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More adventurous than the average bear

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Sunday, June 05, 2011

On the Utility of appealing for Outside Pressure to improve Singapore's Political Situation

"Most people ignore most poetry
most poetry ignores most people."
- Adrian Mitchell


A: Singapore: UN Rights Body Should Press for Fundamental Freedoms | Human Rights Watch

B: Bollocks. Does a country with about one in five with degrees need Human Rights Watch to do our dirty political work for us?

A: Apparently yes.

C: i find it embarrassing too, but there are too many ignorant and self-centred people in singapore. it's not apathy, i'm done with using that term.

B: rights are almost never "given", you have to take them. every nation that now grants rights to its citizens did so under threat or application of force i.e. once upon a time the people fought for it.

we've never fought for anything; we complain and uncle PAP will either give it to us or tell us why cannot. complaining to the UN won't work. worse if we get others to complain for us ...

Me: You rather they do not?

B: yes, we can do our own complaining. Maruah?

Me: So since Sri Lanka has a strong democratic tradition, should NGOs not bother protesting the war crimes during the final years of the war against the Tamil Tigers?

Should non-Americans point out the disturbing implications of the Patriot Act and other Bush-era legislation?

Must non-Hong Kongers keep mum on each delay in Legco's true emancipation?

B: those are good questions, but wrong. those who want rights must fight for them, those in power will never willingly grant them. getting others to talk about one's injustices is good for their consciences and maybe, ours too; but there will be no redress. the UN is not a world government: how many battalions does it have? none.

Tamil Tigers still died and the Patriot Act hasn't been repealed. Despite lotsa talk ...

D: could all of these concerns over rights be solved peacefully, by those with access to connected-advocates, in the civil-courts, under the sole discretion of a PAP judge ?

B: and the alternative would be ... ? the international court of justice in The Hague? maybe baby steps first, say, restoration of the jury system, the heart of English Common Law? there are things to do, many things ... complaining to outsiders, with their own interests and agendas, isn't the most effective.

D: international-attention /will/ effect some, nominal, change-in-policy (or the way policies seem to outsiders) but real change can only be effected by a change in the way the ppl relate to their government.. folks should stop paying fines for meaningless offences, turn-off the state-run news ( or write-it, without regard for government-directives ) and break the systems of class- & race-segregation in their own thoughts & daily-activities. . . am i gonna get sued ? *_*"

Me: How did apartheid in South Africa end?

B: Apartheid was internally resisted by violence as well as a trade embargo (but cheating through Israel and Portugal was extensive) - Lodge, Tom (1983). Black Politics in South Africa Since 1945. Longman.

Me: Your point being? If the international community is not unanimously behind it, there is no point?

B: not sure what is "the international community"? NGOs? UN and it's agencies, e.g. IMF, World Bank, FAO, WHO ... ? or the EU, ASEAN or ... ? They are all different and with separate interests and agenda. I've repeated my point and will, for your sake, write it again: effective change in society must come from within and power structures yield only to force, hopefully the force of the ballot and not violence. Gottit?

in case you missed it, D said the same, "but real change can only be effected by a change in the way the ppl relate to their government.. "

E: There are many factors that can affect how people relate to their governments. We also have to take into account what type (culture) of people they are. Many a times, outside opinions will trigger the emotions of those within a place, rightly or wrongly.

A passive culture (or like singapore, the myopic 'looking out for only oneself culture), who are used to whatever status quo, might need a little nudge, a little reminder, a little 'enlightenment.. to feel that they are not alone and that they have support, or that they really do have something to be aggrieve about.

Without outside forces.. sometimes it would have to take serious tragedies before people act out of their comfort zone. But that might be a tragedy in itself.

B: if we agree that they aren't homogenous, then which outside forces should we respond to? how do we avoid confirmation bias? it seems that we agree that we tend to be passive. if so, then can't the silent majority be roused by native daughters and sons who should not wail into the wilderness but socially network everyone to make the PAP listen and respond. or else! i would be sorry if we are inspired only by foreign voices ...

E: an abused child might not know he is being abused. He knows that he doesn't like to be hurt, he is fearful, he is angry, but he doesn't know that he is not alone, he doesn't understand that what is done to him is not right, and he also doesn't know that he can change his situation, he doesn't know how... He still loves his parents and believes that they care for him and are only doing whatever for his own good.

We are his neighbours and we know what is going on in that household. Should we intervene?

B: your analogy is inexact: it assumes a nation-state with legitimate police powers. what would be the supra-national authority that would intervene on behalf of us, the abused children of singapore? UN Security Council resolution? ICJ determination? who will enforce it? NATO or the US Sixth Fleet? a trade embargo that hurts everyone. including those who don't care about the ISA or 377A?

E: what I wanted to point out is how or when one should intervene when one sees certain injustice, whether or not there is one or more authorities one can report to.

It is important for me to see this world as one big nucleus, without any one place being exclusive.

There are many ways to fight diseases..

I have not assume anything. I was merely asking, "should we intervene?".

What I am trying to point out is that, there are many factors that affect change, especially when we are talking about such large scales.

Let's use North Korea as an example. Most of the world has turn very much a blind eye to the going ons within that regime. Children, women, people are suffering and dying everyday. They have no rights. They have nothing, and they are nothing to the regime.

Without outside help, influence, forces.. do you think the people of North Korea can help themselves? They cannot leave the country, they have no money, they have little education, they cannot buy weapons etc.

Unless the unlikely happens.. a power hungry general decides to do a mutiny... Or a bunch of soldiers decides to rebel. Or hungry people just go for broke..

How long must it take before the world does something something about it? How dangerous must pyongyang becomes before we act? What must we stand to lose before the world take serious notice? How many innocent people must die, how many generations must suffer before we say or do anything?

The people in North Korea must help themselves? Sure. Tell me how?

It does not have to be one big authority.. it can be multiple world institutions... doesn't really matter sometimes.. for raising awareness is almost always the first and most important step.

Me: It is not a binary variable of change being totally due to outside pressure or there being no outside pressure at all. There are forces inside Singapore working for change - doesn't mean that outside pressure is not desirable

Nobody says that change should be forced upon by outsiders upon a totally unwilling populace. But that's not to say that outsides should not help.

D: conservative & well-considered international-intervention, like trade-sanctions & threatening-military-actions, have only served to intensify the oppression of the north-korean people. this sort of vague, un-commited, /strictly-political/ action is the fuel for the isolationist-propaganda-machine, & only serves to further the culture-of-abuse within an authoritarian-state. Who among the PAP will see their abuses & seek change? What might bring-about this awareness? this is the form of an effective, insurrectionary, intervention.

Me: That's why nowadays sanctions are more targeted

I can't see what might bring about change. It's more like spitting on the jailer's face

D: an appeal /must/ effect moral-indignation on the part of those in power. wide-distribution of the stories of those hurt by the regime is a good first-step, interviews with imported child-brides, domestic-workers, homosexuals & their families would prolly do the trick.

B: Are we living in a N. Korean situation?

Why rely on outside help when you can help yourself? Are we to admit our helplessness in the face of PAP power? Low Thia Kiang, luckily, does not believe this.

Human rights Watch does a good job for N Korea, Syria, Iran ... but do we need it? Yes is the pathetic answer!

Me: So should HRW close down?

They even produce country reports on many developed countries, including the US (in fact their US report is the longest of all, I think)

B: Good try, but putting words into my mouth is good tactics but poor reasoning. Read my message: "we" equals "Singapore" not "the world" on which I'm not qualified to comment.

Me: Your logic is that a developed country with an educated populace has no need of outsiders to point out human rights and other issues.

To test your logic for external consistency, we should apply it to various similar scenarios and see whether it still holds.

Pleading ignorance is a copout. No one is asking you to comment on Botswana.

Good reasoning:

Reflective Equilibrium

"Many of us, perhaps all of us, have examined our moral judgments about a particular issue by looking for their coherence with our beliefs about similar cases and our beliefs about a broader range of moral and factual issues. In this everyday practice, we have sought “reflective equilibrium” among these various beliefs as a way of clarifying for ourselves just what we ought to do. In addition, we may also have been persuading ourselves that our conclusions were justifiable and ultimately acceptable to us by seeking coherence among them. Even though it is part of our everyday practice, is this approach to deliberating about what is right and finding justification for our views defensible?

Viewed most generally, a “reflective equilibrium” is the end-point of a deliberative process in which we reflect on and revise our beliefs about an area of inquiry, moral or non-moral. The inquiry might be as specific as the moral question, “What is the right thing to do in this case?” or the logical question, “Is this the correct inference to make?” Alternatively, the inquiry might be much more general, asking which theory or account of justice or right action we should accept, or which principles of inductive reasoning we should use. We can also refer to the process or method itself as the “method of reflective equilibrium.”"

B: Read my lips - "Sing-a- pore", not "developed country".

Thanks for the Stanford link. I now understand our dispute. Your stance is moral and I fully agree. Mine is real-politik, i.e. what is and what works.

“Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.” - Lord Palmerston

And, if I may add, no principles either; although in an ideal world ....

Me: No, your previous comments indicate that you were not talking solely about Singapore:

"Does a country with about one in five with degrees need Human Rights Watch to do our dirty political work for us?"

"complaining to the UN won't work. worse if we get others to complain for us"

"those who want rights must fight for them, those in power will never willingly grant them. getting others to talk about one's injustices is good for their consciences and maybe, ours too; but there will be no redress. the UN is not a world government: how many battalions does it have? none."

"complaining to outsiders, with their own interests and agendas, isn't the most effective."

"but real change can only be effected by a change in the way the ppl relate to their government.."

Besides which, even if you were only talking about Singapore you would have to justify your appeal to Singaporean exceptionalism: why is it the case that for Singapore - and not a similarly situated developed country - outside pressure, regardless of the form it takes, will not work?

And no, I was talking about realpolitik as well as the moral aspect of things. While often of limited use, there is no reason to totally eschew outside pressure.

While realpolitik is the primary principle motivating international relations, it does not mean that doing the right thing is not a motivation at all - that is a false dichotomy. Being on the right side of history is one reason the 17 nation coalition is intervening in Libya after all (to take merely the most recent example).

B: "exceptionalism" is your perception not mine and I can't argue for or against it ...

the best reason to "eschew outside pressure" is not needing it, as we (Singaporeans) don't. Well, that is my claim and I'd like to debate this and no other.

Me: You say that you're only talking about Singapore and you refuse to consider any other cases. That's implies exceptionalism - that Singapore is such a special case that others cannot be discussed or even taken into consideration

If your claims cannot be applied to wider scenarios then it's not clear that they have any validity in and of themselves.

For example Christian Apologists contort history into all manner of uncomfortable and outrageous bends in an attempt to justify their faith. Of course, this flies in the face of all good historiography, and would radically rewrite history as we know it if applied to non-Biblical history. Inevitably, though, they demur when asked what would happen if their historiography were applied elsewhere.

Similarly, quack doctors and other hawkers of pseudoscientific treatments do not agree to submit their wares to scientific testing, saying that they work for their clients. Should we thus believe their claims of efficacy?

D: Singapore is a truly exceptional case, because even those who are hurt by the regime can be /perceived/ as sharing in its benefits. so those stripping the rights of the (various) under-classes feel /none/ of the regret, indignation, & self-directed outrage that could be expected. Furthermore, (and this may /only/ speak to my ignorance) i have never met a singaporean-nationalist, there are company-men & legalistic-conservatives, but no national-identity like we see in nations founded before the rise of the global-market. . . srsly though, books & movies & blog-posts, the censors can't burn /everything/ & they /have/ to read or watch the content first !

E: B, since you are trying to throw us off by suddenly saying that all along you are only referring to Singapore, and like Gabriel, I do not see how we have failed to 'read between the lines'.

The internet (which they cannot ban), returning Singaporeans who spent good years away, foreigners (which more than ever we cannot do without - 40% of the population) etc.. are all 'outside forces' which have had influence the minds of people.

D: this bickering is entirely beside-the-fact ,, change /must/ come from within, (the people, the parliament, the judiciary) and /all/ of these bodies are influenced (to varying degrees) by outside forces. scream & you'll be heard,, maybe even by the right ppl ^_^ !

B: D, thank you for your understanding.

To the rest, I'm just too ignorant (historiography, prostitutes and exceptionalism) to debate any other political situation except Singapore's. So, bowing to your superior knowledge, I stand silent to listen and learn ...
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