Friday, September 22, 2006

As we were saying...

It appears that the new regulations, which provide a pathetic semblance (but some semblance nonetheless) of labour rights for migrant workers in Singapore, have finally taken effect, with a conviction for some bitch who forced her maid to climb out of her window to clean the outside of it. ChannelNewsAsia reports here.

This sort of shit really annoys me. Of course, the lack of any laws protecting the right of migrant workers to safe and humane working conditions was (is?) an outrage, but it is mind-boggling that, even had no laws existed prohibiting such behaviour, an employer would actually make her maid do something that is so obviously unacceptable and unsafe. Indeed, the maid in question is fortunate to be alive: there have a few cases in the past where maids have fallen to their deaths as a result of acrobatically balancing on window ledges in order to 'clean the outside'. In any case, appliances (which are, incidentally, extremely inexpensive) exist which allow one to clean one's window without fear of death. Why these employers did not simply buy these appliances and provide them to their maids is beyond comprehension.

Also incidentally, it has been most convenient for Ng Eng Hen to trumpet these new regulations when the Roman Catholic diocesan Justice and Peace Commission called for their introduction more than ten years ago. Of course, when such ideas are put forward by people who are not government ministers, they are naturally 'Marxist' and thus the originators of such ideas must be arrested under the ISA. Perhaps it is progress after all; ten years ago, such ideas meant the arbitrary imprisonment of Catholic diocesan workers as Marxist conspirators, today, these ideas have become government policy.

But this then brings us to what Quentin Skinner has been on about with his 'Third Concept of Liberty'. Skinner's so-called neo-Roman theory of liberty is most apropos here. This theory is that one is not free insofar as one's so-called 'rights' and 'freedoms' and held in trust by the authorities. One is a slave, and one's rights and not truly rights but privileges, granted to one by an indulgent prince. This is the answer we must give to all who continue to laud the technocratic, top-down 'reform' being pursued by Lee fils and friends. Of course, a shift from bad policy to good policy is to be welcomed, but ultimately, we must not be content simply with remaining slaves/dogs, to whom scraps of freedom are to be given when it is judged convenient by our masters. We must not be content until there are no masters or slaves, but only democratic and unaccountable leaders, agents and not rulers of the people.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Waiting for a funeral

First of all, I must of course apologise for my very long absence, which I must put down to laziness, as well as basic exhaustion -- I don't know if I can really be bothered arguing against the bullshit that goes on in Singapore anymore.

Take for example, the lastest case of Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, only 19 years old, who has been convicted of importing heroin into Singapore. Naturally, he is facing the death penalty. Isn't that nice? Amnesty has more here, but really I have little hope for Tochi. He is Nigerian, and the Singapore establishment know his case won't excite much sympathy because the Singapore public are simply racist, and won't give much of a shit about his fate.

Of course, the same old nonsense will be trotted out in justification of taking this young man's life. It is necessary, it is claimed, in order to deter drug dealers from entering Singapore. Strangely, given that Singapore has the highest per capita rate of execution in the world, and most of these execution are for drug-related offences, no one seems to question why on earth the supposed deterrent effect doesn't seem to be detering these new cases which seem to crop up year after year after year.

However -- and herein lies the reason for the exhaustion I mentioned above -- I've realised those who think there is some kind of serious debate about this issue going on here are utterly mistaken. Using reason is pointless here because the Singapore government mafia and totally impervious to reason. Indeed, there is no debate either way, for no thinking, sane, reasonable person could find any justification for taking the life of a 19 year old boy (that's three bloody years younger than I am for God's sake) or indeed of any person, for an offense that neither directly causes death nor poses any immediate threat to society, and through a legal system which is crafted to assume guilt and impose mandatory death sentences for such offences. The thinking world, i.e. the world of adults who have moved past the mental age of four, knows there is no debate here. The mandatory death penalty for drug offences is repugnant, and can never be justified.
But in the world of the Singapore mafia, and the drugged population fed on pedestrian, inane, half-truths by a propaganda mouthpiece media, there is also no debate. This is a literal fact. There is no policy debate about anything fundamental; all the debate there is is about technocratic details of already existing policy. Singapore is governed by the 'home-truths' and private prejudices of Lee Kuan Yew and his mafia and the rest is just the icing on the cake, or rather the flies on the turd.

Now, I realise this makes me sound like a rabid, conspiracy-mongering, Chee Soon Juan-like figure. And one month ago, I would have reacted in the same way to some of the comments I am myself making here. But one month ago, I had not had the misfortune of working in the so-called Foreign Service of Singapore; I had not had the chance to listen to Ambassadors and High Commissioners and Desk Directors mention 'Lee Kuan Yew's book' every few sentences and the convoluted and supremely uninteresting and unobjective history of Singapore in the 1960s contained therein. I had not had the opportunity to learn that our fanatical fear and loathing of Malaysia, and our ridiculous inferiority/superiority complex is almost entirely driven by the private hopes and fears of that one man, Lee Kuan Yew, literally four decades ago. The only response when I hear this crap being spouted from the mouths of these High Commissioners, Ambassadors and Desk Directors, crap which they think are pearls of wisdom being carefully imparted to an ignorant younger generation, is to say: 'I don't care. And neither should you.'
So really all we're doing is, in Yawning Bread's phrase, waiting for a funeral. Not just a literal funeral of course, although that would certainly be a start. Once the Dear Leader is gone, perhaps his heir will not be so strong. Perhaps the fundamental -- and fundamentally repugnant -- values will be torn away and replaced by something more humane, more reasonable, more compassionate.

Until that time, there will be a lot more funerals to endure. When your basic values are the fascist ones of complete regard for the loony ideas of your Fuhrer, and the complete disregard for the worth evident in every human being, regardless of their intellectual, physical or emotional capacity, then one or two deaths along the way are nothing to lose too much sleep over.

As for me, I'll be waiting for that funeral.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Quote of the Day

Since someone posted a comment obliquely alluding to Christianity, I've decided we could do with a nice quote from St Ambrose:

"It is not with your own wealth that you give alms to the poor, but with a fraction of their own which you give back; for you are usurping for yourself something meant for the common good of all. The earth is for everyone, not only for the rich."


Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Day After

My people, what have I done to you
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I led you out of Egypt,
from slavery to freedom,
but you led your Saviour to a cross.

My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

What more could I have done for you.
I planted you as my fairest vine,
but you yielded only bitterness.

My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

I led you from slavery to freedom
and drowned your captors in the sea,
but you handed me over to your high priests.

My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

One Last Thing

I think if you've read my earlier posts then I don't need to say more about how you should vote. But one last thing -- some of you might be thinking 'I don't like the way things are going now, but the alternative party candidates probably won't be able to do much better. So why should I vote for them?' You might thus be thinking of casting a spoilt vote, or even of voting for the PAP, just to be safe.

If you are, you should think again. Without a base in Parliament, non-PAP parties simply can't sustain much momentum. They have little resources, they are under constant threat of defamation suits and other attacks on their character (and finances). They have no access to the media, and outside of election time they can't hold rallies so there is no way they can speak up or communicate with the electorate in a mass way. They have to start from somewhere, and if you withhold your vote from them, you are yourself complicit in the fact that opposition candidates remain 'not good enough'. If you think Singapore deserves to evolve into a mature democracy, then please do not hesistate to give an alternative party your vote.

What if you think the alternative party contesting your constituency is really unsavoury/incompetent? Well, if you're thinking that way, many other voters are probably thinking in the same way. To be honest, if you live somewhere like Sembawang, there is no real chance that the alternative party will win a majority. But that shouldn't prevent you from voting against the party which in its last five years in government has done little to provide succour for the disadvantaged, and has certainly done little in leaving even a small private sphere of non-interference for the individual citizen. Protest votes aren't irresponsible. In certain circumstances, they're the best you can do.

So, if you have yet to cast your vote, please think on these things.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What You Won't Read About in the Straits Times II

During the 2004 US presidential elections, much hype centred on the role of the 'new media', especially political blogs and podcasts, and their success in raising the profile and campaign contributions of candidates like Howard Dean. Much was also made about how they would provide an alternative source of information and comment from the sycophantic Fox News and the other 24-hour news networks.

Well, I don't know how the US fared in the Reporters Sans Frontieres global ranking of press freedom, but I'm fairly certain the American press was ranked quite a bit higher than 140th. Yes, that's right, Singapore was ranked 140th, below Russia, Afghanistan and Bhutan, for press freedom. If political blogs and podcasts played even a tiny role in the 2004 US election, their potential impact in terms of providing an alternative (i.e. more reliable) news source in Singapore must be exponentially higher.

Of course, the PAP has taken steps to ensure that even the freedom of speech on the internet is severely constricted. It has, for example, banned podcasts, and has established fairly strict rules on the discussion of the elections and political issues on blogs. Nevertheless, there have been a good number of new blogs (and old) which have dedicated space to covering the election. I include a partial list below, but please feel free to suggest others if you know of them:

What's interesting I think is that from my perusal of the comments pages on some of these blogs, there is a real feeling among bloggers and blogbrowsers that the media in Singapore is utterly unreliable and filled with biased reporting and sycophantic praise for the PAP. Obviously the realisation that the media can't be trusted and thus that reliable information should only be sought elsewhere is the first, tentative step towards breaking the monopoly that the state-controlled media have on public debate.

An excellent example of this is the contrast between comments I've read about what I will call 'the James Gomez soap opera' -- where the general feeling is that it was an honest careless and most importantly insignificant mistake by Gomez -- and the declarations of anathema now emanating from the Singapore press. Indeed, there seems to be a significant amount of residual public outrage over the National Kidney Foundation scandal, and particularly with Mrs Goh Chok Tong's 'peanuts' comment, and the attempt by the PAP to kick up a fuss over the Gomez saga seems oddly to have re-focused attention on that, by way of contrast as it were.

In any case, my advice is read the Straits Times and to watch the news only if you're feeling like a bit of comedy (or outrage, if you are so inclined), and even then, to prepare way before hand a big bucket of salt.

What You Won't Read About in the Straits Times