In retrospect : on the Fascist state of Singapore & how it taught me to fear the BNP"Sir Stamford Raffles once said, 'What malta is in the west, that may Singapore become in the east'. Now, it can be said, 'What the BNP is in the west, Singapore is in the east.'
[The above image is for illustrative purposes in view of the perspective contained in this article. The central part of the above logo contains the party logo of Singapore's ruling 'People's Action Party'. This year is its 50th anniversary since it first came into power. This article is written to commemorate its ongoing legacy..]
“The government-sponsored campaign to promote Mandarin began in 1979 to unite under one language Singapore's disparate Chinese communities that spoke a multitude of dialects passed on by their ancestors who came from China in the 19th and early 20th century.
Unifying the Chinese majority in a country with sizeable Malay and Indian minorities was a priority and in the early days the Speak Mandarin Campaign discouraged ethnic Chinese from speaking the dialects that prevailed such as Hokkien.
Now, with a majority of Singaporeans speaking Mandarin in their homes, according to government figures, the focus is on improving fluency in spoken and written Mandarin.
"In two generations, Mandarin will become our mother tongue," said Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew at the launch of the 2009 Speak Mandarin Campaign earlier this year.” (China Daily)
It is nothing short of shameful how the country was ripped from its potentially multicultural bosom; one culture replicated amongst a people whom were taught to appreciate themselves as Chinese as opposed to gradually forming an amalgamative ‘Singaporean race’; before it is finally being claimed via implication in numerous instances that Singapore is synonymous with ‘Chinese’. Of course, the west would term this ‘fascism’ or neo-Nazism’, but of course, being ‘Asians’, they can simply claim that it is the ‘Asian’ way of doing things – which can also be paraphrased with, ‘an ‘Asian’ way of replicating the intentions and aims of the Nazis’. It is, of course, a mistake by the west to reserve the term ‘neo-Nazi’ for western fascist movements. The term ‘neo-Nazi’ raises many a hackle in the west given their contention with Nazi German in world war 2. But reserving this term for western fascist movements whilst being culturally magnanimous in the face of such fascist movements in other parts of the world simply allows such movements to proceed with impunity. And if this is ignored long enough, then the thus-successful efforts of these neo-Nazi movements of non-western origins can ossify into ‘culture’ and be rendered the respect all ‘cultures’ ought to be accorded.
The question I’ve been inclined to ask in recent months, after I finally realised that I too had bought into this need for Chinese unity via linguistic similarity for most of my thus-unnatural existence is, why should unity amongst the Chinese be sought at the expense of integration with the native Malays or the Indians? Doesn’t this unity come with the price of racial fragmentation and replication of the races of an antiquity borne of disparate histories and spaces? What’s the use of an integrative English ‘first-language’ when it is undone by special attention given to one group of people racialised along ancestral lines whilst they and everyone are taught to recognise the primacy of the said group over all when they finally become the ‘majority’ in a country taught to associate ‘majority’ with race and nothing besides? The fact is, to speak the language of ‘creating racial unity’ and ‘appreciating one’s culture’ is the first step toward fascism. In this, ‘cultural pride’ founded on ‘what we have always been’ as opposed to ‘what we can be’. If we are to appreciate ‘our own’ it must be accompanied with a system to ensure that it does not come at the price of developing an equally appreciative respect for other cultures. If not, a thus-created racial exclusivity will certainly be brought about. And the history of singapore has proven this to be true – and which hence presents this nation’s history as the ‘dos and don’ts in avoiding fascism’.
What the Chinese never got, given that they had just arrived from a nation and culture of uniformity and subservience and thus deemed nothing amiss in the barrage of campaigns similar to what the reviled BNP might initiate if they ever came into power in the United Kingdom, was that there was never any need for a ‘unity amongst the Chinese’ where it could be brought about via unity amongst all despite any ‘inherited’, or more aptly, imposed, heritage. When it comes to culture, nothing is ‘inherited’, it is replicated – an act of will by those controlling the means of socialisation one might say. The ‘speak mandarin, ‘appreciate Chinese culture’, ‘mandarin is cool’, ‘speak mandarin, it’s an advantage’ campaigns, whilst appreciating and lauding the value of one over others, and for the stated purpose of garnering ‘unity’ amongst the Chinese actually served not to ‘unify the Chinese’, but to create a greater and self-preferential distinction between them and the natives of the country and the Indians. And once this had been achieved, the native Malays and Indians are now being ‘integrated’ into a multicultural nation-turned-Chinese country and the world can confuse this phase as evidence of cultural magnanimity for want of hindsight.
The ex-PM, and currently ‘minister mentor’ to subsequent PMs, Lee Kuan Yew, stated that given the ‘sizeable Malay and Indian minorities’, ‘unifying the Chinese majority’ was ‘a priority’. If this isn’t a statement of BNP proportions, I really don’t what is. This reeks of a siege mentality in the face of difference and the path that was chosen was to discount difference and relegate it a position in the periphery of a thus-narrowed cultural imagination. In this, it was not only the Indians and Malays who became victims, but the Chinese as well as they were not afforded the opportunity to finally be rid of the shackles of a uniform one-way history via integration with culturally different others. A more preferable statement would be,
“given the sizeable Malay and Indian minorities, unifying the Indians, Malays and Chinese must be a priority’.
And hence, with the institution of a singular ‘English as a first language’, it would be multiculturally prudential to observe a hands-off policy in cultural matters and let integration take its course, whilst instituting proscriptions on discrimination on the basis of race, gender and religion to undermine any culturally exclusive propensities that might come about from the intermingling of past experiences with a milieu of difference. In this, all languages will become, over time, ‘dialects’ of a singular Singaporean race, and all races will likewise become dialect groups of the said ‘race’. Why this was not done can only now be appreciated with hindsight given that Singapore is now transitioning into a Chinese country whom are moving toward integrating others into a Chinese country.
With the pogrom initiated against ‘westernisation’ in the 80s, which is just a catch-all term for any perspectival element of western culture that frowned on cultural exclusivity and democracy; the increase in central celebrations of Chinese culture, the advent of SAP (special assistance plan) schools prior to the 80s that provided exceptional education for the Chinese – even though they were relatively well-off economically relative to the natives; the dispersion of the Malays and Indians throughout the country with the claimed purpose of integrating the population via a housing quota system whereby only a certain number of Malays and Indians could occupy any blocks of flats; the introduction of the ‘mother-tongue’ policy that forbade all ethnic groups from learning each other’s languages in schools as a second language; the banning of the donning of the Muslim headdress in schools; the separation of television channels on the basis of race; the fragmentation of the minorities by a channel not being afforded the Indians whilst the Malays were given one; gross media misrepresentation and under-representation; self-help organisations being setup by the government along racial lines; amongst a host of others, served to replicate the association between the race and culture of antiquity in contemporary times, created an overarching Chinese environment that served to dilute other cultural perspectives and propensities that might see and egalitarian opposition against any political party’s aspirations toward political longevity, and trained the people to deem nothing amiss when a race-defined majority ‘preferred itself’ in the media and the work and social arenas with nothing more than a ‘we majority what!’ – which is often heard amongst the peoples of the Singapore of today by all races whom have become fascists and apologists for fascism and who deem racism as nothing but ‘preference’.
In evaluative retrospect, one cannot but state that upon the departure of the British colonialists, the Chinese were taught by a BNP-style party to take its place. That is why I cannot but shudder in the face of the BNP as I know what can transpire if they ever came into power and allowed a lengthy tenure in the halls of power given my experiencing the transition of Singapore from a multicultural state to a monocultural one wherein all other cultures exist as tributary sectors appreciating the magnanimity of the suzerainty of a dynastic overlord.
Hence, today I wonder after the effects of a seemingly innocuous sounding ‘speak mandarin’ and ‘appreciate Chinese culture’ campaign that started when I was 10 and how it served to pave the way for what later turned out to be a Legalist/Confucian fascism of neo-Nazi proportions but which can be perceived as a refinement of the methods of the forebears of the ‘Legalist/Confucian’ that turned the forcibly associated ‘Chinese’ people into the next level of elite. Whilst I am well aware that it was the elite that had initiated this oppressive scheme of things, I am also aware of how this has turned a people taught to associate themselves with the elite’s idea of ‘the majority’ into marginalisers themselves. That is one of the greatest evils of a fascist state where, upon the successful institution of fascism, the ‘preferred’ race will eventually serve as the chasm between the elite and the multicultural egalitarians. Any attack on fascism will have to avoid implicating the people lest they be taken to task for ‘inciting racial hatred’ and nobody notices that it is the fascist elite that founded the basis for it via the preferential treatment accorded one replicated race over others. This is when it becomes impossible to address and minorities move from 2nd class citizens to being grateful for whatever that falls from the table of a wholly oriental banquet.
That is the basis upon which I view the term, post-fascism, as not descriptive of a state emerging from fascism, but from its successful institution to the point that it can present itself as culturally magnanimous by integrating others with open arms whilst detracting one’s attention from the fact that this multicultural magnanimity has come after the country has been claimed for one created-race despite others. And upon the masses accepting this, others can be integrated, not into a multicultural nation – as it originally was after independence – but into a Chinese one. I am under no illusions that this brief perspective is going to change anything, but it has to be said lest humanity mistake the multicultural progress of the morrow for one on the basis of their ignorance of its fascist foundations.
It is indeed a major victory for ‘Minister Mentor’ Lee, Singapore’s very own Nick Griffin, to state that ‘in two generations, Mandarin will become our mother tongue’. He has taken the country from its multicultural foundations, given it to one created-race, and then will soon be including others in a Chinese country where it would be deemed prudent to learn the language of the ‘natives’ – Mandarin – and conform to their cultural perspectives. His victory lies in his bringing about a perspectival state of affairs where precious few deem anything amiss with such a statement. When I look at the plight of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, when I look at the plight of the Tibetans, and when I look at Singapore, I cannot but turn away in utter disgust in the knowledge that they are distinguishable only in terms of the methods utilised, and as variably placed points along the selfsame fascist developmental curve.