austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

I am Superman, and I know what's happening

Lee Kuan Yew has died. It seems out of character for him.

I didn't know him, but I knew the Singapore he did so much to build, as a nationalist leader and the first post-independence prime minister, and then a continuing presence in the cabinets for nearly two decades after. His work's got to be among the most amazing political triumphs of the 20th Century, and that's not a century wanting for amazing political triumphs. That Singapore became a nation with people well-fed, well-housed, well-educated and well-employed, in barely a generation, is incredible. And his leadership's to be credited for its ability to make such progress while keeping the government corruption-free and keeping the nation reasonably autonomous.

I'm not overlooking that the same sort of drive and ambition and determination to set the nation right led also to some almost cartoonishly broad trampling on personal autonomy, like the infamous gum thing or the old ban on long-haired men. A more serious hazard is the country runs the form of a Westminster parliament without effective alternate parties, to the point the government introduced non-constituency members of parliament, candidates who'd lost the election but were set into parliament anyway so there are some opposition voices. The scheme's credited to Lee. A faintly Instrumentality-of-Man-like method of ensuring the health of the government by building some checks against one-party rule in a nation dominated by one (well-run, thanks to Lee's example) party, or a way of taming dissent by giving it a harmless institutional presence? I don't really know.

It's a complicated legacy. His was an amazing life.

Trivia: In October 1934 the A&P closed all 293 of its Cleveland, Ohio, stores and discharged 2200 workers rather than allow unionization efforts to continue. Source: The Great A&P And The Struggle For Small Business In America, Marc Levinson.

Currently Reading: A History Of Money, E Victor Morgan.

Tags: singapore

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