"The sin against the lofty spirit of his vocation, however, begins where this striving for power ceases to be objective and becomes purely personal self-intoxication, instead of exclusively entering the service of 'the cause.' For ultimately there are only two kinds of deadly sins in the field of politics: lack of objectivity and--often but not always identical with it--irresponsibility. Vanity, the need personally to stand in the foreground as clearly as possible, strongly tempts the politician to commit one or both of these sins." -- Max Weber, "Politics as a Vocation", 1919
The one thing I would miss dearly if I were to leave politics would be home visits. Each visit begins with a tentativeness. The strange corridor and household, the stranger at the door. Very quickly it changes.
The pioneer generation auntie who breaks into a smile peering through the old metal shutter windows when I switch to a halting rusty Teochew. The middle-aged father opening his gate like an old acquaintance sharing the financial problems he is facing, slightly tearing. The smoking uncle sitting on the floor at the doorway completely amused I am squatting down to chat with him. The lady who makes us laugh when she blames us for giving her a terrible choice of George Yeo or Low Thia Khiang in 2011.
These magical moments transform the threshold space of the doorway into a social place where their private lives connect to public purposes. Residents become citizens and this duckweed sinks roots, to be allowed to serve the community he is invited to belong to.
This was a good interview. Sitting with the reporters at a coffeeshop in Bishan near where I stay, we discussed politics and I learned a thing or two about myself.
Wanbao asked me what I felt of the circumstances that brought about my election as NCMP. They knew I saw all this as national service, as I had written here, but how did I feel seeing my WP comrades go through the debate on the motion in Parliament? I told them, in addition to my fundamental motivation to serve my country and her people, the images of Mr Low, Sylvia, Leon, Li Lian and the rest taking the heat were seared into my mind, and I am reminded of this debt every time I work on parliamentary matters.
Wanbao asked me what has changed for me as an academic since I got involved in politics. It was a great question. I said that as an academic, my ego and pride mattered a lot, especially when I championed my ideas and criticised others, thats what we do and thats what we become. But since getting involved in politics, my ego had been broken down by learning from citizens about their problems and perspectives, and having to reflect on policies and issues from many angles and through time. Singapore is small and I am even smaller in the grand scheme of things.
Wanbao asked what do I hope to achieve. I said to build up WP to be an insurance for Singaporeans and Singapore. Please elaborate, Wanbao asked. My aim is to build up WP as an organization so that it develops the capacity to support the work of MPs in parliament, town councils and the grassroots. Organization strength is also important for retaining and growing the credible candidates, uniting otherwise loose egos with a common purpose of service to the people and the nation.
Why is this important? To safeguard against the failure of the PAP. We have become too dependent on a single super-large party, and history has shown that political systems dependent on one single organization do not last long. Building up a second party that will be competitive to the first party will keep the first party on its toes to evolve to be relevant. And if the first party were to falter, then the second party can quickly develop to step up to preserve our political system.
Why the Workers' Party?
General Election 2015
The Sum of All Fears
Focus on Singaporeans
Bully-Proof Our Politics
You May Say I'm a Dreamer