berthahenson

Mourn now – fight later

In Society on March 25, 2015 at 7:55 am

Such a strange thing is happening in the ether. The normally silent majority seemed to be speaking up. They are thumping those who had hogged the online space with their cutting, unkind comments about anything to do with the Government. Or the People’s Action Party. Or Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

I was surprised at first at the outpouring of online emotion, so protective of Mr Lee and his legacy. I can’t help but think that those who have been sitting at the sidelines of the Internet space have decided to put their gloves on. Woe is you who dare to say anything rude about Singapore’s first prime minister! Whack! Bam! Slam!

As for those who think that the Internet is about letting anyone speak their mind, however inane and insane their words, they are finding out that this is not the case. The internet herd, typically anti-establishment and even rude, is turning the other way.

Yet I wish we could stop fighting, at least for the next few days. Can we stop arguing about the merits and demerits of the man who’s just died? About whether people are right to want to wear black this Sunday or whether some MP’s idea of a tribute being a workout is daft? About whether too much expression is symptomatic of the mentality of sheep or any kind of criticism of the man is out of line?

I gather that online friendships have been broken; a lot of “unfriending’’ going on these days.  Some people are vying to be more demonstrative of their admiration than others, at least that is how it is being construed in some quarters. Others who have always taken a hard anti-LKY line have softened, prompting charges of bending with the wind. Gosh. The death of Lee Kuan Yew is inspiring a lot of emotions. May we not let them pit ourselves against each other.

Last night, friends and I encountered an admittedly drunk young woman alone in a bar, telling us about how she had split up with her boyfriend after an argument about the kind of leader Mr Lee had been. It seemed to be fundamental point of difference for her. I guess at any other time, the couple wouldn’t have had such a big blow-up. The difference is the timing: Mr Lee has just died.

Yes, he has died, which is why I don’t think we can have much meaningful or rational discussion – at least online – at the moment. Think of those times when you lost a loved one, you would sit quietly and cry, recall last moments or reminisce about good times. Friends at the wake will be respectful, even if they did not know the deceased.  Mr Lee has a large family, and I don’t mean his immediate one. That’s why people jump at any sign of impropriety. Even family members will quarrel about funeral arrangements, like whether wearing black is the right protocol. I, for one, had wondered if it was “good form’’ to clap while his funeral cortege passed along the road earlier today and decided to close the FB discussion because I was worried that it would get out of hand.

Therefore, we are now commenting on the eulogies. Should eulogies be positive or are they actually propagandistic? Should they have some critical comments or would this be considered nasty? Or should they be balanced? And “balanced’’ according to who? It is inevitable that when a public figure has passed on, people feel the need to pass judgment.  On him. And on others who have passed judgment on him Methinks Mr Heng Swee Keat wrote the best eulogy and that is because he did “reporting’’ – he told us what we didn’t know about Mr Lee’s working style. His use of the “red box’’ (plus picture) to hold all the parts together is brilliant.

Frankly, I am beginning to have my fill of foreigners weighing in on the man’s legacy, after not being able to get enough of it earlier on. The key players have weighed in, and now the fringe actors are doing so. I can’t even recognize the Mr Lee whom some of them have described. He was either saint or Satan. Then there are those who put a sting in the tail, to conform to their own ideals of what a leader should be like. I think Mr Lee would have waved away all these speeches and eulogies. He had said before that it was for Phd students to mull over. In other words, history will decide.

I agree. I think we should mourn now – and fight later.

Advertisements
  1. A man has passed. Whatever ones views of that man it is common courtesy to not berate him. If not for him at least for his family.

  2. Bravo! Well said. I have only two words right now, “Common decency.” Well, that, and “respect”, which makes it three words. And I couldn’t agree with you more on this: “Frankly, I am beginning to have my fill of foreigners weighing in on the man’s legacy”.

  3. don’t be mistaken, the people who gives unkind comments about the government/PAP and those who are grateful to LKY are not mutually exclusive. He does not represent and not responsible for the actions of his current PAP members, especially in recent years. We are grateful of him, that doesn’t mean we approve the mistakes of his colleagues. In fact, many people are criticizing Teo Ser Luck’s workout tribute to him now.

  4. Personal/private

    Re: ‘ Mourn now – fight later’

    Just fyi!

    ‘Should eulogies be positive or are they actually propagandistic? Should they have some critical comments or would this be considered nasty? Or should they be balanced? And “balanced’’ according to who?’

    Eulogy

    1. a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, especially a set oration in honor of a deceased person. 2. high praise or commendation.

    Doesn’t leave much room for doubt, does it? Cf – ‘Marc Antony ‘I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him’

    ‘About whether people are right to want to wear black this Sunday’

    Last evening saw a busload of people,all ‘M/W dressed I W’ disembarking and walking in the direction of the nearby PAP office bulding. My guess either coming from or going condolence visiting. Going back earlier times, Chinese had a distinct mourning code, wearing armbands, later reduced to just cut-out squares for a full year of mourning.

    Finally re’ I am beginning to have my fill of foreigners weighing in on the man’s legacy, after not being able to get enough of it earlier on. The key players have weighed in, and now the fringe actors are doing so.’

    The below from an angmoh left Singapore almost 3 decades, now settled in Europe, and perhaps only vaguely aware of the mood here in the last few years:

    ‘On the sad occasion of the death yesterday of Singapore’s greatest citizen & former P.M. LEE KUAN YEW, “LKY” aged 91, I watched PM Lee Seng Loon’s very difficult & admirable (& Brave) Announcement. I confess I was in tears for him, another very brilliant man. MAJULAH SINGAPORA!’

    At the end of the day, each one to his/her own opinion/s probably based on personal experience. For many, if not most of us, with no such personal experence, just have to go along with that of somebody who has had it, or accept/reject media reports.

    ‘De mortuis nihil nisi bonum’ would be the best policy to adopt.

  5. Reblogged this on Resolute Roamer and commented:
    I agree with the author that we should stop with our individualistic attitudes and out of respect for our founding Prime Minister, we should stop our petty arguments and save all of this for a later date. At least till the period of National Mourning is over. Whether we love or hate him, we need to recognise the fact that he is ultimately still a man. A man with extraordinary achievements but still a man. A man who has just passed away. If the dissenting few do not mourn, the least they could do would be to keep their thoughts to themselves. Out of respect for a fellow human being.
    Certain netizens may demand that they have the right of free speech. They do. However, let us also hope they understand the responsibility of free speech as well.

  6. I love your commentaries, and not just on the passing of Lee Kuan Yew but this one is brilliant. I think it truly captures what Singaporeans over different political stripes are feeling right now. And yes, it’s time to be silent and grieve rather than indulge in pointless debates about the man’s legacy.

    Also read Heng Swee Keat’s article on his former boss. I agree with you. It’s the best yet of all that’s been written about LKY. It’s brilliant, touching and moving — maybe because he worked closely with the great man and gave us a glimpse of the person behind the legend.

    Anyway, thank you for this post. It provided much needed perspective. 🙂

  7. The worry here is that the ruling party’s method of leaning on LKY’s legacy even when he was alive was too pervasive, too propagandistic. Almost as if they built their entire legitimacy upon him and his family line alone. The biggest mistake of LKY’s life was not backing out of public life soon enough. It had to take GE2009 for him to retire fully from public life in government, and by then his son LHL had pretty much ruined his legacy just by virtue of sharing the same name and being his son. Do not blame Singaporeans for being so divided over LKY’s legacy, or even the ways and extents to grieve him. The sins of the son should not be borne by the father. And if you want a finger to point at what’s to cause all this divisiveness, look no further than the current ruling elite and LHL.

  8. May be of topical interest re your post ‘One Cabinet and musical chairs’

    Cabinets are/were mostly made of wood, no?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: