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I am Singaporean II – The Apology August 9, 2008

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. II.

Our resident States Times psychologist, Chua Lee Hoong, has deemed it fit to write an apology for Singapore on National Day, explaining why the West hates systems like ours which are authoritarian, but successful:

What’s eating them? The easy answer is that both China and Singapore are authoritarian states. The freedoms taken for granted in the West – freedom of speech and assembly – come with more caveats in these two places […] The real sin: Singapore and China are examples of countries which are taking a different route to development, and look to be succeeding. Success grates, especially when it cocks a snook at much-cherished liberal values.

Right at the beginning, our author asserts that the West is jealous of our success despite having another system, one which is authoritarian. I don’t think it is a sin – I think the main problem lies with the West not being able to accept that this is possible. And this is somewhat true in Singapore, because success is measured here in economic terms, not in terms of happiness. Perhaps why the West thinks that our system is flawed is because, well, of the question if we are happy, although it is also legitimate to say that the West is jealous out of purely economic reasons. After all, most politicians are forced to see people as statistics, because there are just too many people for any politician to personally know.

Today is National Day, and in the Truman Show-esque Singapore which our leaders want us to believe that it is, we are all smiling. In fact, in 2006, we put on Four Million Smiles, remember? And the guy who did 400 Frowns got investigated by the Police. If all, National Day being today, it should be a time for us to not just celebrate our achievements, but also to remember what has gone wrong.

But still, I don’t know why Singapore is always harping on the economic success it has. True, Singapore is economically successful. But successful as a country? Success as a country involves having an identity, and a Singapore Spirit, which up to now, is probably a political construct, seeing as some of the things which constitute the Singapore Spirit, like Singlish, are frowned upon. All for economical goals. I would say the Singapore Spirit is one of earning as much money as possible, because the State sure ain’t gonna take care of you.

Come to think of it, that is a rather good idea. After all, that is the only way we can think, right? Hehheh.

Mr Kampfner seems in a genuine intellectual funk. He cannot quite understand why otherwise normal, intelligent Singaporeans would trade certain freedoms for economic progress, and accept the Singapore political system for what it is.

But perhaps he has got the wrong end of the stick. The problem lies not in the Singaporeans, but in his own assumptions. Namely: If you speak English, if you are well-educated and well-travelled, you must also believe in Western-style democracy. They are a package.

Are they not a package? If they weren’t a package, then probably Singapore shouldn’t be called a democracy. China sure as Hell isn’t a democracy, but China is flourishing. Instead of placing the blame solely on the West, perhaps the blame lies partly on the Singaporeans too. Having seen more and been well-educated, they should have the choice to opt for the political system they wish for their country. Instead, Singaporeans let the Government conduct walkovers, because the Opposition is kept in such a weak manner. That the PAP’s political might is partly based on walkovers and that there isn’t an Opposition which can put up true resistance doesn’t mean that our system is necessarily the best, too.

One observer draws an analogy with Pavlovian behavioural conditioning. So conditioned have Westerners become to associating cosmopolitan progress with certain political parameters, they do not know how to react when they encounter a creature – Singapore – that has one but not the other.

Interesting you should say that. It works both ways, too. Take the baby problem, for example. In a Pavlovian way, we choose to put off having kids and all, because we need the money to survive. Now there’s been talk of going Swedish, and people don’t know how to react because they have encountered a creature – gasp! the West.

Lastly, she speaks as if the Pax Singaporeana is something which detractors have to work against and head off. You have to be careful with what you say, because Caesar can cause the people, who fear the state (timor rei publicae) to become very angry (ira rei publicae), indeed. That’s why Caesar was murdered…because the dictatorship was something the people could not get used to.



1. xinyuan - August 10, 2008

Apology? What apology? Chua Lee Hoong just sounds fake-self-deprecatingly arrogant. =/

2. guojun - August 10, 2008

Erm, an apology is actually a defense speech in ancient Greece…

3. aygee - August 11, 2008

Hi there…i think that this obsession with economic success goes all the way back to the tumultous start of our nation, when we got kicked out of Malaysia.

LKY’s vision was a Malaysian Malaysia, focused on ECONOMIC DEVT as the ladder to national progress, whereas the Barisan National still focused on racial policies.

Remember – we didnt ask to be independent. we were kicked out – it was, i believe, one of LKY’s saddest days. He cried on tv.

Thus, because PAP believed that economic progress = national progress, we need to keep harping to the world that we’re one of the richest countries etc etc etc…

Its also, at least this is my opinion, i think someone within the echelons of our country’s leadership still has that chip on his shoulder, to show the success he can bring to his people, versus what BN can deliver to the Malaysian people.

4. Conjob - August 11, 2008

Success is not defined by wealth alone which our govt and their boot-lickers have been harping.

How many citizens feel there is a bond between the people and those in power ?
How many feel that Singapore is a corporation and not a country ?
How many citizens feel that they have been marginalized ?
How many citizens feel like 2nd class in their country ?
How many citizens feel the country’s wealth will never benefit them ?
How many citizens have left the country and how many would do so ?
How many citizens feel they are defending the country or actually defending the leaders and the wealthy ?

To the West,
if you agree that it takes more than wealth to define success, please drop by in Singapore and do a poll and find out for yourselves if there is truth in my statements.
Please also find out if the elections in Singapore are ‘free and fair.”

5. labrat - August 11, 2008


Its my first time here. grt article. have to agree, everything is getting terribly confusing and it pays to slow down and simply invest the things that really matter.

Came across this piece as well,


However, I dont think it is easy in singapore to turn off. Much easier abroad.

6. xinyuan - August 11, 2008

Oh, okay. =o I thought it was the conventional ‘sorry’ sense. Woops. Nevertheless, a new bit of knowledge!

7. Seelan Palay - August 13, 2008

Great writing, GuoJun! What a strange state we are in, where we even need to justify the need for a lack of freedom..

8. Seelan Palay - August 13, 2008

Anyway, I’m the Singaporean you mentioned, who got arrested for the 400 Frowns project.

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