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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Harmony and sedition

In my first year in university, I enrolled in a Philosophy course. It had a small, discussion-like setting with one professor and about 10-15 students. In one class, we talked about cultural values. Being a well travelled man, the professor told us about values that exist in the modern day outside of the United States but that Americans may find uncomfortable with.

Then he turned to me and asked me what Singapore's value was. I was stumped. Even though I had lived in Singapore all of my life, I didn't know at the tip of my tongue what was one value that defined the country.

So he answered it for me: "harmony".

Singapore, being an Asian country, strives for harmony with everything. As far as possible, Asians do not like to cause trouble generally. As a result, though, we appear as docile, obedient and mindless automatons, while the country appears autocratic, maybe even dictatorial.

The alternative is a society that embraces liberalism, like the United States. Unfortunately, that comes with its own set of problems, one of which is the constant conflict between groups of people who feel that they are treated unfairly. In Singapore, such groups would not make a ruckus, but work within the system, because they want to maintain harmonious relations with others.


Two men were arrested under the Sedition Act for writing racist comments on an online forum and their blogs.


I was going to write a long treatise on my opinion about this case, but decided to retract it. Why add salt to the wound, or oil to the fire, or... ah, okay, enough analogies. has an entry about it (yeah, I contributed it, only because it had been about an hour after the news broke and the story still hadn't been tomorrow-ed) together with trackbacks to what other bloggers think, and a whole bunch of comments about sedition and freedom of speech and racism and what-have-yous.

To quote John Cage from "Ally McBeal", say it with me: "harmony".


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MQube said...


" within the system, because they want to maintain harmonious relations with others.."

Harmony. How many people realise that in itself is a strength?

NARDAC said...

If there's one thing that always stuns me in Singapore is how arrogant people can be about upkeeping the status quo. If Harmony is an ultimate value, you'd be better off being sheep.

Not that I think Americans are any more liberated. Their sense of rebellion is already pre-programmed... how is that better?

Come to think of it, that whole question of values and culture seems a little wasted and if its sole purpose was to indulge patriotic pride.

Elia Diodati said...

I completely disagree: our fundamental value is meritocracy.

Harmony by fiat is but a sham of the harmony achieved by getting out of our own comfort zones to inquire into the lives of others unlike us.

Either sentence would probably consitute an entire thesis in itself, so I'll just leave it as it is.

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