Daily Sg: 4 March 2008

Prison Break, Singapore Style
– Singapore Kopi Tok: Will Reason ever Prevail?
– inter alia: Why it is improbable that Mas Selmat was killed by the ISD
– mr brown: Escaped terrorist helps Singaporeans bond
– To Fix a Mocking Peasant: Mas & Why I’m Not Singapore
– the(new)mediaslut: To err is minister, to forgive is not so divine
– Webs@Work: A Uniquely Singapore Toilet Break
– Nomed Letters: Short of Yes Men Lately?
– Yawning Bread: The great hunt limps along
– BothSidesOfTheJohorStraits: A joke begins like this: T’was once a govt-appointed ‘independent’ Committee of Inquiry consisting of 3 current/ex-civil servants…

– Diary of A Singaporean Mind: Means Testing Details Out!!!

Singaporeans are fed, up with progress!
– Sgpolitics.net: ST Forum Letter (rejected): Time to tackle inflation by allowing interest rates to rise

Life, the universe and everything
– The eOK .network: Riding Singapore’s giant wheel

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7 Responses to Daily Sg: 4 March 2008

  1. Darkness says:


    Question: is there are climate of fear? As Mdm C. Lim has suggested? Certainly, however, my feel is she has overblown the ambit of her case to ridiculous proportions and there are a few compelling reasons to suggest why this may be the case; firstly, the reach of the social political discourse in the net is minimal and insignificant when compared to newspapers; secondly, it’s doubtful that most people will even access the net to discuss social political issues with meaningful depth; the quality is low and unimpressive, its still very rudimentary, primitive and ah hoc, hardly an attractive proposition even to an undergraduate of political science – unless you consider what I write to be anything close to seminal. My feel is it will take some years for us to reach the sophistication of the west. Having said that the fear of losing one’s job or not having enough money to retire is in my view adequately sharp enough to qualify as a real fear; if there is such a thing as a climate of fear, I feel this is a very real and cogent fear, but this is not what Mdm Lim was referring too – if you listen very carefully to her here http://catherinelim.sg/2008/02/25/singapore-the-inconvenient-truth/, she is unequivocal and very specific in her reference to pin pointing her version of fear;

    Question did Empire sustain itself by fear? Yes, but again, if one really reads up on empire as a body of knowledge, it’s difficult, if not impossible to trace out even the same strain of fear Mdm Lim was referring too. The real fear there I believe is not dissimilar to the concerns that preoccupy most of us even in this age! And related to the basic hierarchy of needs such as food, shelter and the means to secure 1 and 2.

    I know this may be difficult to believe especially when we watch films like Gandhi, where we see automaton Gurkha’s with bayonets fixed leveling their 303’s on marching crowds, but as I mentioned in part 3 & 4 (based on my conversation with Dr Lee) many of the colonized did not really see themselves antagonistically from their colonial masters. How could they? The wheels of empire would simply not turn! On the contrary, they (the colonized) openly emulated their colonial masters along with the whole ‘departmental’ thinking that accompanied empire i.e education, honors, way of life blah blah blah. Now again it’s almost impossible for us these days to account for their (colonized) reverence and even veneration of empire with our 21st century optics; this I feel bears repeating, only because its patently truer than true.

    It cuts close when I read even LKY’s memoirs, I often try to empty my mind and visualize lets say watching the HMS Hood anchor in Sembawang ship yard. The question that you need to ask yourself is how would it all have impacted the audience of the age; here with all her officers decked out in a neat row of pristine white, this wasn’t just a mechanical wonder – here was order, technology, division of labor, resource management, engineering, structure and purpose = civilization. To paraphrase here was the omnipotent power of God. The question we need to ask ourselves (and I gathered this example from Montburan herself) is what would a young impressionable boy think and do? Wouldn’t he also want to read law in Cambridge? Own an Austin? Play golf along with learn how to nurse the gentle fire of an English pipe?

    IMO neither fear, collaboration or even complicity has the capacity to sustain empire alone as a such an enduring enterprise, maximum 50 years, but empire as a concept lasted for nearly 300 in certain cases, it had to be something premised on a very real desire to emulate their masters. You can even say it’s a perverse kind of love that made possible this form of ‘accomodation’ which I believe we all even harbor about the PAP. You tell me where then is the so called country within the country we often term, the climate of fear?Thank You. I enjoyed this question immensely. I really had to think on this one. Darkness 2008

    [This is in response to nook nook question]

  2. Harphoon says:


    Let me just share with all of you how I got involved in this project. Darkness asked me, Scholar Boy and Astro Boy to tag along. When we approached the subject of imperialism initially, many of us did not really make the connection with the present or even know how it related to the current. So many off side questions were asked at first; like what makes up imperialism? Is it dead? What’s the extent of its influence?

    It didn’t take us all very long to figure as we immersed ourselves into the subject, that many of our assumptions concerning imperialism was incomplete. As it is today, I like to believe, we may made significant inroads into this subject. We know a few things, we did not know previously, imperialism is not a dated idea like horse drawn buggies or paraffin lamps. On the contrary, it’s still kicking and alive! A very robust concept even that is only too prevalent. It also accounts for good explanations as to how we may make sense of the political, economic, social and technological environment.

    Darkness mentioned the 377A episode and asked the question, did the best argument win the day? Or was it the will of the “moral majority?” Is that a form of imperialism? We also know elements of imperialism are reflected in literature such as Robinson Crusoe. What about the Singapore Story? And NLB’s account of blog history? Are they trying to paint their backdrop of how it all started? Is that a form of imperialism.

    I have my own views concerning this subject, one of them posits the idea, that imperialism is not only about high brow colonial masters focused on just “accumulating and acquisition.” And regularly perpetuating the idea of the dependence myth i.e you are what you are because of us and if you do not buy into our world view then you will revert back to your deplorable state. I found stark similarities, between this strident position which imperialism has advanced on record and what LKY said recently, when he mentioned rather casually, something to the effect all of us would benefit from a dose of reality if our wife’s had to work as maids. This to me, brought it all into sharp focus and I realized for the first time, imperialism as an instrument of command and control is not confined to only foreign subjugation as in the case of conquistadors conquering the Aztecs, but it can also be effectively used to advance an ideology, argument or assist in justifying an idea.

    I hope all of you will continue to enrich my knowledge in this area and if you find that I am not as interesting as Darkness, do bear with me.



  3. primadelli says:

    Hi Harphy Boy,

    Nice to see you taking over the com! This whole discussion concerning Imperialism and how it is able to color so many quarters is indeed interesting and revealing, especially if we want power to be our servant instead of being merely blind servants of power.

    However, I cannot help feeling the approach is all wrong. Readers accustomed to precision and elegance will be horrified by what Darkness has done! No wonder he is always called a heretic. Instead of allowing literature to make sense of literature and political studies to make sense of politics, he has single handedly swept all this into the bin and erected the totem of Imperialism to give reason and rationale to everything from canned drinks to why our govt decided 377A should stay.

    Do take this constructively, wouldn’t it be better to stick to the road of orthodoxy?

  4. Lionel says:

    Hello Harphy,

    Where have u guys been holing up? BTW I saw you all riding to Changi Village last weekend. Get to the point Lionel! OK. Just wondering what the rest of you think about Catherine Lim and Dr Cherian George’s write up. From my understanding of what Darkness has written, he doesn’t take them seriously. What’s your take? Another thing, I believe, I have asked this question about 3 million times, but every time it gets back burned. Could you please share your take on the American presidential elections. I happen to know, there are a few teams covering this event. May I ask why so much focus on something so faraway? Do you see some lessons that we may use and even apply in SG?

    OK enough of rant rant rant. My contribution to this whole discussion. Imperialism makes sense in politics and everything else because it wins the high ground, but its a double edged sword. If you look at how imperialism is managed as a tool of command and control, using dark’s analogy, there is no consistency in SG, as a result in back fires. You know I spent 1/2 my time here in SG and the UK and in London where I run a business, there is no real issue with foreigners, London is starting to look these days less like a European city and more like some patch worked quilt where it is not uncommon to see different nationalities. Now there is tension now and then, but all in all, it harmonious. In SG we are still in baby land as we cannot get our heads around this foreign talent issue and even today! We seem to be stuck on first base as we still have bloggers making a mount over the foreign talent issue! You know what I think, its because our govt keeps sending out mixed messages like some psychopath. One day it is don’t interfere with our politics Mr Foreigner. The next day Singapore is voted 3rd best place by expats! Wah….no wonder we are so confused.

  5. Harphoon says:

    Primagirl and Lionel,

    “Readers accustomed to precision and elegance will be horrified by what Darkness has done!” I can see why you are the concerned. Let me just adopt Darkness style of breaking down key issues phrasing your query as a question (I am a copy cat par excellence). Is it wrong to use Imperialism to help explain social / political ongoings?

    Yes and no. But on the balance, I don’t think so, as reducing it all to a game by using the “imperialism” rule book proves valuable in clarifying many of our questions. There is a very good write up, probably the best this last two weeks on this area by Ian Timothy. Do check it out! http://ian.onthereddot.com/2008/03/05/turning-life-into-a-game-will-it-make-it-better/

    A perennial problem that I am sure many have noted with blogosphere is the entrenched and deep seated belief our government is the big bad wolf – this sort of stereo typical depiction usually posits the starting point of most essays and off it goes, usually down a cliff, if you ask me. That’s the reason why I believe blogosphere is still stuck in a rut. Too many people using old tools to make sense of new problems – the problem with a share psyche is it also produces the same results no matter what the input are. It doesn’t seem to work, unless you really believe our govt is allied to Satan. One reason for this is because there is only means to view the whole issue of power and politics and it is usually through the PAP lens. I don’t it works!

    By juxtaposing “imperialism,” to the social political – it allows us to stand back and look at the set pieces objectively. It brings a sense of scale to the whole discussion. In certain respects this is a bit like familiarizing oneself with the rules of the game. The presumption here is, if you don’t even know what the rules of the game are then it’s a bit like watching American football, all you see are players running up and down chasing a funny ball. Very occasionally, it’s possible to make out some of the rules when the crowd cheers or the referee gives an advantage, but in most cases the finer details of tactics and the means to counter it is entirely lost. You get nothing!

    So by introducing the concept of ‘imperialism’ into the equation, one is able to discard a whole lot of the noise and focus solely on the mechanics of play. As “imperialism” in a nut shell according to Darkness is really just one big monopoly game, where the goal is to win the game. I think one reason why it appeals to him is because it’s not dissimilar to mathematical game theory, which works by allotting numerical values to possible choices in any given conflict of interest and proposes that the strategy of accumulating the higher total would prove the winner. More importantly it de-couples the extraneous such as wayang. So it’s able to instill a sense of discipline into the whole idea of power and politics which would otherwise be impossible. If we had to consider the specifics of PAP, Workers Party or help to explain why Dr Chee regularly does what he does. It will be very confusing. So what has been done is a form of reductionism which goes like this. Yes, we all know Dr Chee stands for A,B,C and D and the PAP is all for E,F,G,H and I, but at the end of the day, the common denominator is they all want to win at the end of the day.

    As for your second question – should we stick to a more orthodox path? I don’t think so only because so far judging by the content that is regularly churned out in the net. The orthodox approach only guarantees more of the same at best and at worst it will always continue to produce aberrations. An orthodox approach will only work, if all the agents are operating unencumbered in a level playing field as in the true ideal of a Western democracy. Even then they still have plenty of issues.

    As Lionel mentioned many things in this game board is really set against shifting sands. I think he hit it squarely on the head. We even have to deal regularly with goal post with wheels in the form of OB markers! In Lionel’s example, he mentions the split personality we have over the idea of foreigners. For instance, we don’t mind foreigners praising us for what we have accomplished economically since independence, but when they comment about our social political framework they are deemed to be interfering. Then to confuse matters we have a pro trans migration policy, but yet we still retain enough xenophobia to insist that we should not lose out to foreigners. I agree completely with Lionel, it’s very confusing here.

    The degree of confusion becomes all too apparent when you consider that we are currently studying the US presidential elections and yet we don’t even need to navigate around all these invisible traffic cones and I for one am convince no US dept of anything is even bothered.

    This actually goes to show you why, we decided to use this model. I think it works, but I agree Darkness still comes across as looking a bit silly, but I think, he is the last to care. You know in the years I have known him, he has even used a motorcycle exhaust system to explain why democracy cannot really work! We need more experimental thinkers. I think.



  6. KKP says:

    Harphy Boy!

    Shame on you, Lionel asked abt the American primaries again and again you missed it out! Are you line dancing here? :)

    That reminds me could you pleeeeeeeeze provide me with a read list for this subject? I have been trying to get some decent articles for an up and coming multimedia talk that I have to give and I haven’t even started yet!

    Nice to see you again Harphy.



    This is from the Chronicler:

    Dear Valued Readers,

    You may experience delays in your postings in SLF 1 – 8 / Kindly switch over to your private lines to blog surf.

    We are currently conducting periodic systems checks on our servers for regular maintenance.

    May I also take this opportunity to highlight the following post from the com.


    Note Harpoons post.


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