We are getting more and more tips on how to be a real nation from ministers post their prime (by which I mean they have job titles post-Prime Ministership). Kuan Yew had already told us that Singaporeans had to be willing to die for one another before it could be a nation. Now Goh Chok Tong tells us that nation building involves being stoic in the face of adversities. No, actually that’s Molly’s way of beautifying it for him. He was simply rehasing old rhetoric about Singaporeans being too whiny for the PAP to love. Like most other PAP politicians, he seems to think that when the government gives Singaporeans lemons, Singaporeans ought to swallow them whole instead of asking for water with which to dilute the juice. Probably because it’s unreasonable.
Very cleverly, Goh says:
How many of you followed the latest tragic events in Japan with the tsunami…and then put into context our floods in Singapore against that kind of disaster.
I am not saying we shouldn’t do anything about the flood [sic]. But the amount of noise you made with just sporadic flood [sic] compared to the Japanese. [sic] I saw them on TV. Very stoic looking. You don’t see them crying. This has happened, just get on, that’s the kind of spirit you want to have and you call it nation building. (ChannelNewasia)
It is very clever because few other politicians can get away with his rhetorical maneuver of taking something out of context and putting it in a different context but claiming that he is putting things in context. And the few politicians in the world who can get away with it usually do not even bother to do it. I wish he had pulled off the same trick last year after the passing of Kwa Geok Choo, the wife of Kuan Yew. Imagine how interesting it would have been for him to tell Kuan Yew that he should not be grieving over the death of his wife because politicians elsewhere in the world remain calm even when thousands of people have died in naturaldisasters. Like how George Bush supposedly continued with his classroom visit after learning about the September 11 attacks. So what’s the big deal with one person’s death?
Nevertheless, let’s put things into context by comparison with the Japanese. Perhaps we should remember how Shoichi Nakagawa, who was once the Japanese Finance Minister, resigned in 2009 after he was said to be drunk during the G7 meeting even though he had maintained that he had merely overdosed on cold medication. We should remember also how Yukio Hatoyama, one-time Prime Minister of Japan, resigned last year for not being able to fulfill a campaign promise. As a comparison (since Goh likes to compare), Singaporeans may recall how Wong Kan Seng did not see it fitting to resign after the Mas Selamat escape. Singaporeans will also do well to recall all the promises of political openness that politicians have made or how they have pledged to improve the lives of Singaporeans—and see if every single promise has been fulfilled. If not, has any minister resigned as a result? Perhaps I’m delusional, but I’m under the impression that someone said something about acheiving the Swiss standard of living for Singaporeans but ended up giving us a top-in-the-world cost of living instead. Someone must have promised to let a hundred flowers bloom only to fertilize the soil with the Public Order Act and absurd amendments to the Films Act amongst other acts. Even post-World War II Hiroshima was more conducive for flowers to bloom.
I should not not say too much about ghoulish rhetorical moves lest I get maligned of contributing to noise pollution. But since Goh wants us to learn from the Japanese and how they react to the less pleasant things in life, I hope to help Singaporeans find ways please him. After some Internet research, I found a few pictures of Japanese people that Singaporeans might learn valuable lessons from.
Now, don’t arrest me for inciting actions that displease authoritarian governments. I’m not. I’m just putting things in context and trying to imagine how Singaporeans could follow Goh Chok Tong’s call to learn from the Japanese. Perhaps when would have successfully built a nation when I no longer need to look beyond Singapore for such pictures.
Goh’s remarks about noisy Singaporeans was really made to show why Singaporeans need to be less dependent on the government. In other words, it is one of those silly balancing acts that Singaporean government officials execute whenver they announce some benefit for Singaporeans. When any one-time benefit is given, Singaporeans will reminded not to develop the mythical “crutch mentality” and to rely on themselves. The PAP wants our votes and decides to give us some one-time spare change instead of implmenting permanent policies that would free us from praying for governmental generosity all the time. We are always reminded by the PAP to be self-reliant lest the wretched yearning for assistance morphs into a grostesquely unreasonable demand for the government to take care of the people.
On the other hand, we can always remind ourselves that the PAP will never implement any permanent measures to truly benefit under-privileged Singaporeans because such measures are likely to stay even if other political parties are given the majority vote during the General Election. It is in the PAP government’s interest to have Singaporeans constantly needing the spare change that it dispenses as and when it deigns to do so. Election goodies, whether their existence is acknowledged or not, can show Singaporeans precisely what baddies they are subject to. If the PAP government has done its job well, they would not be left wondering and hoping every year that someone would try to buy their votes or show their generosity. The only way to modify the PAP’s behavior is by voting for opposition parties.
It is not that the PAP doesn’t want Singaporeans to be reliant. It just doesn’t want Singaporeans to insist on a government that can be relied on.
Sure, Singaporeans can be less reliant on the government. When it floods, Singaporeans should take the initiative to investigate the causes, clear the drainage system and enhance it. Since the Japanese do not blame their government for natural phenomena like earthquakes and tsunamis over which it has no control, we can outdo them by not blaming our PAP leaders for anything even if it is within their powers to control. This is nation building. Even if the dignity of the citizens is the price to pay, so what?