I am obliged to first concede, in spite of my burning satirical impulses, that the term “hard truths” is actually a very accurate description of how Kuan Yew presents himself via the media, even though his claims tend to be harder than they are true. There may be little question as to whether he wants Singaporeans and the rest of the world to doubt his claims, but he does not want everyone to simply take his word for it. They are meant to be hard. The phenomenon we are observing is possibly a previously undocumented condition that we may call Psychological Priapism, where the prolonged swelling of localized power necessitates D.I.Y aspiration (aided by fawning receptacles). We could well sum up the circulation of Kuan Yew through the mainstream media as Hard Claims Positioned as Truths. The constant, as the reader might notice, is hard, which is a beautiful adjective for both the leadership style of The Leader himself and the supposed truths he so charitably donates to the public. The public, in turn, serves as a powerful foil to the exceptionality and wisdom of Kuan Yew. We have all the ingredients for baking a fluffy myth of greatness.
In order to dispense hard truths, Kuan Yew does not need to speak of any truths. He just needs coax hardness of whatever he chooses to call the truth. He is always ready to address the issue of how he has dealt with his political opponents. When faced with an accusation that you have destroyed your opponents, there are two possible responses. The first response is to deny that it has happened while the second is to admit and justify the act. Either response will work when you have the hard-truths branding. In fact, even having both responses isn’t such a bad idea.
Not too many years ago, Kuan Yew claimed: “I never destroyed them. Politically, they destroyed themselves.” (Link)
On the other hand, in a different interview, Kuan Yew says: “I think they deserve to be demolished. I have no regrets.” (See report here)
Euphemisms seem to lure honesty out of Kuan Yew. Or perhaps he demolished the likes of J.B. Jeyaretnam and Chee Soon Juan without destroying them. But if they destroyed themselves, what did Kuan Yew demolish? Jeyeretnam rubble? While we may never quite resolve this issue, there is a valuable lesson to be learned from Kuan Yew’s treatment of the opposition. As he says, it is not his job to help those opposing him go against him. So he destroyed/demolished them. Assuming that it is not my job as a voter to help members of a political party I never voted for. So what do I do with them?
Unless Kuan Yew clarifies the destroy/demolish distinction for us, we would face a problem when he dies. If we try to follow his will for us to demolish his house after he dies (I hope this wish gets fulfilled soon), would we required to demolish it without destroying it? Since not many of us find the prospects of infuriating him into returning from the grave appealing, it is crucial that we seek to understand the difference between destroying and demolishing something so that we can prevent macabre consequences.
Or perhaps it does not matter at all. We may notice that the self is at the center of all meticulous demolitions. It’s clearly self-preservation and self-aggrandizement that propelled Kuan Yew to demolish Jeyaretnam instead of self-destructively helping the latter. In the same way, we should not interpret Kuan Yew’s wish to demolish his house to be the self-negating wish of a man who is letting go of his life. To enshrine his house would be to locate and circumscribe his legacy to convenient symbol in Oxley Road; to enshrine the house is to deny him a state of omnipresence beyond cultural memory. A dead person who is a living, omnipresent power cannot be confined to a museum or any particular location. If any place were to be enshrined, it would have to be Singapore in its entirety. (Is this not already taking place?)
“I’ve seen other houses, Nehru’s, Shakespeare’s. They become a shambles after a while.” What a sharp observation. Psychological Priapism accompanied by deep-seated anxieties.
Give that man a sedative.
But perhaps Kuan Yew cannot bring himself to be hard on himself. He would rather say that graduate parents provide a better learning environment for their children than consider the factor of income level when he accounts for the fact that there is a higher percentage of students whose parents are graduates in top ranked local schools. That would involve having to reckon with how meritocracy is simply a system in which those with the acquired means to gain merit get ahead while there is little going for those without the acquired means even if they have the inborn potential. We are too happy with Singapore not being a caste system to cope with the fact that Singaporean meritocracy is a means for a selected number of people to prove themselves—together with a few others who win the meritocracy lottery and manage to transcend what they are born into. In Singapore, no one destroys the poor. They destroy themselves with their poverty and it’s not the job of anyone to help them get ahead. We cannot spend too much on education to develop every child’s potential (because it’s more important to spend the money on tanks and trucks that kill soldiers), so if your child is enrolled in a school that does not charge high fees, you should not whine about the deficiencies of the education system. Live with the hard truth.
Admittedly, we ought to be grateful, that Kuan Yew has not tried to reiterate the old hard truth-theory that graduate parents have smarter kids. He’s already being very sensitive to the fragile hearts of genetically inferior beings.
If Kuan Yew truly wants to be in a position to disseminate hard truths and present himself as a man of exceptional insight, he ought to show himself to be able to accept hard truths first. If he were to seek Molly’s advice, Molly would suggest that he puts himself behind bars to achieve this purpose. Now, don’t blame me for being irrational. There is a rationale despite the fact that it is unreasonable to expect satire to be rational. As far as I can see, Kuan Yew’s comment about Muslims needing to be less strict has done more to anger people than the actions of the people who have been pronounced guilty of sedition in the past few years. So we may say that it is a hard truth that Kuan Yew is seditious. Which is also a hard-hitting irony given that he has been mythologized as the founding father of the country which has a tendency to over-emphasize what its leaders call racial harmony. To earn the right to shovel hard truths down our throats, Kuan Yew should prove to us his ability to accept hard truths.
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