No. JBJ wasn't a 'Great Debater' and 'Dissent' should not 'Need' him

The following is a comment placed following the article by ‘’ entitled, ‘Why Dissent Needs J.B.Jeyaratnam

“article: That’s because you’ve got to have dissent and opposition in any society and no one stuck it to the establishment better or as well as Jeyaretnam did....

commentator: Yes, i totally agreed we have lost one hell of a great debater, no one comes close to 2nd.”

ed says,

If no one comes '2nd', than you better ask yourselves what is wrong with the overarching (confucian) culture that compromises the production of 'great debaters'.

Haven't you heard the phrase, 'Indians talk too much/complain too much/cannot control one'. Perhaps that is why 'Indians' of today tend to talk less, eat more, and shop more - whilst the chinese failed to incorporate these culturally-induced tendencies of the Indians.

As for JBJ, he was a great bloke. But I wouldn't call him a great debater. He's alright in that respect. I've encountered Indians and British of non prominent stature whom are far greater debaters. And even the debates and philosophical rantings in south indian movies indicate that JBJ is just a shadow of a debater in comparison. He's a freedom fighter, but being a great debater or thinker is another matter altogether. I like and respect JBJ. But I do not let that compromise my objectivity. For great thinkers, we need cultural diversity and democracy. Singapore has neither. It has, especially since the late 80s, become exceedingly, and unfortunately, 'confucian'.

That is the diametrical opposite of cultural diversity and democracy. Cultural vibrancy and diversity is also one of the reasons why Indians from the subcontinent take so easily to programming as it is logic-based. Unfortunately, the logical demands of programming only utilise a portion of the intellectual propensities of Indian cultural diversity. Hence, we can expect the Indians to become less in the present and future as they focus on that which brings in the money.

Perhaps people might tend to overrate JBJ in this respect simply because chinese culture promotes the valuation of something only if "this very popular one', 'prominent', or 'majority what!'.

In the final analysis, people tend to identify a 'great debater' not only by what s/he says, but generally after looking at the number of 'hits' the individual has. Additionally, it also depends on how much the debater either seeks to attack the government as opposed to calling for the people to engage in critical introspection. People tend to support those who fight for them as opposed to those who expect them to do some brain-work and look into how much they themselves are a part of the problem, or change what they are. From those who extol the virtues of critical introspection, they will turn away. How are such a people fit to identify 'great debaters' eh?

A great debater can only be identified in a milieu wherein people are generally not averse to discussing anything, and anything new in detail, are not just seeking out the company of people who agree with them, and do not turn away in the face of contradiction - as, generally, do the chinese who tend to equate reason with what is commonly believed by a racially-defined majority,or those whom hold the reins of power.

People in a vibrant climate never 'agree to disagree' or say, 'that's just your opinion', or call the analytical minded 'zhong hei'(long winded) simply because they are analytical, but view objective reasoning, learning, and empathy, as the path to agreement on all things.

In such a vibrant climate, a great debater is one who has gone through the gauntlet of many other great debaters. In a confucian state, a 'great debater' is the best amongst a population whom are inclined to leave the thinking to their leaders. Not much competition there, and the great debater's views aren't refined by much challenge from various schools of thought either.

Haha. Tragic comedy indeed.


Dissent doesn’t need JBJ, it needs cultural diversity and vibrancy. The astute will realise that the road to authoritarianism and fascism is fraught by cultural fascism. Whilst in the short run, cultural fascism can serve to advantage one ‘race’ over others, in the longer run, it will tend to compromise the interests of all as it delivers intellectual ineptitude, apathy, self-absorption, and as a result, to look toward prominent leaders for insight. Hence, nation loses the potential produce of a many vibrant minds as all tend to kneel before one leader, alive or otherwise, for salvation.

If one isn’t smart enough to come up with great ideas oneself, whether it is in accordance with the thoughts of ‘great’ leaders or not, how in world would one be fit to identify a ‘great debater’ or leader? Put it this way, if dissent needs a long gone leader, then you have learnt nothing from her/is insights and oversights enough to recognise or produce greater leaders. And given that problematic situations evolve into more refined forms, the reproduction of a leader of the past makes her/in less relevant in the present.

Think about it.

related article: Move over JBJ, it's time for 'ed'


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