29 November 2005

Rome II: Julius Caesar lays the smackdown

The Lone Gunman took a look at Roma Uber Alles last week and accused me of obscurantism. While it doesn't exactly take a training in Classics to figure out the ghastly parallels between Rome and Singapore (aside from having 7 or more hills), the link wasn't that clear in the previous post.

Here then, is your history lesson. I'll try to make it as interesting and entertaining as possible, like Julius Caesar laying the smackdown and leaving broken heads all over the Appian Way.

Proscription: Uniquely Singapore or Ancient Roman?

Proscription (Roman): The dictator, upon coming to absolute power, proclaims his political rivals as enemies of the state. These people are either stripped of their Roman citizenship (which means you could murder, torture, or crucify them), their properties confiscated, heirs dispossessed, and their wives prevented from remarrying (and hence condemning the entire family to penury).

Proscription (Singaporean)

A very long history, but let's start with the most recent cases.
Captain Ryan Goh, a Malaysian with a Singaporean PR, was stripped of his residency, expelled, and refused all future entry to the city state, for his central role in as a pilot in organising a wage negotiation movement in the pilots' union of Singapore Airlines. Papalee, the Father of the Nation and Minister-Mentor-for-life, declared the offending movement of the union as "breaking the rules of the game, the unspoken rules as to how we survive, how we have prospered". The heads of these people must be broken, he claimed sternly.

Tang Liang Hong, candidate in the 1997 elections, lost in the first real (and close) contest in a gerrymandered GRC constituency, Cheng San. The candidate and his team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, thanks to a last moment smear campaign by the Whiteshirts alleging Tang of being a Chinese chauvinist. Upon his loss, the police seized his documents for supposed tax evasion while he fled the country, but interestingly, the charge laid out was that of defamation. Like old fashioned Roman proscription, his wife was also dispossessed of his fortune by the state.

Let's not get into old-fashioned Singaporean proscription of the 1960s-70s, where the Barisan Socialists were shut down, their leaders exiled or jailed indefinitely...


Principate (Roman): The emperors after Julius Caesar were so afraid of getting assasinated by republicans that they did not dare call themselves King, but merely Princeps (First citzen, the first among equals in the Senate). The political reality of autocratic rule by the Emperor was still scrupulously masked by forms and conventions of oligarchic self-rule inherited from the political period of the 'uncrowned' Roman Republic (509 BC-27 BC) under the motto SPQR.

Principate (Singaporean): The hagiography (official biography, snivelling chroniclers at the Propaganda Times, etc) of Singapore's first Emperor also insist that he was the "first among equals" in a Cabinet graced by the genius that were Lee's Lieutenants.

Roman Succession: The emperor, while pretending to be just a First Citizen for life in a republic, still managed to name his heir, i.e. the next person to rule Rome. A strong emperor could even control the succession to the 3rd generation, while discreetly making sure the immediate successor isn't his son. No, his son would be the emperor after his heir.

Uniquely Singaporean Succession: The emperor, while pretending to be just a First Citizen, decided to hand over the reigns by naming his heir, i.e. the next person to rule Singapore. That strong Emperor even controlled the succession to the 3rd generation, while discreetly making sure the immediate successor was Mr Peanut and not Minilee. No, Minilee would be emperor after Mr Peanut.


Treason Trials (Roman): Lots and lots of them! Ex post facto criminalisation!
Treason Trials (Singaporean): Catholics branded Marxist for setting up maid union! Left-wing politicians branded Communist for being socialist! Ex post facto criminalisation!

Pandataria: Small rocky island 3km by 800m. Favourite exile destination of noble Romans like Vipsania Julia and Agrippina the Elder.
Sentosa: Small rocky island of 5 square kilometres. Chia Thye Poh was exiled there after 22 years of solitary confinement, detention without trial, and a good old-fashioned Roman purge.


Anonymous said...

Where the little analogy breaks down is the fact that Rome was a powerful empire, but Singapore is a fairly powerless state with lots of wealth waiting to be plundered. I can't wait for some powerful nation to figure out it can just take the damn place over. Maybe Singapore will execute an important citizen of a powerful nation, like the United States. I'd love to see Singapore become a territory of the United States to be plundered.
Eric von Schonberg

akikonomu said...

Hi Eric, Singapore is fairly powerless, having the highest defence budget in southeast asia and the most advanced military equipment.

I'd rather see Singapore implode from within, though.

Constantine said...

You know us Singaporeans. We won't protest over any social and/or political issues, but we'd happily riot over limited edition Hello Kitty toys.

Czechoslovakia had their Velvet Revolution. Georgia had a Rose Revolution last year. Ukraine had an Orange Revolution. I can scarcely imagine the headline for our revolution (if one *ever* does occur).

akikonomu said...

They had better not call it the Merlion Revolution xD

rench00 said...

we'll have our Char Kway Teow Revolution. or perhaps the Kiasu Revolution.

in any case, i'd rather there not be any revolutions, nor implosions. i believe that we can continue to evolve and stay relevant, properous and become more vibrant and dynamic.

Koh said...

Like rome in its heyday, Singapore is very good at expounding and dealing with private law. It's less good at public law issues.