02 May 2009

The Aftermath of the AWARE War

As with all wars, there is celebration on the side of the victors, and bitterness on the side of the defeated. But as these emotions fade, what will emerge is the vast destruction done to the people and the infrastructure. Lives lost, buildings bombed, resources wasted... a scene of ruin that greets both sides.

In a similar sense, a war has broken out in Singapore's civil society, a struggle for power for one of Singapore's most prominent interest group. The dispute in AWARE has culminated in the EGM, which dragged overtime for several hours, and eventually tilted against the favour of the new AWARE committee, triggering their resignation.

But what has been destroyed in this AWARE war? One thing for sure, Constance Singam has identified that the trust that was implicit in the organisation is gone now. Like a shattered vase, there is no way to restore its original state; even with masterful reparations, cracks will forever be there.

But I think it goes beyond that. The trust amongst different interest groups in society may be under strain. And I am not talking about groups that sit on opposite sides of an issue, like evolutionists and creationists. After all, AWARE does not fight for gay-rights, yet it was on this issue that triggered the entire affair. This has shown that even if a group is only tangentially concerned with a minor issue, it is liable to be taken over by other groups. So the lesson that other groups, observing this AWARE war, can learn is to guard themselves against such a takeover by any other groups with an alternative motive. And with that, the trust is gone. And maybe... maybe, it's not so bad a thing after all.

But what will this mean, beyond all that trust and everything? Is society more polarised between pro-gays and anti-gays now? Will the battle for gay rights be more difficult now? Is it really a victory for supporters of the so-called Old Guards, especially when there were signs of rowdiness and rude interruptions? The words, the insults and the name-calling... how much of this whole saga can we call it a step forward for democracy?

Is this war really over? Or will it lead, just like World War I, to another more devastating showdown?

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