27 August 2005

There is no angst in my Singapore

And the streets are paved with bliss!

More on Minilee's incredible NDRS last Sunday.

It’s good luck, it's good government, it's strong people. You look at the other countries which have reached this point after independence, after the war. The problems that have beset them, the existential angst they feel.

Look at Israel at this point in their history which is probably about 1990. The problems are almost insoluble for them but for us with prosperity, peace with our neighbours, with our people looking forward to a better future and when you have the parade, the same spirit, the same togetherness, that same conviction that we will do our best for Singapore.

Minilee's speechwriters and historians must be from Raffles Institution? They seem to have slept through the past 10 years of Singapore history, which has seen:

Queer poet Alfian Sa'at winning a literature prize for writing poems like "Singapore, you are not my country".

Hordes of post-Independence Singaporeans writing poems critical of the Merlion.

Catherine Lim getting slammed as "disrespectful of authority" by Mr Peanut Goh for pointing out the existence of a Great Affective Divide between the PAP and Singaporeans, and urged to start her own political party if she wanted to comment more on the Government.

Jack Neo and Raintree Pictures breaking local box-office records with films capitalising on issues like: Unemployment, Chinese-speaking heartlanders' fears of getting left behind, Gambling as a financial investment scheme by the poor, Life in the HDB underclass.

Young gay and lesbian Singaporeans exiled by their parents to Australia, out of sight and mind from relatives.

The government's continued anxiety over how Singlish is associated with Singapore causes Phua Chu Kang to take English lessons.

Complaints by Singaporeans for being treated as second-class citizens in their own country, worse off than "foreign talents" from UK, America, Australia, HK and China.

The author of Singapore's Elected President law, Thio Li-Ann, musing in the national paper that the office has become useless, ceremonial, and contrary to its original purpose.

The harassment of filmmaker Martyn See, by the police, for making a documentary on an opposition politician and sending it for film festivals abroad.

The increased unemployment and shrinking labour force participation rate, despite the "recovery".

Singapore's only adult cabinet minister, Tony Tan, ominously hinting that Singaporean workers are too expensive, compared to their counterparts in China and India.

The outrage of Singaporeans over the fraud of NKF and the government's blind support of the organisation.

(I plan to make each item linkable; unfortunately I can't recall or even find the articles that should exist... ie. I need your help)

Filed under: Helicopter vision

24 August 2005

National Day Rally Speech (Quickie Version)

Diary of a Dragon Prince Edition

1. Much improved from last year. Incidences where I pause for applause and audience misses cue are lessened. University Cultural Centre MUST be retrofitted with APPLAUSE signs!

2. Should consider giving the NDRS next year at Hong Lim Park.

3. Made a minor blunder in Chinese speech by mangling the Chinese idiomatic saying into 行行出英雄. Was reminded by private tutor during intermission (that's the real reason for the break, incidentally!) and then used the correct idiom in the English speech.

4. Haul up the government's speech archive on the internet and get them to perform some historical revisionism. I NEVER want people to remember I said 行行出英雄.

5. Haul up any Chinese newspapers which said I did.

6. Now, for the repeat telecast of the NDRS for this weekend, maybe should get Mediacorpsuckers to reshoot that 5 second segment?

20 August 2005

A Noble Sentiment (i)

The Ugly China Tourist?

About 4 Sundays ago, the Straits Times had a feature on the strange behaviour of tourists from China. With the recent increase of the Chinese middle classes finding they can afford foreign vacation, unfavourable reports have slowly come to light. There was an incident where they staged a sit-in protest at a Malaysian hotel, which had issued them food coupons stamped with pictures of a pig. Pictures are available here. On a different occasion, a plane delay caused another group of Chinese tourists to stage a sit-in, effectively grounding the aircraft until the airline had to pay them off with a small sum ($50). These major incidents, coupled with other lesser anecdotes on the poor graces of the China tourists, led to ST pondering if we have a problem of The Ugly China Tourist.

I thought the answer was obvious, yet the ST still did not say it the following week, when they ran an update on the issue. It then falls to me to say it: their protests and sit-ins are indicative not of boorishness, but of a far nobler sentiment. In China itself, protests are staged regularly against perceived national insult (Yasukuni, Japanese textbooks, sex tourists...), poor administration at village or factory level, and so on. Far from discouraging these sometimes violent, but always boisterous demonstrations, it is understood and communicated by the media that these patriotic displays are good, and are to be encouraged.

The average urban Chinese is accustomed to demonstrating, almost at the drop of a hat. At home, under conditions of political repression by the one-party state, regular incited protests act as a valve, to ensure pent-up public ire is directed away from the Communist Party, and to stoke an ever-present sense of nationalist pride and suspicious of the foreign devil, who is always out to 'get' them.

Once abroad, it is inconceivable that the same Chinese citizens not react vocally and vehemently to perceived slights. It's a matter of national pride, one might say.

On patriotism

Elsewhere on the internets, as part of an admitted exercise to invoke nationalism in time for the General Elections (see the Tagboard here - and just for the record: What does nationalism have to do with a General Election??? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! Is voting for the non-preferred party an act of not-patriotism?), someone laments the fact that Singaporeans react with cool and studied indifference to national slights by foreign politicians. Look, he says, why are you turning a blind eye that someone just called our country a little red dot, a piece of snot? Why do you keep finding fault with your own country? Do you hate it so much? Why don't you just go away, he asks...

Well, look at the Patriotic China Tourist - I don't ever want to be like them. It's very common for politicians to create a bogeyman during politically difficult periods, by diverting unwanted criticism of domestic policy to a foreign enemy. A great piece of political theatre that benefits even the foreign enemy, who then has a chance to whip up fervent support from his countrymen and override his own political weaknesses. Readers will probably recognise this principle in Malaysia-Singapore relations during Dr Mahathir and LKY's reigns ("Turn off the water!", "Water is our sacred national right, enshrined in the partition agreement!", and the more bizarre instance where Singapore mobilised its reserves during a National Day to prevent an invasion from someone), or between Malaysia-Indonesia relations, even.

And no. "My country, right or wrong" is not patriotism. True patriotism is holding one's country to high standards, to speak power to the truth, to point out where things are wrong, and when the Emperor is wearing no clothes. This is the patriotism of Thomas Paine.

17 August 2005

Taiwan Independence Movie

(Via Kerim, for Tim)

Taiwanese filmmaker Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖) is planning on making the “first Taiwanese epic,” about an Aborigine uprising against the Japanese which took place over 75 years ago. The film is tentatively titled Seediq Bale (賽德克巴萊). It seems they are still attempting to raise the money necessary to shoot the film on such a grand scale, but there is now a web site where you can download a demo preview of the film with English subtitles.

Keywords: Taiwan Independence

Of Englishmen and Mad Dogs

Seen, in today's ST, on page 12 of the Home section, an advertisement:

Prime Freehold Land
Central Bangkok

For Sale

On the instructions of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and North Ireland, we are seeking preliminary expressions of interest in the acquisition of 14,000 sq.m. of Prime Freehold Land fronting Ploenchit Road Bangkok.

They decided to use the official name of the UK and still got it wrong? This notice, then, is less credible than the Engrishy Nigerian scam emails.

Filed under: Ad agency needs better editors, Bangkok property scams

Are you sure you want to admit you did this?

An advertising agency in Singapore designed and produced a poster for the DPAS, and proudly mentions it did it pro bono at the bottom of the poster.

Out of kindness, I'm not going to name them, since the poster text read

Are you deaf to the disabled people's cry for the equalisation of opportunities?

Filed under: English police citation, advertising agency needs better editors.

15 August 2005

The shelf life of one-party states

Soci notes that a group of people at the danieldrezner website are discussing if Singapore can continue to be a unique non-democratic, properous, capitalist state.

Whenever people start talking about the interrelationships between regime type, the rule of law, economic development, and political corruption, the outlier is always Singapore.

And so on...

The shelf life of one-party states

We used to group Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore as the 4 Asian Tigers in the 1970-80s, for their apparently resistance to the global stagflation and recession, and for the exotic charm of being non-democratic, yet economically successful regimes.

Singapore's Qin Shihuang has famously taken this happy coincidence and formulated the Confucian values theory and the Asian development theory, which inform popular perceptions of the 2 propositions in the danieldrezner dicussion:

A. Long-term economic properity requires democratic governance.
Not A. Authoritarian governance is a better guarantor of long-term economic prosperity.

Every year, Habibul Khondker of NUS looks at these two propositions in his Political Sociology class, and goes "that's interesting, but the argument is slightly inaccurate". First, none of the current Great Powers were democratic until the 1920s. The US is famous for not extending suffrage to its African-Americans until 1965. By the 1920s, all the Great Powers were already economic giants whose rise were achieved under more authoritarian or absolute forms of governance.

Similarly, Taiwan et al. cannot be held to represent of how authoritarian governments in modern times can lead to economic riches. Postcolonial countries (those achieve independence after WW2) that are authoritarian tend to perform overwhelmingly poorer.

Where are Taiwan and South Korea now?

Taiwan: KMT forces retreat to island in 1949. One-party state withers in 1988.
South Korea: Dictatorship since 1950. One-party state withers in 1987.
Mexico (Not very prosperous, but still...): PRI rules from 1929 to 2000.

Pay attention, Minilee: Sic transit gloria mundi.

Ronald Inglehart has been saying since 1977, that prolonged stretches of economic prosperity tend to lead to a liberalisation of political attitudes towards leadership and governance in a country's population. Since 1977, the European Values Survey and its successor, the World Values Survey, have proven his theory right.

Why is it so important? It's one thing to claim that people will want more political say, higher accountability, less authoritarian leadership (i.e. become more godlessly liberal) as they prosper. Your country's leaders will say, "Well, it's just a theory. As you can see, we're not going to move towards total chaos anytime soon, hahaha." But when there are more than 30 years of survey data and longtitudinal studies to prove the survey, perhaps it's time Minilee and Papalee start worrying about the inevitable.

08 August 2005

Happy National Day!

The Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Edition

Singapore's premier news website can't make up its mind what its peasants should believe, apparently. Also, the link to the other story doesn't work (???), and only through the marvels of google can you find the original article here.


Singapore's unemployment rate in the three months to June crept up slightly to 3.4 percent from a revised 3.3 percent in the previous quarter as fresh graduates joined the search for jobs, preliminary estimates released on Monday showed.

The Manpower Ministry said in its preliminary report that 27,700 jobs were created in the June quarter, an improvement from 17,800 in the previous three months and 10,900 for the same period last year.

No shit, Sherlock! To those of us who didn't skip 2004 in our Truman Show Machine, Singapore's job creation was abysmal! An improvement of this many jobs created a corresponding 0.1% in change in unemployment, yay!

Evidently job creation in Singapore is barely keeping up with the increase in labor force, and actual unemployment continues to increase.