Yale’s Ng E-Ching: The Need for Cultural Translation

Comments (6)
  1. lawless says:

    Dear Ms Ng

    The police did not come knocking on your door because there was no directive issued by their political masters to do so. No such directive was issued because you are not perceived as a threat to their political domination. And as far as political domination is concerned, talk of “lax-to-non-existent enforcement” is laughable. Ask Chee Soon Juan.

    In any case, the Straits Times article referred byyou was published to counter criticisms against Yale-NUS and the government. The authorities would be cutting their nose if they were to send their goons to knock on your doors.

    On a separate note, would you happen to know whether the Patriot Act has ever been used by one political party against its opponents?

  2. Ng Kok Lim says:

    Dear E-Ching,

    Very honoured to receive a reply from you.

    I don’t think Yale misunderstood expectations. It is quite obvious our government will not be happy about it and I respect Yale for saying what they said knowing the feathers they will ruffle.

    I still don’t agree with the notion of freedom behind closed doors. We shouldn’t deceive ourselves that that is freedom.

    GRC gerrymandering is absolutely unnecessary and exists only as a tool to entrench the regime. Because even though we elect a collection of say 5 individuals for the GRC, those 5 individuals have clear, distinct districts within the GRC that they take charge of. In other words, there is no need to lump 5 individuals together if the minority candidate is only going to be responsible for just one district. We can simply designate that one distrct to be minority contestable only and the purpose of the GRC would be served just the same.

    All the people that I know couldn’t care less about the resolution. The biggest noise came from the government because it was targeted at them. Therefore, I don’t see it as patriotic upwelling but government upwelling.

    Loyalty to our rulers is not patriotism. As Chen Show Mao famously said, there can only be one patriotism, which is for the red on white, not the white on white. Red on white is represents our flag, our country, our people. White on white represents our ruling party. We must not mistake white on white for red on white. For all the respect you have for the 60% Singaporeans who voted for PAP, don’t respect them if they mistake white on white for red on white.

    Don’t underestimate the number of unthinking fans of PAP. It’s not that they can’t think. It’s just that we don’t have a free press, so they grew up imbibed with propaganda that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Don’t underestimate the power of state indoctrination. In WW2, both the German and the Japanese governments were able to indoctrinate their peoples so that they see their enemies as untermenschen or pigs to be slaughtered. Post-war Japan similarly doctored their history textbooks so that the Japanese today have no guilt about their war crimes, some even deny them vehemently. That’s why North Koreans continue to support their ruling dynasty so strongly despite famines.

    If as you said, our country has very few unthinking fans of PAP, it should be clear to them that Yale was targeting our government not the people or the country. Because they can think, they know that their beloved “city state of Singapore” isn’t being targeted and so would not feel upset. But if they feel upset, it must be because they can’t think and thought that “Singapore” was being targeted. Because they can’t think, they have the tendency to mistake white on white for red on white.

    I don’t see a broad swath of Singaporeans upset by Yale comments. We can commission a survey. I would think that the broad majority of the people can’t be bothered. It is because they can’t be bothered that they’ve allowed political and civil rights to be disrespected. They can’t be bothered because we have been brought up that way.

    I suppose you are right that we shouldn’t say Singapore when we mean PAP. But then again, if it is obvious to all, why state the obvious? If the people can’t discern the obvious, isn’t something wrong with our society which is really what we should focus on instead?

    The 1991 film censorship backlash is like a man imprisoned in total darkness all his life shunning the bright sunshine when first released. He should be allowed to slowly acclimatise to sunshine. The moral of the story is that we should slowly relax film censorship, not that we should continue with film censorship.

    Without democracy, there is no guarantee that the govt will look after our human well being. For too long, too many Singaporeans have been blindly voting the PAP so much so that they have taken us for granted and pursued strategies that made the numbers look good but worsened the people’s lives. Only with democracy can we nudge the government to do the right thing. Therefore, I would see that democracy as just as important as human well being. Without democracy, it is easy to abuse human well being. Without democracy, our well being is at the mercy of the ruling party. So I don’t see us as having fundamentally different goals. We too need democracy more than we realise it.

    No doubt those whom you’ve read about knows and yearns for change. But I don’t think the general public yearns for change, not even to this day. We won’t have 60% or more voting for PAP all this while if the great majority yearns for change all along.

    Thank you

  3. anon.guest says:


    “No doubt those whom you’ve read about knows and yearns for change. But I don’t think the general public yearns for change, not even to this day. We won’t have 60% or more voting for PAP all this while if the great majority yearns for change all along.”

    I know a great many people (though by no means are they the majority, but I would venture to say nonetheless they are a substantial lot) who understood the problems associated with continually re-electing the PAP into power. They eventually chose PAP simply because of the dearth of capable contestants from the opposition, and they were rather unwilling to let these people take the rein just for the sake of limiting the PAP’s dominance. No doubt there were more ‘stars’ amongst the opposition in the previous election compared to yesteryears … however, let’s just say only a limited number possess that ‘oompf’ factor. Take where I am from, for instance – Tampines: much as people do like to complain about Mr Mah Bow Tan (you should hear the things said about him!), look at the opposition! (and I would too contend that NSP has quite … radical policies but that’s a topic for a separate article).

    Minority-contestable-only districts is, IMO, a bad idea. Imagine what the people of that constituency would say if there were told they can only elect candidates from minority races. Sure, we may have more racially tolerant citizens than in the past, but I do not think forcibly restricting the electable options will go down well with the public, at all.

    Re: unthinking Singaporeans. Short response: unthinking individuals exist in abundance on both camps. Longer response: It does not help that there are articles out there doing quite blatantly inaccurate portrayals of our people (two articles come to mind: Walker Vincoli’s “students-button-their-lips-and-absorb-opinions” rhetoric and Jim Sleeper’s drawing parallels between Chinese-Malay relationships and Jewish-Palestinian tensions in Israel). Quite a number of us Singaporeans quite conveniently conflated these articles with the those criticising the PAP government under the fancy banner of “Americans performing moral judgements of Singapore” (some might even choose to use “The West” in lieu of “Americans”, unwittingly casting the similarly unfair generalising statements that they deride so vehemently). Admittedly, this proves your point on the unthinking-ness of some Singaporeans (then again, we could hardly expect perspicacious people to fall neatly into one end of the political spectrum, right?)

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