It has been awhile since anyone responded to Kishore Muhbubani’s ‘BIG IDEA’ series in the Straits Times. As I don’t read the ST anymore, I have almost forgotten his existence. For the record, I do keep current with TODAY and ChannelNewsAsia online. Why pay to prosper the propagandists, right?
ST always (or KM preconditions his writing?) mention that KM ‘was named one of the top 50 world thinkers this year by Prospect Magazine’. After reading his latest BIG IDEA #8: Develop the Art of Compromise (http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/nurturing-art-compromise), I wonder if highlighting the nomination is meant to impress or intimidate readers, the latter to instil fear in case one should think to critique (or lampoon) This Thinker’s writing. Regardless, let me give it a shot.
My short response to his idea #8 is, compromise is not possible with self-censorship and without honesty. Sad to say, Mr Mahbubani appears to demonstrate both in his latest article.
SOURCES OF STRESS
I’d be impertinent to suggest the 3 sources of stress (inflow from ‘global stress’, ‘Singapore is becoming more complex’ and ‘political evolution of Singapore’) Mr Thinker identifies are invalid or mistaken. They are all rather obvious – even for non-rocket scientists like us. So, no arguments there.
What is rather jarring is KM’s failing to raise a red flag related to stress #2, ‘Singapore society is becoming more complex’. He himself points out the inherent tremendous stress from being ‘one of the most open cities in bringing talent and ideas from the rest of the world’. Why then does he not question or criticize the policy of overwhelming us with foreigner numbers that neither we the people nor our infrastructure can adequately cope?
Why does the government continue stubbornly with increasing foreigners inflow, albeit at a slower rate than previously (really, where’s the proof?), instead of putting a complete STOP temporarily or announcing a future date (being fair to employers/investors)? Does a government doggedly creating more needless stress than we can cope help towards developing compromise?
In not confronting the obvious FT policy, has Mr Thinker self-censored himself? Or he’s merely a tinker tinkering with his own undersized, incomplete thinking?
The second half of his analysis appears to have the paws of the propaganda department all over it.
KM helpfully contextualizes Singapore’s political transition with that of the other ‘tigers’ of Asia (S Korea, Taiwan and HK), how each went or are going through ‘so difficult’ a transition. All 3 have had ‘large-scale demonstrations’ compared to ‘a few protests’ confined only to Hong Lim Park ‘each with attendees (not protestors?) numbering in the thousands’.
To appear more a futurist¬, KM includes the possibility of ‘more widespread protest…beyond HLP’.
KM further observes that between ‘contestation or consensus’ in politics, the former is a ‘trend (that) is unstoppable’ with ‘Singapore…becoming a normal society, after decades of having what some people considered abnormal politics, with one dominant party winning landslide elections’. One wonders if Mr Thinker disagree Singapore’s politics has been abnormal, along with its costly, not just cosy, societal and political outcomes?
Then, true to Ngiam Tong Dow’s observation about the servitude tendencies of the over-paid, KM brings in PM Lee, his boss, characterizing Singapore as a Sampan 2.0. Helpfully, emphasizing that ‘anyone who has been on a sampan will know that if people fight on a sampan, it will topple over.’ Hence, ‘we will have to develop a new political culture based on compromise and consensus.’
And so he ends, urging that ‘we start with working on it (the new political culture) right away’. Strange, very strange, for a Thinker to diagnose and offer a BIG IDEA – but failing to suggest how to go about it.
KM’s previous BIG IDEAs boldly offered practical ideas on transport and housing etc, why has he kept mum on how to actually develop the art of compromise? His omissions serve to make us question his hidden agenda (and the ST’s) for his readers.
Is he less than honest not to point out that ‘We decide what is right. Never mind what people think’ must be explicitly expunged while listening to and incorporating what the people think and say must now be overtly practised?
Is he less than honest not to censure pronouncements such as ‘we are deaf to all these criticisms’ and ‘satisfied people don’t have time to go onto the Internet. Unhappy people often go there’, are anathemas to the art of compromise?
Kishore Mahbubani’s intellectual exercise, Big Idea #8, appears to follow the sad trend of Singapore supposed civil and thought leaders arguing for a direction or an outcome that is framed and approved by their employer, the PAP govt. You guess it, REACH wasted no time to publish it on their website, https://www.reach.gov.sg/YourSay/DiscussionForum/tabid/101/mode/1/Default.aspx?ssFormAction=%5B%5BssBlogThread_VIEW%5D%5D&tid=%5B%5B16098%5D%5D
His call for compromise and consensus is what Singapore truly and badly needs at this 50th anniversary juncture of our history of unbroken reign but now under obviously less-than competent leaders. Unfortunately, he compromises himself with either his self-censorship or lack of analytical honesty, or both.
True compromise and consensus are not possible with self-censorship and without honesty.
2cents blogs @ 2econdsight.wordpress.com