"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Friday, June 16, 2006

The Transom Review: Christopher Lydon in Singapore

""Kitsch is very big in Asia," said a dissenting architect in a private chat. "The architecture of Disneyland. It works as a narcotic-it dulls the senses in a pleasurable way. It's an anesthetic, in that it prevents you from knowing what is going on, and so it has political value."

He said: "People mix up the words modernity, modernization and modernism. They're three different things. We have had modernization, but not modernity. Being modern is about autonomy. We don't have it."

And this was the killer line as he drove me around the shining streets of Singapore. "We know now from a lot of history that the human spirit is invincible in the face of adversity. But I've decided that the human spirit is defenseless in the grip of wealth."

Everything this man said was compelling, but none of it was for air. "This is the most advanced totalitarian state in the world," he said. "I see it as a cartoon of a man in a cage with the key around his neck. But he will not use it."...

Singapore has lived most of its modern life in the shadow of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor. In the fable at the core of The Brothers Karamazov, Jesus Christ reappears in Seville to be tried, convicted and executed by the Spanish Inquisition. The charge against him is that he left too much room for human freedom. By refusing the devil's invitation to fly, or to turn stones into bread, Jesus had criminally neglected the opportunity to bind men's hearts and minds. He was rejecting, of course, the three powers that Dostoevsky detested as the enemies of moral freedom: miracle, mystery and authority. By the lights of the Inquisition, Jesus must be put to death once more. The Inquisitor's boast for himself and the Spanish church was that they had "finally overcome freedom, and have done so in order to make people happy." As he told the defendant: "these people are more certain than ever that they are completely free, and at the same time they themselves have brought us their freedom and obediently laid it at our feet."

I know someone who would agree with the Inquisition, since I "don't understand what is freedom [and] confuse it with moral autonomy and mere undetermined free choice."
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