Over-reliance on consensus could stifle diversity

Mr Ng Chia Wee's answer to the question of how the Government can build trust with the younger generation, with its emphasis on "consensus", seems to result in disproportionate deference to the Government (How the 4G generation can build trust with my generation of youth, May 23).

While well-intentioned, this disregards the ability of young Singaporeans to independently advocate for policy change - reflected by the many movements and organisations across various socio-economic causes which already exist - and even their democratic ability to shape the Government.

Besides the Youth Conversation dialogue, other groups have been able to organise their own forums or programmes to solicit views.

Of greater interest, and further independent of governmental involvement, is facilitating the continued accommodation of diverse community voices as well as nudging uninvolved individuals to be a part of these discourses.

An over-reliance on "consensus" could stifle diversity and the important need for young Singaporeans to take a stand.

Those engaged in community work or socio-political discussions, moreover, have recognised that articulating an opinion is but a start: Much more work is needed to reach those who disagree, to organise sustainably in more diverse groups, and to execute endeavours with the potential of changing public opinion.

That is not to argue that the younger generation should eschew working with the Government or making use of available resources.

Rather, the younger generation looking to make a difference should prioritise working with a wide spectrum of Singaporeans and groups over clamouring for "trust" from the get-go, so as to build a track record of complementary rhetoric and action.

If accomplished ably, this "trust" from the Government and others in power will naturally follow.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2019, with the headline 'Over-reliance on consensus could stifle diversity'. Print Edition | Subscribe