Progress hurt when all scramble to be heard

I agree with the notion that we, and we alone, should decide what kind of democracy we want (Singaporeans alone decide how our system should work, by the Prime Minister's Office; Dec 21).

Much stems from how confident we are in ourselves and the pride we take in this land.

Economic achievements may ring hollow if none is willing to defend our way of life. We should close ranks in the face of common challenges.

Being a relatively young nation may make us unsure of ourselves at times.

But we should not be too quick to apologise for what we are or what we are not in the face of presumptuous foreign media that take pot shots at us just because we are not like them. We should speak out against unfair reporting.

It is apparent that so-called liberal democracy has its failings.

Nothing comes free, including free speech. We see free speech degenerating into loud, if not lout, speech in many places.

Progress, which can come only from societal harmony, takes a back seat when all scramble to be heard, never mind the consequences.

And the consequences are evident.

We see quarrelsome societies - democratic by western standards - backsliding, while "less free" counterparts that subsume individual liberties for the collective good charge ahead.

So what if we are a little restrained when saying our piece, when everyone around us makes progress?

Ironically, it is in liberal democratic systems that populism has arisen.

People there have lost trust in an electoral system that is supposed to throw up a representative government.

Perhaps all the pomp that comes with election season distracts all from its failings. People still need to make a decent living, and democracy alone may not deliver that.

No single democratic model works for all. The very proponents of freedom should respect others' freedom to choose.

Lee Teck Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2017, with the headline 'Progress hurt when all scramble to be heard'. Print Edition | Subscribe