Singapore: Why Occupy Raffles failed
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Singapore: Why Occupy Raffles failed

Throughout the world, ‘Occupy’ protesters continue to take to the streets. London, Greece, and even Tokyo have had seen their fair share of demonstrators. In Singapore, Occupy Raffles, however, was a failure.

Despite the event’s Facebook page having 3,000 likes and 75 indicating their attendance, only a handful of people and a few pigeons graced Occupy Raffles Place.

Why did it fail?

The finger-pointing fell mostly upon the organizers for their lack of audacity, and netizens discarded the event as a “joke.”

According to The Online Citizen:

Kirsten Han commented on their FB page, “Please, if you want to lead an action you have to be the first to stand up and be counted. I was there. The press was there. As far as we could tell you weren’t there. If you can’t even stand up first then please don’t snark.

In their defense the organizers said:

Just because we didn’t talk to the media doesn’t mean we weren’t there. We are obviously very disappointed with the lack of ground support, We take the blame for lack of logistics and planning, and we apologize for any inconvenience caused.

But perhaps there are other reasons that contributed to the no-show.

First, the police’s statement had served as a useful deterrent.

They said:

Police received reports that a netizen is instigating the public to stage a protest gathering at Raffles Place on Saturday, 15 October 2011 in support of a similar protest action in New York. Police urge members of the public not to be misled and participate in an unlawful activity.

Memories of the heavy-handed actions taken against previous public protests in Singapore stirred some fear within those who initially had intended to go. In 2008, Chee Soon Juan, leader of the Singapore Democrat Party, and a few protestors were arrested for staging a rally walk from the parliament.

Second, what are the Occupy protests about? The Occupy Wall Street protest that sparked off a chain reaction round the world was fueled by a deep sense of discontentment – but with what exactly?

As part of the Occupy Wall Street’s statement of purpose:

We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

Though it sounds vague, some such as the Business Insider, argued there are legitimate reasons for the Occupy Wall Street Protest:

The problem in a nutshell is this: Inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation’s history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high.

So could the failure to Occupy Raffles Place be attributed to a countenance of malcontent: that majority of Singaporeans are not so disenchanted with the corporate “greed”? In other words, those that had been most vocal and vituperative in their attacks are just a tiny fraction of the population. Or perhaps, the majority disagrees fundamentally with the method of showing their discontent?

Third, the opening up of Singapore. As the country is going through a transition, it becomes harder to assess what lines can be overstepped. No longer can people with certainty say the government will clamp down relentlessly, but the converse is true, too. This murky delineation creates ambivalence that on one hand incites more vocal denouncement of the government on the internet, but on the other, perpetuates a culturally entrenched inertness in reality.