Ah Kow


MUTHU: “Ah Kow, how is your son doing over at Stamford?”

AH KOW: *slurps noodles* “Oh, brilliant, brilliant.”

MUTHU:  “Have you heard the latest news about our beloved Government? The price of water, my old chap, it’s being raised again!”

“Good gracious. 70% of our native population truly enjoys being sodomized!”

MUTHU: :*clears throat, spits*  “Alas, my good Ah Kow, ALAS! What native population do you speak of? We have been Infiltrated by barbarian HORDES! Truly a travesty, I tell you. Oh, I yearn for the days where all you heard on the trains was Singlish. Dear, dear, Singlish.”

AH KOW: “Is this going to be another goddamn play about censorship, now? Singaporean playwrights have got no bloody creativity, do they?”

MUTHU: “But what would you expect, Ah Kow, it’s been stamped out of them by an oppressive regime.”

AH KOW: “Get your head out of the gutter, Muthu. Thoughtless heterodoxy is no better than blindly following the orthodoxy. Let us not make excuses for what is. Let us build what isn’t.”

MUTHU: “But we are just ah peks, Ah Kow. We are not educated. We are racist, sexist, small-minded, superstitious, afraid, egoistic. What could we possibly do, other than drink Guinness at 2 in the afternoon and shake our fists at our fate?”

AH KOW: “You make me sad, Muthu. You have internalized the myopia of those lesser than you. What happened to your vision, for yourself, for the world? Where’s that fiery, passionate man I was drawn to in my youth?

MUTHU:  “That I do not know, Ah Kow. It seems life has beaten him down, dragged him through fire and shattered glass. The vagaries of everyday living have conquered his soul. I do not wish to think about it. Pour me another glass, please.”

Why Singapore [autocomplete]

Why Singapore…

Why Singapore is bad

Why Singapore is the best place to live

Why Singapore is the best

Why Singapore is a peaceful country

Why Singapore is safe

Why Singapore is so awesome

Why Singapore is so attractive

Why Singapore is so advanced

Why Singapore is so Americanized

Why Singapore is so boring

Why Singapore is so beautiful

Why Singapore is so expensive – Why is Singapore accommodation so expensive?

Why Singapore is so rich

Why Singapore so hot

Why Singapore Airlines is so expensive? So successful? So cheap? So good?

Why Singapore needs foreign workers

Why Singapore dollar is falling

Why is Singapore port so busy

Why is Singapore so easy to do business

Why is haze so bad in Singapore

Why is service so bad in Singapore

Why is Singapore birth rate so low

Why is Singapore cars so expensive

Why is Singapore GDP per capita so high

Why is Singapore so conservative

Why is Singapore so cold lately

Why is Singapore so competitive

Why is Singapore so clean

Why is Singapore so crowded

Why is Singapore crime late so low

Why Singapore so many Chinese

Why is Singapore so densely populated

Why is Singapore so dusty

Why is Singapore so depressing

Why is Singapore dollar so strong

Why is Singapore so developed so fast

Why is Singapore debt so high, debt to gdp so high

Why is Singapore education so stressful

Why is Singapore education so good

Why is education so important in Singapore

Why is Singapore electricity so expensive

Why is Singapore so expensive – Why is cheese so expensive in Singapore, HDB, cars, electricity, hotels, milk

Why is singapore so famous

Why is Singapore growing so fast

Why is Singapore internet so fast

Why is food so expensive in Singapore

Why is the proportion of foreigners in Singapore is so high

Why is Singapore so good at math

Why is Singapore so green

Why is Singapore so globalized

Why is Singapore government so rich

Why is Singapore government so successful

Why is Singapore so hard on drugs

Why Singapore so important to Australia? To the Japanese? In WW2? To the British?

Why Singapore custom so jam

Why Kpop so popular, why kendama so popular

Why Singapore law so strict

Why Singapore productivity so low

Why Singapore so modernized

Why Singapore so militarized

Why Singapore so many moth

Why Singapore Prime Minister earn so much

Why Milo so popular in Singapore

Why so much lightning in Singapore

Why Singapore MRT so slow

Why is nerf so popular in Singapore

Why is Singapore so overpopulated

Why Singapore oil consumption so high

Why is Singapore so racist

Why is Singapore rainy

Why is Singapore so safe, stressful, strict, stupid

Why is Singapore tax so low

Why is Singapore so vulnerable to external events

Why is Singapore so unhappy

Why is Singapore so unique, urbanized, unemployment rate so low

Why Singapore and Brunei currency same

Why Singapore ban pig blood

Why Singapore drop F1

Why Singapore does not allow dual citizenship

Why Singapore does not accept refugees

Why Singapore riot

Why Singapore location Instagram

Why Singapore no minimum wage, no earthquake, no winter, no thaipusam holiday, no apple store, no chewing gum, no muscle car, no aircraft carrier, no need visa, navy no malay, no mustang, why cats in Singapore no tail, why singapore no earthquake, no duck egg

why singapore cannot see star, import goose, use monetary policy, reclaim land indefinitely, afford to be pushed around by china, buy kindle, control interest rate,

Why Singapore was chosen as british port, was founded, separated from malaysia

Why Singapore waste food

My NS experience

Originally written for Fever Avenue, in January 2012. 

I’ve had some pretty unique opportunities in my life to experience things that not all of my peers do. (I’m not sure how unique that makes me- I don’t know as much about others as I’d like to, because not everybody is as vocal about their individual experiences.) My National Service has been an interesting and bumpy ride, and for some pretty unusual reasons. Most interestingly of all, perhaps, it has provided me with the opportunity to renew and strengthen one of my most fundamental convictions- which I shall describe later.

I remember when I went for my medical check-up a few months before I enlisted. I struck up some casual conversation with the guy beside me, and we got along really well. We spent several hours together, doing test after test. I believe he was from Catholic JC. We had lunch together later on at a nearby hawker center. We exchanged emails, and he’s on my MSN contact list somewhere- but I can’t remember who exactly he is anymore. After all, we only interacted at a superficial level for the briefest of moments. But we clicked. It would have been highly likely that we’d have enlisted at the same time, perhaps in the same batch. Perhaps we would have been buddies. A bizarre twist of fate led to me being slapped with the suspicion of having some strange heart disease. (I don’t have it.) As a result, I enlisted in a completely different batch, and lost touch with him completely.

Over at Tekong, I met a rather eclectic mix of people, including, naturally- a couple of guys that I really clicked with. But we only spent 5 days together, and we never did much apart from attend lectures and eat meals together. We did have some fun, and I think I remember a couple of poignant moments smoking (illegally) with one of them in the wee hours of the morning… but after 5 days, we parted ways. We became “Hi, how are you doing, how’s everything been, what unit are you posted to, how’s NS been treating ya, can’t wait to ORD man, okay take care, gotta go!” friends.

Then I got posted to my unit (I still call it “my unit”, though I’m not there anymore, because that’s where my heart is)- I was to be a storeman at Hendon camp; home of the Commandos. There I got to mix with some people who I would never typically encounter in my regular social circles. Initially, they seemed a bit cold and distant, but after a while they warmed up to me. I especially enjoyed getting to know the regulars, many who were well-adjusted, competent and decisive older men who I grew to admire deeply. I liked pretty much all of them- they were fit, confident and just plain awesome. There were many women, too- the parachute riggers- all of whom were pleasant to interact with. Most of them were heavy smokers!

I remember some funny moments, some ridiculous moments getting scolded unnecessarily by our grumpy superior, lots of waiting, lots of sitting around- sometimes in listless boredom, sometimes in profound, meditative states. I mostly saw my colleagues as people I co-existed with- I was a little bit closer to the guys I’d smoke with. None of us ever had particularly deep conversations- it was jokes, complaints, the usual stuff between colleagues, I suppose. We did get closer after we had drinks and a barbecue at someone’s place- we learnt to see each other as people who were more than the roles we played in camp every day. It made life in camp a lot more tolerable- knowing that we were all human.

Out of the blue, I had my vocation changed for me because of some administrative stuff, and I found myself shipped off to another side of camp. I had to clear out my cupboard without any warning, and ended up leaving a few things behind. I never really got to say goodbye to the guys who would then ORD before me- one of them does talk to me on Facebook from time to time, about little nothings.

Before I knew it, I found myself uprooted and moved to a new environment- new office, with new storerooms, new responsibilities, and a whole new range of items to worry about. I clicked quite well with the guys, who were a little more educated- one guy played guitar, a couple of them smoked occasionally. I remember commiserating with one guy about his girlfriend problems. We had some funny moments, and we bonded over work and bumming around together. I knew I wasn’t supposed to stay there long, though- I was only supposed to be there until my signals course came around.

I packed up everything I had and went to the faraway Stagmont camp, where I met a whole new bunch of guys. I befriended several of them quickly. Many of them were fresh enlistees who just completed their BMT. The sergeant in charge of us was going to ORD really soon, and he was as light on his feet as you would expect such a man to be. We had lunch together, went to our bunks, made our beds. I flipped through the manuals, and I found them quite interesting! (I can’t talk about them here. Heh.) I got to know the smokers, as usual. One of them had an incredibly thick foreigner’s accent. Just as I was just getting a little comfortable, I received news that I was to report back to my previous unit- I could not do my Signals course without having done at least a PES C BMT- and I had only done the PES E “Residential Induction” course. So I went back to Hendon. It was drizzling heavily as I left, lugging my large black bag with me. I caught a cold and started sneezing in the rain, as I found myself lost- in more ways than one- in the middle of nowhere on the opposite end of the island. It was a rather dark moment, and I felt like a helpless pawn being thrown around by unsympathetic forces beyond my control.

I spent a few more weeks with my buddies at the signal office before the notice came around. I was to go for basic military training- the proper one, which I had been denied the opportunity to experience earlier. I headed over to the SAF Ferry Terminal with the big black bag they had issued me when I first enlisted, my uniforms, some clothes and supplies. I hadn’t, after all, been issued a field pack, helmet or load-bearing vest, being certified unfit for combat. I chatted with another guy who I met at the bus stop, and before long we accumulated an entire posse of recourse soldiers. We spent several hours talking about life in our previous units, shared some laughs on the ferry ride to Pulau Tekong, and found ourselves sitting around with more waiting. Some of us sneaked off to a smoking corner at some company I don’t remember (we hadn’t yet known which we were going to be posted to). As I began to get to know them, I received word that- you guessed it- I was to return back to my previous unit, because I lacked the items that I wasn’t issued, and I would have to get them from my previous unit instead. I clearly remember thinking- man, I was looking to have some serious fun with those guys. I was pretty sure that some of us would have become really good friends. It wasn’t meant to be. I wouldn’t recognize any of them if I saw them today. But had we perspired, cried and bled together, some of us might be attending each other’s weddings.

Finally, after lingering around for another couple of months at my office at Hendon, I found that I was to be posted for yet another BMT Recourse- for real this time. Amusingly, I had a dental appointment on reporting day. I seriously contemplated trying to get out of BMT again- I was thinking about how I’d have to miss Paramore’s 2nd concert in Singapore, and my girlfriend’s 21st birthday. But I decided that I was going to man up and confront my circumstances head-on. I went to Tekong after my dental appointment, chucking together what equipment I had (barely 50% of what was required!) just an hour before heading there. My section comprised entirely of recourse soldiers- the only recourse folk in the entire company. We would go on to have a heck of a ride- challenging, fun, tough, meaningful. I have so many wonderful memories and I’ve become good friends with many of my buddies, and we chat regularly on Facebook. We’re definitely going to meet up in the future for drinks and whatnot. I struggle to describe what the experience felt like- let’s just say that I felt more alive in those few weeks than the whole time I was in JC.

After I completed my BMT, I returned to Hendon to find two of my favourite colleagues missing- they had completed their service while I was busy doing pushups and firing rifles on an off-shore island. I couldn’t make it for their farewell dinners. I imagine we’d have a chat if we bumped into each other in the future. But before I could get much closer to the new guys- within a week, actually, I found myself posted back to Signal Institute. Again.

Over at Stagmont Camp (again), I found, to my pleasant surprise, 3 of my platoon mates from BMT. I also bumped into a fellow local musician, a junior of mine from secondary school, and a guy who helps out at the coffeeshop that I hang out at all the time. A week later and already we began to click. Already I sensed that we were going to have some pretty hilarious memories. And we’re just a random bunch of guys, really. There’s a half Japanese guy in my bunk, and a cell group leader. Quite the motley crew. We were going to have lots of fun, and then we were going to take a picture for memory’s sake, and then go our separate ways.

Somewhere along the line, it hit me. That’s how it works. All of this is incredibly random. The randomness of it all isn’t so immediately obvious if you’ve had a fairly straightforward path in life, because then your illusions of fate, soulmates and BFFs or what-have-you might not be challenged. But if you hop schools, travel around or seek some other form of breadth of experience, you’ll learn a simple truth- people everywhere are pretty much the same on the inside, and pretty much everyone’s capable of having meaningful relationships with others. (There are always exceptions, of course, but that’s beyond the scope of this particular piece.) BMT will be memorable regardless of who the guys are around you- as long as you go through the experiences together. That’s what counts.

Everything is incredibly fleeting, fragile, improbable. All our relationships, everything we value. That we exist at all. We never realise it most of the time. The stranger who passed by you on the street earlier could have been your best friend, if only something happened just slightly differently. People come and go. All we can do is appreciate the light while it lasts. It might not seem like much, but most of us never even do that- indifferently assuming that our lives are somehow stable, our relationships meant to be. We couldn’t be further from the truth. The universe is dripping with infinite possibility, and that makes every single interaction an incredibly precious opportunity.

PS: Here’s a fun story. During my Signals course, there was a day where we were supposed to make these wire joints- 20 per person. Quite labour-intensive, especially if you’re a beginner (as we all were). My bunk was the designated “duty” bunk that day, so we were doing area-cleaning, and didn’t have enough time to complete them. (I couldn’t even get started; I’m terrible with small-scale precision.)

The rational thing to do would have been to call our commander or course sergeant and ask for an extension. Instead we prepared an elaborate setup, hung our flashlights from the ceiling, and sat together chatting as we helped each other, labouring late into the night. It felt like some sort of covert operation, us against a cruel, irrational world. We were just co-existing till then; we became buddies that night. As luck would have it, the sergeants were doing rounds that night, and we were caught for not sleeping past lights-out. I’m not sure who it was who asked us the next day- “Was it worth it?”

My answer now is the same as it was then, and the same as it was for sneaking out of school, and all that other stuff that I’d love to share with you but I don’t think I should write about. Totally worth it.


Last updated 16Jan2017.

I had a brain-wave earlier and clarified what I want to do with this blog. I want to do what Alain de Botton talks about in his book “The News: A User’s Manual”. I want to help people connect the dots and see the big picture when looking at Singapore news. I tried to get at this with /tropes/ – this is another way of doing it.

Off the top of my head, the things I want to talk about are…

  • Defence and geopolitics
    • National service – what is the role that NS plays in Singapore? How should it change and evolve over time?
  • Mating in captivity – what are the implications of living in such constrained spaces, living with family and so on?
  • Simi Sai Also [Censored] – about censorship
  • Education / pressure-cooker environment
    • Sex education
    • Suicides and childhood depression and suffering
  • Law – Disneyland with the Death Penalty, Draconian,
    • Everything Also Ban – shisha ban, alcohol ban, chewing gum ban…
    • Detention without trial
    • Right to lawyer
    • Death penalty
  • Culture – Singapore got no soul, potemkin, nanny-state, men carry purses
    • Why is our dating culture so dismal, how can it be better?
      • Why so many Singaporean men so pathetic and desperate?
    • Singlish – why got problem ah?
    • Singapore got no soul? Potemkin Metropolis? Singaporean youth lack idealism?
  • Regardless of Race, Language Or Religion
  • Xenophobia

Each of these will become categories, and I’ll try to tie a common thread too all of them. Some of these things are connected and overlap a lot, so it might be messy for a while, but I really want to get started on this.


Rajaratnam on Singapore’s relationship with large countries


I take it that your decision to invite me to talk on Soviet policy towards Asia was a carefully considered one. I mention this because there is a school of thought which believes that the appropriate foreign policy posture for a small state like Singapore is to walk on all fours and with the body no higher than half an inch from the ground. This is called the low profile approach to foreign policy. Admittedly it is not an elegant or a dignified approach to anything but its advocates would justify it by saying: “What the hell, man. Better a live worm than a dead merlion.”

One of the cardinal rules of the low profile school of thought is that a small state like Singapore should not publicly discuss the foreign policy of countries bigger and more powerful than itself — which means practically every country in the world. Even where we Singaporeans disagree with them and are convinced that their actions are not in Singapore’s interests, the low profile advocates think the proper response is a disarming silence augmented by strenuous genuflections in the presence of powerful adversaries.

These together with recourse to worry beads will presumably spare small mammals like Singapore from the predatory attentions of larger mammals. That is why Singapore’s high profile posture on such issues as Kampuchea and Afghanistan has been branded as usurpation of behaviour more becoming to countries bigger and more powerful. Like the sheep in Orwell’s famous satire our low profilers bleat: “Four legs good, two legs bad.”

But this government has used as its foreign policy guide the slogan towards the end of Orwell’s novel and one which I believe the sheep should have adopted right from the start. It goes: “Four legs good, but two legs better.”

This is why I began this address by asking whether your invitation to talk on Soviet policy in Asia was a considered one. By every conceivable criteria the Soviet Union is a large mammal-the largest there is. Singapore by comparison is not more than a mote in that mammal’s eye.

By way of assurance let me toll our low profilers that the Soviet Union will not take the slightest notice of what i have said today on Soviet policy. At the most it will be glanced through by whoever is in charge of the South-East Asian desk in Moscow and filed away for action if and when the Soviets get the opportunity to sort out the black sheep from the red goats in Singapore.

But as of now what Singapore says, I can assure you, is of no great consequence to the Soviets. Were these sentiments to come from say President Reagan or from Vice-Chairman Deng Xiaopeng, then there would indeed be strong Soviet reactions. Such speeches would certainly be brought to the attention of President Brezhnev himself. But speeches about the Soviet Union from leaders of small countries are just so much data to be filed away and to be used in the shaping of its overall Asia policy and global strategy.

This is why I think it is the low profilers who have an exaggerated view of the impact Singapore foreign policy statements can make on a country like the Soviet Union. Soviet policy towards Asia and SouthEast Asia is not at all affected by whether Singapore adopts a low profile or high profile. on foreign policy. As with any other great power the only question of relevance to the Soviet Union about Singapore would be: “Can it be a useful pawn in the great power game?” If it is pro-Soviet then it would be used immediately to advance the Soviet power game, as I believe the Vietnamese arc being used today. Being pro-Soviet has so far not brought great joy to the Vietnamese people.

If it is neutral then at least the Soviets would know that Singapore would not be an obstacle.

But if Singapore is critical of Soviet policy then, at worst, it would be a minor nuisance. The Soviets know that by itself Singapore cannot determine the final outcome of the vast and complex power game the Soviets are playing today in Asia. As far as the Soviets are concerned the views of a small country can at the most be useful and if not useful irrelevant.

So Singapore is taking a high profile over Kampuchea and Afghanistan not because it believes that it can bring about a change in Soviet Asian policy but out of an awareness of its helplessness before Soviet power.

It is the low profilers who have an exaggerated view of Singapore’s capacity to influence Soviet policy. They think that if they can simulate reckness, humility and submissiveness the Soviets could be persuaded to leave Singapore and South-East Asia alone. Even an indifferent student of history will tell you the meek far from inheriting anything have invariably disappeared from the earth.

I concede that were God to take over the direction of human history things may be different. But until then it is safer to work on the assumption that the meek are meant to be trampled under. Only a high profile in foreign policy offers small nations the possibility of bringing influence to bear on great and powerful nations.

By articulating their fears openly and loudly and making known their perception of Soviet intentions the small nations can make clear that they intend to seek salvation through collective effort. The collective voice and action of small nations can have impact on the policy of a great power. It will at least know that the small nations are not confused about the intentions of a great power – that its victims are united and on the alert.

Most of Asia is still overwhelmingly non-Communist. So is SouthEast Asia. They also happen to be among the wealthier and more developled portions of Asia. There is an added bonus too. By one of those ironic mists of history the most populous nation in Asia – Communist China – also happens to be the most anti-Soviet of notions. Soviet actions in Afghanistan and through its Vietnamese proxy in Kampuchea have alerted the majority of Asian nations, as evidenced by repeated voting in the United Nation, that Asia is once again battleground the for imperial glories.

When Western Imperialism first made its appearance in Asia, its peoples were too scattered and too ignorant of the nature of Western imperialism to resist it in time. By the time they woke up it was too late. It took them some 300 years of protracted struggle to overthrow the yoke of empire.

It is my contention that Soviet foreign policy is not, as is generally believed, the spread of a Communist World Revolution in accordance with the doctrines of Marx. It is not Marxism but old fashioned imperialism which provides the motive power for Soviet foreign policy today. The ultimate aim is to make the Soviet Union the dominant imperial power in the world. The springboard for the realisation of this dream must be an Asia dominated by the Soviet Union and with access to the two groat oceans which lao the shores of South, South-East and East Asia. Soviet roach in Asia is greater than that of Western Europe or Of the United States simply because geographically the Soviet Union is a part of Asia while the western nations are not. Very few Europeans and Americans, however global they may be in their thinking, the Soviets believe, would seriously challenge a Soviet take over of Asia. The Western mood may change should Asian resistance to Soviet imperial expansion acquire credible proportions. But as of now Asia has a low priority in the foreign policy calculations of the West. The Soviets must have taken note of the fact that their actions in Afghanistan and Kampuchan have so far produced nothing more threatening than ritual moral condemnation — end I can think of no single instance in history where moral condemnation defeated aggression.

If a new imperialism is to be thwarted in Asia it must be done largely by the Asians themselves — by Asian cohesion and Asian determination to see that they do not, after a brief interlude of independence once more become the subjects of a new empire. If what is happening in Poland and Afghanistan are anything to go by, it may take Asians far more than three centuries to cast off the yoke should they ever coma under the embrace of the emerging Soviet Empire. A Soviet Empire may turn out to be a black hole. Anything that is sucked into it disappears forever.

Now many people may find it difficult to accept the concept of a Soviet imperialism. We have been conditioned by Marxist ideology to believe that imperialism is a purely capitalist manifestation and that imperialism in any shape or form is abhorrent to communists. The Soviets will point to their fervent and consistent championing of anti-imperialist struggles as proof.

This is absolutely true but only in so far as it relates to Western imperialism. For their part the Soviet never liquidated the vast Tsarist Empire they inherited. Not one square inch of that empire was decolonised. On the contrary since 1939 the Soviets have added more territories to what they inherited from the imperial Tsars. On the other hand, the Western imperial powers — Britain, France, the United States, the Dutch, Belgians, the Italians, the Spaniards and the Portuguese — have liquidated their empires. Evidence of this is that more than half the membership of the United Nations consists of former colonies and protectorates of Western powers. If deeds are proof them the Western nations have shown themselves to be dedicated antiimperialists.

In theory it may well be true that Marxism and imperialism are incompatible terms. But it is my contention that Soviet foreign policy today is not shaped by a Marxist tradition but the pre-revolutionary Tsarist imperial tradition,. Sixty-four years after the revolution the ideals of Marxism have been superceded by the ideals of Russian nationalism — end imperialism is essentially nothing more than aggressive nationalism. All that the Soviet loaders have done is to clothe the Russian imperialist tradition with Marxist garments. When Soviet leaders talk of a communist world revolution they always make it a point to stress that it must be under Soviet leadership and no other. The Sino-Soviet dispute was not so much over obscure doctrinal points of Marxist theology but over Chinese refusal to be a junior partner in the struggle to establish a Russian world empire.

Mr Deng Xiaopeng summed it all up in May last year when he said: “The Soviet Union is not a socialist country but a socialist-imperialist country.”

Similarly the Yugoslavs, the Albanians and now the Italian and Spanish Communist parties have repudiated any subordination to Soviet leadership because they recognise the imperialist assertions behind the rhetoric about World Communism.

The point I want to stress is that Russia, both Tsarist and Soviet has been in a state of more or less continuous territorial expansion — and mostly in the direction or Asia. The process began under Ivan I in the 14th century and has continued with brief interruptions. According to the Norwegian writer, Fridtjof Mansen,Russia has, since 1500 and up to the outbreak of World War Two, added as much territory to its empire every sewn years as that occupied by Norway. Russia did not become an Asian country until about the 17th century When Soviet Asia was legally declared an area for Russian colonisation. Many Russian writers wrote as eloquently as Kipling about Russia’s great imperial destiny. Gogol, for example, saw great significance in the fact that Russia covered half the world. Puskin wrote a militaristic poem in praise of Russia’s suppression of the Polish uprising of 1831 and of the capture of Warsaw. Desteyevsky yearned for who capture of Constantinople. And a l9th century philosopher, Peter Chaadayev warned his countrymen: “If We don’t stretch from the Boring Straits to the Oder no-one; would take notice of us.” When this was written Russia covered one-sixth of the world’s surface and could accommodate within it more than two United States, 40 Frances and 92 Britains.

For a people who can believe that Russia is of a size too insignificant to attract attention the globe itself may be no more than an oyster shell, perhaps a French observer, the Marquis de Custine, was struck by this kind of Russian claustrophobia when he wrote thus in 1939: “Today the Russian people are incapable of anything except conquering the world.”

TO be fair to the Russians they wire only mirroring the messianic dreams of empire which than pervaded the whole of Europe, in particular Western Europe. Western capitalism felt the urge to carve out great empires to get raw materials to feed its multiplying industries and find markets for their output.

Backward Tsarist Russia came too late in the scramble for empire. But now that the Western powers have opted out of the imperialist business and have discovered other more efficient and lass troublesome ways, of making money out of the Third World, the Soviets have unwisely gone into this risky business.

May be in the early days of the revolution, the Soviets believed that the superiority of the Communist System, economically, politically and culturally, over the capitalist system could be demonstrated by its achievements. It has been a great disappointment to everyone. Not even So gifted a people as the Russians can tame the Communist system. After 64 years only a handful of countries outside the Soviet Union have freely opted for the Communist model — and they invariably are poor impoverished states whose only major achievement so far have been their intensive militarisation through second and third generation surplus Soviet weapons.

The biggest blow of all was the decision of post-Mao Communist China to seek rapid modernisation by plugging into the non-communist economic grid.

The economic, cultural and political attractions of Soviet Communism have on the whole been minimal. After 64 years the largest country in the world has to feed itself by import of capitalist grain.

Where the Soviet Union has excelled is in the acquisition of military power. Militarily it is undoubtedly a super-power and therefore the only way it can realise a communist World r under Soviet leadership is by the deployment of military power which it has accumulated by sacrificing everything else.

But I believe that in this day end age the course of empire can never be smooth and that the journey must end in the collapse of the empire. It has happened without exception to all empires — those of nomadic conquerors, of feudal chiefs, of meglomaniac emperors, religious messiahs and capitalist adventurers.

This must be so unless of course the potential victims of imperialism arc in some Orwellian fashion persuaded that though Western imperialism is oppression, socialist imperialism is liberation. Both Afghanistan and Kampuchea are indications that no one has been persuaded that imperialism is liberation.

In Poland, as earlier in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, students of imperialism would have no difficulty in discerning the makings of the kind of anti-colonial revolts that eventually led to the crack up of empires.

All in all this has been a very high profile commentary on Soviet policy. This has been so because it is directed, for what it is worth, to non-Communist friends. Though my speech is anti-soviet tone it is not so in intention. My criticisms of the Soviets have always been compared by sincere regrets that I have to disagree with them and fear them. They are a very gifted people and they possess intellectual and character qualities which I sometimes wish we and our friends would assimilate.

The day that the Soviet leaders announce publicly that they have at last abandoned their goal of a Soviet led, financed and militarily aided Communist world revolution, then on that day the Singapore merlion could safely and happily gambol with the Soviet bear.

Chee Soon Juan

I watched the video of CSJ’s family, and then his CCK rally speech.

It’s really interesting to contrast the two. As a parent, Chee talks about being there for his kids, he talks about spending time together, they play music together, read, go for walks, go swimming. Lots of frugal fun. Very inspiring.

Switch to the rally, where he talks about the rising cost of living, and how 50% of Singaporeans are living paycheck to paycheck, with the looming threat of financial ruin should anybody be hit by emergency. He talks about the need to go to Parliament to lower the cost of living.

And all I find myself thinking is… sure, he’s right, but– if those Singaporeans learned to live simply, like the Chees do, they’d be way better off.
That’s the most important part of the equation, I think. And hardly anybody discusses it. As a politican, CSJ talks about how life is getting harder for Singaporeans, and the crowd cheers in approval. As a private individual, he talks about how him and his family are GRATEFUL for hardship, because of how it brought them together.

If you spend less on your wedding, on your home, on your renovations, on your furnishings, on your transportation… you can start accumulating savings, and you’re no longer living paycheck to paycheck.

And you no longer have to worry so much that some Govt policy or another is going to dramatically affect your life. I think that should be the goal of any private individual who is reasonably able.

In my case, I had a really budget wedding, and spent really little on furniture (mostly secondhand or IKEA), practically nothing on renovation. So I have emergency funds that I don’t look at, after starting from nothing.

This provides me the peace of mind that CSJ says 50% of SIngaporeans don’t have, and insists that Govt needs to provide.

I don’t have an informed opinion about what Govt should or should not provide, but I do believe that it is our obligation to ourselves, as individuals, to look out for our own interests.

I could easily have spent $10k on my wedding and $20-$30k on renovations and maybe bought a car on a credit installment plan. That would instantly put me in the 50% of people living paycheck to paycheck, terrified of a financial emergency.

“Be frugal*, you fuckers” is my campaign slogan (with * caveat for people in genuine hardship).

Collection of notes

HN discussion on PM Lee coding

HN ‘Singapore is not right for sivers”

HN singapore smart city

SG sociopolitical blogs

SAF poison shrimp

AMDK 1 2

SG futures

how Singaporeans got rich

Bilahari’s dealing with an ambiguous world


creepy Singaporean guys


amos yee / pottymouthed teenagers, 1 2

donald low vs calvin cheng

Inspiring speech by Major YC Choy

FB status: “Singapore IS the company”

FB: How to write about govt

Joe Augustin on senior management

Censorship, Les Miserables kiss

What is up with Singapore and Israel?

martyn see Singapore history, similar mothership post


Govt employees of /r/singapore, what are some truths you wish Singaporeans would realize?

definition of SG middleclass

Would you choose to be reborn as the opposite gender in SG?

Women of /r/singapore, have you ever experienced sexual harrassment?

Private A’s

Frustrating that minorities have to always be representative of their race

poor treatment of domestic workers in singapore

SG tropes

singaporeans’ plans for their futures

dom sarron

you don’t need much space to have sex, population vs economy

SG history / big man fallacy

tamil class

why singaporeans don’t care about privacy

ELI5 Singapore success

‘realistically can SG defend itself?” , 2, 3

cigarettes / smoking ban / taxes in sg

singaporeans need more personality, quality people

WTF ch 8

sg indian men dating

singaporeans like to be oppressed

entrepreneurship in sg

apunehneh catch you

SG dating scene why so terrible

minority problems / pooja

networking, meritocracy

Singaporean iconoclasts

anti-SJW bro




How will Singapore cope with a terrorist attack? How can we mitigate the suspicion? How can Singapore remain competitive and relevant 50 years from now? What is the future of Parliament, and what sort of electoral reform should we be looking at? What are the backstories of successful businesses in Singapore, and why do we hear so little about them? How can we encourage Singaporeans to have more children without inducing cringe? How can I train and encourage Singaporeans to think openly and constructively, about everything? (Do I do this myself? If not, how do I do that first?) What is the actual roadmap for persuading a hyperconservative to open up? What are the primary issues that Singaporeans should be concerned with, and how can I help people with that? Do people actually read Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs? Why is the dating scene so dismal in Singapore, and how do we fix it?


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.


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.

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?


What is a Town Council?

A town council…

What is the relationship between GRCs and Town Councils?

What is a stat board?