So the buzz around Amos Yee has not died off. We’ve had the New Yorker elevating him and locals castigating him for what he’s done. Recently, he’s even gotten himself in jail after his parents refused to re-bail him out of it.
The general public has been brutalising him ever since his original video on LKY was released. While initial reactions were understandably visceral, the reaction didn’t die out. Instead, it went from simple distaste to twisted rage very quickly. Before I go any further, I just want to say that I’m no Amos Yee apologist. I do think, however, that there is always more to the story and that we have to view this in context.
What is the context? Well, the context is his history.
Amos has been outspoken way before this incident, with a comic rant on Chinese New Year ruffling feathers a few years ago.
The boy followed up by showing a high level of intelligence in this video, breaking down everyday Singlish and how it’s used. Intonation, pronunciation and quirks of the language were dissected.
So it’s very obvious that has an uncommon level of intelligence, which also means he has uncommon thoughts (at least within his age group). Unfortunately for him, it is in our teenage years that people seek to belong to an in-group or a circle of like-minded friends. Youth are often cruel to each other, in words and deeds. Being the odd one out also opens up the possibility that he was ostracised. Amos himself said he didn’t enjoy his secondary school life and I think I can see how his unique, non-mainstream perspectives and outspoken views drove his peers away from him and raised the ire of an admittedly rigid school system.
So it’s clear, this kid has been on the path to today’s eventuality for a few years now.
This is the exact reason why as a collective, we’ve done the wrong thing by continually castigating him for his mistakes. The police, the articles and of course, all the keyboard warriors on the Internet (some of which don’t make sense).
All this talk about sending him to jail and that it’s the right thing to do. Well, I’ll tell you one thing: If Amos Yee goes to jail, then his parents should go as well. Something went wrong somewhere with the development of this kid and nobody stepped in to nip this in the bud when it mattered. Instead, it took an explosion like this to happen before any action was taken at all. I had a friend who put my thoughts into a one succint paragraph and I quote him with all the respect I can muster:
“As far as we can tell, his parents are taking the hands-off approach when it comes to discipline. Instead of playing the part of parents, they are handing it off to the government and saying, “Please, you guys deal with this devil spawn of ours”, and somehow majority of us are on the side of these parents? This kid’s 17 years old, and which of us hadn’t said something incredibly dumb and irresponsible? I know I have, but the difference is that I never had a YouTube account. I had a blog, and I blogged, and I paid the price for it too. But I wouldn’t want to be defined by the silly mistakes that I made back then, and I certainly wouldn’t want to know that even my parents would turn their backs on me. I mean, this kid obviously doesn’t get along with anybody at school, and he doesn’t have parents who give a shit. If they aren’t going to fork out his legal fees—and he certainly can’t pay for it at 17—then who the hell is he supposed to turn to? I don’t want to be an Amos Yee apologist, and I certainly hope that a lesson is taught to him with regard to this. But I don’t know, every time you see a kid with a screw loose in public, 90% of the time, it’s because the parents fucked him up. The next time a minor commits a dumb ass mistake in public, maybe the parents should also bear some of the responsibilities. I almost feel sorry for the kid at this point, with everybody thinking that he deserves to be in the 18th level of Hell—and why is that? Why are we, as a society, so eager to jump onto hate wagons? Can’t we just brush off this kid’s dumb comments because they are, well, dumb comments?”
Let’s stop casting villains and heroes, and start fixing our own brokenness first.