Getting into this box is what's best for both of us. During your time in the box, you will learn so much, and yet experience so little. It's a wild ride, my friend, one well worth the time spent...and let's face it, you don't have much to do these days anyway.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The state as substitute for society, part 2 - the learned helplessness of Singaporeans.

One of the more disturbing and annoying things I've noticed amongst my fellow Singaporeans is the increased calls amongst the populace for what appears to be a welfare state. Consider these recent comments (less than two days old) that I picked off a number of local forums:
nobody advocates a welfare state.. what is needed is to strike a balance between economic efficiency and providing social security and health care for all who needs it
The problem is that providing "social security" - which I take to mean unemployment and disability benefits, as well as healthcare pretty much DOES amount to a welfare state. Remember the whole "cradle to grave" mentality that sprung up in England directly after World War 2? 

"For all who need it" - where do you draw the line between "need" and "want"? There will always be someone who will claim that their problem is a "need" instead of a "want", and that the government should be the one paying for it. Let's say we have an unemployment assistance scheme that pays out for twelve months, and someone will claim there'll always be some genuinely needy household that can't find work within twelve months, so it should be extended to eighteen, and then there'll be a household that can't find steady work after eighteen months, and so on...

I have always been of the position that social assistance should be provided either by one's connections or by private charities which can beteer direct the resources to where they need to be. In any case, keep the state out of charity. We've all seen how well that turns out in western countries, haven't we?
SG had enough of slogging and slaving . . . now they know very well that after all, money earned by the country will NOT be equally shared to its people, instead goes to our GREEDY PAP, traitors of Singapore! 
Essentially, "the government stole our money and we want it back! Gimmedat!" God, this could have been picked straight out the mouth of any bleeding-heart leftist from the other half of the world, only replace "the government" with "the 1%".
This is what they WANT. This not what I NEED. They will go to all length and extend to get what they want. They will deprive us even the most basic needs. Like affordable health care; a decent fair wage; housing right without that burden and bondage. That is our needs. The only WANT we ask is our Dignity!!  
Affordable health care...sounds familiar, doesn't it? What is a decent, fair wage? The debate over minimum wage goes back and forth over in the West; here in Singapore, there is no such thing as a minimum wage.

Health care, wages, and housing as best, they could be argued as positive rights, rights which have to be taken from someone down the line in order to have to be given to you. Healthcare has to be taken from doctors and nurses, wages have to be taken from employers, and housing has to be taken either from private developers, or in the case of public housing (which most Singaporeans live in), the government. Of course, the question arises as to how far can one reasonably claim that the government should force other people to pay for your health care and so forth; this little write-up isn't addressing this question, so I'll leave it to others more knowledgeable than I am about these matters to discuss them.

No, this little write-up is about asking why, despite a long history of hating welfare as the Western world understands it, the idiot Singaporeans who are populating this country are starting with the ultimately self-destructive cries of "gimmedat!" so echoed in the realms of western civilisation.

I've got a pretty good guess. Or at least, I think it's pretty good.

Now, Singapore is a strange political creature. Save the first elections ever held in the country, the People's Action Party, or PAP for short, has held power as the incumbent government with an overwhelming majority in parliament (currently 80 out of a hundred-odd seats, off the top of my head). They've held the helm of government for about four and a half decades now; a number of factors contributed to this, including but not restricted to the traditionally apolitical and subservient nature of most Singaporeans, the utter joke that most of our opposition parties are (and the resultant defamation suits) and that bread and circuses have been adequately provided to all the people. 

Well, that last point is starting to fail, not just because of external pressures, but I also believe that thanks to our material prosperity, Singaporeans have shifted quite a bit across the spectrum from the original K-type to the more degenerate R-type. I can damn well see it - it's more obvious when I compare the women of today with the women of yesteryear, but the men haven't been spared, either. If you're unfamiliar with R/K selection theory, you can check out a primer here.

But I generally notice that with regards to the authority/freedom divide, when it comes to western countries economic and social freedom, or the lack thereof, tend to go hand in hand (where they can be somewhat divided). You get control over the media, and then you make folks pay oppressive taxes. You make laws preventing people from smoking or drinking sodas in their own homes, and then turn around and regulate businsses into oblivion.

Singapore is the other way round: we're pretty high on economic freedom, coming #2 in the list just behind Hong Kong. You have a great idea in university and want to start up a business? No problem, the university will help you send your business plan to the proper governmental agency, and if they think it's a great idea you get a grant of about ten thousand to help you get started. You want to set up an arm of your multinational? Sure, our corporate tax rates are rock-bottom. Want to build a factory? We've got the zoning and infrastructure all set up for you, and the regulations are clear, transparent and reasonably few in number.

Now, as for social freedom, we'll begin with the Singapore press...well, I'll let wikipedia say it for me:
n 2011/12, Reporters Without Borders Singapore was ranked 135 out of 179 countries in the Press Freedom Index,[3] making it the worst country among other developed economies based on the Human Development Index, moving up one place from 2010. 
Most of the local media are directly or indirectly controlled by the government through shareholdings of these media entities by the state's investment arm Temasek Holdings, and are often perceived as pro-government.[4] William Gibson's Disneyland with the Death Penalty described Singapore's newspapers as "essentially organs of the state",[5] while political scientist and opposition politician James Gomez has studied the role of self-censorship in restricting expression in Singapore.[4]
In 2011, 56% of 1092 respondents to a telephone poll agreed that "there is too much government control of newspapers and television", and 48% felt that "newspapers and television are biased when they report on Singapore politics, political parties and elections".[6]
Not to mention that under the newspaper and printing presses act, the government can order the transferral of the shares of any shareholder in a newspaper if they don't follow the statutes laid out therein.

Another thing we're famous for is the banning of the sale of chewing gum. In 1987, we built our pan-national rail system: the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit. Soon enough, a problem cropped up with idiots sticking chewing gum in the automated doors, causing malfunctions and train delays. I'm actually mildly surprised that the Singaporean government didn't attempt social engineering, but outright banned the sale of all chewing gum altogether.

Now, I won't deny that we idiot Singaporeans deserved it, and I personally detest chewing gum and am privately glad that it's gone - but whether you feel the move was justified in the need to control the degenerate underman, it shows what the government is willing to do if it feels it necessary.

One final point I must reiterate is that the Singaporean government absolutely loathes welfare as it is understood by the western world. The motto (generally) here is still "you don't work, you don't eat". That's why we have elderly people on the streets selling tissues and picking out drink cans out of garbage cans. Perhaps the closest thing we have to government welfare here is the Workfare Income Supplement scheme:
You qualify for WIS if you:

  • Are a Singapore Citizen
  • Are aged 35 years and above as at 31 December of the work year
  • Stay in a property with Annual Value (AV) not exceeding $13,000 as at 31 December of the previous work year
  • Earn an average gross monthly income1 of $1,700 or less for the work period
  • Work at least 2 months in a 3-month period
As an employee, you will receive WIS in cash and CPF. Of every $100 of WIS paid, $29 will be given in cash and $71 will be credited to your CPF.
CPF here refers to the Central Provident Fund - unlike, say, Social Security, where I understand that you pay into it and get a check at the end of the day, the CPF is more on the lines of enforced savings for the underman who doesn't understand the need to save for a rainy day. People are forced to save a portion of their salaries with the government, and can only make withdrawals for particular reasons (purchasing housing, healthcare, retirement, etc).

But to go back with Workfare, there's an additional component to it:
WTS provides higher training course fee funding, cash awards for continuous training and a structured programme to upgrade the skills of Singaporean workers. This will aid in better job performance as well as improve workers’ ability to take on better jobs.
So the idea here is clear: you want government cheese as a Singaporean? Sure, but you'll have to run a little on this wheel first, and we'll train you so that you'll be able to run harder and longer on the wheel the next time. Sure, it's government cheese, but people are made to work for it - and I think this highlights the mentality of the Singaporean government towards such issues. That's the major divergence from most Western welfare systems, I believe. The Singaporean government is not above giving out goodies as rewards for behaviour they deem constructive (see: baby bonus), but freebies in the western fashion are a big no-no.

For all the criticism of the Singaporean government, I respect them for one thing: save the economic crisis year of 2009, they have never run a single budget deficit. While the nation's reserves are the republic's most closely-guarded secret, I believe we had a surplus of 5 billion last budget year.

All right. Now that we've established some background, it's time to get to the meat of the issue.

In one of my previous posts, I highlighted the phenomenon that Singapore was undergoing - a breaking down of societal structures and natural support groups that existed prior to industrialisation, such as the extended family. While this breakdown was spurred by the mad desire for economic growth rather than social movements, the end effect is still pretty much the same: the atomisation of people, which makes them all the more miserable with all the attendant benefits to others. I've already covered those in detail in my first part, but there's an interesting aspect that came up during my readings in the meantime: the criminalisation of motherhood during the onset of Singapore's  industrialisation.

Interestingly, this was not done in the name of feminism, but rather in the name of economic growth and population control. Feminists have never had an overt public presence in Singapore, at most "recommending" talking points to the government, which picks and chooses their talking points to put into policy as they like. Still, that didn't prevent the "stop at two" population control policy from having some interesting implications:
Women without a O-level degree, deemed low-income and lowly-educated, were offered by the government seven days' paid sick leave and $10,000 SGD in cash incentives to voluntarily undergo sterilization.
A malay woman in her late 50's recalls that time period on a discussion about Singapore's current 1.2 fertility rate:
i was there during dat time n it was like giving death sentence straight to hell if u have more then two child,
my third child was delivered at home by private mid-wife as i dare not give birth at KK as i will be "criminalized" even going to private doc for check ups wen am in de eighth month of pregnancy! but as much as i tried to avoid being hurled wit abusive languages by de nurses n docs
i still get it wen time for birth registration n injections! it was such humiliation dat was left wondering is it a big sin to have a third child?? n these "butchers" still came to my house to force for ligation but was told off by my husband. i can still remember the day i got married,got a pamphlet dat states not to have a child so soon! how ironic!
was forced to go for contraceptives! married in 1973 n had my first child in 1976!in 1978 got my second child n was forced to sign for sterilization right after i was wheeled into de normal ward after giving birth! here am still in pain n there de nurses was forcing this down my throat! but i rejected n as per normal got chided n scolded wit this much i can say..... vulgarities! dat was de norm n standard at KK those times. it makes me very angry at wat these idiots PAP did n now blaming us for de shortage! feel like suing them for de humiliations n sufferings dat me n my generations went thru! all coz of their stupid law!
i call them heartless cruel n demons for so much of force dat was done during those harsh times. not to mention humiliations!
Remember at that time there was a huge push to get women out of the homes and into the workforce under the whole "our only resource is our people" mantra - a woman with many children is much less likely to go and slave away in a cannery like my mother did before she met my father. Of course, anyone with a basic grasp of economics can tell that if you switch all capital goods production to consumer goods, you won't have enough capital to produce consumer goods in the future...and that's what's happening right before our eyes with the dismal fertility rate. Devouring the future to consume in the, where have I heard that before?

Now that we have the cults of meritocracy and education and the worker drone merit badge, the Singaporean government is terrified there won't be about cogs to keep the economic machine running. What I find even more hilarious is that the very demographic the government was trying to prevent from reproducing is now the only one that's over replacement level, at 2.24 for uneducated malay-muslim women.

Bahahahaha! A dysgenic society indeed.

Ahem. Anyways, moving on. So we have no more social net; the old ethnic communities have been reduced in stature thanks to urban redevelopment and are under the eye of the government, the extended family is largely dead, and the nuclear family has been thrown to the dogs of economic growth. Lovely.

The economic path of Singapore has always been dictated by the government, from the early days of simple manufacturing to high value-aded manufacturing to the huge amounts of money spent in recent years building a so-called Biopolis and attracting foreign researchers to set up shop here, only to find out that the number of jobs created for locals was quite pitiful compared to the sum spent. The role of Singaporeans? To spin in place according to which way the levers are pulled.

What the government wants, the government gets. If anyone still remembers the Michael Fay vandalism case, we gave Bill Clinton the finger when he personally stepped in to plead for leniency for that little vandal, and we caned him good. Same thing with the recent China bus driver strike - we did what we wanted, massive outcry in China notwithstanding.

Economic and societal direction has always been planned out by the Singaporean government right down to the tiniest detail, and enforced with the long arm of the law. There's a reason we're called a "fine" city, after all. But going back briefly to the chewing gum problem - the question is why didn't someone stop or say something if they saw chewing gum being plastered in the automatic doors of the trains? Note that this is around 1987, so we're already well into the social programming.

Singaporeans have been lulled into a state of learned helplessness by decades of being given directions, instead of being allowed to make their own mistakes and find their own way. Now, they only think they've woken up and rabbling against the PAP, but their learned helplessness is so deep, so entrenched that even while protesting against the government, they're looking to it to solve their problems. I'm starting to hear the phrase "social justice" being bandied about not just on campus, but online and in meatspace as well.

"Social justice"...we all know how well that ends.

So, to summarise my points:

*The increased wealth and prosperity of Singapore has brought out the R-type tendencies in the Singaporeans of today, unlike their K-type ancestors. Degeneracy ensues.
*The massive social engineering performed on the Singaporean population during the push for industrialisation resulted in a populace that was dependent on the government to make all decisions for them.
*This learned helplessness was just fine when bread and circuses were still being provided, but in the face of the populace's increasing appetite, diminishing social capital and the pending global turmoil, Singaporeans have no recollection of the social net that once existed in pre-industrial Singapore.
*Unable to conceive of any other possible solution, Singaporeans blame the government, which has been the sole source of solutions in the past. In their degeneracy, they begin to demand welfare and handouts of the western sort.

It really reminds me of a fun fact: in ancient China, the divine mandate of kings came with the collorary that when natural disasters happened, that was a sign that Heaven was displeased with the current emperor, and it was time to overthrow him. Seems like something similar's happening now.

I really doubt there's any way this can be rolled back save a crash and hard reset. If that does happen...well, I've got another post lined up on that topic.

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