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Main Course, No Sides

When I joined the government 5 years ago it was a step taken in hope. A small step perhaps, but hope is a seed always destined to grow into a strong tree. My professional goals were to help the government build websites it could be proud of from a technical standpoint. Web standards compliant.
Though labeled as a geekhead the goal has always been larger than purely technical. The web standards movement has within it a certain set of values; values of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_accessibility">inclusiveness and compassion</a>, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source">collaboration, transparency and openness</a>, and <a href="http://stackoverflow.com/questions/563036/what-is-elegant-code">simplicity</a>, to name a few. There was the hope that the government that I knew from the murmurings of cab drivers and vocal internet underdog heroes as heavily bureaucratic, self-serving and ineffective could be reformed through some form of internal revolution. Or if I should fail in the revolution at least I would have at least been able to say I've tried.
Over this time I've met with bureaucracy, selfishness and ineffectiveness. I've pulled at my hair more than I would have liked. But I have also seen many examples of self-sacrifice, honest speech and street smarts. I've been privileged to have known these people, and by some extension to call them brothers and sisters. Some sit behind desks, others run ahead with guns. Many of these who have chosen the service of their fellows as their lifework continue to bear silently the brunt of online dissent. Even now as year end bonuses are announced, they are not lauded for their work, but scorned for it.
Having once been on the side hurling rocks and now on the inside getting hit, the biggest wish I have for our country is that this not be our end, but only a phase towards greater maturity as a society. I am glad that the advent of the web means more voices can be heard, but there is a need to embrace the diversity of opinions. They that mock the censor should not censor they that support him, for it would be irony indeed.
Inclusiveness. Compassion. Authenticity.
In two weeks I take a pretty drastic career shift and join the National Population Secretariat in the Prime Minister's Office which deals with some difficult questions for our generation. There is a fear that I step too close into the heart of the issue to be an objective observer of it, but also a fear that I spend a lifetime only observing and criticising those who would dare step in while enjoying the security of standing at a distance. A job in the public service is an opportunity to make a difference, and Singapore needs people who have a heart for service.
I leave you with this movie-line mashup:
People should not fear their governments; neither should governments fear their people, for fear is the path to the dark side.

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