Even in Singapore, my country of residence, and a place I have a token measure of respect, problems seem to increasingly surface as the years go by. I suppose it’s because I am less accepting of what is told to me directly – probably a by-product of my cynicism.
It’s important to maintain a larger perspective, of course. Compared to America where they struggle with Creationism Vs Science or North Korea’s celestial dictatorship or even Malaysia’s blatant favoritism towards a race (and religion), Singapore’s problems may well be non-existent.
So what contradictions can be found in Singapore, or if magnified, be found all over the world?
In Singapore, there’s considerable moderation of what’s allowed in advertisements, sales and discussion – you couldn’t make false claims with dubious evidence. So you aren’t going to see the spurious ads of magic pills plastered all over our advertising air time, and that’s good.
Yet, we openly endorse questionable concepts such as Chinese horoscope readings, Fengshui, and alongside that, supposed “lucky hours”, fortune telling, palmistry, ALL of which have already been unanimously debunked by the scientific committee as pseudo science (false claims). Look no further than Chinese New Year where you have “authoritative” figures giving you magical guidance on how to live your life.
“Culture” as it may be, the government’s encouragements for these dubious activities are a harmful suspension of critical thinking. Progress in humanity is not achieved through a blind servitude to the rituals of yore or to be enslaved to ancestral beliefs – we know better than that since most of those beliefs were often especially problematic. Apparently, magic pills are out, but magic psychic reading and mystical predictions are in. It makes for wonderful scientific commentary.
Likewise, religious harmony, an attribute we praise Singapore for, is in itself both paradoxical and also contradictory, and if I may add, completely oxymoronic. NONE of the holy texts advocate a blending of faith; in fact, the main religions are cunningly exclusive, each demanding unwavering fealty from the unthinking believer. Believers learn to ignore specific passages from their holy text(s) in order to find mutuality.
The respective religions each claim to know the truth, (a point I am darkly amused when churches advertise “the truth will set you free”) but if there’s a truth, there can only be one truth. It’s impossible for each religion to have an equal stake in the truth. Yet, we allow religions to operate as though they were in possession of a definite truth, which by the way, I am sure they are perfectly clueless about, and also, for the purposes of legality, counts as false advertising. But since it keeps the people occupied enough not to think of anything else, why not?
I remember once attending the Singapore Press holding’s recruitment drive. It was made adamantly clear that the press had freedom in what it wished to publish, and almost always without government interference. When I look at the more controversial opinion pieces on the internet, whether they be on religion, governments or free speech, I am certain our Singapore Press publishes with sanitisation in mind – articles are carefully chosen not to interfere with the harmony here. In fact, we are ranked poorly for press freedom, so that should say plenty.
But that’s not all. Lee Kuan Yew’s death was unfortunate, and there’s no doubting he was a titan in what he did in having Singapore economically and politically displace its neighbours. But in the intervening time the nation was mourning for him, teachers were ordered to congregate, “required” (in the loosest sense of the word) to watch a long video extolling all his virtues, and then instructed to go back to class and remind or encourage students to praise him. Throughout it all, you were constantly hinted that you were being “observed” from a distance. There was no room for any critical discourse, just a souped up serving of his excellence, almost as if he was a paragon of virtue. And let’s not get started on the media.
It’s not like I can’t understand why they did what they did. I just don’t like it.
It’s hardly “freedom” (speech or political) is it? It resonates just a little closer to North Korea’s insistence that their leader is exigent for the praises of its common folks. Of course, Singapore is not remotely on the same level as North Korea, but we sure do dirty our hands here.
So look around you. Contradictions are the norm, not the exception.
So have you thought about (HYTA) other glaring contradictions in your life…again?