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I am Singaporean XVII – Rhetorics May 27, 2009

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

There’s actually been a lot of rhetoric flying around in Parliament lately.  Low Thia Khiang (i shall call him Teochew Guy, which is the old man’s nickname for him in Cantonese) argued for a stronger opposition presence in Parliament so that there can be a system of checks and balances in Parliament.  Immediately, a certain MP Indranee Rajah, whom i don’t even know (geez. how do these guys get into Parliament?) and tried to disarm Teochew Guy’s argument with illogical statements.  I refer you to Kent Ridge Common for a logical analysis…so i don’t have to do it here.

But it seems that much rhetoric is used in Parliament too.  And i thought our Gahmen was no talk and all do!  Indeed, she began by saying that Teochew Guy’s arguments were unsound, and then tried to use logically unsound, but rhetorically powerful arguments to try to show the party’s dominance.  Well rhetorically powerful is subjective – i guess she did what she could…because people aren’t really convinced.  Anyway, what she says is a simple case of rhetorics – firstly, her assertion that Teochew Guy could be insinuating that Singapore is the most corrupt country in the world could be an attempt to browbeat Teochew Guy into submission, i.e. a veiled threat – Zeus Lee is still out there, and he will ram a lightning bolt up your ass.

Of course, you can only use such tactics if you are in a position of power – reliance of power is always a good sign that some people are using authority too much and not their own brains, or their senses in judging the real situation on the ground.  Also, comparing with the World outside and trying to show how spectacular a success story you happen to be also smacks of people being caught up in their little world.  It also shows how narrow their perspective is and their unwillingness to look beyond themselves and the Party.  True, Singapore has an efficient, non-corruptible government.  But aren’t such high salaries which increases substantially once in a while, and the near-invulnerability from criticism due to 1) Zeus Lee’s protection, 2) a subservient state media which sings your praises, 3) an apathetic population and the corresponding low need to take responsibility for errors, potentially corrupting?

That such forms of rhetoric are used already shows that maybe, ideologically, corruption is in the works.  To put it in a less flowery way: maybe the Gahmen is clean because politicians are stuffed so full of money that it makes it impractical, even foolish, to accept bribes.  But, comparing to the average person who starves and the Gahmen’s regular refutation of welfare, is it any wonder why people see this as a form of corruption itself?

A further form of rhetoric is the appeal to an ideal situation, but disguising it as real.  Refuting Teochew Guy, Indrahee Rajah said that the Opposition has to “take responsibility for its own growth…like the PAP they must work for it and they must earn it.” The statement is true if we were in the late 1950s and the years pre- and just post-Independence.  But once again, as The Rock used to say, Who In The Blue Hell Is Indrahee Rajah?  Did she work for it?  (NB: this opens the discussion of the GRC system as a means of ushering in party members without placing them through the mettle of elections, and i don’t want to deal with it here.) Ideally, the PAP should work for their growth, and they should earn it.  But how much of it today is really earned?  How much of today is just yesterday’s legacy carried over?

There’s also the analogy to a more developed place, in the hope that people will catch on, since they are more advanced and must be better, as reflected by Hri Kumar (again, who is this guy?) – Rhetoric appeals to feelings and not necessarily facts, and appealing to a world where things are seen or perceived to be better really sweetens the deal, masking the dangers (since if they can do it, why can’t we?) The refutation is simple: Non-politicians probably will increase the talent pool.  But they also, very dangerously, are very easily swayed – just give them a few fat paychecks and immunity from screw-ups and they’ll jump into bed, or may have an ethical awakening and leave.  That means that the current dynasty will be further strengthened, and we’ll have to deal with yet more people who know a lot in a particular area but are otherwise stupid…

You can also refer to TOC’s plea to not turn Singapore into an administrative state regarding Hri Kumar.



1. Donaldson Tan - May 28, 2009

You can find the translation of Low Thia Khiang’s speech here.


2. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 29 May 2009 - May 29, 2009

[…] Singapore’s electoral reform- Great but.. [Thanks Dr Huang] – Die neue Welle: I am Singaporean XVII – Rhetorics – Yawning Bread: Minimum nine opposition MPs from now on – The Wayang Party: Is the Workers’ […]

3. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Weekly Roundup: Week 22 - May 30, 2009

[…] Singapore’s electoral reform- Great but.. [Thanks Dr Huang] – Die neue Welle: I am Singaporean XVII – Rhetorics – Yawning Bread: Minimum nine opposition MPs from now on [R?] – The Wayang Party: Is the Workers’ […]

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