Forum: Speak up for a more meaningful public political discourse

A big concern for our small nation is a disease that is developing in our public discourse.

This disease divides our people into competing factions and promotes a tribal mindset.

It impedes the growth of a more civilised society, where competing ideas flow freely from a critical and caring citizenry.

It is characterised by vicious ad hominem attacks, which push even sensible citizens into a fight or flight mode as they react to the verbal venom.

The spread of this degenerative discourse has crippled many societies and enabled vulgar populists to win power.

My hope is that our people will not stand for it.

One lesson we can draw from democracies that are struggling with this societal disease is that politicians may not always provide the solution. In fact, they may at times be part of the problem.

This disease is also spread by polarising public commentators who use political rhetoric that parallels that of the partisans in the West.

I believe the solution will come from ordinary Singaporeans who take the extraordinary step of participating in our democracy with greater civility.

We have an opportunity to build a society where important issues can be debated fearlessly without resorting to name-calling or calling the police on our opponents.

It is always tempting to stoop to the level of an aggressive agitator or run away from polarity altogether.

But verbal sticks and stones will not break our bones. We can each speak up for a more meaningful discourse.

Denis Edward