Home > Singapore Scene, The importance of shallowness > The Importance of being Shallow

The Importance of being Shallow

So its two days after the night before. Tan Kin Lian very bravely asked for feedback regarding his performance. The results were …ahem… quite embarrassing.

Amongst the negative pointers were: his giving high fives, and using that as a logo;  his poor enunciation and his frequent blinks. Shallow? But these were frank, genuine feedback. On the net, you can see inflamed netizens crying foul, and declaring this as rubbish. Who would look for these? Isn’t the mandate, the sincerity and the ability of the candidate more important?


The elections are not just about vocal netizens. Hence shallow details do matter. For one thing, do you really expect Mr Tan Kin Lian to give Obamasan a high five at a presidential meeting? In fact it was already kinda cringelogical to watch him giving high fives to pot-bellied, grey haired supporters. In case you think I am being discriminating, these are the sort of people I associate with – the graying pot bellied group.


You see, we are paying $4million dollars for the supremo presidente with hardly any powers. So the least we want is for that person to look the part. The person in my mind’s eye, for some strange reason, is Morgan Freeman.


Dinner conversation with a friend was also quite interesting. When the discussion turned to Tan Jee Say, she sort of shuddered and said her entire office was put off by Mrs Tan’s choice of clothes.

“She’s going to be a First Lady, you know what I mean? How to meet foreign dignitaries in a multi-coloured, loudly patterned cheongsam?”


Indeed. You might say the Queen occasionally looks totally frumpy. Yes, but then again, she is the Queen. Royalty is in her blood. For us, we are paying for a model First Lady. Hmm. Come to think of it, Mrs Nathan is not usually preened from head to toe either. But then again, there was no competition for Mr Nathan.


I am not laughing at anyone – the judge or the judged. I am just saying that it matters. When we are looking for votes, it is important to sell ourselves into that role. It is not about designer togs. It is about demeanour, carriage and poise. Clean simple lines in clothes will bode better than fussy details and flashy colours.


We like to think its all about substance. Consumer behaviour tells us that packaging counts much more than we like to give it credit for. It is important for our president to look and sound good, more so than for our ministers and mps. That is the role of the first couple – to exude the looks that accompany million dollar smiles and waves.


So back to our candidates. Dr Tony Tan looked the best for the part, waxed back white hair notwithstanding. His beatific smile is a stunner. Furthermore Mrs Mary Tan looks every inch the regal, benevolent First Lady.


Historically, Mr and Mrs Wee Kim Wee were the best looking first couple. It is even more significant that the benevolence that shone through, the compassion and warmth did not cost the country millions.


Shallowness aside, there is something that touched me this election. I appreciated the tributes each man paid to his wife. Whether it’s a show or it’s genuine, there is something touching about a man who honours his wife with kind words. I am also touched by the family backing each man had. I liked how Mr Tan Kin Lian’s daughter handled the interviewer after Mr Tan had conceded defeat – the poise and the pride in her father. I liked how when each family’s children were interviewed, there is evidence of family unity and strength.


Even in defeat, I appreciate the graciousness of each candidate. For instance, I appreciate Mr Tan Kin Lian asking for feedback, and posting the pointers, no matter how embarrassing, on his FB page.


So congratulations Dr and Mrs Tony Tan. May you both make us proud as the First Couple. May the competition and interaction with the other candidates open your eyes, heart and mind to issues that the people are concerned about. May you have the courage to do what is within your power and ability to make this a better Singapore for all.


  1. This is Anfield
    August 31, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    TKL lost because he was badly advised by those around him. I expected these people, some of whom have participated in the GE, to have a more sensitive reading of the ground sentiment. Instead, they cajoled the man, who clearly has the weakest infrastructure logistical support, to go in head first. It also demonstrated it takes more than heart to do well in politics.

  2. SpeakSpokeWriteWrote
    August 31, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Anfield – yes, you are right about the poor advise. It’s a pity really. He could have gone on to help either of the other two eventually – but the problem with capable men also is the unwillingness to take second place. Still, i think the polls results is interesting rep of how the people on the ground really feels

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