One blogger put it well, regarding the lack of respect in Reuban’s blog post for the DPM:
“You could contend that respect has to be earned, that it goes both ways, and that DPM Teo’s responses and approaches did not merit your respect, but I believe that this notion – for me – forms the basis of effective communication. This is not a form of reverence or deference that emerges because of his authority or mandate as an elected representative; rather, the nuanced postulation of points is a form of basic respect for another person (any person). More significantly, if you choose to voice sincere criticisms or feedback in a more cordial and cogent manner, your views would not be conveniently dismissed by stakeholders.”
On Wednesday, Reuban initiated the apology to DPM Teo through email.
On Friday, Reuban – along with his parents and teacher - met with DPM Teo at the Ministry for Home Affairs (MHA) and apologised to the DPM for his behaviour towards him.
The apology then gave rise to criticisms of Reuban from some quarters which chided him for not standing his grounds, and for allegedly capitulating under pressure. Others directed their ire at the DPM for, allegedly, "coercing and intimidating" the student into making the apology. Various theories then surfaced vis a vis how that apology might have come about and the reasons behind it.
It is a strong-arm tactic by the People’s Action Party (PAP) Government to silence its critics, say some. It is a “curb” on free speech, one person offered. Reuban was coerced or pressured by his school to make the apology. His parents must have forced him to do so, is another theory. The DPM summoned Reuban to the MHA to show who is boss. It is a systemic problem, not much to do with the individual.
My favourite is the one which says that Reuban was forced to apologise because the government wants to propagate apathy among the young. You know, scare them into not bothering about such important national issues or worse, to ask questions about these!
If our youths become apathetic because one of them had a meeting with the DPM, then god help us all.
It is quite amazing to see the length to which some would go to defend the student’s behaviour, and in the event missing the woods for the trees – the bad behaviour conveniently dismissed, his disrespect ignored. It is more fashionable to follow the pack and whack the DPM because, you know, he is from that much-hated political`party and it is open season on them, even when there is no shred of evidence to support any of these rather flimsy, imaginary theories offered.
We can always find a reason to rationalise anything but that is also where sometimes the danger is – that we are able to rationalise it so well that we miss entirely the most pertinent and salient.
Perhaps things are a lot simpler. From reports about the matter, it would seem that Reuban did take some time to reflect after speaking with his family and friends, and from online reaction to his blog posts. He realised his post was "rash" after reading his friends' comments, one report says.
“After reading comments from my friends, I came to a realisation that there were merits in the way DPM Teo handled the session,” Reuban later said, referring to the forum with the students.
He then initiated an apology, first through an email he sent to the DPM and later at a half-hour meeting at the MHA on the invitation of DPM Teo.
I thought this was a commendable thing to do, on both sides – Reuban for having the courage to reflect on what others have told him, for “man-ing” up to his bad behaviour and for offering the apology (by the way, isn’t this something we teach our kids to do when they find they’re wrong?); and the DPM for inviting the student to meet and for accepting his apology.
But to PAP detractors, or those who aren’t fans of the government, Reuban’s perceived capitulation is a let-down, a cop-out. It’s yet another example of the “small person” being forced to bow at the feet of the powers-that-be.
Contrary to these opinions, I view it as a young boy having the courage to do what many would not or could not – owning up and making an apology which would be reported in the papers for the entire nation to know. Many of us can’t even bring ourselves to apologise in front of our own friends or families.
Kudos, therefore, to Reuban. Well done.
We can and do disagree with others all the time. It is also important that we express this respectfully. At the end of the day, remember the golden rule – don’t do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you. To put it crudely, don’t spit in other people’s face if you do not want others to spit in yours. You seldom will go wrong with this.
While we may cheer Reuban’s original blog post as one with “balls” or “guts”, and even take conceited pleasure in reading Reuban say “F*** you, sir!” to the DPM, I wonder how many of us would feel as cheered if our own sons or daughters said the same to us becau3e they feel we did not answer their questions.
“F**** you, mom! You did not answer my question!”
I don’t think we would be defending our children much if they did so.
Sad too would be the day if our children did the same to their elders or their teachers.
“F*** you, teacher! You did not answer my question!”
There is truly something to be said about expressing disagreement respectfully. A good example`whom we can learn from is Alex Au. Alex is one of the most passionate and fiery bloggers and activists I know. Yet, look at how he expresses himself – intelligently, convincingly, winning over his audience with information and well researched articles based on facts and sound and logical arguments.
I have yet to read Alex swear or curse at anyone. Certainly, I don’t recall Alex using profanities at all.
And really, the issue is not just about the disrespect for the DPM but for everyone around us, and how we treat each other and want to be treated ourselves. And this, perhaps, is the more important question we should ponder on.
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