With the vandalism of Singapore's Cenotaph, politics in the nation crossed another 'Red Line.' Violence has crept into Singapore's political sphere.
Let's be clear, spray painting a national monument is violence, not 'graffiti art.' Sure, the structure was not destroyed. Nor does the damage appear irreparable. However, violence against Singapore's history eats at the nation's soul.
|Singapore's Cenotaph monument located in the Esplanade Park|
Singaporeans, like people everywhere, are shaped by shared historical experiences. The colonial era, including participation in the last century's two world wars, is part of Singapore's recent history.
As Singapore builds upon its history, citizens aspire for greater freedoms. However, the Cenotaph's vandalism may be interpreted as a sign that some Singaporeans are not ready for greater personal responsibility, a by-product of freedom.
Civil society is a prerequisite for democracy. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, 'Civil' means, "Adequate in courtesy and politeness; of, relating to, or based on civil law; established by law."
Democracy is more than 'one person, one vote.' Democracy is a culture - a way of thinking. Democracy grants freedoms but requires respect. Democracy is a way for society to establish laws; laws which are just and in line with the ambitions of society.
Respect for the law is paramount for any 'wannabe' democrat.
Undoubtedly, there are those who disagree with some prevalent laws. Consider the gay community with its repugnance for Section 377A of Singapore's penal code. To their credit, those opposed to Singapore's homosexuality laws are encouraging change in a mature manner – by challenging the statute through Singapore's Supreme Court.
Additionally, there is the example of Singaporean cartoonist Leslie Chew arrested for sedition. The cartoonist proclaims his views openly, not hiding behind a cloak of anonymity. He overtly confronts the system and appears prepared to face the legal consequences. In other words, if laws are perceived to be unjust then transparent, civil disobedience is the answer.
Violence – call it vandalism if you like – is not a catalyst for change. Vandalism in democracy's name is as abhorrent as violence in religion's name.
Misguided passion will not engender more political freedoms, leave alone democracy.