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                         An irrational fear of speaking up
                                 ●By Leo Khee Lew

                                    没有理由怕发言
                                       ●梁启留

︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽︽
At a recent wedding dinner of the daughter of an old friend, I met some former colleagues whom I had not seen for ages. Like me, they had also retired from the civil service. We had a good time catching up with one another. But in addition to trivialities, we also talked about the more serious issue of pension.

在老谢嫁女婚宴上,几位多年不见面的老同事久别重逢,无所不谈,从身边琐事谈到养老金问题。

As it was a matter of personal interest, the discussion drew enthusiastic comments from many. A suggestion was made for Li to write to the Forum page of the press on the financial status of retired civil servants and make a case for the monthy allowance to be adjusted.

尤其养老金问题谈得格外热烈,这关系切身利益。其中有人建议由老李负责投函报馆,反映退休公务员目前经济情况,以便向政府建议能否调整退休者的每月津贴额。 (来源:http://www.EnglishCN.com)

Li had no objection to writing the letter - on condition that he would not have to put his real name to it. He was afraid of repercussions and getting more than he had bargained for. Here in Singapore, he felt, the wise thing to do was not to make too many public views.

对此建议,老李不表异议。不过,却附带条件:虽说稿件由他来写,但拒绝稿上署真实姓名。原因恐怕日后被受牵连,得不偿失。其意认为要在新加坡住得安全,少提意见,是明智之举。

On my way home, I pondered what Li had said. Is the fear a leftover from history that still haunts people or is it a self-created suspicion?

宴毕后,在归途中,我反思刚才老李那一番话。想一想,这究竟是过去人类历史所留下的阴影,还是一种心理上杯弓蛇影在作祟呢?

The ruthlessness of politics in human history can leave one terror-striken. But even if the feeling is as nerve-wracking as coming face to face with a "ghost", the question is: "Has anyone really seen a ghost?" Ghost stories are just hearsay, not backed by any scientific evidence.

说起过去人类历史所留下的阴影,即政治黑暗令人惊心胆破,宛如见“鬼”就怕般感觉。但“鬼”有谁见过?那只是道途听说,毫无一点科学根据。

And history tells us that there have been rulers who, at critical times, deliberately created a "ghostly" atmosphere, to control the minds of the people and consolidate their gains and power.

然而,历史上有些统治者,却利用非常时期,特意制造黑幕沉沉,“鬼”气阴森的恐怖气氛,以求驾驶人民思想,巩固其既得利益和地位的目的。

There are, of course, those who are "ghost-fearing" and those who are not. But it is the latter, who, with great drive and determination, and a conviction that "science will prevail over superstitions", who have created the civilisation we have today.

在社会变革中,当然有怕“鬼”和不怕“鬼”的一群。尤其那些不识“鬼”为何物的社会缔造者,他们就凭着一股冲劲和执着感情,相信“科学必战胜迷信”的信念,推动社会进步,造就今日人类社会文明。

Unfortunately, this has not diminished the "fear of ghosts". And people are still wary of "political repercussions." The power of this paralysing sense of fear has driven some to a blind spot where they cannot see matters in perspective.

但社会文明并没有削弱人们“怕鬼”的心态;而人类文明也没有解冻对政治的恐怯。这种杯弓蛇影的慑骇力,却把人类美好的信念,无情地推向一个错误的盲点。

They believe that by expressing views critical of the government, their behaviour will be labelled anti-state and anti-government. Furthermore, this mistaken notion has swung the pendulum to the other extreme - they are convinced that keeping silent and keeping out of trouble is the safest way to live.

他们认为举凡批评政府,将被指为反国家、反政府的行为。这种误导性气氛,似乎逼使人类走向另一个环境,即保持沉默和明哲保身是最安全的生活方式。

Even now, many are still worried about "saying the wrong things" on non-political issues, preferring instead, to sit on the fence. It is an urgent task to help them break out of this self-imposed mentality of remaining "silent".

时至今日,许多非政治性的意见或谈话,人们也因“怕错”而不敢表达,采取靠边站观望态度。所以如何让他们在自捆的“沉默”心态中解脱出来,是当务之急。

This "irrational fear" is a result of being over-sensitive. It is also the legacy of a particular time and situation.

其实,“没有理由的怕”是精神反应过敏,也是某个时期特定的环境所留下杯弓蛇影的后遗症。

But to build a more vibrant and dynamic society, Singaporeans must overcome this feeling of needless fear.

新加坡人若不改变这种无谓“怯怕”心理,对建立一个具有生命活力,朝气蓬勃的新社会是不利的。

(The witer is a retired civil servant . Translated by Yap Gee Poh.)

(作者为退休公务员)

 
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