Wednesday, January 08, 2014

How rhetoric can be used to diagnose the problems with PAP.


One of the constraints I built into my retirement plan is that the learning should never stop. My learning program will mirror a liberal arts program, something which I was unable to pursue in my youth. Right now, I'm trying to teach myself rhetoric by day and R programming by night.

After some basic grounding in Rhetoric, I think I am getting some insight into the recent problems faced by PAP.

Rhetoric is the ancient art of persuasion, Aristotle divides it into the three parts of Ethos, Logos and Pathos. By understanding the three components of persuasion we can look into the PAP's strengths and weaknesses.

a) Ethos

Ethos is an appeal to authority. When someone has ethos, this person not only has a stake in politics but is also qualified for the role. PAP candidates have usually strong ethos, coming with an almost perfect academic record and has enough knowledge to run a constituency. The PAP's weakness is that it's difficult to field a candidate that's vested in the interests of middle-class voters as many believe that PAP chooses elite candidates that really cannot understand the problems faced by many Singaporeans today.

b) Logos

Logos is a measure of logical appeal. This is where PAP reigns supreme. No matter how you look at government policies, PAP is the candidate of choice to push unpopular but logical policies to be accepted by the electorate. Having a policy based on statistics and logic ensures that it's watertight and immune to attacks by the opposition.

The having the strength of logos is also it's weakness. Appeal well to logic comes at the expense of being human. Which brings us to the next point...

c) Pathos

Pathos, or emotional appeal, is the PAP's Achilles heel. PAP has lost its emotional appeal which made it the dominant party in the 1960s. PAP candidates are largely drawn from the upper echelons of the Administrative service, spent most of their lives being celebrated for their academic achievements. These candidates are then pushed in front of the people and made to show that they understand the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Every remark which the people deems insensitive is then magnified a thousand fold in social media.

Fortunately, I have some ethos of my own. My time in NTUC and a government agency actually allows me to offer some ideas to beef up the PAP in future elections.

This is what I think should happen to turn the tide :

Launch an NTUC Scholarship ( eg. The Devan Nair Industrial Relations Scholarship Award )

Having worked in both NTUC and a government agency, I will make the conclusion that NTUC Industrial Relations Officers have way more EQ than many Administrative OfficersI knew.

Yes - Senior civil servants tend to lack Pathos.

The PAP should tap the Labour Movement for its future generation of leaders.

For emotional appeal to work, the government needs to invent a scholarship which is heavily biased towards candidates who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. These candidates will then be offered free local university education and be bonded with labor unions for up to 4 years.

By sifting candidates based on grit, tenacity, perseverance, and to a lesser extent academics, the PAP can slowly build a cohort of candidates which appeal to the middle and working classes.




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