12 November 2007

Minorities and state protection

How do we decide which group should receive state protection, or minority rights? And in any debate over this, what's wrong with identity politics? Full essay.


Anonymous said...

I agree homosexuals are currently disadvantaged by the law and that the law should be changed to accomodate them. I do not understand, however, why homosexuals require/deserve additional protection or even affirmative action (beyond repealing 377A). Isnt that what should be addressed unless the article is just to challenge LHL's choice of words?

Yong Zhi said...

Sigh, you write all these incisive, well-reasoned articles, but I fear you are just preaching to the choir (inappropriate metaphor, sorry) and wasting your effort. People who read your website tend to agree with you already; I doubt homophobes visit YB. You ought to try to get your article on a medium where it reaches those who currently hold different views but are amenable to logical persuasion.

Send it to the Straits Times or something as a rebuttal to Andy Ho's article. Andy's shallow and superficial interpretation of the term "minority" ought to be exposed to all.

Anonymous said...

agree with yong zhi but im not sure if the straits times would print his letters. And where else can one go..?

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

If I wanted to contribute an article to the Review section of the Straits Times, I have the necessary contacts. For this particular topic/essay, I wouldn't want to.

There are pros and cons. The most obvious pro is that ST has a daily readership that is incomparably larger than YBread. However, only a percentage of that read the "heavy" articles in the Review Setion, though even this number must surely be much larger than YBread.

However, the cons are quite numerous.

1. Would ST even want such an article? From what I heard of the attempt by NUS Vice-Dean to write a rebuttal to Yvonne Lee's article attacking gay equality, it appears that ST has some kind of policy not to publish any article that directly contradicts a prior-published ST Review article. It sounds like an absurd policy, I know, but if the NUS Vice-Dean faced that kind of obstacle (he had to redraft his piece into a letter to the Forum pages) what about me? My article also takes issue with a prior-published Review article - Andy Ho's. You could say I could test the system by trying but why should I expend effort and delay my work?

2. I dislike the way ST guillotines old issues after 7 days. I want my article to stand accessible for years.

3. I notice that many people access YBread articles, not because it's there on the "latest" page, but from an archival search. These are people who are really interested in a particular topic; they do a search for it and find it. These are the best readers one can have - because they WANT to read the article, not because it happens to be in today's edition of the ST - which many people glance through and forget.

4. Enabling such readers, months and years into the future, to find the article is important, for when the issue comes up again in public debate, my artcle is available unlike ST archives. I would even argue that an article's impact on society is less dependent on how many read it the day it's published, but on who reads it, and when they read it.

5. I happen to know anecdotally, that policy-makers read YBread. Some tell me so directly. Others give me unintended clues. As an example, one PAP MP mentioned in passing a statistical figure that, as far as I know, was only published, a few months back, in YBread, nowhere else. So YBread doesn't only preach to the choir.

Anonymous said...


Your article has always been lucid and articulate, but this one takes the cake! I admit I was a little confused by Andy Ho's article but you rebutted with such panache, and thank goodness for steering me back.

Sometimes I wonder, what has the government missed out on when they gloss over talents like you?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Oh, you are most definitely being read by policy-makers, dear YB. So am I.

How do I know? I was told. By who? The spouse of a senior civil servant who was assigned the work responsibility, during the last GE season, to read blogs.

Including yours and mine. ;)

Anonymous said...

dont worry; I am sure the political machinery has people monitoring all the main blogs and might even forward useful ideas upstairs now and then; if you have concrete ideas for improving things, by all means put them into your own blogs or as comments on other people's blogs; one day they might appear as some ministers' innovations


Anonymous said...

dont worry; I am sure the political machinery has people monitoring all the main blogs and might even forward useful ideas upstairs now and then; if you have concrete ideas for improving things, by all means put them into your own blogs or as comments on other people's blogs; one day they might appear as some ministers' innovations


Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Mr Wang -

Your comment raises another issue. When a civil servant is tasked to monitor blogs, the terms of reference given to him become important. Is he to monitor blogs with intent to find some way to catch people and prosecute? Or is he supposed to feed online views up to politicians - in which case, for policy input or for modulating an electoral campaign.

The fact that it was during an election period suggests that it may be hard to ignore the possibility that civil servants' work could be used to inform a political party's election campaign. If so, it would seriously violate the principle that the civil service should be politically neutral.

I don't expect you to know answers to above question - just raising consequential thoughts.

yuen said...

civil servants, as employees of Singapore Inc, will do what the management of Singapore Inc tell them, including collecting information to help the management get a high "mark" in the election; they are independent, however, in the sense that they are not party members, not taking part in election campaigns, etc

Anonymous said...

"Caucasians often get better treatment in Singapore"...

Are you sure??? I think almost ALL Singaporeans share this sentiment, and a fair number of them do their best to compensate for this perception by giving Caucasians worse-than-normal treatment. I've seen this a few times. I think it would be far fairer to say that "rich people often get better treatment in Singapore," because when Caucasians are not spending money, it looks like they actually get worse treatment than locals. I remember a New Paper report a few days back about an American guy who was with his wife in Zouk getting beat up by a group of Singaporeans. Regardless of what happened in the brawl, it is so easy to see in this climate of caucasians-are-always-treated-better the potential for a group of drunk locals finding some white guy (probably a not-rich one) to beat on to compensate a bit. Remember the movie Perth? The audience I was in cheered and laughed their heads off when some white guy was getting beat up in his car onscreen. It wasn't funny. It just looked to me as if Singaporeans bear some deep desire to just beat up some of them 'cause they deserve it, for being "ang moh", I guess.

If there's ever any civil disturbance in Singapore, the rich Singaporeans will be ok, but it's not out of the question that the Caucasians would be the first to be rounded up and executed. And when they're being rounded up, they'll surely call them "ang mohs" instead of Caucasians.

I've been with Caucasians before and have heard so many racist remarks (in Mandarin) by people all over Singapore right in front of my friends. Thank God they couldn't understand Mandarin. But that sentiment is there nonetheless. It really grates on my nerves when everyone says how good Caucasians are treated and then completely disses them.

Anonymous said...

>Caucasians often get better treatment in Singapore

I believe they do, because (a) you can assume they are in the higher class job categories, whereas a well off local might not be obviously so (b) they are more outspoken and more likely to complain about poor service, so those serving them tend to be more alert (c) for the young guys, there is the additional SPG factor

Anonymous said...

I thought the wealthiest expats in Singapore were from Indonesia...

Teck Soon said...

Evidently, the 377A decision has given the state censors a mandate:



YCK said...

On what you reported Andy Ho wrote:

Further on, Ho claimed that "the gay lobby..... tends to reduce complex human beings to one trait - homoerotism. That is, it regards all individuals who have this orientation as being, in essence, the same in (all) other respects."

This allegation is also applicable to many other people and not just pro-repeal homosexuals. They include racists, sexists and even some advocates of religious voice on deciding secular matters.

The necessary condition to be a bigot is to categorize people too zealously. That would include oneself. An example is Mr Heng who wrote this letter to ST, available here in case if ST seven day access expires. I am not saying that he is a bigot, but is it not the case that as Andy Ho alleges he augment one part of his identity to ignore all others?

YCK said...

One more point about pigeonholing people because of one aspect of their identity. In the case of the homosexuals in Singapore, I believe it is done by the anti-repeal self-styled majority.

As has been pointed out by NMP Siew and others homosexuals have other identities such being sons and daughters, siblings, neighbours, friends etc. However, it is the majority that seems to insist on simplifying the matter to just sexual orientation, which they seek to undermine as changeable.

Does anyone think that there is some double standards? If not do tell me as I may be mistaken. If so Andy Ho seems to have overlooked some other forces at play in fostering the identity politics.

Robert L said...

One day has passed and they have lifted the ban, making it M18 instead. I find that extremely interesting.

The person who lifted the ban must have been fully informed that lesbian sex acts are now no longer criminalised. Yes, woman-to-woman sex acts are now legal in private, away from public view. That would also include anal activity if they so desire. (So much for the highly esteemed NUS Law Faculty Prof Thio's muddle-headedness!)

Correspondingly, it also implies that the person who first meted out the ban did not realise that lesbian sex has been decriminalised. I find that extremely significant because it has been my suspicion that very few people in Singapore realise it, even now.

If you look back at the huge debate, you will find that reports have focused on heterosexual anal sex, homosexual anal sex, but never any mention on lesbian sex. Almost as if they were trying to get that last one slip through without attracting attention.

Teck Soon said...

Wow! I spoke too soon! This video game banning had been given quite a bit of publicity in the gaming press. Teenagers all around the world are learning how our government behaves here in Singapore!

Anyway I am quite curious if it was the bad publicity that made the censors change their minds, or if it was because of lesbian instead of male gay sex. If it is the latter, then 377A is untenable. Anyway, if lesbianism cannot be banned by the MDA, then banning gay events may be more difficult too, provided that the organizers are female? The situation just looks silly now.

Maybe the government figured that while banning some obscure political books or films won't upset too many, they don't want Singaporean teenage gamers to get upset too. Haha!

Anonymous said...

A few choice comments from STOMP to show how Singaporeans feel about Caucasians (to add to the little discussion above). I really think that Caucasians DO NOT get special treatement in Singapore. SPG-effect indeed. Check these out:

ronnie_yeo said on 18 Nov, 2007
"Get even with the Ang mohs..........goood
Well done michelle and the ah bengs! :-)"

air39 said on 18 Nov, 2007
"...dont try to side with the wrong angmo. Get out of my coutry if u think u angmos are being bullied. No one asks u to be here. The PAP welcomes you here, not me."

keuriseudo said on 17 Nov, 2007