Start a conversation…about politics

If you want to see political change in Singapore, you don’t need to even venture beyond your immediate circle of contacts. The family dinner, the lunch break with colleagues or the hangout over coffee with friends present ideal opportunities to start a conversation about politics.

In the run up the elections, many Singaporeans are stepping forward to volunteer their time and energy to help opposition parties, including the Workers’ Party (WP), to succeed at the polls. In fact, a number of my blog readers have emailed me to volunteer their help.

There are many things that supporters can help with, from accompanying party members of their house visits, to logistics, to being polling agents on Election Day. We welcome volunteers to help in any way that fits their schedule, interests and talents.

There is another outreach activity which very effective, but often overlooked—starting a conversation with your family, friends or colleagues about politics.

Word-of-mouth has always been the most powerful marketing mechanism. It is often a more effective mode of communication than newspapers, TV and political rallies. The reason is simple: Your family and friends trust you more than they trust the media or politicians. Your opinions are more likely to rub off on them than a rousing speech by a candidate whom they don’t know personally.

So if you want to see political change in Singapore, you don’t need to even venture beyond your immediate circle of contacts (although if you could, that would be good too). The family dinner, the lunch break with colleagues or the hangout over coffee with friends present ideal opportunities to start a conversation about politics. In this age of social networks, posting a link on your Facebook wall could also be a conversation starter.

Of course, the million dollar question is: What do you talk to them about?

The key in these conversations is not to try to convince them to vote for the opposition right away. Changing a person’s political opinions takes time. Often Singaporeans’ political views have been shaped by years of conditioning through schools, the media and PAP-aligned organisations.

I will soon be posting articles on the do’s and don’ts of such conversations, as well as suggested topics to discuss. So stay tuned!

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

8 thoughts on “Start a conversation…about politics”

  1. a political conversation can be held almost anywhere with anyone. be it your friends, family members, acquaintances or even strangers, the basic rule of captivating the listener is to talk about the listener himself.

    start off a casual topic, get him talking about his current status, now, here’s the trick, frame the question into a comparable one with the past. a good topic will be job, living standards, income, education, public transport, healthcare, retirement or bring out the pragmatist in every Singaporean: Cost.

    its undeniable nobody like Cheaper, Better and Faster for any goods and services(but the way PAP is treating human capital as commodities is another story).

    throw in a few preempt and passive comments like “the present is not like before” or “i miss the good old days when HDB are this cheap”, “i wonder how are the young people today going to have a HDB unit of their own”. then ask the most valuable question:

    “what do you think?”

    they will go blah blah blah…then you make a comparison to the future. “what do you think about the future then?”

    blah blah blah again, then you make a few passive consensus comments like “yeah you are right. this is ridiculous” then go slip in the term government and you will find them blaming virtually everything on the government.

    go for the reversal kill “then what are the solutions then?”

    the group that goes “vote in the Opposition” tadah you have it.

    the group that goes “there’s nothing we can do”, “hopeless” and “im leaving Sinkieland”.

    you bring in the idea of having alternative voices in the government.

    tell them “do you think Singapore’s future/HDB prices/influx of foreigners/retirement/CPF/healthcare(or whatever topic you were talking about) will be cheaper/better/faster/less-congested/more-transparent/more efficient if only we have more Opposition Members to voice out the people’s concerns?”

    there you have it, another Opposition supporter (:

    NEVER NEVER NEVER talk about ideals like Democracy, Freedom and figurative that are easily whacked by PAP supporters. they throw in a few lines from the secondary school Social Studies Textbook and a few lines from Straits Times and there you will be trapped in a crossfire. you can always train your convincing skills over at Young PAP Facebook Group where there are a ready bunch of idiots ready to debunk, rationally or not.

    Always remember your position when you want to convince. The other party must be standing WITH you, and not AGAINST you(unless of course you are looking to train your argumentative skills).

    There ain’t no one-size-fits-all solution and there are plenty of techniques to convincing. High level techniques like satire and sarcasm are generally more effective but it takes practice. At the end of the day its still up to the target you are dealing with.

    Win people over and win the elections.

    vote for Change, vote the PAP out

    Alex Tan

  2. My mother-in-law is currently from out of town (we are based in Melbourne, Australia). I started talking about my concerns for Singapore, the direction PAP is going, that people are increasing uncomfortable (and feel powerless) to resist. All th usual issues like foreigners, low-wage earners, citizenhips given away to buy votes.

    She said, “What to do. Where is the opposition?”

    I responded by telling her that the Reform Party by Kenneth Jeyaretnam, son of Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam was considering contesting West Coast GRC.

    She was slightly surprised that there was such a party even existed. She has only heard of Chiam See Tong and the Workers’ Party, largely due to the fact that they are in parliament and occasionally make it onto the mainstream media.

    I then told her the PAP controls the mainstream media, so of course she, and many others, would not have heard much about the opposition parties.

    Mother-in-law then kept quiet and turned back towards her laptop.

    There I knew I have a long road ahead attempting to convince people to vote opposition, to take responsibility for their choices.

  3. Been reading a book on Winston Churchill the last few days and found it quite illuminating. Thought I would just share some bits I found rather interesting.

    “The responsibilities of the Opposition are limited to aiding

    the government in the measures which we agree are for national

    safety and also to criticising and correcting… any errors

    and shortcomings which are apparent, but the Opposition are

    not responsible for proposing integrated and complicated

    measures of policy. Sometimes [they] do but it is not [their]

    obligation.” 1950, 12th September

    Too few Singaporeans seem to understand the potential constructive and creative role that the Opposition can play(sad to say, that includes moi!)

    I can’t help quoting him again.

    “Much might be said for and against the two-party system. But

    no one can doubt that it adds to the stability and cohesion of

    the State. The alternation of Parties in power, like the

    rotation of crops, has beneficial results. Each of the two

    Parties has services to render in the development of national

    life; and the succession of new and different points of view

    is a real benefit to the country.” 1907, 25 June

    Churchill penned the above words when he was a young man at the age of 33. It should prove enlightening to note what he says at the age of 80, after having gone through the school of hard knocks(and also after having Hitler knocking on his doors!)

    “Party conflict and party government should not be disparaged.

    It is in time of peace, and when national safety is not

    threatened, one of those conditions of a free Parliamentary

    democracy for which no permanent substitute is known.” 1954

    If anyone is interested, the book I got the passages from is “Churchill by Himself” by Richard Langworth.

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