An Empty Home – Aunty Kaypoh's Strictly Fictitious Horror Story.

by Patrick Liew on June 4, 2012

Civilizations rose. Civilizations fell. Kingdoms came. Kingdoms went – such was the cycle of life.This was a story of a country, a country that was destined to die, even right from birth. The factors within as well as without pointed to only one destination – destruction.

The facts were simple.

Immigrant population and not of t…he most educated stock, no major natural resources, low fiscal reserves to start with, and surrounded by not-the-most-friendly neighbours.

Punters offered everyone a very high stake, betting it would not survive. Even its leaders had their doubts but they kept it to themselves.

Against all odds and after a long-drawn battle, this nation became independent. The people raised a new flag, sang a new anthem, and took a new pledge.

Sadly, it was left to fend for itself in a cold and hard world. Its leaders realized the battle had only just started.

It had to brave many a storm to take its lonely place in a turbulent world.

This country – Sukarpock is where our epic drama unfolded.

It was a story of an uphill climb and a story of success. It was also a story of a cruel downfall – a victim of its success story.

It all happened within one generation.

It was a story of how one man and a group of brave dreamers held on to a scorching anvil and hammered away. They worked day and night on partially-molten iron to forge a new nation into shape.

The tragi-comedy was they never really knew and fully agreed on what its final shape would be. What came out of it went beyond their wildest imagination.

The rest as they would say was history but history as we should know was much easier said than done. A long gushing river of sorrowful and bitter water flowed under the bridge.

While humans could toil, the moon and the stars had to be aligned before the tides of misfortune could be changed. Some called it luck, others called it the convergence of planning, hard work, and opportunities.

Miraculously, the relatively new nation did not only survive but it rose and rose and rose… Finally, it joined the ranks of the most admired and the most liveable cities in the world.

The tragedy started thereafter. More specifically, it started after one of its General Election.

I have digressed and gone ahead of myself.

Perhaps, you should stretch your ears a little longer. Listen to this aunty, an old kaypoh while I go through the background behind this ill wind of change.

You see, I hung around neighborhood kopitiams, listening to the latest gossips every day. My eyes and ears were therefore very close to the ground, much closer than any politician if you will.

What’s more, my mind and my heart were not so ‘brainwashed’ as you might say by groupthink and the euphoria of the masses. I could see from every angle of the story.

My conclusion – everybody contributed to the downfall. The ruling government, the opposition, and the people – nobody was innocent. Blood was all over their hands.

In the aftermath of an election that saw the long-standing ruling party bled in the poll, the incumbent Prime Mininister had tendered his resignation. More heads rolled in the following months.

It included not just the heads of those who were incompetent but also those who could not see eye to eye in crafting, communicating and implementing policies.

A new Spring should have begun but it brought the worst of Winter.

The ruling Party had focused on the upper echelons of society and the lowest of the ranks in the socio-economic ladder. As a result, it has become disconnected to the middle ground from which came most of the votes.

With economic growth and rapid rise in affluence, the people had become more demanding and had higher expectations. Unfortunately, they were not clamoring for the overall good of the country, they were looking more for appearance than substance.

Eventually, it became ethnocentric, an every-person-for-himself situation. It boiled down to ‘What’s in it for me?’.

As in any other story of a decline, it started with some fairly innocent issues.

“Why should my neighborhood have an elderly care centre? Why not somewhere else?

“We have amassed a huge reserves. Why not spend it on our generation, after all we earned it?” Obviously, the last statement was not completely true.

Many others who have gone on in life have built up the reserves with the sweat of their brow and the blisters on their wrinkled hands.

But then again, the blame could not be completely put on the masses. They were mostly politically illiterate.

In the post-industrial age, they were taught through the rote method – not how to learn to learn. They never knew how to research, analyse, and apply critical thinking to arrive at sound decisions – and certainly not in the area of politics and good governance.

Information were also not publicly available, accessible and affordable. With proliferation of lies, half truths, and misinformation on the Net, it was harder for the people to make meaningful judgements.

I was not too sure if it was the growing unhappiness that caused the people to grumble, grouse and gripe – or was it the other way around. I wish we knew then and perhaps our leaders could have stopped the hemorrhage of optimism and hope.

The opposition had a field day. Actually, it was the hearts-tugging and guts-wrenching messages that won the day. Emotion overruled logic.

It was easy to find fault with everything that did not work or work as well. It was much easier to take credit for all the good that happened and blame the ruling party for all the bad.

The call to institute an opposition voice and a ‘check and balance’ was a very appealing one. Obviously, nobody considered that it would slow down the decision-making process.

Truth be told, it did not improve the system. It forced the ruling party to compromise, to calibrate for short term political currency, and to cow to the wishes of the people.

Aunty kaypoh wondered, There wasn’t a democracy that lasted the test of times. There wasn’t a country that grew from strength to strength while riding on a ‘one-man-one-vote’ system.

Why should our nation be any different?

Resigning from the cabinet was a painful decision, not just for the outgoing Prime Minister but also for the ruling Party.

The anguish and anxiety shook right through the Party and down the abyss of the activists’ soul. They grieved for the loss of a comrade, one who is more of an administrator than a politician.

More importantly, they grieved over the undesired and undesirable changes. These were changes that they fought against but they knew they had to consider them now.

The Party had to made a dramatic turnaround to ensure its political survival. The leaders had to adopt a new approach.

‘What succeeded in the the past won’t guarantee our success in the future. If we keep walking the same path, we will only reach the same destination.’

That was the battle cry as they sought to reinvent the Party. Nobody liked to lose and everybody wanted to protect their jobs and their well-ingrained way of life.

At the beginning, as they might say, the heads were in the right place. There were leaders of integrity in place, products of the nation’s far-sighted founding fathers.

While the underlying philosophy and values were strictly non-negotiable as they would say in the business world, the Party’s criteria for selecting candidates had been evolving. It needed a different quality of leaders and a different style of leadership to ‘get their politics right’.

It went on well until one influential and newly-appointed Minister sowed and sold the idea, “Show me a regime in a democratic country that does not appeal to the masses and I’ll show you a party that will be doomed to fail.

“We have been ‘slapped’ at every turn, not just to do the right thing but to do the right thing by the voters. Isn’t it about time, we learn and wise up?”

The idea went from “Let’s start to give them some of what they want, even if it is for a short term gain “, to “Why plan 20 years in advance, after all who can predict that far down the road?”

Then, the dam broke. Throughout the corridor of power and at the cafe of the Parliament House, there was a growing cacophony of dissenting voices.

Eventually, they sang to the same tune – ”Hold on to power”.

“Let’s plan enough to win the next election”, “Let the dead bury the dead and let’s stay alive to fulfill our goals and ‘serve’ the people”.

“Let’s spent what we have earned in our generation for our generation. Why save and invest for the future?”

That’s how they slid down the slippery slope to destruction.

Like many democracies, they started to spend what they could not afford. They spent away our children’s money even before they earned it.

Let Aunty kaypoh have the last words in this story.

The end is near for us. We are too small, too little, too insignificant to be able to turn the ship now.

Talking about ship, I was told that the Titanic did not have to sink.

When the warning that the ‘unsinkable’ ship was heading towards an iceberg was received, they could have stopped. Some even suggested they could have backpedaled instead of going ahead.

Looking back, perhaps our nation could have taken a pause. All parties – politicians, the people, and even netizens – could have taken stock of that situation.

Maybe, if thinking had not been such a rare commodity, we could have put on a better thinking cap. We could have searched our soul not just on why we do what we do, but also on how we know we know.

Probably, we could have questioned ourselves about the right course of action…we might have survived.

Our kids would not have to go to the airports and other checkpoints to migrate or to go elsewhere for a job. Their looks of pain and misery stabbed my hearts, again and again.

That last scene was so clear in my mind.

It was at that moment that I woke up.

I had a drink too many. I struggled back to my HDB flat to have a good night’s rest. I planned to head down to the wet market for the latest gossips about the General Election.

Oh, by the way, please forgive Aunty kaypoh’s pseudo-intellectual and pretentious style of telling stories.

As the young people would say, LOL – laugh out loud. Try to laugh, ok?

———————End Of The Story————————

This story was crafted from the figment of imagination of a melancholic and an ex-consultant who was trained to evaluate the worst case scenario. It is strictly not his prediction about the future, which is a part of another story. :0)


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