Slick Presentation and an Appeal to Your Emotions Cannot Hide a Fascist Message
Recently I came across a video by a group callling themselves We are Majulah that has been making the rounds on Facebook. So far it has garnered about 11,000 shares and 409,000 views. The video is presented by a young man, Divian Nair, who calls himself a “storyteller”, an ordinary Singaporean who grew up in an HDB flat.
His message is emotional and seductive, an appeal to nationalism. What if all Singaporeans were to come together and put aside our cynicism and indifference in the service ofa wider ideal? We are not sheep but lions. He uses the image of a terrorist about to detonate a backpack and asks how great it would be if instead of trying to run away we all came together to tackle him. In contrast to the French and the Americans, who he says are united by the ideal of liberty or freedom, Singaporeans can unite behind the word Majulah, in our national anthem, which he translates as to progress or move forward or simply to flourish. Tellingly he cites as an example of the Singapore spirit the hundreds of thousands whom he claims turned out for Lee Kuan Yew’s funeral (though many of them were civil servants or GLC employees who were ordered to attend).
The problem with this message is that it is essentially hollow and meaningless. When Nair talks about freedom being what unites Americans he is only partially right. Yes, America is about freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of thought, all freedoms that are absent in Singapore, but it is more about democracy and the belief expressed in the Declaration of Independence that “All Men Are Created Equal”, not in the sense of everyone earning the same but of everyone having equal rights and equality of opportunity. Most importantly everyone has an equal right to choose who will represent them in government. Democracy permeates all levels of the American system. Watching a news video of the Iowa caucuses, I was struck by the words of a senior citizen who said “This is Democracy. This is my opportunity to have my say.”
Significantly, Majulah just appeals to our emotions without giving us a good reason why we should defend Singapore. We would not be defending Singapore to protect our freedoms or democracy since we do not have any. We are advised to put aside our cynicism and apathy and come together but to defend what precisely? Our ministers and their relatives who head up Temasek with their multi-million dollar salaries. The foreigners on employment passes who have walked in to take Singaporeans’ jobs without having to do NS first.
The group say that they are non-political but their language seems to be taken directly from Lee Hsien Loong’s messages before and after the recent election. Nair even sounds like Lee Hsien Loong. In his National Day Rally speech LHL said Singaporeans have to be resilient and united in the face of external threats and attempts to undermine our cohesion. Majulah are saying exactly the same thing.
In my post “Why Donald Trump Can Only Envy Lee Hsien Loong” I pointed out that the PAP’s underlying ideology and symbols are Fascist. Watching the recent Amazon TV series adapting one of the favourite books of my adolescence, The Man in the High Castle, an alternative universe in which the Axis powers win WWII and the US is divided between a Nazi East and a Japanese California, it was striking to see how many of the slogans mirrored those of the PAP, such as “National Unity is the Source of Our Strength”, which we glimpsed on banners in the Japanese zone. Similarly Lee Hsien Loong at the recent PAP convention said he was glad at the overwhelming mandate handed to the PAP because “We need to be able to deal with this external rough weather without being weakened or distracted by internal divisions” and “Singapore will be able to deal with external challenges as “one united people”.
Majulah just seems another calculated and cynical attempt to confuse us by an appeal to the emotions into thinking that we do not need democracy or to fight for change. It has the beguiling message that we are all in the same boat together and to criticise our leaders or our system is cynicism which must not be tolerated. It does not say that we have the right to take back the power that the PAP, like an occupying force, has taken from us. Nor does it say anything about the economic structure that the PAP elite have designed for maximum benefit to themselves. That is fascism.
Here is Majulah’s vague and meaningless fascist-like philosophy:
We are Majulah’ is rooted by three principles.
Courage, compassion and ownership.
Courage in the way we scream out ‘MAJULAH’ as our brave call to rally and defend each other.
Compassion in the way we encourage each other when we say “Majulah my friend. It’s going to be ok”
Ownership in the way we invite the world to our shores as we greet them with “Majulah, welcome to Singapore”
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
Crisis is inevitable. It is only a matter of when.
No matter how structured our existing defences are, there is always a chance for crisis to slip through the cracks. At this juncture, it is not about what happens after a crisis but what we can do now to improve our chances collectively.
The more of us who believe in it, the more interwoven the glue is, the stronger we will be in the face of any adversity.
‘We are Majulah’ can be that glue.
It is a bid to improve cohesiveness by lending a greater overall sense of security based on the very human understanding that there is safety in numbers.
Growing on ‘Majulah’s’ definition of onwardness and progress. – No matter what the nature of the crisis is or how difficult it might present itself to be, ‘Majulah’ can mean that as Singaporeans –
We will never say die.
We will always survive.
And we will always be there for each other.
Majulah pretends to be independent of politics but is in fact its message is closely aligned with the PAP’s. Despite the disclaimer on their website,this whole campaign looks suspiciously like it has been dreamt up by some Western PR agency or media consultants on the PAP or Government payroll.