Inclusiveness has been a central theme of politics and governance in Singapore for the past few years, and it has gained currency especially over the past year where socio-economic inequalities have been thrown into sharp relief. Schemes have been put in place and the Government is committed to spending more on items such as income redistribution, healthcare and education subsidies. All this – within the confines of an increasingly stretched Budget.
Whilst we know that work on building an inclusive society and an inclusive economy is underway, we should also not neglect an important theme: inclusive politics.
Amongst the three, inclusive politics is likely to be the hardest to achieve. An inclusive political landscape calls for all its participants – politicians and citizens alike – to put the interests of the nation first, to engage in civil discourse, to respect one another. It is also about respecting each other’s views, to seek common ground despite difficulties. In Chinese we say, “求同存异”.
Why is this an imperative? Over the past year, cyberspace has been irrevocably polarised to two extremes; almost irreconcilably split. This does not augur well for Singapore. A house divided cannot stand, and the same analogy can be applied to a country: a people divided cannot progress. I sincerely wish for one and all to consider this: what good does it do to constantly hurl brickbats and insults at one another? Such actions demean human worth: not only is the object of insult demeaned, so is the person who commits the act. It is not edifying, it is not constructive.
If this is the freedom of speech, then I am truly disappointed that many have used it in such a destructive manner instead of furthering the cause of our democracy.
Our freedoms do not exist in a vacuum. These freedoms and rights come accompanied with responsibilities and legal limits, without which, liberty cannot be said to be preserved.
It is therefore civic responsibility of each and every citizen to build and co-create an inclusive Singapore – politically, economically, and socially.