On the Fifth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

7-day Period of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew:

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

On the Sixth day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, and the Wilful Blindness of Man

On the Fifth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Fourth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Third Day of National Mourning: Long Snaking Queues to Pay Last Respects to Lee Kuan Yew

On the Third Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Second Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Farewell and Good Night, Harry Lee Kuan Yew – 7 Reasons for Respecting LKY

Friday evening. The last night to join the long queue to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, lying in state at Parliament House.

long queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House, SingaporeAt about 10.45p.m. at City Hall MRT, Exit B was closed off to people coming to the Padang. The Priority Queue (for the elderly, disabled, people with young children) was still starting from the vicinity of the steps of the old City Hall building. The normal queue started at Exit A, just outside Starbucks and McDonalds in Raffles City.

long queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore long queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore long queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore long queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore long queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore long queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House, SingaporeNever have I seen such sustained crowding – not on any National Day, not when the IT Fairs were on, not at Christmas or New Year or Chinese New Year.

The lady holding the waiting time board, not finding anywhere to stand, was perched on the MRT parapet. “10 hours” it read:

long queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore

At about 11p.m., the queue was temporarily suspended for the safety of the crowd. Fortunately, there wasn’t any pushing that might lead to the horrific stampede that killed many in Shanghai over the New Year.

long queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore“Please do not join the queue. The Padang is full!” yelled this policeman into a megaphone, but the crowds were still arriving.

Check:

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew – Lying in State at Parliament House for up-to-date details

And here in true Singapore form is a live telecast of the room in which LKY is lying in state:

We felt no fear at the crowds; just amazement at the sheer number of people who would wait through the night to demonstrate their gratitude to this man. And somehow, sweating it out in solidarity with fellow Singaporeans and sympathetic visitors seemed a form of catharsis.

Loved how people commemorated Ah Kong (grandfather) in their own way, demonstrating the rarely-seen diversity of Singaporeans: the Singapore Botanic Gardens named a new orchid breed after him (Aranda Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀蜻蜓万代兰)), Teo Ser Luck dedicated a new work out to him, and Christopher Pereira made figurines which he put on display outside Raffles City: Christopher Pereira (Chris Treewizard) and his LKY dolls and figurines,  past the long queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House, Singapore Christopher Pereira (Chris Treewizard) and his LKY dolls and figurines, past the long queues to pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew lying in state at Parliament House, SingaporeIs all this idolatry? Well, Paul the apostle who spoke out strongly against the worship of anything other than Son of God himself had this to say:

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honour to whom honour is owed. (Romans 13:7)

And as I read more about the man I never bothered to know other than the “authoritarian”, “dictatorial” prime minister, senior minister, minister mentor others said he was, I understood that respect and honour was due to him.

As a “global statesman” he did not try to be the star of the show, instead he had only one interest – the good of Singapore. What a wonderful thing to say about any person, not to say any politician!

First of all, I learnt not to be ashamed to be a patriot. To the young, as I then was, the term carries a vague, undefinable whiff of unfashionable mustiness. But to serve the Republic of Singapore in any capacity is no mean profession because if Singapore does not survive, no other value can be realised in this vale of tears we call the world.

You may think that all diplomats or all statesmen must obviously serve their own countries’ interests. Well, they certainly ought to. But as I grew more experienced in the craft of diplomacy, I observed that this was all too often the exception rather than the rule; that too many leaders and diplomats, from too many countries, too often confuse personal interests with national interests, or convince themselves that these are synonymous. There is no creature more susceptible to self-deception than certain types of diplomats or erstwhile statesmen. The worst types believe that whatever they do is necessarily important simply because they do it – they and no one else, because, of course, they are the centre of the universe. Mr Lee was never like that. He is often described as a global statesman, and so he was. But I doubt Mr Lee ever set much store by that appellation or any of the many formal honours he was given by foreign countries. These were means, not ends. His laser-like focus – his “universe” if you like – was always Singapore. He operated on a global stage, but only for Singapore. He won many friends and was personally greatly admired around the world. But this was always deployed for Singapore. He spoke his mind and never hesitated to do what necessity dictated for Singapore’s interests, even if it put his personal friendships at risk.

Second, I learnt that the pursuit and defence of Singapore’s interests must be grounded in a clinical and clear-eyed, indeed cold-blooded and intellectually ruthless, understanding of the environment in which a small country operates. Small countries cannot afford illusions. Mr Lee never mistook the necessary politesse and hypocrisies of statecraft and diplomacy for reality. He took as the starting point the world as it is; a world as full of promise and opportunity but a world also inevitably flawed and, so, often perilous. Mr Lee invariably cut through all the fluff that usually conceals the hard realities of international relations. He zeroed in on the very core of any issue or situation. His analysis was always holistic, enriched and given depth and breadth by his realistic understanding of history, of different cultures and, ultimately, of human nature in all its rich variety. He pursued what was possible in practice, not what was desirable on principle. He wanted to get things done. He always dared to try – Singapore would not exist otherwise – but was not given to chasing chimeras. This is again rarer than one might expect. Mr Lee never stopped learning and was never too proud to seek information even from the most junior, and certainly never too proud to change his mind whenever the situation warranted.

Third, I learnt no leader, however talented, can achieve much alone. Mr Lee was undoubtedly a great leader, but he was the great leader of a great team and of a great people. Leadership is not a matter of intellect alone. His sense of mission, his dedication to and passion for Singapore inspired an entire generation of Singaporeans from all walks of life to defy the odds and to serve some cause larger than themselves.
(Bilahari Kausikan, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was ‘a complex man who evoked many emotions’, Straits Times, 27 March 2015)

As a prime minister, his government was remarkable not for oppression, but for using democratic institutions to ensure there would be no oppression:

But the Singapore model, as China’s rulers understand it, never existed. To emulate Lee’s model of government – rather than its cartoon caricature – would require allowing a far more democratic system than the CCP would ever tolerate.

The true secret of Lee’s political genius was not his skillful use of repressive practices, such as launching lawsuits against the media or his political opponents; such tactics are common and unremarkable in semi-authoritarian regimes. What Lee did that was truly revolutionary was to use democratic institutions and the rule of law to curb the predatory appetite of his country’s ruling elite.


By holding regular competitive elections, Lee effectively established a mechanism of political self-enforcement and accountability – he gave Singaporean voters the power to decide whether the PAP should stay in power. This enforcement mechanism has maintained discipline within Singapore’s ruling elite and makes its promises credible.

Regrettably, most of the rest of the world has never given Lee proper credit for crafting a hybrid system of authoritarianism and democracy that vastly improved the wellbeing of his country’s citizens, without subjecting them to the brutality and oppression to which many of Singapore’s neighbors have resorted.
(Minxin Pei, The Real Singapore Model, Project Syndicate 26 March 2015)

As an elected member of parliament, he was more interested in what was right for the country, rather than being popular with the people:

We in Government and as MPs on the ground know how difficult it is to carry unpopular policies, even if they are right. Why did Mr Lee and his Government choose to persuade Singaporeans to do, again and again, what was necessary but painful? Mr Lee himself provided us the answer. He said in 1968 in this House ‘If we were a soft community, then the temptation would be to leave things alone and hope for the best. Then, only good fortune can save us from the unpleasantness which reason and logic tell us is ahead of us. But we are not an easy-going people. We cannot help thinking, calculating and planning for tomorrow, for next week, for next month, for next year, for the next generation. And it is because we have restless minds, forever probing and testing, seeking new and better solutions to old and new problems, that we have never been, and I trust never shall be, tried and found wanting.’

“Mr Lee refused to be swayed by ideology that could not work. He dubbed these as ‘highfalutin ideas that misled Singaporeans’. (‘A nation cries out in mourning’: Dr Ng Eng Hen on Lee Kuan Yew, Channel NewsAsia, 26 March 2015)

On the Second Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

7-day Period of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew:

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

On the Sixth day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, and the Wilful Blindness of Man

On the Fifth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Fourth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Third Day of National Mourning: Long Snaking Queues to Pay Last Respects to Lee Kuan Yew

On the Third Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Second Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Farewell and Good Night, Harry Lee Kuan Yew – 7 Reasons for Respecting LKY

On the second day of national mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, I happened to be the Singapore General Hospital when I looked past the doors near Bengawan Solo at Block 7 and saw a large pile of cards and flowers under white tentage.

balloons, cards, flowers at the Singapore General Hospital after the death of Lee Kuan YewIt was a remarkably sad scene – amidst the expired “Get Well Soon” cards and balloons, there were messages of condolences from Singaporeans and people who identified themselves as coming from many other places around the world. Several older folk were weeping openly in their wheelchairs or were, supported by their children, bowing to images of the man.

I have no political affiliation and, like some families, have relatives who might not have benefitted from the so-called iron-fist rule, but I do respect the guy.

It was interesting to observe the re-emergence of naysayers after a day. These hostile responses all seem to riff on 3 ideas:

  1. woohoo, the human rights-trampling dictator is dead and cowed and fearful Singaporeans are free!
  2. what mourning period? How dare you curb my freedom of speech to say what I want and when I want to!
  3. he’s not as great as you think ok – stop all this myth-making.

Just a few cents to stop all this from rattling around in my head:

Hostile Response 1 (human rights, iron fist, dictator, defamation suits) is a little boring in that while so many wag their heads about it, I have yet to read a single commentary that has anything concrete to say:

  • there are the ones with clumpy thinking – that is, they conflate all sorts of ideas without any necessary logical or causal link between them. “Lee Kuan Yew was powerful, therefore he must be rich, and all rich people obtain their ill-gotten wealth through corruption.” Well, there’s nothing to suggest he was corrupt (in fact, there’s evidence to the contrary). If he was paid well, heck, any country in the world would have cobbled together to double his salary. And if he’s saved up a tidy sum – maybe the lack of home renovation, upgrading of technological equipment, expensive cafe-hopping and restaurant-hopping, purchasing of designer goods might be a factor.
  • there’s a lack of clarity in use of terminology – we young ones have grown up believing that once someone labels anything or anyone as being anti-democratic or in violation of human rights, that person is to be damned. I may not be an expert in this but having written about human rights as my final year thesis and also having helped organise an international conference on the topic, I know that human rights are never absolute and however they may be defined, those rights are always balanced against other rights within a society. A similar question might be asked about the concept of democracy. So there is a spectrum of understanding as to what constitutes human rights, whether human rights are even right, and whether democracy (whatever it is) is the best model for the government of a society.
  • so there are also baseless assumptions – that iron-fisted-ness = dictatorship and dictatorships are always bad. (i) Dictators aren’t always a bad thing for a nation. I think dictators were actually appointed by Roman democracies in instances of emergencies, because have you ever tried getting anything done by committee? Just ask a group of people where they want to go for dinner or what movie they want to watch…(ii) To be ruled absolutely by an intelligent person who cares for the good of his people and is able to plan rightly for the future? Why should any one mind? (iii) According to S Dhanabalan, in the decision-making process, there was consultation and sparring and disagreement amongst the ministers, so it wasn’t an LKY dictatorship.
  • what we want is meaty discussion about possible alternative solutions. LKY himself was perfectly candid about having to lock people up without trial (the Marxist Conspiracy). He explained the dangers he saw and the necessity of doing so. He sued opponents for defamation because he understood that he needed moral authority to rule and could not do so if he did not vigorously dispute what he saw to be lies and impeachments on his character. Assuming this is his thinking, we must then focus not on calling him names but figuring out what he could have done differently. If he did his best, then what can we learn from the mistakes he might have made – what would be a better way to address those concerns then and how might we be able to do so in the future?

flowers, balloons, cards at the Singapore General Hospital after the death of Lee Kuan Yew

Hostile Response 2 (don’t trample on my freedom of speech). Well, do go ahead darling, but you see, there is really a time and place for everything – it’s good manners, and it’s just the way people show their humanity and their empathy. What comes out of the mouth just demonstrates the heart of the speaker. See, for example, ex-Opposition Chiam See Tong’s condolence letter – that is an example of a man of good character.

  • Also, what do you mean by free speech? To have a proper discussion about this, it might be better to understand this concept in relation to other concepts that fall under the nebulous category of human rights. There isn’t a country in the world where you have a complete right to free speech, because it must always be balanced with other people’s right to protect their reputation (from lies, slander – yes, defamation) and people’s right to live in peace (because most violence is incited by the hateful, spiteful words of others).
  • Different countries would also necessarily have different boundary markers for free speech, because the racial, cultural make-up of each country is different, and there are a host of other national concerns that must be considered.
  • The proper use of free speech (just like the proper use of democracy) occurs when those speaking are keen to contribute to the good of society or humanity. In this regard, Hostile Response 2 already suggests otherwise, but in any case, outside the mourning period, it would be much more helpful for everyone if we had something concrete to say when discussing these matters. That is, strawman statements may get you loads of “Likes” on Facebook but doesn’t quite support your demand that complete free speech is a necessity.

flowers, balloons, cards at the Singapore General Hospital after the death of Lee Kuan Yew

Hostile Response 3

Again, I think these are eulogies. You don’t speak ill of the dead out of compassion for the bereaved. So in eulogies, you remember the good things he has done. Yes, it is skewed, but no one is writing a definitive history; they are comforting the mourners.

And don’t worry. I’m sure the Catholic Church isn’t going to canonise him anytime soon. Nor has the “state-controlled press” attributed miracles to him, nor were there reports of thousands of crows swopping down on Singapore General Hospital. (Otherwise, you would have seen it on social media, and someone would have accused the gahmen of slacking on pest control.)

And certainly, no one is saying Lee Kuan Yew did this all on his own. He was well aware of the need for a ruling elite (yes, elite) and also middle managers who could get things done. See Transcript of Speech by the Prime Minister at a Meeting with Principals of Schools at the Victoria Theatre on 29th August 1966. And in his speech on The Search for Talent in 1982, LKY credited Goh Keng Swee and Hon Sui Sen for Singapore’s economic development (and also had things to say about foreign talent!).

Farewell and Goodnight, Harry Lee Kuan Yew – 7 Reasons For Respecting LKY

7-day Period of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew:

Last Day of National Mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew – State Funeral Procession

On the Sixth day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, and the Wilful Blindness of Man

On the Fifth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Fourth Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Third Day of National Mourning: Long Snaking Queues to Pay Last Respects to Lee Kuan Yew

On the Third Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

On the Second Day of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew

Farewell and Good Night, Harry Lee Kuan Yew – 7 Reasons for Respecting LKY

I’m not an easy respecter of persons. No crushes on seniors; have never been a fan of any pop group or personality; constantly set the nit-pick on prominent theologians. But in the last few months, death has claimed two of the few people I’ve respected: Teo Soon Hoe (who was known only to a few within his industry) and today, Lee Kuan Yew (known by a nation, and more globally).

flags flying at half-mast at The Fullerton Hotel, Singapore, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan Yew flags flying at half-mast at The Parliament House in Singapore, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan Yew flags flying at half-mast at The Treasury in Singapore, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan YewFlags are flying at half-mast everywhere in Singapore. And there is a certain sad stillness and muffledness to the day. Perhaps I have never observed this before but the piped-in music in shopping centres and supermarkets seems muted as Singapore starts its 7-day period of national mourning.

Walking past Parliament House, I saw condolence messages being written and put up on boards, and bouquets of flowers being laid in front of the compound:

flags flying at half-mast in Singapore and condolence messages at The Parliament House, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan Yew flags flying at half-mast in Singapore and condolence messages at The Parliament House, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan Yew flags flying at half-mast in Singapore and condolence messages at The Parliament House, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan Yew flags flying at half-mast in Singapore and condolence bouquets in front of Parliament House, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan Yew flags flying at half-mast in Singapore and condolence messages at The Parliament House, 23 March 2015, death of Lee Kuan YewHere are at least 7 reasons for respecting LKY and 7 reasons why his family* should be proud of having a father/grandfather like him. The mix is potent – intelligence and power without integrity gives you a very cunning dictator; integrity and incorruptibility is nice but useless for a politician without intelligence:

He was clear-thinking, straight-talking, and astute in international affairs:

“UK Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher said Lee had a way of “penetrating the fog of propaganda and expressing with unique clarity the issues of our time and the way to tackle them”, while US diplomat Henry Kissinger said no world leader had taught him more than Lee Kuan Yew.” (BBC News, Lee Kuan Yew: Life in pictures, 22 March 2015)

from Lee Kuan Yew Collection

“Lady Thatcher once said that there was no Prime Minister she admired more than Mr Lee for ‘the strength of his convictions, the clarity of his views, the directness of his speech and his vision of the way ahead’. His place in history is assured, as a leader and as one of the modern world’s foremost statesmen.” (UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement following the death of Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew)

“He was not at all a charmer. He was not a flatterer. He had developed his point of view. He would present it with great intelligence and eloquence – not in order to get you to do something specific, but to understand the nature of the world in which you were living…Because afterall, Singapore as a country did not represent a major force. It was the intelligence of the leaders and the ability of its population to do standards of performance that exceeded those of its neighbours. Otherwise, it would have been drowned.” (Henry Kissinger, Business Times, 23 March 2015)

He was clear-thinking, straight-talking, and astute in domestic affairs:

““To understand Singapore,” he said, “you’ve got to start off with an improbable story: It should not exist.”

It is a nation with almost no natural resources, without a common culture — a fractured mix of Chinese, Malays and Indians, relying on wits to stay afloat and prosper.

“We have survived so far, 42 years,” he said. “Will we survive for another 42? It depends upon world conditions. It doesn’t depend on us alone.”

This sense of vulnerability is Mr. Lee’s answer to all his critics, to those who say Singapore is too tightly controlled, that it leashes the press, suppresses free speech, curtails democracy, tramples on dissidents and stunts entrepreneurship and creativity in its citizens.

“The answer lies in our genesis,” he said. “To survive, we have to do these things. And although what you see today — the superstructure of a modern city — the base is a very narrow one and could easily disintegrate.”” (The New York Times, Modern Singapore’s Creator Is Alert to Perils, 2 September 2007)

“Younger people worry him, with their demands for more political openness and a free exchange of ideas, secure in their well-being in modern Singapore. “They have come to believe that this is a natural state of affairs, and they can take liberties with it,” he said. “They think you can put it on auto-pilot. I know that is never so.”

The kind of open political combat they demand would inevitably open the door to race-based politics, he said, and “our society will be ripped apart.”” (The New York Times, Days of Reflection for Man Who Defined Singapore, 10 September 2010)

He did not take bribes:

“The Americans should know the character of the men they are dealing, with in Singapore and not get themselves further dragged into calumny… You do not buy and sell this Government.” (as far as we know and at least in this case – see a newspaper article on the Rusk affair)

He had strong feelings for the right people (you don’t need someone wearing his heart on his sleeve):

“People think about him as an austere, logical and cerebral sort of person. I think he has strong feelings about quite a number of things, and also in his personal relationships with my mother, with the kids, he may not show it, but he feels it.” (Lee Hsien Loong, Today, 2012)

by Kwa Kim Li

“He brushed aside the words of a prominent Singaporean writer and social critic, Catherine Lim, who described him as having “an authoritarian, no-nonsense manner that has little use for sentiment.”

“She’s a novelist!” he cried. “Therefore, she simplifies a person’s character,” making what he called a “graphic caricature of me.” “But is anybody that simple or simplistic?”” (The New York Times, Days of Reflection for Man Who Defined Singapore, 10 September 2010)

See also A Love Story (The Sunday Times, Lee Wei Ling, 20 Jun 2010).

And Lee Kuan Yew: The Last Farewell to My Wife (The Star/Asia News Network, 10 October 2010)

And also ‘Without her, I would be a different man’: Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s love affair (Channel News Asia)

And again, The Love of His Life (Today – Special Edition, 23 March 2015)

With the sort of power he had, it was amazing that he was not corrupt and did not line his own pockets:

according to this page, this is what his Oxley Rise living room looks like.

“GROWING up, my family used to bathe using large dragon-motif ham dan gong, or salted egg jars in Cantonese. We would fill them up with water and ladle it out to wash ourselves at our home on Oxley Road.

My parents did this for almost six decades since my father moved into the house in 1945, and my mother, in 1950. It was only after my mother had her first stroke in 2003 that a shower was installed in their tiny bathroom. I think it was in part because they were so set in their ways. But it was also because my father neither cared for material things, nor coveted them.

He lived in a simple spartan way; his preoccupations and priorities lay elsewhere. Some people collect watches, shoes, pens, rare books, antiques or art, but not my father. When people gave him all sorts of gifts, he kept almost none of them. … How would I like my father to be remembered? Well, he never worried about winning any popularity contest. He would speak his mind. He fought for what he believed was best for the country and the people of Singapore. He always had the best interests of the country at heart. And at home, it was always the interests of his children and our mother.” (Lee Hsien Yang, The Straits Times -Special Edition, 23 March 2015)

and this is consistent with him being pragmatic, not for his own power, but for Singapore’s future:

“Singapore’s secret, Mr. Lee said, is that it is “ideology free.” It possesses an unsentimental pragmatism that infuses the workings of the country as if it were in itself an ideology, he said. When considering an approach to an issue, he says, the question is: “Does it work? Let’s try it, and if it does work, fine, let’s continue it. If it doesn’t work, toss it out, try another one.” The yardstick, he said, is: “Is this necessary for survival and progress? If it is, let’s do it.”” (The New York Times, Modern Singapore’s Creator Is Alert to Perils, 2 September 2007)

““I’m not saying that everything I did was right,” he said, “but everything I did was for an honorable purpose. I had to do some nasty things, locking fellows up without trial.”” (New York Times, Days of Reflection for Man Who Defined Singapore, 10 September 2010)

“There are those who believe that development was bought at the price of personal freedom and often cite Lee’s penchant for suing media organisations who disagreed with him.

But Mr Lee stood by his record until the end. “I did some sharp and hard things to get things right. Maybe some people disapproved of it… but a lot was at stake and I wanted the place to succeed, that’s all,” he said in a 2011 collection of interviews.

“At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life.”” (BBC News, Obituary: Lee Kuan Yew, 22 March 2015)

He was not always thinking about his legacy, which troubles loads of other people, petty actors as they may be on life’s stage:

“Interviewer: How would you want him to be remembered?

PM: He never troubled himself with that question either. But I don’t know what to say. He is a father, he is a father of the nation, and he made this place.” (Lee Hsien Loong, Today, 2012)

Straits Times Special Edition on the Death of Lee Kuan Yew, and ang ku kueh(apparently, ang ku kueh (red tortoise shell cakes) at funerals represent the virtuous life of the ancestors)

Singapore newspapers have put their special features online:

Today Newspaper

The Straits Times: Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Various obituaries and eulogies and opinion pages from all around the world, from friends and critics:

Henry A. Kissinger: The world will miss Lee Kuan Yew (Henry A. Kissinger, The Washington Post, 23 March 2015)

Lee Kuan Yew, Asian statesman – obituary (The Telegraph, 23 March 2015)

How Kuan Yew turned tragedy into a blessing (Zainuddin Maidin, 23 March 2015)

Can-Do Lee Kuan Yew (Roger Cohen for The New York Times, 23 March 2015)

And of course, there are several Facebook groups:

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew (official website)

Thank You Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Founding Father Singapore

PS: Also, he was a cheeky kid. See Top Performer with a Playful Streak from a defunct Raffles Institution magazine, ONE.

*Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Wei Ling, Lee Hsien Yang, Li Xiuqi, Li Yipeng, Li Hongyi, Li Haoyi, Li Shengwu, Li Huanwu, Li Shaowu etc.)

Mom! Slavoj Žižek’s Demanding the Impossible!

Ah, Slavoj Žižek, the delightful pop critical theorist, the “Elvis of Cultural Theory”. In our world of short attention-spans, he still manages to rock it like…err…Madonna?… Causing constant controversy either in misreading other philosophers or in being deliberately offensive (oh, being critical) or in just plain plagiarism, the sweaty-haired pepper-bearded one manages keeps us entertained.

If you were keen on giving him the benefit of the doubt, you’d say his philosophy was complex; if you were critical in the way he proposes, then you’d say he was fluffing.

Regardless, it’s always fun to find gems in his many talks/rambles that incorporate all manner of pop movie and contemporary-event references. 🙂

Slavoj Žižek's Demanding the Impossible, Baguette, comte

Today in Demanding the Impossible:

    • …just as in more confused times, like today, we don’t just need experts. We also need people who will think more radically to arrive at the real root of problems…I believe this may be the main task for today: to prevent the narrow production of experts…Let’s look at [an] example from ecology. When the oil spill in the Gulf Mexico unfortunately happened in the summer of 2010, people quickly needed experts to deal with the animals and other sea creatures. No, that’s not what we need. Indeed, what should be raised here is a much more fundamental question about such problems, problems for all of us which potentially shatter our commons:”What are the risks if we have to keep the oil drill?” “What kind of industry can replace it?”
    • …look at the proletarian position on the internet. It’s clear who will control the internet. What is really worrying, with so-called cloud computing, is a massive reprivatization of global spaces…I think the key is to prevent these clouds from being privately owned. This is not a technological problem; indeed, it is a purely ideological economic decision.
    • …now something new is emerging that I cannot but call “private public space.” When you chat erotically on the internet, even showing our photos or whatever, you feel like you are in contact with the global world, but you are still isolated in a private space. It’s a kind of global solipsism.
    • …when intellectual property is appropriated by private property we have a new enclosure of the commons.
    • Another thing that worries me is the reason why China weathered this financial crisis much more easily than elsewhere. The great danger is that all of a sudden, because of its virtual nature, crisis erupts. What is needed more and more are big radical decisions. In the democracy we have now, it’s difficult. You have to go through all the mechanisms. But I read a book on China…when the fiasco happened in 2008, the banks generally put a limit on borrowing because people were not paying back loans, and it was this that eventually pushed the economy further down. but in China, the communist political power bureau gave an order:”No, you should give people even more credit.” And it worked perfectly. It is somehow very sad to discover that authoritarian power is much more efficient in these conditions. [Comment: well, then it should show that your theories don’t work as you want them to work…or wait, what theories…]
    • …I wonder if this so-called “capitalism with Asian values,” a Chinese-Singaporean authoritarian capitalism, is not a new form of capitalism, which is economically even more dynamic. It’s productive and it functions even better. But it doesn’t generate a long-term demand for democracy. Now, however, the link between democracy and capitalism has been broken. [Comment: well, if the evidence doesn’t fit the hypothesis…]
    • Somehow all these civil society movements should think not just about organising a big demonstration once a year in Trafalgar Square or wherever, but about engaging in a more active cooperation.
    • Revolutions sometimes do happen maybe in times of chaos. But they usually happen when there’s neither a war nor chaos. Revolutions happen under two conditions: in times of poverty, and when justice breaks down. Yet the two are not necessarily connected. Usually in order to realise that your situation is unjust, you must a least experience a certain ideological freedom. Because the first step toward freedom is to becomes aware of your situation – the situation of injustice and unfairness.
    • I think it’s too easy to say that state power is corrupted, so let’s withdraw into this role of ethical critic of power, etc. But here I’m almost a conservative Hegelian. How many things have to function in order for something to be done? Laws, manners, rules: these are what make us feel truly free. I don’t think that people are aware of this fact. That was the hypocrisy of many leftists there: their target was the whole structure of the state apparatus of power. But we still need to count on all the state apparatus functioning…I think that the left should drop this model of immediate transparent democracy.
      The Stump Jump GSM Wine
    • I think today that the discourse of victimization is almost the predominant discourse when it says that everyone can be a victim of smoking or sexual harassment. today we have an extremely narcissistic notion of personality.
    • …what I don’t like is that you often find an aspect of satisfaction in saying: “Oh, poor Russia. But we know….” I always find it suspicious that, when you sympathise with freedom fighters in other countries, the conclusion is usually like this: “Look at those poor guys, but with us everything is okay.”…I just don’t like this liberal superiority.
    • Walter Benjamin already said: “Every rise of fascism bears witness to a failed revolution.”
    • As Hegel already know, “absolute democracy” could only actualize itself in the guise of its “oppositional determination,” as terror…So when Naomi Klein writes,”Decentralizing power doesn’t mean abandoning strong national and international standards – and stable, equitable funding – for healthy care, education, affordable housing and environmental protection. But it does mean that the mantra of the left needs to change from “increase funding” to “empower the grassroots”,” one should ask the naive question: How? How are these strong standards and funding – in short, the main ingredients of the welfare state – to be maintained? What would “multitude in power” (not only as resistance) be? How would it function?
    • In his unique book of dialogues, Rousseau, Judge of Jean-Jacques, Rousseau deployed the wonderful idea of distinguishing between two types of egotism – amour-de-soi (that love of the self which is natural) and amour-propre, the perverted preferring of oneself over others in which a person focuses not on achieving a goal, but on destroying the obstacle to it…a feeling which demands preferences, whose enjoyment is purely negative and which does not strive to find satisfaction in our own well-being, but only in the misfortune of others.
    • …in France where, you remember, there were car-burning rebels in Paris about three years ago. This I think is a model of today’s form of revolt: a bad one…It was a kind of pure protest without a program. It was, quoting Roman Jakobson in linguistics, the notion of “phatic communication.” The goal is not to pass information but just to signal,”Hi, I’m here.” The point is just to tell you this. There was no positive message of wanting more justice or dignity. It was a big explosion of violence…It is a dangerous situation when young people just have this abstract discontent. [Comment: like all sorts of ego graffiti.]

Interesting critiques, but what would the Lord of the Universe have to say to this?

The Orange Playground by The Necessary Stage and Story-telling

The Orange Playground, The Black Box, The Necessary StageRather enjoyed the evening at the Black Box dungeon of the Marine Parade Community Centre watching some works-in-progress from The Necessary Stage‘s The Orange Playground. TOP, says the publicity material is “an incubation programme where artists can freely experiment using The Necessary Stage’s unique devising methodology”. Four TOP Labs each year provide “a space for free, ad-hoc collaborative “jamming” and play between The Necessary Stage and other artists working in different genres”.

The Orange Playground, The Black Box, The Necessary Stage

Not sure how similar TNS’ current methodology is to this report:

Activity 1: Find a spot in the room, walk to the spot with eyes close. Arms up to protect yourself from banging onto each other.

Activity 2: A and B. A do a sound that B can identify. B close eyes with arms up. A has to lead B with their sounds. B has to identify and follow.

Acitivy 3: A and B. Two straight lines. Do a mirror image of A’s pose. 10 secs. B cannot try the pose. Then After 10 secs, B do the action. Layer: Twos, and Fours

Activity 4: One straight line. Hands on each other shoulders. Specs out. Using your hands, feel the person’s facial features in front of you. In one straight line. The first person leads the line. Eyes closed. Break free. Now, find back the person of that is standing in front of you.

Activity 5: Card games – Using no. 1 – 10. Choose a card. 1 represents the least. 10 represent the best. Without seeing your card, put it on your forehead so that others can see. Base on the no., treat the person according to that. Then, on the scale, arrange yourself what u think ur no. is.

Activity 6: With scenarios. Take a card and put on forehead. Two volunteers. Taxi and Doctor scenes. Base on how the other party treats you, find out the no. on your head.

Activity 7: SPICE. Self-development on characters and personality. Get to know their individual personality better. Builds their character. By impersonating or creating characters, they explore the different characters and may even find their ‘self’. Builds their improvisational skills. Aspects of individual: S – Spiritual P – Physical I – Intellect C – Cultural E – Emotional

Ethel Yap of Lab 4 did talk a little about card exercises and how character-development was helped by values being assigned to different aspects of the worldview of each character, for example, one character might be a 10 for patriotism.

The Orange Playground, The Black Box, The Necessary Stage

How did they decide on the themes for Lab 4? Oh, Haresh Sharma said, I just made them up – censorship, education, and revolution.

Devised theatre, in this incarnation, is interesting. I’d always assumed that in any sort of work of art, authorial intent was the impetus for any attempt to convey that message.

I suppose just like models of instructional design, theatre-making methodology is dependent on worldview. The methodology of collaboration, says Alvin Tan in his Masters of Philosophy thesis, is based on democratic principles, a major tenet being respect of individual rights.

But I wonder if this erroneously conflates equality of rights with equal function. In a democracy, each citizen has the right to vote, but they do not all perform the same job, nor does this preclude any sort of hierarchy. But Alvin’s view seems to be that any imposition of vision by the playwright performing his traditional function, would be hegemonic – a bad word in these (post-)post-modern and post-colonial times.

Regardless of the validity of such presuppositions, my first thought as a potential member of the paying audience was, would I want to fork out good money from a limited budget to see the result of some people’s masak-masak? I don’t think this value-for-money consideration is uniquely Singaporean.

This is not to say, though, that I am unexcited by the prospect of this sort of collaborative effort. It sounds really fun, and part of any creative process, whether officially or not, includes experimenting and jamming. And a good part of the fun would be the uncertainty of its result. But unless the play (pardon the pun) comes together as a fresh coherent whole (by this I do not mean in necessarily a traditional linear plotline etc. sense), watching the process (or even better, participating in the process) would be more fun than watching the result. Because we all know the usual conclusions of committees – as architectural wisdom goes, the designs that win building competitions are always the second best ones, because committees work on compromise.

The Orange Playground, The Black Box, The Necessary Stage

Now many of Alvin/Haresh’s collaborative plays are excellent. Would love to have been a fly on the wall to see how their jamming sessions worked, the interaction between the different parties, how the plot evolved, and whether Alvin or Haresh had veto rights. However, would anyone else have the self-discipline and editorial ability of Alvin Tan and Haresh Sharma be able to do the same? I would love it if many others did, or if they found their own method of theatre-making.

Akan datang? Edit:

Just remembered Emma Coats’s 22 Rules of Story Basics (from Pixar). Sticking it here for reference:

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Perhaps all the stories in the world that have been told, are being told, and will ever be told, follow a limited number of plotlines? See Kurt Vonnegut’s Shapes of Stories:

I particularly like Maya Eilam’s infographic presenting more of Kurt Vonnegut’s theories about archetypal stories.

Then there’s the usual dramatic structure, aka Freytag’s Pyramid.

Aerogramme Studio has a little collection of writing tips, but these assume a single author rather than a committee.

Authenticity in Politics. Siem Reap, Cambodia

London -> Harwich -> Hoek of Holland -> Amsterdam (Holland) -> Copenhagen (Denmark) -> Stockholm (Sweden) -> Riga (Latvia) -> Moscow (Russia) -> [Trans-siberian or Trans-mongolian Express] -> Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) -> [Trans-mongolian Express] -> Beijing (China) -> Hong Kong (SAR, China) -> Guangzhou (China) -> Nanning (Guangxi, China) -> Hanoi (Vietnam) -> [Reunification Express] -> Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) -> Phnom Penh (Cambodia) -> Siem Reap (Cambodia)

Siem Reap, Cambodia Siem Reap, Cambodia Siem Reap, Cambodia Siem Reap, CambodiaBoarded the Giant Ibis again to get from Phnom Penh to Cambodia. The bus was much older this time, and crowded. The infrastructure in Cambodia not being as well-developed as Vietnam meant we were treated to the sight of things covered in fine red dust as the vehicles on the “national highway” whizzed along, bumping on rocks and into potholes.

Siem Reap, CambodiaWe stopped at a roadside hut for lunch and these kids ran up. They waited at the door of the bus and peered at us as we ate. You could almost hear the Western consciences groaning under the weight of their stares. “Don’t give them money; don’t give them anything,” warned the waitstaff. Apparently, tourist money and other free stuff led to their parents pulling them from school. What use was learning if handouts were so easy? And why bother with dull drills when they could have fun and as much candy as they could manage to wheedle off people? But some gave anyway, so they wouldn’t feel so bad.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, CambodiaWanted to make a quick stop at Angkor Wat and friends again (after a decade!) before heading down to Thailand, so hired a tuk-tuk first thing the next morning to take me round. While I could navigate the place from memory, what threw me off were the hordes of visitors.

Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia Siem Reap, CambodiaThey seemed like the insidious roots of trees, getting into every crack, tearing apart buildings in their enthusiasm, as they pushed and pulled at the ancient moss-covered bricks.

Siem Reap, CambodiaPreviously, I’d climbed the old temples alone, the only sound that of cicadas and my pounding heart, afraid that if I fell, no one would find my crumpled body. Now, I’d be lucky not to be trampled to death.

What’s interesting about the Angkor Complex is the change of architecture and architectural features as political power passed from a Hindu king to a Buddhist one, and then back to a Hindu king before returning to a Buddhist one. There are various accounts of the violence that accompanied some of the successions.

Siem Reap, CambodiaPower struggles in the modern day are of a different breed altogether: not by might but by the elusive authenticity again, it seems.

In my read-through, Andrew Potter now turns to authenticity within politics in The Authenticity Hoax: Vote For Me, I’m Authentic:

The Bayon, Siem Reap, CambodiaTelevision altered politics first by making the politician’s appearance and ability to perform in front of the camera their most important quality. Television also brought money into politics because now there was the need for lots of it to pay for television advertisements. What television thrives on is conflict so it is “no wonder then that politics in the age of television consists almost entirely of heavily scripted events that offer little more than prepared statements, canned responses, and memorised talking points”.

Now the internet has led to a fundamental transformation of journalism itself so that anyone is an “insta-pundit” and anyone with a mobile phone can report “live” from the scene. Guy Debord calls this The Society of the Spectacle. “Building on Marx’s theory of commodity fetishism, Debord argued that the trajectory of modern society is characterised by a shift from an authentic and active lived reality to an alienated existence that is mediated by images, representations, and passive consumption…social relationship between people mediated by images”.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap, CambodiaIn addition, the irony, says Potter, is that “we say we want to see the real person behind the mask…we say we want spontaneity and real emotion…we say we want to be able to choose from parties and policies that accord with our beliefs and values, but when presented with all these, react with revulsion.

In actual fact, the authenticity we claim to desire must mirror our own narrow values and ideals. This is the “reason politicians hire image consultants and stick doggedly to their talking points…”spontaneity and frank talk is punished far more frequently than it is rewarded…political leaders are trying to appeal to as many people as possible without turning anyone off. Worse they have the additional burden of trying to do it under the omnipresent and omni-hostile gaze of a media that will rip them apart at the slightest misstep”.

And such media runs on controversy and scandal, eschewing the important issues of policy to pounce on anything that might sell copy put doubt on someone’s authenticity. [Comment: but there is no supply without demand, so it is the public who are to blame, surely?]

And even without the media, because authenticity is such a purportedly-valued characteristic in a political leader, negative advertising (character assassination, casting doubt on the moral valence of a candidate) will do the job.

“…this puts politics in a death spiral. A fixation on authenticity and a candidate’s character creates an opening for attack ads by the opposition. But this in turn gives a candidate an incentive to lie about his past or hide his true character, which provides jobs for all the spin doctors and image consultants whom nobody likes. In the end…it isn’t the spin doctors who have drained the authenticity from politics; rather, it is the desire for authenticity that provides opportunities for men who can help you fake it. The only alternative is to vote only for candidates who are so upright, honest, and unimpeachably dull that you wouldn’t want them having supper with you, let alone running the country.” Siem Reap, CambodiaAnd as for how “politics seems more and more a branch of marketing, with parties and leaders packaged and sold using the same techniques used to sell energy drinks, NBA players, and everything in between”, Potter argues in his usual manner that “the selling of politics does not undermine democracy, it enhances it, and the branding of political parties and leaders is not a tool for manipulating voters, but a mechanism for enabling democratic participation…[because] most people don’t have the time or frankly, the ability to properly digest budgets, policy documents, or drafts of new bills, and the distillation of the stupendous complexities of the modern state to a handful of simple but distinct brands is not just useful, but necessary”.

Siem Reap, CambodiaHowever, in the previous chapter, Potter’d already mentioned Andrew Keen and Cass Sunstein’s assessments of how undemocratic the internet is. And if “democracy is based on the premise that reasonable people can disagree over issues of fundamental importance, from abortion and gay rights to the proper balance of freedom and security. When the mere fact that someone supports the other side becomes evidence that they have been brainwashed, then the truth is you no longer believe in democracy”.

Siem Reap, Cambodia“You buy my postcard…one dollah!” cried the little boy as he followed me around. Because I had in my mind the monks that might have lived here previously, perhaps meditating or deciphering a palimpsest, I couldn’t help but giggle at the incongruity. And the two children started laughing as well. “Haha!” said the boy quoting himself,””Buy my postcard one dollah”…hahahaha!” as he chased the girl amongst the old stones

wait, a stegosaurus? Angkor Complex, Siem Reap, Cambodiawait, a stegosaurus? or did a rookie stonecarver try and fail to do an iguana justice?

On the topic of dinosaurs, a really good example of unreasoned ignorant echo-chamber hatred on the internet is the time Steven Spielberg’s photo with an apparently deceased triceratops went viral, with people accusing him of violating animal rights etc.

And on the topic of internet hate, this New York Times article on Justine Sacco has been making the rounds. Most of the “lessons learnt” comments though, are not about circumspection in judging someone negatively or refraining from indulging in mob violence, but on ensuring one does not get on the bad side of the fickle crowd…

street food carts, Siem Reap, CambodiaThe street food didn’t look very fresh in Siem Reap, so, instead of doing the usual Pub Street routine, decided to splash out a little on Khmer restaurants instead: Chanrey Tree, Siem Reap, Cambodia banana chip, Chanrey Tree, Siem Reap, Cambodia Chanrey Tree, Siem Reap, Cambodia coconut, Chanrey Tree, Siem Reap, Cambodia frog legs, Chanrey Tree, Siem Reap, CambodiaChanrey Tree Restaurant

salad, The Sugar Palm Restaurant, Siem Reap, Cambodia amok, The Sugar Palm Restaurant, Siem Reap, Cambodia pomelo salad, The Sugar Palm Restaurant, Siem Reap, CambodiaThe Sugar Palm Restaurant

*part of a read-through of Andrew Potter’s The Authenticity Hoax

**also part of a photo-journal of my journey overland from London to Singapore

Authenticity and Anti-authoritarianism, Hong Kong SAR, China

London -> Harwich -> Hoek of Holland -> Amsterdam (Holland) -> Copenhagen (Denmark) -> Stockholm (Sweden) -> Riga (Latvia) -> Moscow (Russia) -> [Trans-siberian or Trans-mongolian Express] -> Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) -> [Trans-mongolian Express] -> Beijing (China) -> Hong Kong (SAR, China)

I loved how much Hong Kong was like the set of Blade Runner, with its plethora of neon signs filling the space above the streets. Hong Kong (Kowloon)

Hong Kong (Kowloon)

Residential flats in Kowloon too spoke of the economy of air space. Nothing was wasted for something as unprofitable as a balcony: Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon)

On the ground, shops were sub-sub-sub-divided so as to spawn tiny lots crammed with goods and tools of trade: Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon)

in markets, boxes and sacks of dried meat and vegetables and mushrooms and noodles, unable to be confined to the shop, spilled out onto the corridors: Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon) It was as if empty space abhored a vacuum and any unused surface, even a door, quickly attracted posters of every description and size and colour: Hong Kong (Kowloon)

On the streets, signs, not content to be in one language, were bilingual, making even empty streets look busy: Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon) Everywhere, the hustle and bustle and noise and mass of goods clamouring for attention: Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon) in the flower market, Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon)in the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, etc.

And Hong Kong seemed authentic, in the sense that none of these markets existed mainly for the benefit of tourists. In fact, one of the bird shop owners stood outside his shop defensively, stick in hand, once a tour-bus of French people descended, using it to tap away professed animal-lovers who were simultaneously commenting on the sad lives of caged feathered beings, and shocking the same poor birds with their camera flashes.

But perhaps there was a different sort of inauthenticity, said some commentators, with reference to the Occupy Hong Kong or Umbrella Revolution. This was the latest in one-upmanship, they said. Ever since the beginning of human society, everyone has desired to show how much better they are than everyone else. A few decades ago, you trumped others with branded clothes and expensive goods. But that has since become quite vulgar. Later, animal rights and human rights advocacy were how you demonstrated your (moral) superiority. Presently it seems, political martyrdom is the thing. If the good of society was the underlying reason, there might have been a better way of being heard and changes being made without a whole lot of inconvenience to everyone else (money lost, commuters who have to deal with congestion, police who have to work long hours), but where’s the self-glory in that? Better to get world recognition and the pats on the back, than to be an anonymous contributer to the improvement of the common good.

I met some Hong Kong students on my travels who were jealous that their friends had been able to rush home to be “part of history”. (Full details, photos, vidz, were on social media, with many “Like”s.) When asked what this “full democracy” was that they wanted, they admitted they didn’t know the details.

It was difficult for me to comprehend how one could agitate for something unknown. Lemmings come to mind. Thought these questions were worth asking:

  • What is “full” or “true” democracy?
  • If this can be defined, has any country anywhere ever practiced that?
  • If so, what were the advantages and disadvantages of that, and how specific were they to the particular situation of that country?
  • Was there ever “full democracy” under the British?
  • What were the terms of the handover?
  • What does “universal sufferage” mean?
  • How differently should it apply to Hong Kong, not an autonomous state, but part of the People’s Republic of China?

But the Hong Kong students grew defensive,”This is the only chance we’ve got! We need to show them!” But what exactly do you want to show them?
actors playing policemen, Hong Kong (Kowloon)not real policemen; actors taking a break from filming

I wondered if one’s position on the social ladder was now determined in terms of how much one could boast of one’s anti-authoritarianism. If the official position was capitalism, then socialism or communism would agitated for, and vice versa. Nothing at all praise-worthy about that.

And meanwhile, the camps themselves became quite the tourist attraction, many visitors taking selfies/wefies with empty tents. Protest Theme Park in the offing?:

Hong Kong (Kowloon) Hong Kong (Kowloon)
Past the protest camps, Tim Ho Wan in Mongkok was quiet when we arrived. We were ushered to a table immediately and made quick work of the concise menu:

Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong (Kowloon)

Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong (Kowloon) Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong (Kowloon) Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong (Kowloon) Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong (Kowloon)“Do you think some of the protestors might come to this one Michelin star restaurant for dim sum?”

Why not, I thought. It would only seem incongruous because modern society has somehow conflated authenticity with anti-authoritarianism, anti-capitalism and being on a lower tax-payer scale. So even if yum cha at Tim Ho Wan was affordable generally, patronising a place mentioned in the Michelin Guide would have smacked of selling out to an Institution. Uncomfortable with the lack of clarity of thought.

Surely there is no inherent virtue in either eating one’s dinner in one’s crowded workplace:

men eating in a Chinese medicinal shop. Hong Kong (Kowloon)
instead of on the balcony of an apartment on The Peak, with a clear view of the city:

view from an apartment in The Peak, Hong Kong (Kowloon)or spending money supporting emerging artists at PMQ Arts Hub

PMQ, Hong Kong (Kowloon)instead of, say, on a Geisha brew:

Hong Kong (Kowloon)
Hong Kong (Kowloon)No. And perhaps they are equally inauthentic, for

all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

PS: if anyone was looking for an English-speaking church in Hong Kong, I’d recommend Ambassador International Church Hong Kong – observed John Percival to be a faithful preacher.