he ran the place that fighting for justice comes with steep personal price - you're better off minding your own business. In the 70s, the university was the hotbed of activism and the govt ended that with the arrest of student leaders. By the time I went to university in the 90s, most students had little interest in anything else other than passing exams. The hightlight at that time was when a few students from the Socialist-Democracy Club plucked up enough courage to visit Chia Thye Poh in Sentosa who by then had been detained for more than 2 decades.
Years of authoritarian rule has transformed Singaporeans into 'sheeple' - having only enough enthusiasm and energy to make sure things are okay for themselves and their families. I've frequently been given this advice - if you're not happy with how this country is run, you're better off using your brains to make as much money as you can so that you can emigrate rather than change the way it is run. This is true only if most people believe it is true. Unfortunately, thousands of Singaporeans take this advice and leave the country every year. The more you believe things cannot change, the more they will stay the same.
In the past few years, Singaporean sheeple have noticed the grass in front of them has been getting thinner - the things they don't care about and complacently left to the people who were suppose to take care of their interests are starting to affect them in negative ways. A number woke up one fine day to find their lifesavings have vanished because the banks and regulators have allowed toxic financial products to be sold to them. Many find that job security is now gone - they can be easily hired, fired or replaced with little compensation. Others woke up to find they can no longer afford something as basic as the housing they want. Many suddenly discovered that they are surrounded by foreigners who have no long term stake in this island. Many discovered how far they have fallen behind as the cost of living rose and the income gap ballooned.
In a society we are always better off if we learn to care for each other and pay attention to the plight of other Singaporeans because we won't know when their problems will become ours. They like hiving subservient apathetic citizenry so they can keep their hold on power and maintain the status quo. At the end of the day, being a Singaporean only matters if Singaporeans care about what happen to their fellow Singaporeans otherwise you can just issue those pink cards like candy to anyone who comes here just to boost the population numbers.