Catherine Lim – Singapore’s Very Own Agony Aunt

In every extended family there will inevitably be one Agony Aunt. She’s the person who will dispense advice, whether solicited or otherwise to everyone. Ever an alarmist, a drama-mamma, she will make mountains out of mole-hills turning every little incidents into a crisis. She is also the town crier, telling everyone of any news, mostly of no significance, often adding her own versions and inputs just to spice things up. If you had a fever, she’d tell everyone that you had dengue and before you could say no, she’d ask you to drink a concoction of herbs bought from a singseh that only agony aunts knew existed. But the thing about her is that she is never malicious but she certainly can get into everyone’s nerves.

Catherine Lim is Singapore’s very own agony aunt. Her open letter to the PM is just proof of this. In it, she said that Singapore is experiencing a crisis where the people no longer trust the government. She came to this conclusion from two observations. Firstly, people are resorting to protests never seen before such as graffiti on public buildings, strident online criticism and public protests at Hong Lim Park. Secondly, the protest involved large segment of the population because an old man decided to vandalise a bus-stop to protest PM Lee’s litigation against a blogger. And the reason for the `crisis’? PM’s inability to listen to the people.

And what is an agony aunt without a dose of advice? Her advice is a concoction consisted of a spoonful of `humility’ and a dose of `change’ capped with a mantra about ex-political detainees, defamation suit and Lee Kuan Yew. It is really just some herbal remedy bought from a singseh that only agony aunts knew existed. You do not know what’s in it but she will insist that it is good.

People protest all the time. It is not something new. The only reason why it is so visible now is because well, it is visible. The internet magnifies everything. And there were protests in Hong Lim Park because the place was gazetted as the Hyde Park of Singapore. There wasn’t any internet or Hong Lim Park in the past but people still protested albeit less visibly in coffee-shops and behind toilet doors. And the reason why people now can protest visibly is because contrary to what she thinks, the government is more opened towards it. The government allowed the internet to flourish. They did not take the Turkish route of banning facebook or youtube. And they opened up Hong Lim Park to be a venue for protests. And to say that the protest involved large segment of the population because one grumpy old man decided to scribble his opinion on a bus-stop is really making a mountain out of a mole hill.

A person’s world view is shaped by his surroundings. Who he mixes with, where he dines and drinks, and where he lives all will have an impact on what he perceives. From her open letter to the PM, we can see that Catherine Lim does not represent the majority of Singaporeans. The majority of Singaporeans still trust the government, and from the various policy shifts in housing, transportation and foreign workers, they know that the government is listening. And to say that there is a crisis of trust, is well, just Catherine Lim being an agony aunt with a world view derived from a place that only agony aunts know existed.




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