16 April 2009

AWARE: a civil society primer

1. Where PN Balji doesn't get it, once again

A paid hack for the whiteshirts veteran journalist, P N Balji is now a political appointee the director of the Asia Hack Academy Asia Journalism Fellowship, a quango set up for aggrandisement of the gahment and its hacks joint initiative by the Temasek Foundation and the Nanyang Technological University.

As a journalist, Balji is clearly cognisant of the wider civil society in which AWARE operates. He comments on the recent stealth takeover during its AGM by a group whose motives, agenda, and rationale for launching the takeover have not been revealed to the media, ordinary members of AWARE, and least of all to attendees at the AGM. Claiming that "the ladies at AWARE do not seem to get it", Balji does a David Carradine, reminding everyone that it's all about clash of ideas!

The silly old guard who got outfoxxed and outgunned should not be "furious" "sore losers" - if they want to take back their organisation, they should engage in a clash of ideas! If the old guard are upset at the sneaky nature of the takeover, they must take them on and show why they are no good for the future of AWARE.

Silly, silly old PN Balji obviously doesn't get it, despite shaking his avuncular finger at the "old", "sore", "upset" "losers" (btw, NICE JOB slamming the old guard and casting them as emotional whacko females, MR BALJI!!!!1111 I luvs how subtle you can get!).

One wonders why he's preaching the good old civil society value, the clash of ideas, to the old guard. If I'm reading the esteemed Mr Balji right, the onus is on the old guard to commit itself to a clash of ideas and show AWARE members that it deserves to get the organisation back.

As opposed to having the onus on the new guard to commit itself to a clash of ideas at the AGM itself - instead of stacking the meeting with their minions and getting themselves elected without a candid discussion of what they stood for, how they differed from who they sought to replace, and why they were no good for the future of AWARE.

But just so you know, PN Balji has more issues with the old losers than the new interlopers.

2. Clash of ideas - once more into the fray

But bless the pox-ridden heart of PN Balji! Deep down in his black soul, the man realises the sanctity of civil society and its core values.

Let's review: civil society is the conglomeration of free, uncoerced human association and its set of relational networks, formed for family, faith, interest, ideology. These networks would include interest groups, various clubs, labour unions, social movements, citizen advocacy groups and others.

The health of civil society depends on its constituents to freely and civilly engage in the clash of ideas that PN Balji so cherishes. It doesn't matter who you disagree or agree with, out of whichever ideology or faith - what matters is the freedom to engage, disengage, to foster patterns of civility in the polity, to create a sphere of social action independent of any totalising force.

Let us apply to the case of the AWARE takeover, the concept of civil society and its basic requirement for an open, honest, protected clash of ideas.

Much of the online wanking tossers - gays, conservatives, pseudo shock jocks, or fashionistas simply trying to grab recognition as serious political commentators - have come up with praises for the takeover - it worked, things like that happen in condo committee AGMs, this shows they're organised and effective (AND READY ON DAY ONE!)

I would not have believed that there are people who could be more blind than the esteemed PN Balji. But what we have here, is a failure to understand the concept of civil society and its underlying fundamentals. Civil society cannot exist if people stop talking to one another. Civil society cannot exist if people resort to violence. Civil society cannot exist if people are more interested in secretive, numerical-based power struggles instead of the clash of ideas.

The new AWARE exco did not behave as if AWARE was a civil society group. They behaved as if it were some condo committee. The new AWARE exco were the opposite of open, refusing to explain themselves in the AGM, or to offer what they saw was wrong with the old gang, or right with themselves. The new AWARE exco gave perfunctory speeches about their belief in the tenets of feminism, so perfunctory no one believed it was their real agenda. The new AWARE exco shot first, then promised to talk later. We're still waiting for them to give a clear account of who they are, what they believe in, and what they intend to do with AWARE.

On a side note, I would like to express my profound regret about Charlotte Wong Hock Soon and Peggy Leong Pek Kay. Wong was a former sociology and anthropology lecturer at NUS, while Leong was a sociology graduate. It is extremely embarrassing for the Sociology Department of NUS, as for its graduates, that these two persons hail from the same department. One would expect, from the wealth of wisdom and teaching from sociology and anthropology, that this sort of hostile takeover is just not done, and runs counter to the spirit of everything we have been taught about urban society and the civic space. Shame on the both of you!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the "AntiG" list. Plse update from time to time so that we know about them.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this post. You are totally right about the modus operandi being a red flag.

What they did was Wrong & whatever they might stand for is irrelevant because how can you trust such individuals & therefore such a group!!!

Anonymous said...

Is your issue with the method (how they got elected) or what they represent (which you claim they have not made known publicly yet) ?

SS Sim

akikonomu said...

SS Lim:

Civil society requires transparency, accountability, and a free, respectful exchange of ideas and dialogue to work.

Taking over an NGO like the new exco has done is completely counter to these principles. It also tends to destroy civil society, by destroying the conditions civil society needs to operate.

Does that answer your question?

Bel YSP said...

Thank you for this post. This despicable display of a take-over… can no way be good for any civil society unless we want to advocate “gangster-like” methods for all future disputes and take-overs - “Bring the gang members and flex our muscles; Action First, Talk Later” attitude does not belong in any organization whose vision is “to improve the quality of life of women in Singapore and achieve the betterment of Singapore society as a whole”. This new team is all wrong and their agenda does not matter - they've proven they are just bad seeds!