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I am Singaporean III – The Importance of a Good Memory January 28, 2010

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean Vol. III.

Elections are coming!

In spite of what our politicians are telling you, the signs are clear (as is the incongruence in what different politicians from the same party tell us):

But at the same time, since all this talk is a pretty sure sign that the elections are around the corner, it would be appropraite to call to mind everything that has transpired in the past PAP term.  Did we have to Pay And Pay more? Did we Stay Together, and Move Ahead? (You can refer to the PAP’s 2006 manifesto here.) More importantly, dare we give the PAP carte blanche for another 5 years?

One huge thing which went wrong was this “Stay Together, Move Ahead” thing. It certainly doesn’t seem that Singapore has stayed together and moved ahead. The richer are richer, and the poorer are poorer than ever. 36% of our population aren’t Singaporeans, and companies, which are focused on profit and survival, are hiring these foreigners en masse, simply because they ask for less money. Richer foreigners, those who can afford a roof over their heads, are artificially inflating the HDB market, so that Singaporeans feel that they are rapidly becoming 2nd class citizens in their own country. Instead of staying together, we have drifted apart. As for moving ahead – a lot of people are getting ahead in Singapore, but are many Singaporeans getting ahead?

Secondly, we have to consider how responsible our Gahmen has been when times have been tough. Have they been responsible? Have they admitted their mistakes to the people? MM’s admission that the bilingual policy was a mistake only turned out to be a mistake in implementation, not in theory (see my other post on this topic), not the catastrophe MM makes it out to be, and I am pretty sure too that yet another change in implementation (teaching Chinese in English..?!), the way MM sees it anyway, will be a turn for the worse. But leaving that aside, what about the other shenanigans? Did our Dear Leaders show that they were ready to take responsibility, or were they only responsible for progress?

In Singapore, they say that “talk is cheap”, but when it comes to the failings of the system, our Gahmen loves to use talk, instead of action – the status quo, so it is thought, has worked up to now – so why tweak it? Thus, apologies from the Gahmen are hardly forthcoming – bad things are normally accompanied by exhortations to “accept it and move on.” Pragmatically, that is the right way to look at things – i don’t deny that – but for a Gahmen to say that would mean that this particular government is either really inept when it comes to governing or that it has nothing to fear from the population. What the population has to do is to forgive, but not forget. True, we have to work ourselves out of this problem, but we should NEVER EVER forget what has happened, nor should we let ourselves be blinded by handouts and promises of lift upgrading. Having a good memory is the only way you can effect change – it’s like remembering that the last time you ate something bad, you had a really bad tummyache, and so you avoid stuff which smells bad. You don’t continue buying food which smells bad, because it is a lot cheaper, or because the mama shop around the corner stocks it, when you could go to NTUC for non-bad-smelling food.

So yes, were they responsible?

  • Mas Selamat’s Great Escape was swept swiftly under the rug, and Lee Junior said “we should move on.” Lee Senior accused the population of “complacency”, i.e. it’s not our fault, it’s YOURS for being complacent, but we are willing to work with you and solve the problem.
  • The financial crisis was blamed on “global circumstances” (which is partly true), but the massive losses by GIC and Temasek were never explained. Instead, Ho Ching took a sabbatical (maybe to take some heat off her), an ang mor put on the board, only to have him leave due to “strategic differences”. So essentially, the status quo remains.
  • Our Law Minister told us (without proof nor logic) that foreigners don’t make our lives more difficult, or more inaffordable. But then, PM Lee said that “the Government actually has no control over HDB resale prices”, thus absolving the Gahmen of all blame.
  • Remember the old “Stop at Two” policy? Now, the Gahmen is trying to plug the leaks – by importing foreigners. It seems that the Gahmen has no sense of how to deal with its population – it wants a fast and effective solution, but a solution which may not be tenable in the long run (unless the various political conspiracies online are to be believed). The distrust against citizens (“if we give you welfare, you will become lazy”) shows how much the Government is reliant on its citizenry, but also how much the Government believes that they are better than the citizens. The benevolent dictator has forgotten what it means to be benevolent.

The same dubious kinds of “talk” are also present in the above signs that the elections are coming. Not speculating on when the elections are coming means that you can actually forget that the elections are coming, so you will be surprised by a nice Gahmen handout and you will vote for them. Lee Junior’s intellectual theft can be explained as integrating the thoughts of others into their own, thus making the PAP seem more progressive than before. As for Lee Senior’s promises and threats…you have to ask yourself whether they will come to fruition.

So, how do we make sure that we have better leaders who will take care of us? An Opposition is good, because, in the words of PM Lee, in the course of “fixing” each other, the population benefits. A strengthened, more outspoken Opposition can act as a conscience against the ruling party, as a form of checks and balances. The impotence of our current opposition politicians is not based on personal incompetence, but on the fact that no one has their backs. Strengthen the Opposition, and you strengthen the possibility that Gahmen failings and problems are actually discussed (and not mentioned and applauded) in Parliament, and that all parties, PAP and Opposition, will turn a more acute ear to the common man, if only to garner more support. Want to get rid of insensitive elitists? Then you have to change the balance of power.

But to do that, you need a really good memory to dredge up everything that has transpired in the last 5 years. Make an informed decision!

7: Logical Thinking? January 20, 2010

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen, What Were They Thinking?!.

According to PAP logic, we’re casting foreigners as villians. And we shouldn’t do that, says our Law Minister.

But isn’t law something which goes by logic? Then why is it that he is giving us such illogical statements? Many netizens (like Lucky Tan etc.) don’t see the logic…so let’s see what is not logical in what the States Times and what our Minister said…

So, first, the report:

MIDWAY through a 11/2-hour dialogue with Law Minister K. Shanmugam on Sunday, 58-year-old Wee Kai Fatt stood up and gave voice to the claims of many coffee shop pundits here.

The senior engineer complained about the foreigner-fuelled population boom, saying he was shocked when he heard there were five million people living in Singapore.

This influx of foreigners, he added, had caused HDB home prices to rocket.

Taking it all in, Mr Shanmugam took pains to clarify what he said were several misconceptions in Mr Wee’s statement.

The Law Minister’s key message: Do not cast foreigners as the villains driving up the prices of HDB flats.

Speaking at the end of his three-hour visit to Yew Tee constituency in Hong Kah GRC, he said: ‘The first misconception is that somehow there are five million people and that is putting pressure on all of us. It doesn’t.’

Firstly, i would like to ask what pains Mr Shanmugam took to clarify these “misconceptions.” Is it trying to use his Man in White logic to convince someone with ordinary logic? For example, Man in White logic often tells us that we SHOULD accept what is happening, i.e. welcome foreigners with open arms, be cheaper, better, faster, etc. Or maybe that the influx of foreigners has absolutely no role in pushing home prices up, when this obviously flies in the face of basic supply-and-demand. More demand, less supply, means that prices increase. (Of course, I’m not an economist, but that’s not what this is about now. This is about what the layperson thinks, not about what the economist says.)

Logic doesn’t operate on “should”, it operates on “is”.

Then why are HDB prices rising? MIW logic would probably say that it is a sign that our economy is picking up again and use it to tell us that we have MORE GOOD YEARS ahead of us. But that is not the case, well, not in reality at least (see, for example, this). Which is why i sometimes suspect that the Men in White live in another dimension, since sometimes their interpretation of happenings is so different from ours. Again, interpretation is also something which is not strictly logical. If it was strictly logical, the interpretation of how things are would convince anyone. But no one is convinced.

There’s also the argument from an unfounded premiss, e.g.: “The first misconception is that somehow there are five million people and that is putting pressure on all of us. It doesn’t.” How does Mr. Shanmugam know that it is a misconception? Does have have contrary proof? Can he explain his position? Or is he just relying on his status as Law Minister (“as a minister, i know what’s going on and you don’t?”) Relying on superior status to make what you say more valid is another sign of bad logic, or of an illogical argument trying to be logical. Authority tends to make people argue illogically.

The second unfounded argument is based on using statistics to make a statement appear empricially sound:

Of the five million, 3.2 million are citizens and roughly 500,000 are permanent residents (PRs). The remaining 1.3 million are here on temporary work permits and they ‘impose no burden’ on the public housing system.

What does it mean that “the remaining 1.3 million are here on temporary work permits and they ‘impose no burden’ on the public housing system”? It is probably a weak attempt at explaining away the problem. Just feed them some numbers and they’ll bite, hook, line and sinker. Are you sure, for example, that all of these 1.3 million people are staying in workers’ accomodations? Or maybe they are all Malaysians? Statistics which don’t exactly explain why they are solutions to the problem shouldn’t exactly be used.

Lastly, there is argument based on an assumption:

‘Let me pose a question back to you – ‘What do you think is the solution if we can’t get Singaporeans who all speak English? Then we have to get foreigners. Where do you think we can get them from, and can we educate all of them in English?’ Therefore, if you are given a choice, either there is someone there to serve you, which is Singapore’s style, or like in many Western countries, you do self-service. I suspect…most Singaporeans will say ‘OK, never mind, even if he can’t speak English, I will prefer that to a self-service situation’.

Is the assumption true? I would prefer self-service, actually. I don’t see the point in ballooning our population by 1.3 million people, so that they will have to come and serve us.  Actually, it’s also a veiled threat – “want less people? Then get ready to serve yourselves.” Another false assumption – are we so scared of serving ourselves? Don’t we do that at McDonald’s?

What was he thinking?