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Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Some Disjointed Thoughts

This entry is written in response to "Disenfranchised", an entry in the Singapore Serf's blog. I must first state that it has been a long time since I have written critically or analytically, so I may be more than a little bit rusty. If I do not seem to be making any sense, do remember that while our freedom of speech may be a matter of contention, our freedom to (not) read certainly is not.

Before I even begin, I would like to first paraphrase what I have understood of the Singapore Serf's thoughts and opinions from reading "Disenfranchised", so that we all have some common ground from which to start. Also, in case I happen to read him wrongly, the Singapore Serf would perhaps find it easier to tell me where I have gone wrong. That is, if he happens to read this entry.

1) He believes that we, or rather, our parents, have signed an unwritten social contract with the government, which more or less states that in return for material benefits, we will give up our political rights.

2) He believes that this contract has not been honoured (on the part of the government) in recent years, because life seems to be getting worse for everyone except the 5% of the population who happen to be the elite.

3) The government interferes with private areas of its citizens' lives.

4) Anyone who speaks up against the government, or affiliated bodies, or affiliated individuals, gets sued out of existence, or at least, into silence.

5) He therefore declares the deal to be off for himself (he plans to leave), because the government has reneged on its end of the bargain while still expecting us to keep up our end.

6) Most people here either have no idea in hell what is going on, or are (justifiably) too terrified to speak up. In other words, the people do not have a voice.

7) In conclusion, there is no way to change any part of the situation here, so the only reasonable option for people dissatisfied with the status quo would be for them to leave.

These are the main points of "Disenfranchised" as I see them.

While most people who talk about our political climate tend to see two antagonistic entities, I usually see three. Besides the usual suspects, "the people" and "the government", I also see "the rest of the world". The government is in many cases the intermediary, or the buffer, so to speak, between the people and the rest of the world, and I think a major part of its job is to make the best decision possible for the people considering the situation in the rest of the world. I would also like to make the point that the economic prosperity of Singapore is, in my opinion, a very fragile one. While other nations have agricultural products or natural resources to help boost their economies, we have none. Our GDP is mostly derived from providing services or adding value to primary products. Hence, we are, in fact, in a very fragile state of equilibrium with the rest of the world. What we lack and other countries have, we can never get. What we have and other countries lack, they can, and probably will, get. Make no mistake about it, we are engaged in a continual struggle to stay one step ahead, to stay relevant, to survive.

Now we come to the lack of political power of the average Singaporean. Call me brainwashed if you like, but I do think that Singapore cannot really afford to have more than one serious political party. I think the nature of man is such that if there are two groups of people fighting for something they want badly enough and if they are evenly matched enough, they will eventually and inevitably resort to backstabbing, conniving, treachery, lying and various other underhanded means. No matter how honourable their leaders are and no matter how noble their initial goals are, this will happen, one small step at a time. If the battle lasts long enough, suspicions will flare about the integrity of the other group and sooner or later they will start thinking (about underhanded means) "we must do it since they're doing it too". I doubt that Singapore can afford to have two gangs of crooks desperately trying to sway popular opinion towards polar extremes over every little decision for their own agendas all the time. As I have said earlier, we are, in fact, engaged in a continuous struggle for survival, and to hesitate is to lose and become irrelevant. In order for our government to be able to effectively wage the war for survival, it needs, like the general of any army, the power to make autonomous decisions. So yes, perhaps we, as "serfs" have signed away our political rights, but I do think that it is necessary to do so for the survival of the nation as a whole.

Ok, I have other stuff I need to do, so I will have to make this quick.

I do think that to change the political climate in Singapore is to condemn the nation. I am of the firm opinion that what works in the USA will most definitely not work here. Whether the ends (economic prosperity) justifies the means (suppressing all dissenting voices) is something each individual has to decide for himself, but I do agree that the only choices are either to shut up and put up with it or to leave.

I am far from elite, and neither are most of the people I know (including those past 40), but looking at them, they seem to be doing rather well for themselves. While not wealthy, they certainly aren't destitute. I find it strange that the Singapore Serf should know so many people who are "desperately hungry". Are there really so many starving people in Singapore that I don't know about? I do think, though, that life will get harder as time goes by. This will be true not only in Singapore, but all over the world, because there are just too many people, and just so much resources on this planet.

Though I acknowledge the fact that the government mostly does the things it does because it has to do them, I do take issue with some of the . . . stuff going on here, so I also do not rule out the possibility of migration for myself if stuff gets too unbearable. Due to stuff, you know? Stuff just pisses you off sometimes.

I do think that most people here are contented with the status quo, the reason being that those who aren't are mostly leaving or have already left. That being the case, I do concur that people who talk too much here tend to get their asses sued off. However, since those who have been sued so far have mostly been politicians, I guess I do not really care about them. Anyway, I reiterate that I think the government has done a good job, insofar as the job is to provide the largest number of people possible with the best material benefits possible. Again, whether this is enough for you as an individual is something you have to decide for yourself.

My opinions on some things:

About the scholar hoohah:
I do not know what exactly he said, but seriously, anyone who threatens to sue a student over what he said in his blog is seriously petty. I may agree that most of what the government does is necessary, but come on, the guy has no job, no power, no money, no influence. Where, exactly, was the threat?

About the gay issue:
I do not think the government should stop them having concerts. I think this attitude (of the government's) will change over the years, but whatever it is, it's not my fight as yet.

About the cats:
I like cats and all, but I'm largely ambivalent about animal rights. I personally feel that before people bother about animal rights, they should solve all the human rights problems first.

About the casinos:
I do not care about people who cannot control themselves and become gambling addicts, because they should be responsible for themselves, so I am not against casinos being built.

Ok, that was a bit of a mess, but as I said, I was in a hurry. I guess I need a disclaimer or something, so here goes.

Disclaimer: If this offends you and you would like to sue me, I didn't mean any of it! Seriously! Don't sue me! PleasedonthurtmeIwanttolive!

I realise it's not much of a disclaimer, but I thought I'd cut to the chase and say exactly what all legal disclaimers say when you pare away the flowery language.
I really find it strange that there are people who know of many starving 40-year-olds.

They may be displaced by Singapore's move towards technology but certainly, the government has provided a number of measures for them to be a part of this moves. There are numerous learning programs one can join at a subsidized rate and these are not confined to the most advanced of technologies. Hairstyling courses is one such example where the government will subsidize up to $3000 for the $3000+ course.

One who does not wish to take up these offers can hardly accuse the government of not doing anything.
After mighty Adrian sums up the points , it is just a few notably issues and not life threatening or nation threatening and yet , this kid can't bear with it and thinking to migrate . To me it is a freedom of choice , anyone can leave and no one is indispensable to the country . But I doubt this petty little issues is the only that you are currently facing with SG government and you Kao Pei Kao Bu ... can you survive in other countries where much more issues are unsatifactory ?
Thumbs up for the few points counter by Adrian , atleast it is more concrete and factual , than merely complain without depth , which is what that kid is doing . I prefer that kid start writing blogs about anything than such topics , as it will be a laughing stock to the rest of the world on SG citizens ,
Who would migrate because the government oppresses gays? Is he gay himself? If he is not, why on earth...?

Because frankly, no one would care if he leaves or stays, and it sure ain't gonna make the government sit up and go, Oh dearie us, people are leaving because we prevented gays from having a concert!

Err, I don't think so.

Besides, there is no utopia, social or environmental. I may be naive but I'm not idealistic. :P There's no such thing. There's always gonna be something to gripe about no matter where you are, 'cos that's life.

Now go and review my CMS review. :D
And comment!! Thanks :D
"...if there are two groups of people fighting for something they want badly enough and if they are evenly matched enough, they will eventually and inevitably resort to backstabbing, conniving, treachery, lying and various other underhanded means. [And lots of other shit will happen.]"

Huh? And this doesn't happen when there's only one party in power? And it doesn't happen when this party takes steps to maintain its monopoly on power? I'm missing something here.
Strange. Why does everyone think I'm flaming Singapore Serf? You should probably read his entry before reading mine. Personally I think he's an intelligent chap who has made an intelligent decision considering his desires, convictions and circumstances. And it's a decision I myself may someday make.

Tats: He's leaving for other reasons, kitten.

Turtle: Uh, who would they backstab since there's no serious competition? Themselves? Maybe sometimes they take extreme actions against isolated individuals or small groups of people, but if that's the price to be paid for the survival of a nation, then maybe some would say it's worthwhile. The danger, though, with a one-party country is that the rulers become corrupt. I do not think it has happened yet. Also, even supposing they are already a gang of crooks, do you really think having two gangs of crooks is necessarily better than having one?

My point was that since there is no serious opposition, our hypothetical gang of crooks will inevitably spend more energy on actually governing than on politicking. That is, if they don't spend all their time lining their own pockets. No matter your views, it is an objective fact that the government in Singapore does maintain an appearance of incorruptibility and that it does expend effort governing most of the time.
Some might say that arrogating to themselves the power to determine the course of everyone's life amounts to corrupt appropriation. And that would take the form of corrupt appropriation from everyone, not just the few people engaged in overt, party political opposition.

And, well, do they arrogate to themselves the power to determine the course of everyone's life? Well, if you believe that the social and political institutions you face have a strong influence on the options available to you and the culture that you face, then a government which reserves access to opportunities for reshaping these institutions to themselves and their chosen ones alone is arguably guilty of such a thing.

Though of course it might be justified if, as you seem to believe, Singapore faces such significant and specific constraints that only one set of social and political institutions would enable it to even exist - and also that by some massive coincidence the PAP just happens to have hit upon that formula consistently throughout the years. This is not entirely impossible, I just happen not to buy it myself because it's (1) a little too convenient a story, given almost-complete press control, etc., (2) dubious in light of various structural problems Singapore's current arrangements have (which I won't go into here) and (3) unsubstantiated in most discussion, for the most part.
"Some might say that arrogating to themselves the power . . . is arguably guilty of such a thing."

Is that included in the definition of corruption? When I use the word "corruption" in this case, I tend to be thinking of a more narrow definition, i.e. misappropriating national funds/resources to benefit themselves as individuals. Given your wider definition of corruption, I would . . . prefer not to say anything further, because I do not have the luxury of anonymity here and I do not know where exactly the OB markers are concerning this topic. I am sure, though, that you catch my drift. Fair enough?

"Though of course it might be justified if . . . unsubstantiated in most discussion, for the most part."

I do not believe that the PAP just happens to have hit upon that formula consistently throughout the years. I think that Singapore's current level of economic success was no happenstance but is a result of meticulous planning.

I do not, however, believe that only the PAP could have done it. For all I know, the commies could have achieved similar results in a different way. What I do believe is that for Singapore to stand a chance of survival, we can only have one serious political party, whether it happens to be the PAP or something else. Since the PAP has, you have to admit, acquitted itself rather well, economically speaking, over the years, I would say that it would not be illogical to stick with the devil we know, don't you think?

By the way, I do not really hold strong political opinions, being much more interested in technology, so I must say thank you for helping me form one. If apparent inconsistencies appear between what I say and what I have said, please point them out so that I can mull over what I really think (if you wish to continue this discussion, that is). I'm still not really interested in politics, though. I can only deal with people for so long before I get sick of them. Give me computers anytime. >:)
Re OB markers, fair enough; I'm suicidal but that doesn't mean everyone is. :)

Re the necessity for one party, I'm glad to hear your opinion isn't that only the PAP could do it, but I'm not still not quite convinced it would have to be only one party. Or at least, not for the reason that you stated, i.e. to avoid dirty politicking etc. I think there will be struggles for power regardless of whether one party appears to dominate or not - that's just human nature - and what democratic processes do is they mediate the nature of those struggles. I couldn't guarantee (though I strongly suspect) that a freer press etc. would remove the PAP's dominance - maybe they are just that popular! But it would provide mechanisms to reduce the sort of underhand mechanisms that you think are problematic. That's my take anyhow.
I think it's not dirty politicking itself that would be the problem, but rather the hesitation in the implementation of important policies that would result. I do not think that democracy is a panacea for all political problems. Even in democracies, most people are still being herded around, just that the shepherds (so to speak) are great orators instead of soldiers (in the case of militant dictators).

So if we had, say, two political parties vying for power in Singapore, can you imagine how much worse the casino debate would have been? Supposing the PAP supports having casinos, given the nature of politicians, the other gang would almost certainly appeal to the conservative and moralistic elements of society in order to further their own agendas and make the PAP out to be moneygrubbing crooks who do not care about the moral state of the country. (Look at Britain, where Tony Blair has just been accused of being a liar by his political opponents.) We'd have the nation bitterly divided over the issue, and by the time the decision was made, it may no longer be relevant. Countries that are more self-sufficient may be able to afford such hesitation, but I think Singapore cannot.

Anyway, I think the difference between democratic nations with more than one party and nations ruled by feuding warlords is merely that in the democratic nations, no one dies in the political struggles, and that's not even a given.
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