In sum, singapore, the chinese, and the opposition. A personal journey.Well, enough of singapore politics for now. Perhaps another review is necessary in another 5 years, or if the novelty of the situation calls for it.
The last time i dabbled in singapore politics, it was in the early to mid-2000s. I then found those i encountered quite backward in perspectives. I suppose my 5 year stint in the UK in the 90s gave me enough perspectives to realise this. I knew that I could sit with the rest of the dissenters and try to do something about the political situation in singapore. But given the perspectival backwardness of quite a few on the side of the opposition - i.e. Chee, Gomez, the then SFD(singaporeans for democracy), SDP, amongst others - i realised that i would basically be making the best out of a bad situation. In other words, trying to resolve situations within the perspectival boundaries they set as opposed to pushing these boundaries further. It was only later that I realised that this was typically confucian, i.e. every sector holding on to their respective beliefs and expecting their followers to only produce solutions that did not conflict with their perspectives. The perspectives, however, had to remain unchallenged.
There seemed to be an unspoken rule which everyone of all races abided by; that is, that one has to switch personalities when in company with the Chinese.Well, that already mirrored my experience at the ground level with all the Chinese i encountered over decades. There seemed to be an unspoken rule which everyone of all races abided by; that is, that one has to switch personalities when in company with the Chinese and not speak about significant issues, or speak about things analytically, or even use words they might consider 'bombastic' simply because they can't understand it - that, in part, contributed to the evolution of 'singlish' which is quite childlike in its qualities, and which might also explain why it took quite a few decades before the Chinese could speak English well. I suppose I had observed this rule for decades myself without realising it and therefore tended to reserve my more metaphorical humour, keep analytical discussions, and feel free to talk about anything under the sun with only my non-Chinese friends. I even observed all my Indian friends doing it as well the moment a Chinese was present in the group. However, i never consciously realised it until two events coincided.
What, to the British, was ‘analytical’, ‘logical’, ‘confident’, ‘engaging’, was to the Chinese i encountered, ‘long-winded’, ‘twisting words’, arrogant’, and ‘talk to much’. This can be observed to this day, if you’re different enough that is.Firstly, I finally found myself being able to express myself completely only in England in the mid to late 90s. I suppose when one is deprived of something, one might take it as normal until one is exposed to contrast. I always thought that i was exceptional and that the people i encountered in singapore, especially the chinese, were normal. That enabled me to discount my not being able to communicate with them the way i was able to. However, in the UK, i realised that i wasn’t exceptional, well, not as much. I encountered lots of curious minds whom actually loved engaging in that which was different and they could go into great depth on any issue i might bring up. This really impressed me and i was surprised at the difference in reaction between the Brits and the Chinese. With the former, they loved to engage with any perspective or issue i put forward. They asked a lot of questions, did a lot of trouble-shooting, cross applied the perspectives, and fused various perspectives together to move the discussion further. I had all-night sessions with quite a few ‘whites’ whom would invite me to their rooms, and we would discuss all sorts of things till 7 or 8 in the morning. Unbelievable. And especially since the age of these guys were only between 18 to 23. It was then that i happily realised that i wasn’t such an exception. But it was also then that i realised the Chinese were extremely different. What, to the British, was ‘analytical’, ‘logical’, ‘confident’, ‘engaging’, was to the Chinese i encountered, ‘long-winded’, ‘twisting words’, arrogant’, and ‘talk to much’. This can be observed to this day, if you’re different enough that is.
The second factor that led to my realising this was the contracting of my non-chinese circle due to their marriage, migration, or relocation. In other words, my Chinese circle grew in proportion. It was also around that time that more Chinese began to associate with me at my local coffee-shop, along with my getting to know more Chinese in my being up and about in other arenas. I realised than, more sharply, that this was in a way quite a stifling experience as there was no room for that part of me that wasn’t chinese in persona. I dare say that i have a bit of chinese, malay, indian, eurasian, etc, etc, in me. And all these various parts require expression, but with the contracting of my non-chinese circle, the non-chinese aspects of my personalities was sort of muzzled. It was then, after some years, that i realised that I had only gotten along with the chinese previously because i could compensate for what was severely lacking in my association with them through intercourse with practitioners of other more vibrant cultures, i.e. Malays, Indians, Eurasians, and later, the British 'whites', British Indians, and Africans(from Africa...whom were indeed a very vibrant, passionate, and very intelligent lot). However, the only group of people in singapore with whom i could have engaging discussions, or joke with as much as i would with the Brits were the Indians. However, that said, just as i have met really intelligent and insightful Indians, i have also met extremely dumb ones.
The combination of the aforementioned led to my becoming very much more self-aware. However, it was not enough for myself observing that there was a sharp difference between the British and the Chinese, or my Indian friends and the Chinese. I had to know why. After all, it is not a racial thing but a cultural one. But even before i began to realise this difference, it was not until my experience became over-saturated with a particular sort of experience with the Chinese that this took place. But, i wondered, why is it that my experiences were similar 99 times out of a 100? Having undertaken psychological experiments in the UK, I was well-aware that such supporting evidence is generally not usually the case. So i discounted the evidence and gave it a few more years and, for the first time, i began to engage with the Chinese as i did with my non-Chinese acquaintances and friends. After all, sometimes, people are underdeveloped by how you treat them. Perhaps, it was my accommodating Chinese interests that led to their being focused on their own interests and discounting mine. So it might very well be my fault.
..when the Chinese and other races were subjected to the same stimuli, there was always a sharp difference in information-processing.But after a decade, i realised that it was not the case, and that to ignore such evidence was nothing short of irresponsible, scientifically-speaking. How else are you going to be a friend to anyone if you don't critique them constructively? And especially as i had ‘triangulated’ (cross-checked) my findings in a host of other arenas such as the media; personal conversations; tested if the degree of superficiality amongst the Chinese I knew was compromised by the degree to which i was close to them, i.e. perhaps those i’ve been a very good friend to might be more receptive to new ideas as opposed to casual acquaintances; interactions on the net; etc. I also, at the same time, interacted with Malays, Indians, and Filipinos and subjected them to the same treatment. And the difference was again extremely stark. Putting it this way, i was able to impart to the Malays, Filipinos and Indians in a week that which might take months or years with the Chinese I knew. There were no exceptions. That was what i found to be unbelievable. I realised over time that the initial phase of a relationship with a chinese is very crucial. If one does not push for adaption or integration on their part, they become adept at ignoring those aspects of your persona that is different from them. Unfortunately, 9 out of 10 times, to push for adaptation would see them distancing from you from the outset. So it was a catch 22 situation. If you don't push for adaptation, they become adept at ignoring difference and focusing on their own interests. If you do, they move away. However, I still believe that there must be some error in my methods - only a few of which i have discussed here. But it is true that when the Chinese and other races were subjected to the same stimuli, there was always a sharp difference in information-processing. New information was engaged with, discussed in greater depth, new ideas and perspectives were generated quicker, solutions provided at a fast rate, etc, by only the non-chinese, 6-7 out of 10 times, whereas it was nil with the Chinese.
I found that quite a few Piagetian (ref. Piaget, psychologist) perspectives on the way children processed information was actually applicable to Chinese adults. That, to be honest, i found to be unbelievable, and still do - and which leads me to still seek contradictory evidence to overturn my findings. For instance, in one experiment with his child, Piaget took a toy from under a cushion and put it under another. This was done in front of the child. But the child reached under the first cushion to look for it. In another perspective, Piaget spoke of the more mature mind being the sort that took on novel information and restructured their existing ‘schemas’ (formulae for making sense of reality) in appreciation of the novel information. This was to achieve ‘equilibrium’ between themselves and reality. The less mature mind would ignore new information and resort to appreciating reality with existing schemas. In other words, information which contradicted one's beliefs were cast aside. These are just some of the perspectives which are applicable in appreciating what stages people are at when it comes to information-processing.
The two examples given above, amongst others, would be most pertinent in enabling us to understand some of the psychological foundations for the amplification of a whole host of tendencies from xenophobia, racism, apathy, empathy, inventive or innovative skills, etc, etc, etc.
But whilst Piaget, amongst other psychologists, can put it down to the cognitively immature mind of a child, we’ll have to look for other causes when it comes to adults. That is when sociology steps in. What conditions breed such a mindset? Quite a few articles written on this, and previous sites, have attempted to determine the origin of such debility. Authoritarian governments, or in this context, Legalist-Confucian governments, a culture that makes a religion out of traditionalism, amongst others, breeds such a mindset, along with xenophobia, racism, being unable to innovate or invent, being averse to contradiction, etc. I realised over time that this authoritarian structure is mirrored at all levels of the chinese experience. For instance, the do as i say approach begins at the familial level, reinforced in schools, the military, the work arena, and in a broader sense, in thinking that it is alright if a majority race lauds its own culture and people over all others. Seniority, power, prominence and popularity is reason enough. Being trained in such a manner leads to one being led by a generic tendency to follow and leave the thinking to prominent and powerful others.
Hence, anything that requires thought, and especially in arenas outside of the scope of one's self-interests, or which isn't required to make ends meet or achieve economic success, is reflexively ignored. I don't use the word 'reflexive' here lightly. I realised overtime that the Chinese i associated and associate with do not generally ignore difference, contradiction, or new information, willfully. It was reflexive. I learnt, over a decade, that the formulae which they used to quickly comprehend things could quickly be used only if information which could not be understood with said formulae was thrown aside. Hence, metaphors, how one may put together various perspectives to understand things, pronunciation of words in ways they were not accustomed to pronouncing, etc, were ignored as they were being supplied. And I was especially surprised as the Chinese I knew and know would be considered social successes given their economic status. It was like, if you can't understand something immediately, it doesn't exist, unless it pertained to one's interests. Given this tendency, it is to be expected that a chinese salesperson might promote a product by stating that 'it is very popular, everyone also buy', or, keep voting for the same government because they are accustomed to it, or stick to the opposition because of the prominence of their leaders, or their catering to the interests of the majority/self-interests. Not much thought is required in any on these approaches toward reality. That, i suppose, is 'traditonalism' gone terribly wrong. The greatest of virtues appears to be, if you have to think about it, it is not worth hearing or seeing it. Again, this is a result of imposed traditionalism that makes a virtue out of following.
..the longer you take to appreciate difference, the better you get at reflexively ignoring it. Over time, you will strengthen your generic ability to ignore novelty and difference in all arenas except those you’re accustomed to considering.Chinese culture. What are my impressions. In brief, what i’ll say is that cultures borne of particular historical circumstances will tend to replicate the same historical conditions wherever or whenever it is practiced. I was told about a Taiwanese bloke who stated that the singaporean chinese are the most stupid. I think he said something about the Chinese from China or Hong Kong, being ‘crafty’ - this was recounted to me by a chinese acquaintance. Well, in my personal interactions with the Hong Kongers, Taiwanese, Malaysian Chinese and Singaporean Chinese, I have to say that when it comes to information-processing, and the production of ideas in the face of novel information, those from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia are quicker. Like I said to 2 Chinese whom i’ve attempted to impart perspectives to the past couple of decades, the longer you take to appreciate difference, the better you get at reflexively ignoring it. Over time, you will strengthen your generic ability to ignore novelty and difference in all arenas except those you’re accustomed to considering. That compromises one's attention to detail all the myriad of sinews comprising the tapestry of reality. And yes, by implication, it does tend to compromise one's intelligence.
And that might go some way in explaining the condition of the singaporean chinese. They were done a great disservice by having their race, culture and language preferred over all others by singapore’s confucian fascist /racist government - their stating that singapore must always have a chinese majority, religiously promoting chinese language and culture over all others, having had special schools for the chinese, etc, etc, is more than enough evidence. The only way that they can refute this is by way of claiming that it never happened, or that these actions and perspectives aren’t racist. Over decades, the chinese have thus been taught to consider no other, other than that of the racially and culturally defined ‘majority’ - which bode very well for the longevity of the government, the economic ascendency of the Chinese, and for the production of equally perspectivally-disabled oppositional groups. Hence, they were trained to reflexively ignore new information on-the-fly, or attempt to make sense of things too quickly to the point of literally ignoring the second half of a sentence. Anything that was intellectually tedious, or unfamiliar was also increasingly discounted.
In the case of the Malaysian Chinese, who struck me as more vibrant, having a more intelligent sense of humour, being higher in empathy, and were able to engage in novel discussions to some degree, they had to contend with difference as opposed to being 'preferred' by the authorities enough to ignore it - given the numerousness of the Malay population and Malay cultural and political hegemony. In Taiwan, upon breaking away from the 'motherland', they had to redefine themselves to enough a degree so as to justify their being different enough from the 'mainland' to remain independent. In Hong Kong, they had the benefit of the far more egalitarian and thought-provocative British rule. These historical factors might go some way in explaining the differences between the singaporean chinese and their counterparts in other states. But in singapore, they were preferred over difference. That has the effect of severely compromising a host of abilities such as being able to look at things in detail, appreciating and reconciling contrasts, reformulating one's perspectives in respect of new information, being innovative and inventive in new arenas after brief exposure, being able to look at things from new angles, not being as self absorbed, et cetera, and et cetera.
It is no wonder that people who’ve had been trained in such an art take so reflexively to xenophobia, cultural pride, and racism, and justifying things with a, ‘we majority what!’. Ridiculous of course. But, unfortunately, as the government kept pushing ‘cultural pride’ amongst those whose ancestors were from China, the entire ‘race’ of Chinese were assimilated. Resistance was futile given that they were overwhelmed by similarly-featured others who thought a particular way and served as role models for their own development. Thus, the ‘singaporean identity’ that idiots such as Chee Soon Juan, Temasek Review, amongst others, in the opposition go on about basically refers to the ‘chinese’ culture that was left standing after all other cultures were marginalised psychologically by a host of means - just take a look at the ‘syed alwi tourist promotion board in little india (do a search on this site), or how the singapore blogawards is presented as a chinese event, or how Chinese culture is given prominence throughout the nation, and one cannot be blamed for likening the Chinese to the 'Borg' in Star Trek. Resistance was futile indeed. With all races except the Chinese fragmented throughout the nation, chinese culture, or more accurately, legalist-confucian culture, was allowed to predominate. In an effort to 'get along' or be marginalised, assimilation took place to a large degree. (this was a sharp contrast to the 70s and 80s where being open to difference and westernisation was more 'in' and the many chinese i encountered were curious about difference, and learnt much from the English-speaking Chinese, Indians, Malays, and Eurasians. This led to their being more creative, vibrant, and appreciative of intellectual and humorous input. The situation today is totally the inverse.
But this all started with cultural and racial preference, and also the focus on ‘traditionalism’ in chinese culture, and top-down oppression. These factors would most certainly compromise any group that is made to mistake it for a ‘culture’ and identifies and takes pride in it, and through them, compromise others to the point that all are assimilated - which is the case amongst people of all races in singapore today. You could say that the Chinese were the first victims - of their government - were assimilated to the Orwellian culture of China, and then reflexively learnt to ignore and marginalise all difference in culture, language, thought and dress; till all difference was assimilated lest they were marginalised to the point of unemployment. Intelligence was determined by position, which in turn justified the ‘follow thy leader’ mentality that is part of China’s culture - which, most unfortunately, was thrust upon the Chinese in singapore who could potentially have become more singaporean than Chinese.
I suppose, if it wasn’t for the contrast between the Brits, and the non-chinese in singapore, with the chinese, I wouldn’t have realised the above. And i suppose if my experiences weren’t saturated with the Chinese given the increasing absence of interactions with the non-chinese, i wouldn’t have gradually felt that a significant part of my persona was not being allowed room to express itself. As i've said for quite a while, the room for expression determines, to a large degree, the evolution of the mind. Putting it another way, silencing the mouth is the first step toward silencing the mind.
A chinese girl from singapore once said to me, ‘the way you write and the way you speak is so different. Nobody will guess that you are the writer and thinker as you are online’. I said, ‘well, what do you expect, whenever i speak to you and all the chinese in my life the way i do about things on my site, you guys just ignore it and focus on only that which you can already understand with your existing beliefs and formulae. So what’s the point?’ Well, unlike all my other chinese associates, she has finally, after a decade, began to consider new information more readily. I’ve often said to my chinese associates, ‘I can cater to all your interests because I become like you, and if you become like me, we’ll have more interests and perspectives in total.’ That basically means that we’ll be doing more, thinking more, and feeling more, and from more perspectives than we might otherwise would.’
Everything is symbiotically connected. When we attempt to make sense of a statement before it is completed, and don’t consider the rest of the sentence, we’ll also end up being more tradition-inclined as both enable us to make sense of things with immediacy and move on to action. The fact that we can move on to action immediately itself serves as evidence that we have made sense of all that is there to be made sense of. But in truth, this way of thinking basically leads us to doing our best after ignoring half the instructions. That is not doing our best, making the best of a bad situation. I've often found myself saying, in my 'advisory' position amongst my chinese associates, 'how much information have you discounted in coming to your conclusion.' Upon my saying this, they would then take a second look at their knowledge base and extract information previously discounted. Another thing i've constantly found myself having to say is, 'then?'. After the first statement, no further analysis is supplied until I say 'then?'. Then, they search through their minds, and go further. And if the knowledge is coming from me, i'm usually asked to repeat after they had failed to consider at least half of the information i've supplied - which i discover upon my referring to it, or questioning them. These are some of the ways of studying and appreciating the difference in how people process information.
The ability to ‘connect the dots’ requires attention to all the dots that are present, and not only to those that enable us to connect them quickly. In the latter, we’ll just end up connecting that which is closest. In real life, that leads to great self absorption-induced evils.
I’ve said enough, for now, and it has to be stated that i’m for integration and equality. Where this is compromised in favour of one over another, there are losses to both sides, and with the favoured one developing characteristics that are far from laudable, but which will enjoy popular approbation and identification once all difference is assimilated. Assimilation is fine, so long as it is to perspectives that make more of us. But not if it brings about harmony after everyone have been brought down to their knees. To move fast within such a scenario is to move as slowly as the rest (whom are on their knees).
To the opposition, I can only say one thing, if you’re not mature enough to question your own leaders (in the opposition) then you are certainly not mature enough to follow them. Consider that paradox, and you’ll go some way in not being a part of the problem you bemoan.
if you’re not mature enough to question your own leaders (in the opposition) then you are certainly not mature enough to follow them. Consider that paradox, and you’ll go some way in not being a part of the problem you bemoan.And for the wiser out there, you will realise that continuously engaging with just one national preoccupation will deprive you of the perspectives you can gain from the consideration of other nations' issues. All problems are either different or consequences of us being at different points of one historical experience. Hence, they will all tend to impart various perspectives. Such perspectives would be most helpful when it comes to considering your own national affairs or even self-interests - skills that my chinese friends appreciate as it has been of great advantage to them in handling their own life situations. That is the same when it comes to appreciating people of different races, cultures, etc, etc, etc.
I personally, and generally, don't get involved in the technical or ‘practical’ side of political issues as to do so basically validates the underlying status quo and is yet another effort to make the best out of a bad situation to the point that the bad situation becomes a ‘natural’ situation. Give people the way to put up with shit, and they’ll end up using it to pave the sidewalk and tiling their homes. We need to address underlying perspectival issues. That is required to ensure that we get the rest of our development right. If not, we’ll just end up refining past evils as opposed to eradicating it.