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Interesting Perspectives

A bit of a debate began on an FB post over Singapore's involvement in 'Singapore Day' in England'. We got way off topic in a debate over whose country was better. I felt this was worth exploring and my comments would have been way too long to continue the debate on FB, so I'm bringing it here to be fair to the original person who posted it. First up, some excerpts from that conversation:

Me: I'm from the USA and see how much better things are here in Singapore, yet so many think it's so terrible here. I'm like, really? How do you figure? LOL, guess if you never see the world, you can dream that the grass is greener elsewhere.

Random guy: Agree to disagree then. My opinion is moulded by seeing multiple friends who've left the country being staunchly anti-PAP and are now happily taking selfies with the PM.

Me: Perhaps it was their views that changed regarding how they see other governments functioning. i.e. things aren't as bad as these anti-PAP say it is.

Another guy: That's one reason. Sometimes we have to live for a length of time away from our comfort zone to see better what we left behind. SG-ers take for granted our Changi Airport; I've taken off from several China airports, including Beijing, and frankly you can tell which country you are in just by looking at the toilets. While Beijing's toilets are clean, you can see areas where they have not been doing maintenance all over the airport and not just the toilets. But you will NEVER find that problem in Changi Airport. In Changi, no maintenance problem that is not fixed within hours and not left unrepaired.

DC: Typical of this gahman. Got problem, create program and activities to "solve it," using taxpayers' money. Yea, I'm sure those who love the nanny state will appreciate it. For those of us who treasure freedom, we're not interested.

Me: Hey Daniel, treasure freedom eh? Where on this planet do you think you would have a better opportunity to enjoy this freedom? Seriously, I'd like to know what sort of paradise you’re thinking.

DC: Kevin, have you read the Internal Security Act? I don't expect you, as a Caucasian white male, to know that anyone can be taken out of the streets without trial and held indefinitely. No charges need to be filed, nothing. You can be no threat whatsoever, not part of Al-Qaeda, but it doesn't matter.

By the way, I had heard of this and find that to be true just about anywhere, just perhaps not as publicly admitted as perhaps Singapore has done.


Me: So where do you think they have it better?

DC: Kevin, any 1st world country is better than SG. When NSA spied on Americans, there was a big uproar. In SG, I'm sure the intelligence is spying all the time on its own citizens, and there is and will not be any uproar, nor will the perpetuators be dragged to court, because spying on citizens is not illegal here

Me: Have you personally lost friends due to killings? I have. I'm from Detroit and my friends’ cases were never solved. So someone dead without reason trumps your being picked up without cause. Next, people arrested for photography of landmarks and having to prove their innocence when the law thought it could be for terrorism reasons. Next Singapore rolls out all kinds of efforts to help those who somehow aren't making it. Example, I met a taxi cab driver who pays $23 a month for rent for him and his mail-order bride. No such thing in the US. In fact the federal funding to help those in need was recently cut. I could go on and on in regards to how Singapore gets it right. Perhaps the best way would be simply to insist that if you think it's better there to have you go and experience it for yourself. Oh ya they do have freedoms there, like freedom to call you racial slurs that you would hate. Discrimination isn't something the big G is interested in solving either. Unlike racial harmony that’s promoted here. So go give it a try and tell me how that works out for you.

Me:(again): Oh and be sure to get good insurance. A hospital visit in the US is 10 to 20 times more expensive.

DC: There is a price for liberty, which in your case is the city of Detroit, a city I have no idea why people want to live in.

If you like some form of welfarism, then by all means critique America, which btw has more welfare for minorities but little for many whites. But for those of us who realize that welfarism is detrimental to a country, count us out. That taxi driver might be getting aid and thus benefiting, but all this welfare is detrimental for the overall social fabric of the nation. Or would you prefer to reach the level of welfarism in the sick European countries, where unemployment benefits are so high that those at the lower end of the employment spectrum get more money for not working? In a country without welfare however, it is individuals who will need to help, not Big Brother. That is more beneficial to society, because it establishes relationships between people instead of people getting impersonal handouts from the State.

As for racial slurs etc, I rather prefer to stay in a country with freedom of people to hurl racial slurs at me, rather than a police state. You think tight control is better? It's not. All such censure does is drive the problem underground. Just like the former Yugoslavia, when the strong government is gone, all the underground tension will blow up. Instead of allowing discourse and interaction, even ugly ones, so that people can blow off steam, what all such laws in places like SG do is driving the problem underground and potentially creating a time bomb waiting to explode.

And since when was government given the job to "solve discrimination"? When will people realize that discrimination is fundamentally an attitude of the heart, and it can never be solved by legislation? Trying to do so creates resentment. And when all the PC processes have run their course, the groundswell will swing hard to the radicals. Look at the growing popularity of the Right and Far-right in Europe. All the PC education is creating more resentment in the native European population. They don't like the immigrants, but they cannot say it out, so they bury it deep within. And when push comes to shove, they decided to vote their feelings.

Think a society that is visibly and forcibly integrated can't come apart at the seams? Look at Syria. People can co-exist for a long time seemingly cordially, and then they will be at each other's throat the next day after even decades living side by side.

Kevin, and so are you staying in SG? You think SG is so open to foreigners? The ruling party is already struggling to win support among the people, and there IS resentment among some S'poreans against foreigners. Maybe you want to be the next Anton Casey?

Humans everywhere are the same. Stop thinking that people in SG are somehow immune to the forces that influence people around the world. Government never solves anything.

Ok, so that was where it stopped. There was way too much to respond to there. So I'll break it down and try to respond to all the points here.

There is a price for liberty, which in your case is the city of Detroit, a city I have no idea why people want to live in.

I'm not sure but that sounded like Detroit's problems are the result of having liberty. I find that to be a bit unusual, but ok that might be a plus for the argument of a controlling government. So let’s take a moment to see how Detroit got to where it is. There was the 1967 Detroit riot that was really the begining of the end of Detroit's heyday. The Decline of Detroit lists a bunch of reasons for the decline, but one of the ones I know personally was those with the means to do so left the city when they could. The falling value of the property in Detroit made it difficult for people to sell without taking quite some loss or having to abandon what they had invested in and then what? The suburbs were more expensive. So to answer why people want to live in (Detroit), it really wasn't a choice for many.

Let’s look at the government’s role here. There wasn't the 'government-owned land' like we have in Singapore and many communities worked to woo people to the various outer areas to help them gain much needed tax revenue. So as Detroit's population dwindled, the 'burbs grew. Well until it looked more like a city and then the people moved further out. Farm land was being sold off to developers to make nice new residential communities and the rise of the McMansion. But this expansion came at the cost of infrastructure. No longer could there be a bussing system or even a public train system as the people are simply spread too far out. No one stepped in to curb this trend and as a result there are great inequalities between even neighboring communities.

This has a direct effect on the education system in the US. There isn't equal distribution to school funding. So a community in decline will continue to be in decline as its children suffer from the inadequate education that will lead to a life without a well-paying job. That leads to less paid in taxes and so the spiral continues downwards. Now compare that to Singapore and you will find some schools are better off with their own swimming pools, for example, but for the schools without one, the kids are taken to the public pools and learn to swim just the same. This balance ensures that the kids of Singapore are all going to get a good education and a chance at a decent future.

Welfarism is detrimental to a country

I'm not sure where you got this from, but it sounds like some FOX news reporting. The system in the States is not based on race as you implied with your comment of "which btw has more welfare for minorities but little for many whites". Poor is poor, that's it. As far as who gets more of the benefits we could again look at the history of the education system. School segregation in the United States took quite a toll on the black community. Is it now apparent that a good job requires a decent education? How without resources could the children from poor communities further their education? Or even get one.

Next you have to consider how you want to define welfare. Is it only that which is handed out for food or shelter? Or shall we count other funds distributed by the government? Let’s take I guy I know as an example. He's a plumber that made around USD60k per year that was taxed and perhaps another USD40k that was in the form of cash so he just pocketed that. This guy doesn't declare it all because he doesn't want to pay the government more, though he need the government-provided roads to get to work, the nice school he sends his child to and the subsidies that keeps the price down on the things he uses, like milk, bread and gas for his truck. Next he got tax breaks and subsidies for buying his home. See all those government handouts he benefits from? So because he is fortunate to have work, he deserves more? What about the corporation handouts or tax benefits? That's welfare too, you know. Individuals helping the downtrodden is hardly anything to speak of and I feel it's more the responsibility of the government than some kind-hearted people.

As for racial slurs etc, I rather prefer to stay in a country with freedom of people to hurl racial slurs at me, rather than a police state.

That's easy to say when you haven't lived it and seen the extent that it goes to. I could point to so many examples to where things get way out of hand and fast. Ok here are a couple. Mob beating of a suburban Detroit motorist who stopped his pickup truck after accidentally hitting a child on the city's east side, for one. And then there was the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting. That list is nearly endless. Hell, growing up I recall my foster parents telling me that "No black or chink dare to walk our streets at night for fear of the baseball bats they would get upside their head." How you think it's not the government’s job to educate people and try to defuse the situation is beyond me. Here in Singapore, I've come to appreciate how a Muslim mosque, Hindu temple, Buddhist shrine and Christian church can all be on the same street without any violence. People can't just be allowed to 'work out' their hate towards one another in the name of venting. Laws are required and the government must be prepared to enforce those laws.

Kevin, and so are you staying in SG? … Maybe you want to be the next Anton Casey?

Yes, I live in SG. I'm accepted in my local community (and no, I don’t live in a swanky condominium complex) and I am even a volunteer in the COP (Citizens On Patrol) group in my neighborhood. I love it here and would gladly trade passports with you if only it were that simple, and let you work out for yourself how awesome the US is. As far as me being the next Anton Casey, I hardly think so. I don't see myself better than the locals. Actually I'm a bit envious at the superior education system and the firm but fair system the government has in place. Oh I could really go on and on here, like the foresight of the transit systems and balancing of the population living in HDB, both things that I personally experience on a daily basis.

Parting words to DC: I looked at your profile and see you believe strongly in the Christian ways. Perhaps our encounter wasn't by coincidence but of a more divine nature. So on a parting note, may I say that looking out for people isn't just my idea of what's right. Matthew 25:40

By the way, please add any rebuttals below. And it’s perfectly ok if you decide to change sides and agree with me on any points mentioned above too.

Posted on April 18, 2014 by AKAAWOL
Wow, rather than simply posting a response here, DC went back to the FB post and told us more about his views. Of course him not posting here brings up some question about how internet savvy this guy is but that's no biggie as I know plenty of people limited to FB due to this. Here is what DC had to say:

DC: Kevin, you seem to have the habit of conflating government and society. They are not the same. People can and should take care of others, but that is not the same as government doing the same. I noticed you did not deal with the issue of human nature vis a vis discrimination and the limitations of government.

Of course, it is in some sense better in Singapore. But is a surface calm better than actual deep rooted change? All the SG system does is to make things better on the surface, but who knows what lies beneath? That is the point.

And yes, there are a lot of reasons why Detroit has declined. The situation is complicated, but still, the point is that living there is a choice. One can always cut one's losses and move away.

The US system has lots of problems to be sure, and part of that is the whole system is too dependent on government instead of civil society. Detroit I might add is a Democrat stronghold, and Dems have always been advocates for big government.

I am staying in the US at the moment, so I know the system in part. It is of course not perfect, but at least there is freedom. You as an expat will never feel what it is like to be an actual Singaporean since you are the government's golden goose. They treat you like royalty. You are the first class citizens in SG, so pardon me if I don't see your experience of SG to be in any shape valid. You have not gone through the system, you have not been through NS, and thus your opinions on how *good* the SG system is is tinted with rose-colored glasses, and the red carpet the SG government rolls out to expats like you.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that expats shouldn't be in SG. I am saying that by virtue of their royal welcome, their experience of SG and thus their judgments of its "virtues" are rose-tinted and should be discounted automatically

In other words, Singaporeans can comment on SG; expats just enjoy your royal treatment on our island

Ok here I break it down once again and I will attempt to keep it simple.

you seem to have the habit of conflating government and society. They are not the same. People can and should take care of others, but that is not the same as government doing the same.

Wow this is such an awesome point. It really reflects where DC's values are and paints a picture that I'm sure many people will understand. In a sense DC thinks that the people can govern themselves and that the masses should make the decisions. This from a Christian in a primarily Christian dominated society. I wonder if his views might change as that scale tips to another faith. You see society is nothing but a group of people, and people on their own will polarize to a strong leader. History shows this time and again; name a country and discover someone of faith sitting at the top. That was something the founding fathers of the US wanted to avoid. So much in fact they wrote it into the founding rules that govern the country. The only other place like that I know is Singapore though there may very well be more.

So if you keep religion from being the moral compass as you should (because not everyone believes a book with so much that really makes no sense), then how to lead the people and push for change in positive directions? Who to look after the aged, downtrodden, poor and weak? If we rule out the church because after all they tend to be biased towards only helping the people who subscribe to their point of view (yes, I've seen this up close and personal so don't tell me it doesn't exist), then what's left? A strong government to guide people to work together for a better nation.

Examples of how Singapore is doing just this… When we get on an escalator we shift to the left to leave those in a hurry a path to get up the steps faster - a government-initiated campaign, no? Never saw that in the US. How about racial harmony day? I attended a dinner celebrating our multi-racial and multi-religious society (with multi-living standard guests ranging from old cardboard-picking aunties to the Singapore President, might I add) and it was incredibly moving. US have anything like that? Nope. Subsidized government housing for its citizens that have set targets of racial balance so we as a community learn from each other and learn to respect other cultures. Still no US equal. Do you get it yet, DC? To remove the big "G" would leave a void and that's what the Christians want before they become the minority.

Of course, it is in some sense better in Singapore. But is a surface calm better than actual deep rooted change? All the SG system does is to make things better on the surface, but who knows what lies beneath? That is the point.

Or for that matter the boogie man could be lurking! "...but who knows what lies beneath?" Really? You went with that? You're in California thinking that Singapore has issues and just how did you think it was best to solve this? Majority rule? Not the government’s role to attempt to defuse any tensions? Then leave it to who? The most murderous organization in the history of man? The Catholics? Ya right, clearly you have not thought this through.

And yes, there are a lot of reasons why Detroit has declined. The situation is complicated, but still, the point is that living there is a choice. One can always cut one's losses and move away.

You had the money to cross the Pacific and the education to land a nice job, good for you. How many truly poor people do you know? Ever travel up to LA and see how those who couldn't get a decent education live? How they work twice as hard but get very little return for their effort? I recall the days when all I owned was in the duffle bag I got from when I was in the service, sleeping out on the streets in the cold. You know what happens to people in these situations? You get dumped in an area where the wealthy don't have to look at you. You compete for what few jobs there are with all the rest of the unfortunate ones, while guys with the wealth are voting to cut any benefits that might help give these people the strength to move forward. I was fortunate. My experiences of this nature were in the 80s before so many cuts were made. I used the system to help educate me and get me out of the hellish situation and NO, there wasn't much help from samaritans. It was government help. Civil society is what makes the push to hide these poor people from the eyes of the fortunate. So your argument that it's their responsibility is a farce and shows your true colors. Sweep it under the rug and let disease and starvation be its cure. That's sick and disgusting.

You have not gone through the system, you have not been through NS, and thus your opinions on how *good* the SG system is is tinted with rose-colored glasses, and the red carpet the SG government rolls out to expats like you.

I'm flattered. You think I'm some foreign talent with a nice job. Haha, nope, just a guy who lives in Singapore with my wife and her family, looking to trade my blue passport for a red one. I would gladly do NS if it meant I could achieve that, and I don't have any special privileges or wealth to speak of. I engage in conversations like this to learn about other viewpoints and when I stand corrected I graciously adopt a new view on my surroundings. But you, sir, have offered me nothing but ridiculous claims that I grew up with and have fought against. While you're in the US, be sure to visit more than the tourist traps and get a real view of the inequality and tell me how your prayers for these people are working out. I'll be here looking at how the government has made jobs for the less fortunate and thank them daily for their efforts.

Posted on April 19, 2014 by AKAAWOL
His reply:

>That was something the founding fathers of the US wanted to avoid. -

Not true. There were against the prioritizing of one religion over another. NOT the use of religion by ordinary people. Martin Luther King for example was a very religious man, and he would be astonished that his religion was supposed to play no part in his civil rights movement

>if you keep religion from being the moral compass as you should

No, I shouldn't. Without religion, there is no ground for morality. Kant and the Enlightenment philosophers have been trying to ground morality in something other than religion, and none of them have succeeded

>then how to lead the people and push for change in positive directions -

It has to come from the ground up by people being motivated to act by things like religion

>Who to look after the aged, downtrodden, poor and weak?

People. In Chinese culture for example, the children traditionally are responsible to take care of their parents. I don't think I have to mention all the orphanages etc that Christians have founded over the years in Western countries, only of course to see them subverted by secular humanists.

>If we rule out the church because after all they tend to be biased towards only helping the people who subscribe to their point of view -

Of course, if they are by a church, as a private organization they can choose who to help. But there are individual Christians who have founded organizations to help anyone regardless of creed.

>To remove the big "G" would leave a void

Because SG society is so dependent on the government that's why the void would happen. SG society is immature, because the big "G" is so "helpful" people don't bother about anything except earning money. Why bother being civil when Big Brother takes care of everything? And now of course the government is complaining that people expect the government to take care of everything. What else should they expect? They themselves foster that kind of thinking.

Ok here we go again. Once again we couldn't just use the comment threads to make this easy, no, that would make too much sense.

>There were against the prioritizing of one religion over another. NOT the use of religion by ordinary people. Martin Luther King for example was a very religious man, and he would be astonished that his religion was supposed to play no part in his civil rights movement

There is a ton of literary documentation on what the founding fathers feared with the church and start as one. Hell, just look around the world and you can see where that leads. This, for example, History of the Separation of Church and State in America makes for a good read. True that the government never meant to restrict the church or ordinary people from taking stances, but it was not to become part of the law-making process that might put one’s agenda over the beliefs of another (sorta like the hoopla over gay rights or abortion rights). Martin Luther King was a pastor and used his influence to show how wrong the system was. That the promise of equality wasn't being upheld, not that his religious views were what mattered.

Without religion, there is no ground for morality. Kant and the Enlightenment philosophers have been trying to ground morality in something other than religion, and none of them have succeeded

description
'Nuff said!

It has to come from the ground up by people being motivated to act by things like religion

I'd argue that the most successful and fair measures come from the top down. Just as you find here in Singapore. Again I have many examples I could toss out there.

People. In Chinese culture for example, the children traditionally are responsible to take care of their parents.

And what of those without children? Without family? I was a ward of the state who was placed in foster homes till I was 17 then on a program called Independent Living that paid my bills as I went to school. Again I think you're just demonstrating a view of greed and lack of empathy. You don't want to pay taxes to help the downtrodden. That, sir, is a shame. I've never made a ton of money but when I was doing ok, I paid my taxes at 23% of my income and never complained about people being fed with that money. I'd complain more when the US got involved in two costly wars and now are looking to dodge looking after the soldiers that are returning. So if that holy book is your compass, perhaps you need to get back to reading it. ‘Cause I'm sure that greed is a bigger problem according to the scriptures than looking after people who don't share your beliefs.

Of course, if they are by a church, as a private organization they can choose who to help. But there are individual Christians who have founded organizations to help anyone regardless of creed.

There you're saying that a private organization can choose who to help. And I say that's why we can't rely on that for people in need and assume that’s always gonna be a staple. Currently there is a total lack of emphasis on education (and I'd argue that education is the foundation of a society, though a bit like a house of cards. Miss only a few generations and we could easily slip back into the dark ages). And where is your precious foundations for the kids of tomorrow? Lacking in ability to help the masses because the American freedoms you so look up to have allowed for so much sprawl that just getting to all the kids who need help is a fundamental problem. Not to mention the total disinformation a church put in the scientific portion of education. At least Singapore had the good sense to teach evolution in school. Not some book of folklore and ridiculous events that never happened.

Because SG society is so dependent on the government that's why the void would happen. SG society is immature, because the big "G" is so "helpful" people don't bother about anything except earning money.

Ok I was talking the US, but we can go either direction here. No one has a luxury lifestyle while receiving government assistance. It's barely enough to be fed, clothed and at one time a roof over your head, but the cutbacks left me homeless in 2006. Back when I was 18, I can say I was dumped in a poor end of town with little hope of getting out of the hole. There were no jobs within walking distance due to the number of people in the same situation, each looking to get off the assistance and better ourselves. The allowance didn't provide the means for public transportation (though limited, there was some but again sprawl makes public transit nearly impossible). Unlike Singapore where land is held on to until it's needed and infrastructure can be in place for the people. See how Singapore keeps scoring better?

Next why do you even care if there are people who don't work? Seriously, again if your moral compass wasn't pointed at a pile of money that you're worried about being taxed for, then you would want to see that families of any and all faiths and regardless of ethnic backgrounds should be able to have dinner on the table, medical assistance to help them along and a proper education so the children can have a better future.


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