Singapore to blame for … what?

Sorry have been rather quiet lately. Anyway just thought I’d draw your attention to this deliberately provocative article on how Singapore is apparently to blame for the Israel-Arab war. Yes, connect the dots across all manner of time, space and sense to. Yes a well-written piece by an esteemed Political Science lecturer from Yale University. Should be credible right? Well read it for yourself, and maybe read this fitting response as well.

With all due respect, I think Sleeper has made a bold observation, but I think are some learning points we can hope to take away from this:

1. If you have a thesis statement, make sure you, well, address it (did Sleeper ever explain why Singapore was to be responsible?)

2. Just because A and B are share some similarities, don’t attribute blame to B for what A is responsible for. I think it is perfectly reasonable to compare countries for the purposes of analysis or to find correlations for further study but to so haphazardly attribute cause-and-effect is bewildering. Singapore is quite similar to Hong Kong too. Did we have a hand in their protests against the mainland?

3. Bringing in Yale-NUS, referring to the ‘dictatorship’ of Lee Kuan Yew. Red Herring anyone? If you want to discuss reasons for something, try to keep your discussion on that something maybe?

4. And here I have to to echo the thoughts of the local blogger who wrote the response above:

I’ve got a more important request to make of you (and others of your ilk): stop writing about us like bizarre science fiction. For all our illiberalism & paradoxes & illogicality, we exist. I know we do not fit neatly into your narrative of how the world should be, but we exist nonetheless. And you know what? Our existence does not undermine your democracy or your education system or peace in the Middle East — for the simple reason that we do not exist for you. We do not exist for your country, or for your university, or for your ideals of democracy. In fact, we do not exist for “democracy” at all; we exist for real actual people, we exist for ourselves and that means that our struggles (for democracy/freedom or otherwise) are ours and ours alone.

Can understand why observers the world over might find Singapore an interesting case study for this or that or struggle to place us on some spectrum of left-right, liberal-conservative or democracy-dictatorship planes. And I think while we might proclaim how misguided or inaccurate outsiders are in their analysis of our society (for one, I do not feel like a disciplined ‘Han’ Chinese oozing with wealth and status over my peers from minority groups…), I think we should also be careful about how we are also equally guilty at times of viewing other countries/societies in so simplistic a lens as well. 

Think about your recent GP essays and how you might have conveniently boxed in certain countries as neat ‘examples’ for the purpose of your arguments? Perhaps, as a starting point that’s alright but we need to move beyond and appreciate the complexities and the grey areas surrounding these places – that they are also real people dealing with real issues in a real world.

Perhaps, that might help us to avoid blaming Israel for the next MRT breakdown in future.

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