Youths and the new generation of activism

Victoria shares her thoughts about peaceful activism for Singapore…

 

Recently, I participated in a Youth Activism poll by Young NTUC and that set me thinking further on recent instances of activism in Singapore.

It is not surprising that a huge percentage of respondents mentioned that they are unsure about what “Activism” means. However notably, it seems like the majority would know what it entails but just do not know what really defines it.

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Truthfully, I did not know what exactly does “Activism” means when I first heard it. I could probably relate it to the Hong Lim Park protests or the stop the haze movement that some groups have been actively involved in, but I was not sure. Loosely, I would presume “Activism” has got something to do with people coming together and being active for a certain cause.

Hence, for knowledge sake, I looked up on the ten years series answer on my ever so friendly encyclopedia – GOOGLE, and this is what I got:

 

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PS: I guess I’m not too far away from the true definition. =)

Taking “Activism” into context, the recent social media buzz on protests for CPF changes and transport improvements would definitely make it to an activism of some sort. So the next big question is:

Should Activism take on a confrontational or peaceful approach?

Without a second thought, I would say “Of course PEACEFUL la!” – NO to conflicts, protests or even riots.

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But come to think of it, an evident reason of why I am so confident to say so is because I am born and bred in Singapore. I may not say the same if I am living in other countries like the United States, Turkey or Hong Kong. A peaceful approach might not work there. For example, minimum wages have been a thorny issue in Turkey as employers having been trying to keep the wages as low as possible while unions haggle over steep increases, with the government acting as a mediator between them. Minimum wage earners have been struggling with their lives and that prompted many to get involved in active protests for fair wages.

But for our current Singapore system, we have evolved beyond the “slamming table and bang door” stage to get the things we want.

 

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Given the stability of our statutes and institutional system, I believe we can do things in a peaceful manner – take action, get involved constructively and in a way that does not disrupt the country’s usual way of living. And, I am glad that many other youths think the same too – this is concurred by the last part to the poll that showed an overwhelming support for approaching activism peacefully.

 

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Many feels that a peaceful form of activism is a more effective way in getting things done with lesser conflicts and trouble. Of course, reality would say that Singapore as a whole is definitely less accepting of ‘activism’ that causes trouble, aggression and conflicts. But that said, I truly appreciate this peaceful and trouble-less country I live in.

So, let me pull in some recent examples of activism in Singapore that I feel is the way to go:

 

1.)     Stand Up for Our Singapore

This was an event from the ground-up, receiving no funding or support whatsoever from the government. The fact that it was a ground-up initiative certainly added to its appeal – the volunteers were people of passion and vision who aspired to appreciate the elderly and our mothers through the act of giving up seats to them.

 

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2)     Save That Pen Day

Save That Pen gives used and unwanted pens a new lease of life. They collect donated pens from around Singapore, refill them, and pass them on to underprivileged students in Singapore and the region. And on 5th April which is Save That Pen Day, 30 schools gathered at a mass pen-sorting with volunteers at hand to help to raise the awareness of sustainable living and waste reduction.

 

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3.)     Youth Corps Singapore

Instead of spending time hanging out with friends and watching movie, some youths choose to contribute to the society.

Singapore’s first national corps of volunteers – Youth Corps Singapore recently inducted their pioneer batch of youth volunteers during a 5 day camp at Pulau Ubin. This community based activism saw youths aged 15 to 35 stepping forward to take on projects that benefit their community. Volunteers who are passionate about impacting their communities will be actively involved in a year or two of community service, in Singapore and aboard.

 

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COOL RIGHT? =D

So embrace peace people, this is the 21st gen way of activism!

It is a pity to see that in the course of activism, some people fight, others protest. And I’ve seen many great and committed activists who burn out as a result of their own need to fight. They blame, rage, insult. They do not listen or take responsibility. I believe none of these behaviors create the necessary change but only separation that will lead further dysfunction to our country today.

Activism in this era must be approached in a way that takes responsibility of our own feelings and the feelings of others. We need to respect others and communicate constructively. We need to be well informed and by having sound information, it will make it easier for us to convince people that our cause is worthwhile.

All in all, activism should bond and not break our community. We definitely need our voices to be heard sometimes but let’s do things in a nice and constructive way, shall we?

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Victoria Tan

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