In what I would consider to be a sign that our PAP leaders are simplistic in reasoning, vapid in their rhetoric, condescending in their supposed engagement of the people, and devoid of everything but close-to-absolute power, two officially retired ministers come up with typically PAPian nonsense to entertain us.
First, Kuan Yew. “He acknowledged that many citizens felt uncomfortable seeing new, strange faces on overcrowded trains and buses.” (SingaporeScene) What a beautiful way of simplifying the issue. It is not because the government has indiscriminately brought in foreigners, intensifying competition for employment and education whilst comparatively disadvantaging Singaporeans with burdens like NS, depressing wages for those who do have a job and telling those who do not even have a job that they only have their incompetence and fussiness to blame. It is simply a matter of xenophobia on the part of Singaporeans who do not like to see “new, strange faces.”
Kuan Yew would like us to know, nevertheless, that situation of overcrowding in public transport “cannot be helped.” Like all the other shit Singaporeans have to put up with, it cannot be help. It cannot be helped that Singaporean parents have to send their sons to NS and face the possibility of them never coming back. It cannot be helped that because of reservist liabilities, Singaporean men become less employable than foreigners. It cannot be helped that we do not have a proper democracy because it would destroy Singapore. It cannot be helped that Singaporeans have no unemployment benefits and no way to retire. It cannot be helped that Singaporeans have to have part of their already depressed wages put into the CPF every month in the name of “saving” for retirement when they cannot even retire anyway. To sum it up in the most effective way possible, every fault that you can find in the way the PAP has moulded Singapore cannot be helped. So Singapore is as perfect as possible and our ministers deserve their million-dollar salaries and pensions. (That, too, is inevitable if we were to continue to want these cannot-be-helped talents in the government.) So, of course, overcrowded public transport is not because the government had failed to prepare the infrastructure for the massive import of foreigners.
Then Kuan Yew proceeds with the usual dichotomy-laden and doomsday-scenario saturated rhetoric that he seems to have a major fetish for. He compares Singapore to Japan and tells us:
“If we do not take in migrants, we will become an old, diminishing society with no vitality and no drive.”
Lord in Heaven! If you hear me, please issue a divine slap on the next person who has the audacity to imply that Singaporeans do not want any immigrants to Singapore at all. At the rate it is going, Singaporeans are going to prefer a million foreigners to one PAP minister—or ex-minister.
But since old means no vitality and no drive, we have a new way to describe the effect of Kuan Yew’s continued presence in Singapore politics.
In a toned-down but trite rehash of his spurs and hide speech, Kuan Yew reminds us that competition from foreigners is good. He tells us that Singaporeans must “accept that [new immigrants] are going to do their best. And if doing their best puts pressure on us, our children, it may be good for them because they will also have to put in effort to do their best to keep up.”
This will sound familiar if you have read the National Geographic interview:
Over time, the MM says, Singaporeans have become “less hard-driving and hard-striving.” This is why it is a good thing, the MM says, that the nation has welcomed so many Chinese immigrants (25 percent of the population is now foreign-born). He is aware that many Singaporeans are unhappy with the influx of immigrants, especially those educated newcomers prepared to fight for higher paying jobs. But taking a typically Darwinian stance, the MM describes the country’s new subjects as “hungry,” with parents who “pushed the children very hard.” If native Singaporeans are falling behind because “the spurs are not stuck into the hide,” that is their problem.
We may want to concede that Kuan Yew makes some sense theoretically. But we have to ask when competition is good for us. Is competition good when there is no level playing field? If, say, a university decides that having lots of foreigners helps to tweak ranking results to its favor and takes in foreigners who may not even be very conversant in the language of instruction over locals who have decent (but simply non-good-enough grades), do we have healthy competition? Using the same scenario, is it healthy competition when we push Singaporeans to attain better and better ‘A’ Levels grades so that they can get a place in the university when getting 5 As isn’t enough and a Singaporean has to get 30 As and a Nobel Prize in order to get a place whereas a foreigner gets it more easily because s/he can contribute to university rankings in a culture suffering from KPI fever. Still in the same scenario, is it going to do anyone any good when importing foreigners en masse whilst trying to avoid depriving too many Singaporeans of a place results in overcrowded lecture theatres? (I suppose that can’t be helped?)
No, I’m not xenophobic. I’m not anti-foreigner. I’m not asking for a no-foreigner, closed-door policy. I’m asking the PAP to wise up and stop trying to engage me with whitewashed poop.
Kuan Yew is not the only retired-minister, active-MP who attempts the same old dichotomous illogic qua engagement of the people. Goh Chok Tong of the “Are you a stayer or a quitter?” fame has also spoken up.
ESM (Evil Sergeant Major?) Goh comes up with two sorts of politics that Singaporeans can “choose” from:
- Constructive, pragmatic politics (i.e. PAP’s version of non-political politics where you can disagree with anything but the PAP’s right to be in power and it’s wisdom in making the decision after very, very polite disagreements)
- Confrontational, populist, divisive (i.e. any other version of politics)
He says that Singaporeans have to make very “hard choices” but makes it so simple for us. We should be very grateful. (Or maybe he means it’s hard because the choice has already been made for us and it’s hard for us to live with it? But this would be a hard truth rather than a hard choice.)
According to ESM Goh who obviously hasn’t progressed since his stayer/quitter days,
It is much easier to agitate and criticise than to come up with alternative, sound policies that will solve problems for the majority. Will Singaporeans choose constructive politics and debate policies rationally in the future, or choose confrontational and divisive politics based on stoking envy and resentment?
Sorry, ESM. I can’t buy into your pathetic dichotomy. Maybe you should consider how confrontation can be constructive compared to tame “rational” debates that generate the same old conclusions with the same old deference to all things PAP. Maybe you should consider how pragmatism isn’t at all sound when it becomes a dogma, which is precisely what you are turning it into. And you should consider how to respond when there is a clear alternative, which is for you to change your assumptions about politics and policymaking, and for the people get rid of the PAP in the next General Election. You will certainly not consider these alternatives sound, but since when have you become the arbiter of all reasoning?
After demonizing all alternative manifestations of politics, ESM Goh proceeds to tell us, “In populist politics, they want immediate gratification and ignore the long-term costs. Which way will Singapore politics go?” It doesn’t matter how nonsensical this is given that what is “long-term” now will eventually become the immediate “short-term” in the future. We should not assume that pragmatic politics will take care of long-term costs. After all, it is pragmatic, for instance, to import lots of foreigners to a country to beautify GDP figures in the short-term whilst creating long-term problems. For the longest time ever, Singaporeans have been bearing with the PAP’s bitter medicine and buying into the idea that short-term pain will bring about long-term gain. So what long-term benefits have we reaped other than the long-term political hegemony of the PAP, which I would hardly consider a benefit?
Finally, ESM Goh dishes out the advice, as is typical of paternalistic PAP people. Alluding to the constitutional limits to the powers of the President, he tells us that when we vote for a Presidential candidate, “we should ask whether they can deliver their promises under the Constitution.” Where Molly is concerned, it would all depend on what promises they can deliver under the Constitution. If the only promise that a candidate can deliver under the Constitution is to agree with everything the PAP says, I would rather vote for a President who does not promise do what the Constitution allows him to do—never mind if he ends up doing nothing. This is pragmatism since I do not want a President whom the PAP feels uncannily comfortable with. I’m sure ESM Goh would be proud to have a pragmatic voter like me around.