02 May 2006

Blogging during elections

The test of a democracy is not the elections. During my discussion with Rench in the previous post, I feel we have come back to the original issues of what it means to live in a democracy, and what it means to blog.

A healthy democracy, contrary to what Chiam and the opposition claim in this week of electioneering, does not end with just an opposition in Parliament. The failure of the opposition to gain more than 4 seats in Parliament for the past 40 years is not solely the fault of an allegedly oppressive ruling party, its gaming of election laws, or even its consistent legal strategies against opposition leaders (from Seow to Chee).

One can equally point fingers at the opposition for failing to disseminate their viewpoints out consistently and frame public consciousness. It is the duty of political parties - in power or otherwise - in a healthy democracy to get their message out and communicate to the people. No one knows, for example, that according to the Department of Statistics, the top 10% owns 60% of its wealth, a demographic statistic that puts this country in the league of third-world nations. Thanks, Steve Chia, for pointing that out. But this hardly puts any dent in the national consciousness. You had 4 years to convince Singaporeans that the economic recovery plan of Minilee's Whiteshirts weren't working, and nothing came out... until now. On my blog, you see me pointing out just how bad the economic situation was on the ground from 2003 to now - there's a consistent message that needs to be out there 24/7, not just 1 week in 5 years.

It's also the responsibility of people to talk more to each other as well. A healthy polity depends on a healthy civil society - I may disagree with Rench, we may misunderstand each other, tempers may get flared, but we both keep working at talking to each other. There is nothing so dangerous to a functioning democracy than the death of discourse. That leads to the shrinking of an informed electorate, to politically uninformed citizens.

That's why I don't believe that the rash of blogs springing up to focus on the elections will do anything to the eventual outcome. Bloggers need to be there on other days as well, contributing more to discussion on local and international issues, and less to reporting the same issues. The blogosphere is the key to building a society where people can talk to one another, engage dissimilar minds on common issues. You can't do that by playing citizen journalist.

Howard Dean used to say: you get a C for just turning up to vote. Here, oppposition parties get a C just for turning up and raising issues once every 5 years. Citizens get a D for being uninformed and then apathetic about being uninformed. Bloggers can do better if they put their efforts to foster a society where people can discuss issues with other people who don't necessarily agree with them.

1 comment:

Goat Almighty said...

i agree with you on this point. constructive discussion is good.

some people forget their manners once they get into their online alter ego.

i've got news guys, what you do offline, applies online as well. treat others the way you wanna be treated.