Sunday, March 5, 2017

The average Singapore student may be literate. But I don't think he is educated

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The purpose of an education, I believe, is not just being able to read and write, and a training in a vocation or profession. The purpose of an education should be the ability to think independently, form opinions, have ideas of your own, have ideas about your country and your lives, and the ability for the betterment of yourselves and society. When an individual with ideas improves himself through new ideas, he also advances his country.

If this is the purpose of an education, you could say, that Singaporeans are not educated. They are incapable of independent thought and independent action. In spite of their schooling, they fear their government. They become paralyzed into inaction and simply obey authority. As a result, any Singaporean can only survive in Singapore, where the state looks after him and tells him what to do, as in any other Stalinist society. If he is put in any other country, he stagnates into oblivion. He is incapable of any leadership qualities. Leaders need courage, which the Singaporean does not have. Leaders are willing to take risks, which he cannot do.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area of California where I live, I do know that there are a number of Singaporeans, mainly ethnic Chinese. But one never hears of them. They may be employed in some company or other but no one has seen them or heard of them. They don't make waves. None of them have stood out from the crowd. They are by and large mediocre and incognito, and that is where they will remain. In fact for most of them, coming to the US has not done much good. They may as well stay behind and be taken care of by Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore. A boring life but you still survive.

It is not their fault for the way they are. The fault lies in Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore, an island he has created according to his own plans. The entire island population of Singapore  for the last 50 years since independence have been thoroughly intimidated into submission. The island is a dictatorship with all instruments of power controlled by the government. There is no rule of law. Judges are required to punish any political dissident when told to do so. As a result you see all former political opponents destroyed through the courts on trumped up charges. The most famous of all was Chia Thye Poh who has been jailed for no less that 30 years of his life for daring to challenge Lee Kuan Yew, the then prime Minister. More recently you have JB Jeyaretnam a prominent lawyer opposition  politician who was repeatedly bankrupted, jailed and disbarred from practicing law. This too was done by the island's corrupt judges. Also you have Chee Soon Juan, political opponent who was also repeatedly jailed bankrupted and impoverished, dismissed from his job as a professor and now reduced to selling books he wrote to make a living on Singapore's streets.

I too was a victim of the corrupt judiciary of Singapore. During my time in the island practicing law, I was repeatedly punished with attorney discipline charges to silence me and to stop me from criticism. I was suspended from practicing law for 2 years in 1993 even though I had already left the island and obtained asylum in the USA. In 2008 I was arrested and jailed for writing a blog about a Singapore judge Belinda Ang Saw Ean who I had said had "prostituted herself" in her judicial capacity by shamelessly abusing the law. In 2010 I was disbarred in Singapore island for saying the same thing about another Singapore judge Judith Prakash who similarly shamelessly abuses the law to please her master. The use of the language to describe these judges was a correct expression in English for one who abuses her official authority for personal gain.

Every single one of these cases above were all prominently displayed in their state controlled newspapers. The purpose was to warn everyone in the island not to criticize the government openly or else you will be punished as they were. Unfortunately for Singapore the lesson was only too well learnt. Today no Singaporean no matter how much education he has dares to question authority because they know that to do so is suicidal.

This lesson is also taught in every other sphere of one's life in the island. Those who actively support the Peoples Association, a branch of the ruling Peoples Action Party are promoted in their jobs, are shielded from retrenchments and generally can expect a successful life and career. On the other hand those who refuse to participate in the charade and cast aside and left to their fate. And of course those who criticize them are punished and destroyed.

These lessons are not only learnt by the students themselves, their teachers in school are also expected to give their students these necessary warnings. Instead of teachers telling their students to think independently, form independent ideas and opinions because this is a good thing, as teachers do in Western free societies; instead they are tasked to tell their students not to criticize their government for their own good.

They get the same advice from their parents when they go home. Their parents are there to give them the same bad advice. Obey authority, obey your rulers, don't make waves, keep your mouth shut and do as you are told, and for the vast majority of Singaporeans who are ethnic Chinese, be Confusion.  This is the advice that the teachers tell the students in school and the same advice from parents at home.

Of course someone going through a life like this turns out as a robot, which is what a Singaporean is. He will work hard, do exactly as he is told, and he will be a bore for the rest of his life. In Singapore, because the state takes care of them, they could have a reasonable life. Boring but survive they can. On the other hand, if you put them in any other country in the world where people are free, they have a serious problem. If you are afraid to even open your mouth, how can you get ahead?

In order to judge the average Singaporean, you have to be someone who ordinarily lives elsewhere like I do. I have seen some Singaporeans who come to see me here is San Francisco in the course of my work as an attorney. Not intending to insult them unfortunately I have nothing good to say of them except to say that they are punctual and honest. Other than that they have very few redeeming qualities. For one, they are not articulate. Although English may not be the first language of many foreigners here, many are in fact articulate. But not Singaporeans. They are incapable of any spontaneity, they cannot speak in public, are generally afraid of attention and are altogether silent perhaps because they don't want to make a fool of themselves.

In the West where people are free, you have to be assertive, confident and even somewhat extrovert; all areas in which the Singaporean fails miserably thanks to an upbringing in a society where they are told that the less you are heard the better.

If Singaporean parents understand this, if they want to help their children, they have to take them out of that suppressed atmosphere  and educate them in a free society such as Australia or the United States. Sending them abroad after they have been dealt with by their oppressive society in Singapore at the age of 20 will not do them any good. Their minds are already permanently damaged and they will end up non entities like those who survive in the San Francisco  Bay Area of California and in other parts of the Western world.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
Fremont, San Francisco, California
Tel: 510 491 8525


Raymond Leong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I have to say that I agree with this post entirely.

I grew up in Singapore but moved elsewhere as soon as I could, and it really opened my eyes to the sheer corruption and ignorance running rampant in that shithole.

>They get the same advice from their parents when they go home. Their parents are there to give them the same bad advice. Obey authority, obey your rulers, don't make waves, keep your mouth shut and do as you are told

This, I think, is one of the biggest problems. Despite having free access to the internet, the majority of Singaporeans are ignorant buffoons who WANT to believe in the lies they're being fed.

The last time I was there visiting relatives and mentioned how Singapore doesn't have freedom of speech, I was told that I shouldn't say that, it's not true at all, and that I could be arrested for spreading such lies. SERIOUSLY.

Anonymous said...

As an American who lived in Singapore for nearly a decade, I have never met a Singaporean who has been entirely educated in Singapore who can carry on a conversation of any substance, other than about their job, chicken rice, mobile phones or maybe soccer. Local politics of course, nothing. World politics or any world event; clueless. However, it is impressive that most Singaporeans can have these empty conversations in at least four languages, but all with obnoxious accents.