The man and his thoughts
The Hard Truths was a book about the ideas of a man, his thinking, his perspectives and how he related them to nation building. The reactions to his thoughts are expected from the respective corners of the communities. The rational and objective will analyse and rationalise what he had said. The irrational will react irrationally. The racists or extremists will behave as they are. A whole spectrum of reactions will go through its motion in respond to the sensitive comments in the book. Why would a man who could live life peacefully, kissing children, touring schools to tell grand father tales, did a thing like this, penning his personal thoughts and beliefs that obviously will incur the wrath of the wrong people? The Chinese have a saying, ‘Eat too full, nothing better to do.’ Is this the case of a man who is out to draw flaks on himself? Some have now accused him of chauvinism, racism, anti Malay, anti Islam and many things along this line of thinking. The polite ones will say they disagreed with some of the views expressed in the book. Did he set out to tell the world that he is a chauvinist, a racist, anti Malay or anti Islam? It is important to understand the agenda of the book and the hard truths. What does he want to achieve by saying the unpleasant things at this time of his life when he could say all the good things, all the politically correct things, niceties and to be praised and remembered as someone with kind words? If the readers of the Hard Truths miss out what he set out to do, or intentionally refuse to understand the bigger things, it is a cause lost. The book is all about the pitfalls that could untangle all the efforts in building a cohesive multi racial society, national integration and nation building. Unfortunately not everyone is sensible and composed when issues of race and religion are invoked. The primordial instinct of tribes and religious purity will surface to rule the day and hijack the agenda, even turn it into a contentious issue that requires apology or else. What is there so disagreeable or difficult to agree in the Hard Truths? Is accepting the Hard Truths so difficult and politically wrong? Compare this to the closing down of Nantah in the early days. That was a hot potato, highly emotional and touching the raw nerves of the chauvinists. Till today, the chauvinists have not forgiven the decision maker. Having Nantah teaching mainly in Chinese was divisive in a way. The graduates will present a serious social and political problem if their limited command of the English Language makes them less relevant to the national effort of integration through the primacy of the English Language in government and commerce. The chauvinists will argue that it is as relevant then as it is today. A difference in opinion, just like some will claim that whether under Lim Chin Siong or anyone, Singapore will still be what it is today. The point I am making is that the agenda or motivation of the incident was about national integration, not anti Chinese or trying to kill Chinese education though the direct effect was exactly that. The man and his motivation was and is all about how to make the country relevant and survive despite the opposing forces pulling in different directions. More flexibility, give and take, adaptation and accommodation are needed from every corner to the bigger good of the nation. Sticking rigidly to ones own little corner will undermine the effort of national integration. The Hard Truths was nothing about anti this group or that group. The intent is there for those who want to understand and appreciate it. For those who chose to deride the book and feel offended, it is all a matter of interpretation and looking at things from their own little corner and interests.