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I am Singaporean VI – The Right Thing October 30, 2008

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. II.
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What is The Right Thing?  I was looking through the ST Forum and apparently someone has an answer.  To this piece, there has been much opinion, ranging from incredulosity to outrage.  Greg Gan has been calling for the States’ Times to do The Right Thing (although I wonder what The Right Thing is.)  Honestly, i would send him a certificate for giving me something to laugh at today.

You know, some people like to see themselves as morally superior to the incivilised barbaric masses.  And the author of this piece is no different.  But it fits in well with that the States Times is trying to do, namely something called ‘nation building,’ which we know is building the nation in the way the politicians want it.  And it reflects something very important in the Singaporean context, especially when it comes to politicians – they are/should be morally superior, which is why they were allowed to join the PAP in the first place and which is why they can rule over the plebian unreasonable masses.

That’s the reason why the Gahmen tells other countries to butt out of our internal politics and that’s also why the States Times has undergone a surface change, with not much of what’s inside changing.  Because they think they’re right doing so, if not Singapore will sink back into the South China Sea (interestingly, who lives on the hill near Fort Canning?)  As for ‘doing the right thing’ to show transparency, ethical conduct and compassion – are you sure that’s what we have in Singapore?  Let’s reiterate…i’m sure there was transparency when the Xiao Lee remained zip-lip during the first few days of the economic crisis.  I’m also pretty sure eugenics is ethical, and the Gahmen damn sure showed compassion by offering people affected by the mini-bond crisis compensation after Hong Kong did, in order to retain its competitiveness!

As for moralising, that’s all very good and nice to moralise, because if not there wouldn’t be a use for the verb ‘should.’  So i wonder what he refers to as ‘morals…’  It seems that he sees that the morals are equivalent to the laws we have, like capital punishment for drug peddlars, gun laws, and the like.  However, laws are expressions of morals, they are not equivalent.  I don’t think, for example, that it is moral to kill someone because he threatens to harm many others.  Of course, in a utilitarian way, it is moral.  But i’m not an utilitarian.  In fact, i don’t think it is the full expression of our morals, because there are so many more laws which may not necessarily reflect our morals!  Think about defamation laws, for example, and think about who uses them the most.  For if our ministers are practically speaking always right, then where is the freedom of opinion that everyone should be entitled to as a moral right?  Or is it morally right not to say anything when things are not right?

Irresponsible and immoral people hating good laws?  Wow.  That makes me irresponsible and immoral too.  Because i don’t like some of the “good” laws we have.  But isn’t that what the States Times doing in publishing this account of The Right Thing – there is only ONE right thing?  Is there ONE right thing?  If i have a bone to pick with this dude, it’s with his simplistic view that ‘everything i’m not familiar with must be wrong.’  As for morals being never grey – well.  Say you should not lie.  But should you lie to save a friend’s life?  Morals are always grey, the moral ideals and aims are not, like one being moral to be happy.

Perhaps Greg is right – the States Times should do the right thing.  If they can twist a particular Agnes Lin’s message to put her in another light, perhaps they should zhng this guy’s argument as well, because the praises he sings are not going to satisfy us much longer, if it hasn’t already stopped satisfying us altogether.


RIP, JBJ October 12, 2008

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.
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So after passing Latin, i began reading up on everything which has happened in the ‘missing time’.  And it has come to pass that JBJ has moved on to a better place.  Yet another, one of the most flamboyant members of the old guard has passed on, and who is left in place?  Already this question should give you pause for thought.  And there has been a huge outpouring of condolence letters, mostly sincere, but also egoistical and insincere (i mean, the man is dead. Give him a break.)

JBJ was a person who was a good orator, and one who could stir up the crowds.  Unfortunately, that he was a good orator made him suitable for political machinations.  I don’t have to go through his trials and tribulations once again (i refer you to Farquhar on TOC for more details) but he was a person who took it upon himself to see that his ideal Singapore would be one governed by its citizens, and who fought to bring politics down from the clouds above which dissenters are always challenged to enter and down to a playing field which could be observed by the everyday man.  For this, he paid the price, time and time again.

These are things we can read up everywhere.  But what troubles me is that JBJ is rapidly becoming an icon.  An icon of freedom, an icon of a Singapore which it can never/not yet aspire to be.  But the thing is, icons tend to be forgotten.  Icons are going to be remembered in a romantic form, where things were always simpler, and there were such things as ideals to be attained.  Ideals which can never be attained today, but it was definitely nice to remember that once upon a time someone thought they could be attained.  So you think back and get back to your everyday life, which the Government has so-well planned, keeping you busy enough such that you don’t mind remaining stupid.

JBJ is an icon, and that can mean many things: as i commented in the TOC article, JBJ will be demonised in the next generation of school textbooks, or as long as Grand Master Lee remains alive, and his resilience will only make the threat JBJ seemed to pose to modern Singapore with all its amenities (but sadly without its soul) all the more bigger.  And for us, what will JBJ have fought for if nothing remains of his legacy but an icon, an ideal, a picture of days past?  As long as people are still caught up in getting rich/richer, no one is going to go the way JBJ did.  Everyone would rather want the status quo to be maintained, as long as Singapore is stable.  There is more unhappiness now since things aren’t looking so good.  But once things look up again – who is going to pay attention to who raised what again?  Who is going to stand up and say I Disagree?  Perhaps most people would, if they weren’t that busy.

I shall remember JBJ, the orator and politician, using these verses from Cicero’s Oratio in Catilinam, where Cicero denounces Catiline for a conspiracy against the state and people.  A translation is available after the post.  These are questions which should be asked, but never are:

Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra? quam diu etiam furor iste tuus nos eludet? quem ad finem sese effrenata iactabit audacia? Nihilne te nocturnum praesidium Palati, nihil urbis vigiliae, nihil timor populi, nihil concursus bonorum omnium, nihil hic munitissimus habendi senatus locus, nihil horum ora voltusque moverunt? Patere tua consilia non sentis, constrictam iam horum omnium scientia teneri coniurationem tuam non vides? (Oratio in Catilinam, I.1)

requiescat in pace.

*Now the translation:

How long, o Catiline, will you abuse our patience?  How long will this madness of yours elude us? To what end does your unbridled boldness toss itself about?  Does not the protection of the Palace at night, nor the guards of the city, nor the fear of the people, nor the meeting of the best [Senators], nor this place which is the safest for the convening of the Senate, nor the looks and expressions of these [gathered here], make the slightest impression on you?  Do you not know that your plans have been exposed, do you not see that your fouled conspiracy has been already kept in check by the wisdom of all who are present?