History

I think people get very passionate about Great Humans and find it hard to separate their emotional connection with what they have seen with the silent evidence of what they have not seen.

At its heart, the great man fallacy is this– we do not know who would have risen to the occasion. Her biography is not written. Her amazing decisions were never tested. It’s not that “Lee Kuan Yew Is Not Special”.

Yes, SG might have failed without LKY. Or it might have succeeded still, or even succeeded better. It’s far more likely that the outcome of Singapore has been affected more by external events beyond LKY’s control than anything LKY has done.

I was doing some reviews of the Discovery Channel’s documentary of SG, and it becomes painfully clear that this is so. Here are some snippets of historical events that no Singaporean had control over:

  • Suez Canal opened in 1869. Instantly transformed how goods were transported. Used to sail around Cape of Good Hope. 50% increase in trade in SG in 5 years. Main means of getting to Asia. Singapore suddenly rose in prominence in the entire region, not just as a stopover between India/China. Singapore had become SEA hub. First port of call for Western ships wanting to operate in the region.
  • 1877: 6 small trees were smuggled out of brazil and sent to the botanical gardens in SG. Scottish botanist, Henry Ridley- recognized that they were rubber trees. Told all the planters (local and british), “You plant rubber.” He’d supposedly take some rubber seeds and put into everybody’s pockets wherever he went. He devised a system of tapping latex from rubber trees- cut in a v-shape. At that time it was white gold in Southeast Asia. Brought in tonnes of money.
  • Not enough land in SG, so businesmen in SG made rubber estates in Malaya. Boom in Malayan tin mining- popularity for canned food (which was because of war, IIRC). Tin and rubber were exported to the factories of Europe and America. Idea of Malaya as SG hinterland started here already. SG too important to be left to the EIC. Island was turned into a Crown Colony- subsidized by the British Govt in London. Given a facelift, befitting important colony- new roads, new public buildings, police station, law courts, post office?
  • Japan / China, Japanese Occupation, Sook Ching – 12 august 1945. Hundreds of people welcomed the British. “bakeyaro”- huge crowds shouting at the Japanese. Convicted of war crimes, most deported, not executed. Incensed Chinese community- they felt the Japanese spilling so much Chinese blood on the island gave them a moral claim to the island that didn’t exist before.
  • LKY on Lim Chin Siong: “Modest, Soft Spoken, Quiet. Powerful hokkien speaker. Charismatic. Women loved him. “I was not the crowd puller, nor my English educated friends. He was.” – LKY.
  • British Navy leaving – Military base was the largest employer in SG, generated 1/6th of the economy. Provisonshops, dry cleaners, bars, etc. “We were in a pickle! Lo and behold, we were helped by the Chinese cultural revolution.” – LKY
  • Cultural revolution -> investors prefered SG to HK and Taiwan. SO OFTEN as in Singapore’s history, events beyond her shores played a decisive role. Outburst of evolutionary fever in China scared off western companies from investing in hong kong and taiwan. Late 60s- electronics companies set up assembly line in SG. 70s sillicon chips. 80s- consumer electronics. (?) Everybody treat MNCs as evil- SG welcome. Set up your factories, full freedom. 100%.

The point I’m trying to make here is that history is VASTLY more complex and complicated than individuals, and that our human psychology is wired to focus on individuals. So we have to consider that whatever the role indviduals play on history, our perception of it is DEFINITELY inflated. However great LKY might be, bless him.

Government

This is a work-in-progress.

What is an election?

An election is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office.

Public office can mean many different things. In Singapore we elect Members of Parliament, that’s it. And we elect our President. That’s it. (In the US, for example, they elect the President, senate, house, governors, mayors… very complicated.)

What is a Parliament? Why do we have one, actually?

The Parliament makes, passes, amends and repeals laws. The root word is “parlay”, which is French, meaning “to speak”. There’s a sense of “duelling” in there.

Like many modern Western-style democracies, we have a representative democracy– meaning we elect people to represent us in Parliament.

What does “unicameral” mean?

This one just means that our MPs make up a single chamber. There are some Parliaments that are more complicated– bicameral, with “upper houses” and “lower houses” and whatnot.

Singapore is simpler in this regard. Phew.

How does the Parliament even work? What is the process of making laws?

Members of Parliament of the ruling party are only allowed to propose new Bills, which are proposed laws. Parliament also passes Bills to fund government programmes and expenditures. These have to be done every year.

There are a number of parliamentary committees that discuss important issues of the day and are usually tied to the work of Ministries. The most well-known committee is probably the Committee of Supply which often has very hotly debated outcomes as it determines funding for all ministries and statutory boards.

Does the Parliament do anything other than make laws?

Technically Parliament is both a law making and law destroying body. It has the power to do both. Certain members of parliament are also selected to be Ministers and they are expected to run the ministries that they are assigned to so as to ensure that the government’s plans are carried out.

In Singapore, the MPs also manage towns…

Speaker of Parliament?

Fun fact – the Speaker of Parliament doesn’t actually have to be a Member of Parliament.

The Speaker cannot also be a Minister, so Halimah Yaacob resigned her Ministry post when she became Speaker.

The speaker used to wear a wig until 1993.

Nominated by the Prime Minister. Has two deputies.

Typically the Speaker of Parliament doesn’t participate in debates in parliament as her job is to remain impartial to the debate on the floor so that she can best manage the time. Usually the “election” of the speaker is unanimous as the person selected is somebody who has been in politics for a while and people respect her to run the august chamber.

Leader of the House? What is the House?

The “house” refers to parliament. The leader of the house is therefore a member of the dominant party in Parliament.

“Appointed by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House is responsible for the arrangement of Government business and the legislative programme of Parliament. The Leader also proposes appropriate actions to be taken on any procedural matters arising in Parliament.

The Leader of the House moves procedural motions relating to the business of the House during sittings, such as to extend the times of sittings beyond the usual time as set out in the Standing Orders.”

Party Whip?

From Parliament’s site: “Party Whips ensure good communication within the party and contribute to the smooth running of the party’s parliamentary machinery. The Whip lists down the speakers for each item of business and estimates the time required so that everything can be completed within schedule.

Often regarded as the disciplinarians controlling MPs in their respective parties, the Whips ensure that there are always sufficient party members in the Chamber to support the party’s position and that MPs vote according to the party’s line. Occasionally, the Party Whip may “lift the whip” and allow MPs to vote according to their conscience.”

What is Singapore’s Constitution?

The Singaporean Constitution has gone through a number of iterations from when we were a Crown Colony, to when Singapore gained limited self governance, full self-governance, integration with Malaysia and finally independence. The final version being drafted in 1965 which was largely based on the 1963 version when we were part of Malaysia. However, over the preceding decades there have of course been dozens of amendments to the constitution to keep it updated or some might say more pliant to the ruling government’s needs.

The idea for a Westminster system to have a constitution is odd, though not anymore due to the many constitutions of the British Commonwealth countries. The British have never had a written constitution as they have a body of common law to fall back on to determine their rights and privilege that goes back to the signing of the Magna Carta. The British government probably fearing that as a young country without that long history of legal decisions to guide us, felt that a constitution in the style of the USA would be a lot clearer in stating what our country and what our citizens could do. It is also for this reason that our criminal laws were taken directly from the Indian Penal Code, though there too have been changes over the last few decades.
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What is the role of Singapore’s President? What’s the difference between President and Prime Minister?

The President is the Head of State and is responsible for the appointment of non-partisan positions like judges, the penultimate commander of the Singapore Armed Forces and the holder of the “second key” of Singapore’s past reserves (past reserves only, as reserves accumulated by a sitting government does not require Presidential approval to be used.) As the Head of State there are also other roles and responsibilities that need to be done. S.R. Nathan for example was used as a roving ambassador due to his previous career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Prime Minister is the head of the government. And he is responsible for the day to day running as well as all potential policy decisions that the government pursues.

What is the Cabinet?

The Cabinet is a subset of Parliament, and is responsible to it. It’s led by the Prime Minister, who is selected by the dominant party and is approved by the President.

What is a Party Whip?

Party Whips exist in all parties and are basically there to make sure that all the MPs in a particular party vote in a unified fashion. Sometimes, the whip is lifted so that party members can vote according to their own choices.

Fun Fact: Leader Of The Opposition

The leader of the opposition is usually the most senior member of the second largest party or coalition in parliament. There are no real requirements mandated for this position. But in most Westminster systems, the leader of the opposition is responsible for the establishment of a shadow cabinet.

What is a Constituency?

A constituency is the legal geographical boundary established to encompass a particular number of the electorate. In Singapore ratio of MPs to the Electorate is about 1:20000-37000 (with a plus/minus 30%) variability.

What is a GRC?

GRCs…

What is a Town Council?

A town council…

What is the relationship between GRCs and Town Councils?

What is a stat board?

Censorship

– 1 –

[–]NO_LAH_WHERE_GOT 6 points 3 hours ago
Anti-censorship folks are usually intellectual, educated types who can think critically, sniff out BS, analyze intent and so on.

If you spend any time on the Facebook comments sections of any of our news organizations, though, it becomes clear that lots of people are troublingly impressionable.

So censors and anti-censors are talking past each other. The censors are usually hesitant to draw attention to the socioeconomic/class nature of the problem, and the anti-censors (like most people) usually live in social bubbles.

Put another way, censorship isn’t about silencing people like Amos Yee- it’s about curating and sanitizing the context for people like the guys who slapped them.

Of course, there’s the additional concern of who regulates the censors, and whether censorship will be abused for narrow political interests.
But I think anybody who’s ever actually had to be responsible for a community quickly learns that you have to have some form of moderation. Otherwise the conversations are hijacked by the loudest, ugliest members of the group (eg Brexit).

There are no easy answers, there is no rulebook, and some people will always be hurt or upset regardless of how you act or refrain from acting.

Censorship has a cost. You have to setup a censorship task force (or “media development and regulation authority”, whatever you want to call it). You have to pay them. You have to be careful that they don’t overdo their job and stifle society. There’s the opportunity cost of all the other things they could be doing instead.

If we lived in a world of thoughtful, reasonable people who carefully evaluated all the media they consumed, there would be no need to have any censorship at all.

So the only reason that “censorship was completely reasonable” was that the cost of censorship had to be lower than the potential cost of people misinterpreting TRS as factual.

TL;DR: Censorship has everything to do with a population not being able to handle misinformation.

– 2 –

I decided to write this after reading about the censorship of nudity-related performance art pieces. Somebody wrote an article about how nudity = basically pornography, and so it should be banned.
Ironically I think a big part of the intent of the art is to address the assumptions of the people who write articles like this.
The idea that nudity = pornography is a hypersexualization of the human body, and that’s not actually a universal thing
Naked Ladies in particular looks like it’s quite nuanced. It’s meant to ‘evaluate the politics of female nudity’ – to ask why women are so sexualised. To allow the objectified to reclaim her position as subject and force the audience to re-evaluate.
This reminds me of “it’s racist to bring up race” being used as a way of silencing people who want to talk about the racial prejudice they’ve experienced.
If we censor art that involves nudity, we remove an opportunity for people to see nudity as something OTHER than hypersexualised + pornographic. So this is very tragic, because it ensures that people will continue to only see nudity in this very sexualised sort of way.
There are some Tumblrs and subreddits and other spaces where people share pictures of their bodies in non-sexualised ways. I have a friend who’s a part of a private Facebook group for women’s fitness, and there’s an offshoot of that group where the women often post pictures of themselves in the nude or nearly nude to share their fitness progress. And they’re so comfortable with each other that they don’t bother to pose – they just let it all hang out. And my friend was telling me just how refreshing that was, because it helped her reevaluate her own assumptions about what nudity is, what nudity looks like, what the body is, what the body is for. And the fact remains that we’re all constantly swimming in advertising – you can’t live in a city without encountering advertising.
I find myself thinking now about other instances of censorship. A kiss on the lips in a performance of Les Miserables was censored after people were outraged by it, completely missing the entire point of the kiss. The kiss wasn’t a celebration of homosexual love, it was a cynical, sarcastic kiss by a man trying to insult another. It was, come to think of it, sort of like Michael Scott kissing Oscar in The Office.
It’s frustrating when people who are thoughtlessly pro-censorship think they are winning some sort of moral victory every time they censor something, instead of taking the trouble to just discuss what they think is so wrong about everything. I find myself thinking even about how quick we are to demonise people who say racist or xenophobic things – Amy Cheong comes to mind.

Deepavali Beef Promotion

A friend asked me for my thoughts on this – was it insensitive, or is it stirred out of proportion?
insensitive is an interesting word
haha
i think i’d describe it as tone deaf, or a faux pas
an apology is fine
“stirred out of proportion” is also an interesting question
what is the appropriate proportion to be upset or annoyed by things like this?
I personally have developed a thick-ish skin and I advise others to do the same for their personal well-being/sanity
but these things happen over and over and over again
and every time is not the right time
every incident is too small to be stirred out of proportion
and eventually if and when someone gets mad, the whole situation gets reframed to “aiyo, why minority so noisy, why complain so much, they have it so good here, worse everywhere else, this is why people are suspicious of minorities”
“so ideally CS should never have done the promotion right”
ideally, yeah
although it would also be tragic if everyone got so paranoid about offending people that they never dared take any initiative to do anything