AWARE is the well-known (well, known now) local women's groop which has gone through serious internal conflict recently. A group of new members took over the executive power by taking advantage of the tyranny of majority. They outnumbered supporters of the existing executive team in the annual election. The existing executive team is claimed to be too pro-homosexuality and has to be replaced all together. Out of the many dramatic stories unfolding themselves along time, I like the response from Minister in Prime Minister's Office the most. Mrs Lim Hwee Hua said: "This is not a national dispute and should not upset the balance and tenor of our open, tolerant and secular society."
If the society is already open and tolerant, how come we see dramas like this happening here and now? We tend to forget the reasons why we establish nation-states. It is exactly because civil society is not perfect and we need institutions to adress and solve serious conflicts within it. But I agree with Mrs. Lim that this is not a national dispute, yet...
The Hegelian state - The highest values and best traditions of a
society could be politically embodied and expressed by the state. - from Terence Chong's Embodying society's best: Hegel and the Singapore state.
The Foucauldian society - Social conflicts produce themselves the valuable ties that hold modern societies together and provide them with the strength and cohesion they need. - from Bent Flyvbejerg'sHabermas and Foucault: Thinkers for civil society?
One last note - please don't take me wrong. I am not asking for the state's intervention in civil society's affairs. I am asking for the state's tolerance of conflicts in civil society. Empower civil society to allow it to evolve through conflict solving, with the help from the state institutions when necessary.
I am an Associate Professor at Department of Communication and New Media, National University of Singapore.