15 Sep 2006

sit-ins promote democracy!!

sit-ins promote democracy!!

Like the much older "bartop dancing promotes creativity!", the statement in the title is based on hope rather than logic. However, it is not entirely stupid either.

Democracy means people decide; in Singapore, people have mostly kept quiet and given the government freedom to make social and economic policies, except that every 5 years or so an election is held to re-affirm the state of affairs and provide the government with a "mark", i.e., the vote % - this is how the people decide.

How to stop a government becoming incompetent or corrupt? In the standard western model, opposition parties and mass media are supposed to monitor government performance, but this assumes that there are sufficient economic opportunities outside government control so that opposition politicians and journalists do not fear being deprived. If this is not the case the model is not applicable, and the public is required to rely on the government's own self-discipline, both in maintaining standards, and in seeking out critical views so that it may constantly try to correct errors and improve performance.

Sit-ins, demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience are a particular form of critical view, from a numerically small group that holds qualitatively strong views. Whether to allow these acts to take place is actually less important than knowing what motivates them, how widely the same motivations are shared, and whether it is necessary to do something to de-motivate them. Currently, to quite different degrees, Taiwan and Singapore are both looking at this issue.


Matilah_Singapura said...

> How to stop a government becoming incompetent or corrupt?

You can't do that. I can't do that. No one has ever been able to do that. ALL governments are corrupt and incompetent and only vary by degree.

Democracy is a cute little concept, and apparently very popular. It always amuses me when someone passionately stands up and shouts "Democracy is the answer!!".

No, it is not.

Freedom, is the answer. And freedom is an individual thing.

Anonymous said...

man you are shouting slogans; slogans are not the same as answers

Matilah_Singapura said...

OK, I'll clarify.

I'll start with the premise: freedom is an individual state. That means to say, the individual experiences it personally. Objectively, he can test it by see how far he can exercise his power of personal choice. e.g. can he move from A to B without much interference? If he is allowed to do so without being acosted, then he has freedom of movement. Can he kill people he doesn't like? He can, but then he invites "expensive" consequences into his life. Thus he is not free to commit murder.

For the "average peaceful Jo and Jane", and not for power-crazed people, modern political systems have one goal — FREEDOM. Modern political systems attempt to solve the following:

Freedom from: poverty, starvation, lack of education, lack of adequate health care, intolerance, fear, violence and the threat of violence, etc... These are freedoms from "negative" things which adversely affect human existence if they are not "solved".

Then there is the more "positive" freedom — the freedom of the individual to pursue his happiness — to be able to, if he so chooses, realise his potential.

Any political system which doesn't do these is not worth considering. for example: a political system which suggests "no freedom" is likely to be extremely unpopular.

People want to be free.

One can even say that the opposite of freedom is slavery. If you go around and do a survey, asking people if they would like to be slaves, I guarantee you won't be getting too many answers in the affirmative. ;-)

The folks who favour democracy believe that "If we have democracy we will have freedom".

But it can be clearly argued and backed up with empirical evidence that democracy does not necessarily produce freedom. In fact, democracy more often than not produces less freedom.

What these romantic rebels overlook is that democracy is a RESULT or a CONSEQUENCE of Freedom. In other words, they have it around the wrong way.

The goal then is FREEDOM, not DEMOCRACY.

Anonymous said...

you are judging a government's competency with their toleration for acts of civil disobedience?

look at taiwan. the politicians bash each other with furniture after a session. if this is the type of governace u want, migrate over.

Anonymous said...

Text of Chee Soon Juan's podcast

My dear fellow Singaporeans,

This is the first time that I am addressing you on our podcast since the PAP banned podcasting during the elections in May. I cannot tell you how much of an honour it is to have you listen to this message, a message that has enormous importance to our future and the future of Singapore.

Our nation is at a crossroads and we, the citizens, have a decision to make. Go down one path and we will end up in a nightmare situation where the oppression makes us all live a life of lies and deception.

Go down the other and we have the opportunity of creating a society where we are free to question the government, one where we can demand transparency and accountability of those whom we elect to power, and one where we can don't have to live in fear of the PAP.

That opportunity will come this Saturday. I cannot tell you how crucial it is that you come down to the Speakers' Corner to join the rally and march.

I know that there are many of you realize the importance and the significance of this event. But I also know that many of you are afraid of getting into trouble with the PAP. It would be a lie to tell you that there is nothing to fear.

But I also need to tell you that if you allow fear to be your master, our nation will go down the path of social and political ruin which will ultimately lead to economic decline for all of us.

Remember, a strong and prosperous country is never built on a foundation of fearful citizens.

But I hear many of you say Singaporeans are not worth fighting for. They are selfish and apathetic and it's silly sacrificing for such an unappreciative lot.

Allow me to relate to you what some activists in other countries have said about their own peoples. Do you remember Benigno Aquino, the Philippines politician who was assassinated by Ferdinand Marcos?

His image now appears on the country's 500-peso note and beside it are the words "the Filipino is worth dying for". Many of his countrymen had told him that the Filipinos were not worth sacrificing for because they behaved so cravenly in the face of Marcos' bullying.

His colleague the late Senator Jose Diokno was so incensed by the lack of courage of the Philippine people to stand up to Marcos that he once remarked that his country was made up of Quote 49 million cowards and one sonofabitch!"

Similarly in Taiwan , an activist once scolded her fellow Taiwanese during the Kuomintang dictatorship Quote I would not encourage anyone to sacrifice for the 20 million Taiwanese who are so cowardly that whenever I see them I want to give them one big slap. Unquote

In 1997 when I attended a conference in Melbourne during a time when trouble was brewing in Indonesia, someone suggested that Indonesia could have its own People Power to get rid of Suharto. But an Indonesian scholar stood up and lamented that this could never happen in his country because, unlike the Filipinos, his fellow countrymen were too fearful to stand up to Suharto.

There are many more examples. In each case, people despaired over the weakness and lack of courage of their fellow citizens. Yet in every case, the people ultimately found the courage to say enough was enough and stood up to their oppressors.

How did this happen? It was always the few who felt compelled to do what was right and who would not look the other way when injustice was perpetrated that started the wheels of people power turning. Wasn't it Martin Luther King who said: "Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better."

Taiwan's Shih Ming-teh who struggled for democracy for his people and was imprisoned for nearly a quarter of a century by the KMT government said that Quote freedom fighters crawl along a narrow path, but in the end those who follow will broaden the path into a wide avenue. Unquote

It always starts with a few drops that will collect into a trickle. Before long that trickle will turn into a stream that will eventually become a raging torrent for freedom.

Don't despair. Instead believe. Have faith in our fellow Singaporeans, that like peoples elsewhere, our own will one stand up to the oppressors.

For now the few of us must take that first courageous step. Don't wait for the next guy to come forward for if everyone waits for everyone else, then we will forever be standing still.

Let me, for a moment, take my message to Lee Hsien Loong. Mr Prime Minister, if you are listening, you too have a momentous decision to make. Make the right one to bring freedom and justice to this country and history will commend you as a great leader. Make the wrong one and I guarantee you will face increased resistance. This is a fight you cannot win. A great leader is not just a strong one, but also a wise one. And wisdom is telling you that the time is come for Singapore to be free. I pray that you will exercise sound judgment and that wise counsel will prevail.

And to all my colleagues in the opposition, I would like to humbly urge everyone to come together to demand change. Only when we claim our right to exercise our freedom of peaceful assembly can we exert concerted pressure on the PAP to carry out reforms of the election process, the media and the legal system. When such reforms are in place, it will benefit the opposition as a whole.

And when the opposition benefits, Singaporeans can finally find their voice in parliament.

The only ticket out of this hole that we are in is to fight for our rights to peaceful public protests. With this fundamental tool in hand, we can compel the Government to make elections genuinely free and fair. Until then, we will all be forever condemned to running in circles.

We owe it to our fellow citizens to make the sacrifices and to suffer the pain before democracy can be won.

And so to all my fellow Singaporeans, I want to remind you that we are citizens of Singapore, not serfs. Citizens have rights. Let us stand up for our rights. Let our citizenship mean something. Let us respect the Government but let us not fear it, for only serfs fear their governments.

There comes a time when one refuses to be humiliated any longer, a time when she cannot tolerate the intimidation any more, a time when he refuses to continue to lie to himself and to his loved ones.

That time is now. I ask you to come and join my colleagues and I this Saturday because we are those men and women. We will gather at the Speakers' Corner in peace and humility but with an indomitable resolve to assemble and speak freely in our own country.

Whatever happens on Saturday we have already won. Why? Because we have become more aware of our right to freedom of peaceful assemble and begun to think more deeply about the concept and practice of civil disobedience.

Remember, it is not our bodies that have been crippled but our minds. If we can overcome our fear, our battle is won. The genie is out of the bottle and not even the PAP can put it back in.

You take that one step and I will take a hundred. I will be there standing shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm with you, holding high our heads and to show what it really means to stand up for Singapore.

They can sue me, they can jail me and they can take away everything I possess. But the one thing that they can never have is my obedience. As long as democracy is suppressed, as long as justice is mocked, I will not be silenced.

Join me and together let us make history. I'll see you on Saturday. Thank you and God bless.

Matilah_Singapura said...

My absolute preference is to have no government at all. Of course, although it is possible, I doubt I will see this in my lifetime, because the way I see it, the majority of people still need to be governed and are incapable of governing themselves, or keeping their hands to themselves — completely off the person and property of their fellow-man.

So the best I can hope for is a state like Hong Kong where there is minimal government.

Politicians can shoot each other for all I care. In fact, I support it! :-)

The less politicians, the better for the average personally responsible Jo and Jane Blo.

Without personal responsibility, freedom is IMPOSSIBLE — One can have democracy, anarchy, monarchy, theorocracy...any political or social system at all, and still have no freedom if one is not personally responsible.

In case anyone forgets, Singapore under the care of the British East India Company was akin to pure private property. The whole darn island was "rented" then bought outright by the BEIC (the world's largest GLC at the time) from the sultan.

Politics didn't come into the picture until after WWII, in 1948, when they needed to fill 6 seats in the 25 seat Legislative Assembly. In 1951 the increase the elected seats to 9.

Democracy had violent beginings in Singapore. People were killed during riots. Democracy causes political divisiveness. FREEDOM, on the other hand encourages some competition and some cooperation, but all in all voluntary association to get things done.

During David Marshal and Lim Yew Hock's time, (early 1950's), the PAP was decidedly leftist or pro-communist, and in fact some of its members were arrested under the Internal Security Act — the very laws the PAP uses today to bully dissidents and opposition.

Like I said, freedom comes first — Singapore under the British was essentially laissez faire; then democracy comes later (and usually— though necessarily — messes up the freedom).

Except for the Japanese occupation, Singapore was peaceful and very prosperous under the British, especially during the reign of Queen Victoria. Great Britain was on a full gold standard at the time, except for WW1 where inflation was rampant. After WW1, they got back on the gold standard until 1931, and after WWII that was essentially the end of the British Empire, when an over-blown welfare state emerged.

One more time: The goal is FREEDOM, not democracy.

ycbi said...

Latest Statement by Dr Chee Soon Juan at Speakers' Corner
@5.30 pm, 16 Sep 06

We have been stopped by the police from going to the Parliament House to hold our rally. All we want from the Government is the reason why this is not possible.

If the police gives us a reason and if it is a credible one, we will accept it and we will go along with their decision.

What is unacceptable is for the police to not give us a reason.

The Government must not treat us like children any longer. We have asked the representative of the police to come and tell us the reason, but they have refused.

It is important that the Government explains itself when it says 'No' to something.

We want to be reasoned with, not talked down to.


Matilah_Singapura said...

Last time I checked, parliament house was paid for by the taxpayers.

I also know for a fact, that it's not illegal to walk there as a citizen, resident or tourist.

Student said...

JUST A Question for clarification:

Was former Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock the one who sold our Christmas Island to Australia ?

I wonder why there is not much history about this even in our school textbooks.

Was there a deliberate plan to slant our history lessons ?

Matilah_Singapura said...

> Was there a deliberate plan to slant our history lessons ?

State controlled education. The state decides for you what is important.

All your lessons are planned directly or indirectly by the state.

Student said...

Thank you,for your clarification.
It is very sad.

Yes, I agree - our school textbooks do NOT give us a balanced view of how history. It is so obvious that it is all contrite and artificial.

No wonder, I read somewhere that though many Singaporeans loved this country, many felt this country is NOT THE SAME as it was before.

Those were the good old days when ppl are friendlier and closer, inter-racially, too, with leaders (long passed away) who are more attuned to the ppl.

What has gone wrong ?

PPl are not happy as they used to be. This was even confirmed by our very LOW rating in the Happiness Index.

Anonymous said...

there is no doubt economic distance between the top and bottom has widened; part of this is due to the objective condition: the lower parts have to compete with Indonesia, Vietnam, etc, while the upper parts compete with Hongkong, New York etc

however, I believe a more positive attitude towards social welfare can make a big difference with acceptable expenditure; it not only helps people directly, but also increases the circulation of money in the poorer neighbourhoods, with increased spending in hawker centres, wet markets, HDB shops, so that the benefit is multiplied

Matilah_Singapura said...

To student:

IMO, it is important to expose yourself to ideas beyond your syllabus, and to challenge what you're taught or whatever you read.

Yes, the country is not the same. Nothing is. Everything changes over time. Human relationships are a CHOICE. If you want friendliness and closeness, and happiness you do it and be it. Forget about "leaders" — they are for sheep and cattle.

Just because some people tell you that they are "unhappy" doesn't mean you have to be unhappy too. In fact, just because someone else is feeling any emotion, doesn't mean you change your emotional state too. There is a BIG DIFFERENCE between sympathy and empathy, and you choose how you feel. Your "happiness" is your responsibility, forget about expecting the government (or any one else) to provide you with that. We ALL create our own emotions. So whatever you feel, you made it!

to anon 10:49

No one is born "equal". The ideas that people are born "equal" or should be made "equal" is pure nonsense. Unfortunately these ideas are very popular. Try a simple experiment with you and your friends — get together one day, and see how "equal" you are to each other.

It is one's natural right to be "unequal". Since we are all "unequal", and thus have different skills and abilities, we have to depend on each other to survive and to prevail. That is why humankind evolved into the division of labour — and it is a combination of competition AND co-operation.

To all proponents of "social welfare": if helping the "needy" is so important, how come you folks aren't doing it yourselves?

Anonymous said...

how do you know I am not? but an individual can only help those close to him; to do it on the social level is the government's job

Matilah_Singapura said...

to anon 1:10

What is a "social" level?

There is no such thing as "society". What there is is actual people — real live men, women and children.

If individuals are not willing to assist other individuals directly, then any "solution" by the state is an act of force.

Being "needy" doesn't give ANYONE the right to a claim on the property of others.

And speaking of "welfare": the first type of "welfare" which must go is corporate welfare. Corporate welfare is way bigger than any social welfare program.

Anonymous said...

you are just playing with words

it is also possible to say nonsense like "being government doesnt give it right to claim my money"; of course you can say so, while the government takes your money; if you feel happy that way, just keep it up

Matilah_Singapura said...

No, I'm not playing with words. You have made up your own mind and lack the depth of understanding certain principles — which is fine. I don't really care :-)

No one has the right to your property.

Governments can take your property because the state operates by the "legal" principle (arbitrary at best, immoral at worst) of eminent domain. The state makes its own laws for the given territory and upholds the law by force.

The very same basic legal principle used by the state to levy taxation is used to limit Mr Chee's (and his merry band of folowers) freedom of movement, the right to peaceful assembly, the right to communicate ideas.

It is all a violation of PRIVATE PROPERTY and INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS.

The road to liberty begins by winding down the arbitrary State powers — either by getting rid of the state all together (anarchy), or limiting the powers of the government in charge of the state (minarchy).

Remember, the state and the country are NOT the same thing.

Anonymous said...

played with more words, and more, and more; man you are long winded; your answer to any comments is another long windy list of slogans that go nowhere

please give me freedom from your words...

Anonymous said...

Listen here.You are so pro to this country.Get vanished then.

braveheart said...

What is played with more words?Admit it.Singaporean chinese are racists.Look at the Classified Jobs.They hired mandarin speaking only.

braveheart said...

Go back to China and give it back to Malaysia.

Matilah_Singapura said...

anon 11:14

Freedom is an individual thing. I don't force you to read my posts. I don't really care if you do — your life is your own :-)

I write because I like to write, and I want to write. I do enjoy pursuing my "happiness" purely in my own self interest.

Remember: selfishness and egoism — they are great values, especially if you like turbo-charged individual freedom, like me.

...unless of course you are one of those guilt-ridden altruists/apologists. You are free to moan and groan about all the "suffering" in the world.

Go ahead, knock yourself out! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I already guessed it; you just enjoy hearing yourself; you dont actually care about freedom