Of “Peasant Culture” & “Stupid Singaporeans”

What Chinese Singaporeans have inherited from their grandparents is peasant culture, explained “peasant judge” online. “Peasants don’t care for much else except a bowl of rice on the table, a roof over their heads, and the chance to go out to the rice fields to do the daily back-breaking chores day in day out.”

“A better word to describe the Singaporean is naïve, which comes about because of a paternalistic and rather efficient government. Everything is so structured and laid-out that the people do not need to fight for a living, blunting their ability to compete. They’re lulled into thinking the outside world also behave like Singapore.”

Businessmen from Taiwan and Hong Kong are more alert to opportunities, as well as cheats, compared to even the capable Singa-poreans, whose preoccupation is getting a high salary.

They know where to take the short cuts when faced with a problem; Singaporeans will just sit and wait for better days.

Quotes above from here.

Almost 4 months back in Singapore from the SF Bay Area, I can still acutely feel the difference between the culture here and back in the Valley.

Where there was hope and optimism everywhere I go or seek in the Bay Area, there's despondency in Singapore, people complaining all the time about their boring lives, work, crass social behavior, a mind-numbing education system thats overly reliant on exams, taxi drivers trying to practise political activism within the confines of their steel-bound universes, while out in the open world, they shut up fearful of a social policy that frowns on social dissent especially.

But i was free, once. And yes this might sound like a dreamy musing. But everyone, (maybe almost), really felt the air in America was much fresher and freer than the stifling one here. We were free to realise our true ambitions and learn to be proud to flaunt it. We learn to take criticism in our stride, for if no one dissents with your opinions, it means you ain't thinking enough about issues and also you are denied a chance to practise your intellectual faculties in arguing for your own opinion.

People shy away from having opinions here. I define an opinion as one where one do not just think about it at the back of one's head but communicate and seek propagation of his/ her opinions in order to bring about the realization of that thought into action. There's an enormous social pressure of ensuring conformity to the norm and the casting away of deviance.

But deviance is good, for it creates a balanced society and a complete continuum of thoughts, personalities and character of the society. From a balanced and free society comes about equilibrum. I am no sociology student or engineer. But something I read before tells me that most people will eventually go to a natural state and creating an equilibrum. The problem is, the equilibrum n SIngapore is very top-down engineered by the ruling class since the day of our founding. have nothing against that. Because we were a new nation that had to swallow tough measures and bitter medicine in order to become what we are today.

But we are different now. We are economically, a First World Nation. But we seem to be Third World in terms of being a civic society. I remember a Belgian friend of mine telling me that he was handed a pamphlet on how to wash his hands when he got onto the plane for SIngapore by a SIA stewardess. This was due to the SARS scare. Extend this paternalistic pamphlet and analyze it in the context of Singapore's social campaigns — the "Speak English" of the 1980s to mid 1990s, then "Speak Mandarin"/ "Mandarin is COOL" campaign today (because China is strong now)… Let me gaze into the crystal ball. By the frequency of trips to Middle East by our leaders in recent months, "Speak Arabic" campaign is not too far away as the efficient social propaganda machine churns and chugs along in our "air-conditioned" nation.

If you have to read newspapers, do not read local media. Read widely, blogs, international news, tomorrow.sg, whatever it takes, get conflicting viewpoints on the same issue. Mainstream society here needs to snap out of "peasant-hood" and develop a socially critical consciousness.

Thanks to Justin who inspired this article. Check out his post here.

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4 thoughts on “Of “Peasant Culture” & “Stupid Singaporeans”

  1. you know whats’ funny (in a happy tree friends kind of way): Lee Kuan Yew acknowledging the racial superiority of “east asians” as he calls them. There is another awesome quote of his here: http://snipurl.com/pq3y

  2. Wise words spoken there Mr Lee! It’s one of the things i’ve noticed while being here – as much as i love the people and the country, there is a definate dependence issue. Whether to overbearing parents who control their kids until they’re married, or to a government that has a hand in everything, a lot of Singaporeans seem to lack initiative. It’s quite possible that they simply lack the initiative to even have an oppinion!

  3. thanks for the link karma dude! i think this is an interesting debate for young singaporeans.. how do we feed our minds well enough so that we do not remain in stasis? i think the internet really helps a lot…

  4. It requires fundamental shift in thinking, philosophy, values… The West often criticises China for its Communist rule or its inadequate push for democracy. I certainly would not be surprised that if China government continues to practise what it does now for the next few decades because China is putting its “life” at stake should it push for a fast transition to democracy. The point is that China is too big and similarly Singapore is too diverse a nation that makes up too many races to allow for true democracy – freedom of everything… From the State’s point of view, a nation’s integrity is much more important than its development, be it political or economical. That is just my opinion.

    I choose msn space because it is owner friendly and user friendly if you use MS. (Given your “hatred” to MS, what do you expect the EU’s ruling on its antitrust case?) Another reason is that, one is instantaneously informed of any update on my blog as one will be seeing a yellow star appear in front of my msn tagline. I have one more paper to go tomorrow morning and thank you very much for your kind wishes. Are you going to the talk next Wednesday by the CEO of Hurrey (I hope I get it right)?

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