What’s RA21? Well, it stands for Rational Apathy from age 21.
A recent survey of over 500 people by the Political Development Feedback Group, a unit of the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, discovered some fascinating statistics about the typical Singaporean.
• 63.4 % know little or nothing about the Constitution and organs of state
• 63.3 % either are not interested in or don’t know about local politics
• Over 66 % believe they have little or no influence on national issues
• 92.7 % have never given feedback to the Government
• 94.9 % have never written a letter to a newspaper
• 88.7 % don’t know what it’s like to sign a petition
• 54.7 % have never discussed politics in an informal setting
• 88 % have never discussed government policy with their MP
• 89.2 % have never attended a Feedback Unit dialogue
• 92.9 % have never joined a civil society organization
• 95.1 % have never joined a political party
All these indicate an extremely healthy state of affairs. They show that the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans are satisfied with how Paradise is being governed, and are quite happy to leave it to be managed the way it is now. This satisfaction is clearly shown by Singaporeans’ perfectly rational “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude.
It is therefore curious that some commentators see the survey findings as surprising and disturbing, even to the extent of describing the Singaporean attitude as “apathy” when it should be “satisfaction,” “contentment,” even “happiness.”
The same commentators call for political education to be introduced in schools, and for catalysts of political interest to be found. But people should not be taught how to punch holes in a steady boat. They should allow the steady boat to continue on its steady path. Those few (just 5-10 percent or so: see survey results) who lament “apathy” can go join a political party, say a few words every five or so years, then hibernate—and leave the rest of us to get on with what one commentator calls our “happy contented shopping mall lives.”
This way, when the steady boat founders, we will all know whom to blame—external forces and circumstances that are entirely beyond our abilities to control.