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Mr. Tan VIII – Protectionism? February 18, 2009

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Mr. Tan was reading the Straits Times when he came across this letter on protectionism (actually Mr. Tan only reads the Forum.)

And Mr. Tan said: Why must Singapore guard extremely against protectionism?  Is not a government’s first responsibility towards its citizens?  And Mr. Tan said that although Governmental steps towards helping its own people first were laudable, more could be done.  Mr. Tan said, “of course protectionism per se is bad for the people.  But does not the Government have a responsibility to help those in need?  The Government should get its own house in order before agreeing to purely help others.”

“True, we need foreign help.  But we need to set a standard to make sure that not every mother son is hired!  We need people who can help the country, not people who will leave when they see that conditions are not so good for them.  Singaporeans are already leaving, because they see that the help they need is not coming, or that people are given scholarships whereas they have to serve NS, get a huge bank loan for university, and much more.  What’s more, when we’re not wanted anymore, the Government tells us go retire in Malaysia because it’s cheaper!  Not that it doesn’t help my wallet – but i feel that the country doesn’t want me anymore since i am not economically viable anymore!”

Then, Mr. Tan came to this section:

If the Singaporean Government enacts policies that discriminate against foreign workers and PRs in the midst of an international call for continuing global free trade policies, would it not amount to the protectionist policies that Singapore must avoid?

Mr. Tan said: “So these are the protectionist policies that Singapore must avoid.  But must Singapore avoid protectionism?  The argument is not good, in that it accepts what the Government says as gospel truth.  If we avoid some kind of protectionism now, then what’s to prevent firms from hiring others who may not cost so much as a Singpaorean would expect?  Then what would happen to Singaporeans?  That the Government says that we must avoid this policy doesn’t mean that the policy is per se sound. It would be unwise to accept such a statement as it is as truth.  Protectionism must be expressed to a certain extent, because this is politics, not some textbook exercise you can use.  The opinion of the people should matter, but are we treated as if our opinions matter?”

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Tales of Mr. Tan VII – Better-Than-Thou January 28, 2008

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Mr. Tan, in the fallout of the cancellation of the Complain Choir concerts, noted a Better-Than-Thou syndrome amongst the Singaporean authorities. When asked what he meant, he said: ‘i’ll make it very clear to you. Why do our politicians see it as their God-given right to set themselves above the average folk? Why do our politicians see themselves as above other politicians?’

Further explaining, Mr. Tan said: ‘You can start by looking at the Speak Good English campaign. If you will read the most recent English as it is broken column on The Sunday Times, you will note that the programme has undoubtedly stratified the population into a class of atas Standard English speakers and the uneducated Singlish speakers, even if that is not the case in Singapore. And don’t forget all the elitism scandals in 2006, or a MDA spokesperson insulting mrbrown’s family by digging up a wealth of information on him after his column.’

‘With regards to politics, have you noticed that our Government has no qualms talking about the politics of other countries (like our MM, who went to China telling them how to run their country) or how they like to portray Singapore as an ideal state (who once said that a benevolent despotism was the ideal state structure?) by using first-world, European countries and saying how corrupted they were? Also, don’t forget the repeated prosecution of a certain opposition politician, even if he may be wrong or silly in his dealings, and the repeated intimidating challenges to opposition political candidates during the elections. How about ‘fixing the opposition’? I tell you, if it is one thing our Government has which is bigger than every other country’s, it’s ego. They must always be right.’

And when asked if he feared that these statements would draw flak, Mr. Tan scoffed: ‘And what right have THEY to correct me? I am right, you know!’

Tales of Mr. Tan VI – The Complain Choir January 27, 2008

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Mr. Tan read recently that the Complain Choir has cancelled all their performances due to governmental pressure and would be giving only private invite-only performances with the entire full choir. The performance was cancelled due to demands of the government to remove all foreigners, because they don’t have a hand in local politics, so to speak.

To which, Mr. Tan mused: It’s not as if Singaporeans have the time to go and watch them, anyway. Everyone is too busy with their everyday lives to go and spend an hour or two listening to the Complain Choir perform about the idiosyncrasies of Singaporean life. The Government needs to preserve its oh-so-precious ego to let them perform something like this, which must be an affront to the obedient flock of sheep they have been so used to. After all, children can’t complain about their parents, who have gradually become less and less responsible for the children but who still feel that the children owe them a huge living, anyway.

Continuing, Mr. Tan noted that the Singaporean authorities have always done this anyway, first approving a performance or display and letting rehearsals go on, before cancelling them last-minute. And the usual culprits are always the police, or the MDA to prevent ‘seditious views, non-conforming ideologies’ and the like. And no, Foreigners Are Not Welcome. Mr. Tan mused if foreigners were only welcome if they brought with them talent in terms of economic advancement, not such talents like in the liberal arts or having a political opinion.

‘What Renaissance can we talk about when we do not have a culture to talk about? What Renaissance can we have when the very elements of our Renaissance, political freedom and a time where people dared to speak up pre-Independence, can we talk about when these very elements were taken away by those who used them to gain power? Singaporeans are responsible for allowing doublethink to control their lives, Singaporeans are responsible for the culture of fear they live in. But it is understandable. No one wants to put their jobs on the line, and those who do are laughed at for being fools. Idealism is ridiculed and pragmatism rules. So is the tyranny of money – you see it when the same party gets voted in time and time again for posting economic gains which don’t filter down to the average Joe.’

‘After all, it is rarely about the truth – it is about what people want to see. Control that, and you control everything. The Government, thus, fears foreigners who have an opinion to express – because they have become so complacent in believing that the average Singaporean will not dare to raise a hand against the country who has spent time and money nurturing them. Which father would expect his children to set themselves against him?’

Tales of Mr. Tan IV – Religion Everywhere? November 15, 2007

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Mr. Tan, the thinker, read a newspaper article on how religion was not to be divorced from politics. He noted drily, ‘it is important to separate fact from fiction. How can it be that the Chinese word ‘船’ consisting of 8 mouths be a reference to Noah’s Ark? The symbol was there long before the story of Noah’s Ark was told.’ Amused, he noted too that the author notes that ‘religion promotes accomodation.’ If so, he made a big mistake in quoting a Chinese word in a Christian context – what happened then to history and the culture of the Chinese people before the missionaries arrived? Mr. Tan noted that such direct transfers of everyday happenings into Bible passages hinted at a disturbing phenomenon of fundamentalism, when religion is understood by the face value of the words and not the symbolism behind it – something which the author himself professes not to be.

Also, Mr. Tan noted drily the danger of merging religion and politics. He said, ‘politics must stay separate from religion because while politics involves the polis, the city and the people and thus affects every country and its inhabitants as a whole, religion involves the connection to a being which transcends the individual, a connection which can be described by a multitude of views, and where unity is almost impossible. He noted that in the Middle Ages, religion mixing with politics led to the fall of the Church and the Crusades – the mixture of politics and religion led to many atrocities being commited e nomino domini.

‘Furthermore, religion mixed with politics would cause problems – with a multitude of religions, people are forced to make an image of their God, because it’s the only way that they can express their convictions. With this concrete image, people compare – and that’s dangerous, because everyone believes their religion has the absolute truth,’ he mused.

Tales of Mr. Tan III – Inflation. November 7, 2007

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Mr. Tan, forced to stash his money away in a Central Provident Fund account with low guaranteed returns, was worried when he read about inflation rates.  He mused, ‘what will become of our returns when we finally see them? The government uses our money to invest in other countries and make themselves richer every elections, while we are forced to work into our greying years to prove that we are still ‘useful’ to society. Guaranteed returns only mean that we are guaranteed a particular sum, which may not mean anything in the future at all.’

A friend noted his concerns and asked what he would do, to which Mr. Tan replied drily, ‘what else CAN we do? Without the PAP and without opposition to government policies, our country has achieved this level of efficiency – Singapore is like a machine. I am still going to vote for them next elections, because this party is what made Singapore what she is, and i am not ready for the insecurity of another party in power. Haven’t you heard of LKY’s doomsday predictions if the PAP falls out of power? I trust that the PAP will know when it is time to change accordingly with the times.’

Tales of Mr. Tan II – On Conservativity. October 28, 2007

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Mr. Tan, the thinker, observed the usage of the word ‘conservative’ in today’s Singapore. After thinking about it, he noted that certain individuals in society were using being conservative as a reason not to repeal particular laws, especially those pertaining to homosexuality. Mr. Tan noted that these people who were brandishing conservativeness as a banner were politically prominent people, and thus he said: ‘they can’t define what being conservative means. Defining conservativeness means losing a large group of people who don’t know if they are conservative or not. Using the word in such a broad unclear context fulfills the purpose of reaching as many people as possible.’

When asked if Mr. Tan was a conservative, Mr. Tan said, ‘perhaps. I’m waiting for a definition before i know if i am.’

Tales of Mr. Tan I – Myanmar October 19, 2007

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Mr. Tan noted the situation in Myanmar, especially the reactions of the people to the actions of the military junta, with respect, some distaste and a lot of interest. He said, ‘The situation in Myanmar is interesting, because it shows what the people can achieve if they want to. Unlike my fellow Singaporeans, the situation in Myanmar deserves studying.’ Respectfully, he noted the brave actions of the Buddhist monks as the conscience of the country, and expressed much anger at the military government’s attempts at violent suppression.

When Mr. Tan was asked how he would judge the reaction of the Singaporean government as the head of ASEAN, Mr. Tan noted distastefully, ‘the government could definitely do more! I wish the government would issue trade embargoes on Myanmar and force the Myanmar government to change and become more democratic.’ When asked, then, if Singapore should be a pure democracy, Mr. Tan scoffed, ‘who needs democracy? Democracy means riots and civil disorder. They can have it in Myanmar.’