Attack on the United States Capitol
As I watch the January 6th Hearing, I am reminded that democracy is a concept that is unnatural. Strength will always have might and it is human instinct to seek to survive and reproduce by asserting ourselves — relentlessly, unwittingly, savagely — against others.
For democracy to survive, three things must exist:
Leaders — It is important to elect leaders of character. When leaders set aside their values and beliefs in the pursuit of self-interest, chaos ensues. When politicians can offer alternative facts in the face of irrefutable evidence, truth no longer matters.
System — A system is only as strong as the people within it. The system will fail if all the checks and balances are corrupted. While multiple layers help prevent a total system failure, this is not a guarantee. Hence, it is important to have people of character in key appointments to prevent such failures.
People — The electorate’s (and the politicians’) fidelity needs to be to the Constitution, not to a party or to an individual. The Constitution is the guardrail that sets the boundaries for political contest and the exercise of political power. Placing a party or an individual’s will above the Constitution destroys democracy.
Ironically, in the quest for democracy, Singaporeans have over the years consciously elected some leaders of poor character. While the system has thus far been able to keep these leaders in check, the system is not perfect and can fail. It is ultimately up to the people to decide the leaders that they want and this will in turn determine the Singapore that we live in.
The US — the most developed democracy in the world — came close to failing. I would even argue that the US is not yet out of the woods and it is still teetering on the edge. They have leaders of poor character, the system only just withstood the tide of corruption, and the people have pledged fidelity to an individual.
Singaporeans will do well to remember that democracy is an unnatural state of affairs and we need to focus on electing people of character. To do otherwise risks everything that we have.