For the past month I have deliberately ignored most of the news about Amos Yee and his shenanigans. My logic is very simple – he is a child who thrives on attention. He creates blogs and videos with shock value simply because he wants people to react. The best way to stop such behaviour is to ignore him. So it was with this in mind that I did not watch any of the videos or read any of his blog posts. I even ignored the many news articles written about him and his arrest, subsequent bail terms etc. Unfortunately, many others decided to encourage him by reacting to him, making police reports and in the process creating so much fuss that he is now national news.
This has given him power. Power to continually stir the emotions of people, power in being labelled a hero (?) and power of media manipulation and attention. Everyone is talking about him. Whether it is to condemn his behaviour or to applaud his bravery, ultimately he is now the centre of attraction. So much so that they are even talking about what he wears. I’m sure in his mind, he thinks he has succeeded. I can’t really fault him for thinking this way because he does have the media focusing on every little thing he is doing including what he wears, eats and drinks.
It was reported yesterday that he had been slapped by a stranger outside the High Court and people were actually cheering. I scrolled through my Facebook feed and saw some who said he deserved what he got. Others felt sorry for him, but thought his parents should have slapped him into obedience ages ago. I’m glad that I had friends who condemned the slap. I thought it was strange that people were present there to film and take photos of the slap, but no one thought to stop the man from getting away. A person who had just assaulted a 16 year old. It seems that violence is ok, as long as it’s against someone who is deemed “a criminal”.
And that worries me.
It feels that Singapore has turned into a lynch mob baying for blood. Never mind that this is a 16 year old kid who made a Youtube video that you could have opted NOT to watch. Never mind that he didn’t actually physically hurt anyone, just some peoples feelings. Never mind that he is being treated more harshly than a 19 year old who beat up foreign workers. It seems that most people are hoping he is dealt with as harshly as possible and some are so impatient that they are prepared to dish out their very own version of justice. At least Minister of Law, Mr Shanmugan has come out and condemned the incident. His statement that “Taking the law into one’s own hands cannot be condoned.” is something that everyone needs to be reminded of.
I discussed this with Irene last night and we both wondered how we would react if we were in the place of Amos’ parents, having to deal with an errant child like him. While local celebrities have been quick to blame his parents for how he has turned out, I think the issue goes deeper than that. It is often easy to judge when you have never been in that position. I feel sorry for his parents. They are stuck in a very awful position of not knowing how to handle a child who is deliberately provocative and disobedient. I have no doubt that they love Amos very much, but are probably exasperated by his blatant disregard for the law. Flouting your bail conditions is not something that Amos should be doing, given that it is directly lands him back in remand. Unless that is what he wants. If this is the case, then I think someone needs to be investigating into why he prefers to be in remand than to be at home. Something seems to be seriously wrong. If his accusations of violence from his father turns out to be true, then something needs to be done and I hope social services are paying attention.
Ultimately I think the nation has spent enough time on this 16 year old. It is time to move on. He has had his 15 mins of fame. Let the law deal with him and hopefully they will deal with him fairly instead of treating him like a public enemy. In the meantime, let’s stop making him a reality star and start focusing our attention on more serious cases such as how to prevent incidents like this guy who continued to hurt a toddler even after it had been brought to the attention of MSF and how to educate our young teenagers to not be sexually exploited by people like this.