Should Singapore Make Protesting Legal?

There is a protest coming up this Saturday in Perth. A "Say no to McDonald's" protest in the town of Guildford. Residents are bent on stopping the building of a new McDonald's restaurant, which is currently at proposal stage.

If you tell this to the average Singaporean, he or she will probably ask, "Why?"

Why protest?

Why say no to McDonald's?

Why bother?

If you go to the Facebook group of this protest campaign, you will find only details on how to run this protest. There is no explanation whatsoever nor a list of reasons in one of the first few posts or the About page. It is as if the locals are sending a glaring message to this clueless Singaporean, "Do you even need to ask?"

It is interesting to note that when a right is taken away from us from the day we are born as Singaporeans, we grow up, in this case, without the instinct or the ability to attune to the grey world. We see the world as white and black, nothing quite in between. It is either something is legal or illegal, right or wrong. We do not have the sensitivity to appreciate values beyond dollars and cents. 
We lack the belief that an assiduous mass can create change, positive change. How many times have you heard Singaporeans speak in resignation? "[whatever] also no use, nothing will change." I believe it is exactly what they want us to think.

Over dinner with Judy and her guest, Rachel, I brought up the subject of protest and we agreed that protests are often painted very negatively in the Singapore media. It is often projected as violent, irrational and anti-society. That narrative does not tally with our personal experiences. The protests we witnessed, or even unconsciously took part in for Rachel's case, are often a peaceful affair or a vibrant gala at worse. Violent situations are far and a few between and it never fail to be grossly exaggerated by the MSM. In other cases, protests are portrayed as a leader beguiling the innocent with an evil plot he is hatching.

Protests work quite often. Grace got a pay raise after the nurses march. Sometimes they don't. ROE8 protesters failed to stop the Liberal government from signing the contract to go ahead with construction. However, their persistence hinted Labour to use that as part of their electoral promise and crushed Liberal in the recent state election. The new premier has taken steps to end the project before it starts. The only protest I witnessed in HK succeeded in rising minimum wage for workers. These are sides that is never reported to us and we are conditioned to believe protests are unproductive, ineffective and bad for the people.

With that, Singaporeans are eternally gagged and meek. Over time we lack the will to fight for ourselves, right the wrongs and place full faith in leaders to always have our welfare in mind. That is far more dangerous in my opinion, than the danger associated with protests. The fact that we have no voice whatsoever in parliament attest to the need or an alternative voice. A real voice, not the patronizing isolation of "legal protest" to Hong Lim Park, which stifles creativity, possibilities and the required impact to convey a message.

Am I attending this protest at Guildford? Sure, why not?

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