25 April 2007

Highly paid moral weasels

Lee Kuan Yew told Reuters that "eventually" the anti-gay law will have to be changed. Why "eventually"? Full essay.


Anonymous said...

LKY is again extemporising, and when he does so he maintains his personal view that there is nothing inherently wrong with homosexuality but please don't ask me to repeal it.

How that personal comment of the most senior and revered member of the cabinet translates into policy remains, as always, to be seen.

Anonymous said...

fuzzy talking is an integral part of politics; there is no need to condemn it so indignantly; giving concessions is an art, involving both substance and "face"; "eventually" presumably means "when political consequences are more acceptable"; if gay rights are also getting the support of non-gays, one issue to consider is what their motivations are, and what they will fight for next after they win one round


Anonymous said...

The government presents two rather different faces to the Singapore and international audiences on the issue of homosexuality. To the former, it is the moral custodian, to the latter, it wants to be seen as a "normal" and open country. While i do not see an immediate repeal to the old man's statement, it is nevertheless mildly encouraging as what he says usually becomes reality

What is however more disturbing is the way in which our MM essentialises sexuality to industry with gays confined mostly to the so call creative industries with their idiosyncrecies.

Anonymous said...

"Lee said last Saturday that some people still have "strong inhibitions". So what? In so many areas, this government claims it does the right thing for Singapore even if it isn't the popular thing. (That's why they have to pay themselves so much money, to salve their pain, you understand.) Why not here?"

Because it doesn't bring money, of course. The PAP only cares about 1) economic growth, and 2) political stability. It doesn't care about justice and human rights. Since decriminalising gay sex may lose it some votes, it is entirely predictable that the PAP would drag its feet over it.

JohnM said...

Alex, I can see no 'eventually' in the report on the Reuters site titled "Singapore considers legalizing homosexuality". The language differs somehow from the report you are quoting. The first paragraph says.

"Singapore, striving to cast off its staid image and overhaul its economy, might have to legalize homosexuality to become more cosmopolitan, but will preserve its core values, the city-state's founder Lee Kuan Yew said."


Lee's St James comments are also printed here.

Anonymous said...

The central problem is that the essence of the PAPa mindset is pragmatic utilitarianism.

Issues about human rights, dignity, discrimination, etc. all play second fiddle. Any issue is important only with respect to Singapore's "success and survival".
That is the yardstick by which they judge everything.
Individuals do not matter, have no value in and of themselves.

In the PAPa mindset, nothing bad will actually happen if they do not "harm Singapore".
For example, they expect that nothing bad will actually happen to threaten Singapore's "success" when they pay themselves more money after increasing GST. By branding these as "necessary evils for the greater good" that will "benefit" the nation, there is no harm for them to reward themselves for "bringing success to Singapore".

The problem is that they think they are impervious to the people's "whims". The only real way out is to show them the people's power. To show them that we are not sheep. That we have the power to burst their utilitarian bubble.

Or do we?

Teck Soon said...

Some anonymous commenter above thinks the PAP may lose votes if it repeals homosexuality. To which opposition party would the PAP lose votes on this issue? The other parties, on a whole, seem to be advocating human rights and civil liberties to a much greater extent than the PAP. Both the WP and the SDP have, at times, advocated decriminalisation. I want to know where this other mystery party that is more conservative than the PAP is. Where?! Where is this "other" party that would promote discrimination of gays, jail/caning for gays, or tightening of any other civil right, even more than the PAP such that the PAP would fear losing votes to it? It seems like the other real parties are not pressing harder than they are only because they don't want to be seen as too liberal, even though they are. I want the anonymous above to tell us which opposition party would campaign on re-crimininalising 377A if the PAP repeals it? The PAP would then portray that party as backwards and 3rd world. Let's see now how smart the PAP are. I imagine they're now losing more votes to gay sympathizers than they would lose to the conservatives. C'mon. The PAP is going to be THE conservative party. The religious types will always vote for them, no matter what they do.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

JohnM -

Interesting. I see that Reuters has re-written their story. I wonder if that is common practice. I am sure that the original Reuters story included the word "eventually", since I got the same story from two different contacts, the first from Zaobao and the second from a webmagazine editor.

Furthermore, the Straits Times, in their version of the story also quoted Lee as having used the word "eventually".

JohnM said...

Hehe I wonder if they read your blog, went to LKY for clarification and then rewrote the story! As you correctly pointed out, the 'eventually' makes all the difference, so this may be cause for celebration..

One can live in hope.

YCK said...

LKY was quoted earlier as saying, "Don't upset them and suddenly upset their sense of propriety and right and wrong. But at the same time let's not go around like this moral police do in Malaysia, barging into people's rooms and say 'khalwat'. That's not our business."

Was he really waffling? He could really be telling both sides that the governemnt has its own views on the matter and neither side will prevail over its will.

If the government is really as utilitarian as one alleges I wonder what calculations informed the utterance staking out the government's position? It's anybody's guess unless the god behind the oracle reveals the real reason.

Royotto said...

Q: But would you consider, I mean, did we read this correctly you saying that we should decriminalise it eventually?

Mr Lee: Eventually I cannot put a finger on it. But I would say if this is the way the world is going and Singapore is part of that interconnected world and I think it is, then I see no option for Singapore but to be part of it. They tell me and anyway it is probably half-true that homosexuals are creative writers, dancers, etcetera. And there is some biblical evidence of that and if we want creative people then we got to put up with their idiosyncrasies. So, long as they don’t infect the heartland.

So this is the wisdom of the great “Minister Mentor”. The head philosopher king in a party of philosopher kings? The de facto leader of the only group with the intelligence and ability to run Singapore?

It seems more like the incoherent ramblings of someone who has been around too long and has gone a little soft in the head. It's hard to believe any politician would make such ignorant and insulting comments. His response would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic.

Anonymous said...

why doesnt he retire? say live on Sentosa beach in one of those nice new houses and enjoy a relaxing life, leaving his son to run the country with full power instead of having to look over his shoulder at his dad?

maybe SG needs an upper house to which retired ministers can go; they can express their philosophical views there, while the cabinet/parliament handles the actual business; old/young division of labour


Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Let me not always be looking a gift horse in the mouth. It is far better that LKY has said what he has said than not to have said it at all, about the fact the sexual orientation is not an aberration, but a variation.

The reality in Singapore is that his words lend an imprimatur to a certain idea. Individuals may still dispute what he says (though at this stage of knowledge, with no scientific backing at all), but our media and his fellow cabinet ministers will feel obliged to adopt a similar line. It becomes the new orthodoxy.

High time, I'd say, but better late than never.

The problem now is how to convert the new orthodoxy into equitable laws and censorship policies.

Robert L said...

A very interesting essay, thanks YB.

LKY Told Reuters:
"We are not promoters of it and we are not going to allow Singapore to become the vanguard of Southeast Asia," Lee said.

I could be wrong, but I'm picking up the hints from LKY that the above is now at the core of his thinking.

Although some 20 years late and behind the times, he has now adopted the view that homosexuality is a small part of human civilisation, so what's left holding him back are the pragmatic considerations that remain.

Thanks to YB's map of anti-gay S.E. Asia, it strikes a resounding image in my mind of what happens if Singapore should become "the vanguard of Southeast Asia" on gay laws. As an example, I picture a string of Hotel 88 -types springing up at Woodlands and Tuas, with hoards of customers crossing over from Johore for a few hours' stay. You can imagine how much friction this can create with our neighbour?

Now, if only our neighbour were to decriminise homosexuality, then I'll bet Singapore will follow suit in a blink without batting an eyelid.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Robert L -

You seriously think Singapore does things to please Malaysia?

Robert L said...

Yawningbread asked: "You seriously think Singapore does things to please Malaysia?"

Ha! Ha! You're right, of course. Singapore has shown time and time again that when it really matters, Singapore goes ahead and do what we needed to do, in spite of objections from our neighbours.

But you've asked the wrong question, so let's not go too far there.

The key to any issue is motivation - a balance between the risks and the gains when choosing a course of action. For the issue at hand, the risks as I see it are quite considerable. We are surrounded by two big neighbours who are religiously deadset against homosexuality and will no doubt be extremely hostile if our borders serve as a haven for their citizens to visit and engage in sexual activities which are illegal in their country.

The gains are, by contrast, miniscule. The PAP certainly wont lose any votes by not repealing the law (more likely the opposite, in fact). The small factor of losing foreign talents and also losing local talents is not being dismissed, it's being appeased by half-measures, that's what they're proposing. Apart from this, there is really nothing to gain by the decision makers to fully repeal the law.

LKY has effectively told western media that, yes he knows the logic and the science, but his hands are tied: he cannot make Singapore into a maverick in this region (when there's nothing to gain).

Look at the flooding in Johor and the coastal erosion of some Indonesian islands, Singapore has been a convenient scapegoat even if the laws of science are fully on our side and religion plays no part in it. While on one hand the laws of science remain fuzzy over homosexuality, and on the other hand we have 2000 years of cultural history against homosexuality, Singapore will set itself up to be the punching bag, not just the scapegoat, of whatever ills befall our neighbours.

So back to motivation - there's little to gain on repealing the law and much at risk.