“Fascism, at its core, is the view that every nook and cranny of society should work together in spiritual union toward the same goals overseen by the state. ‘Everything in the State, nothing outside the State,’ is how Mussolini defined it. Mussolini coined the word ‘totalitarian’ to describe not a tyrannical society but a humane one in which everyone is taken care of and contributes equally. It was an organic concept where every class, every individual, was part of the larger whole… Historically, fascism is the product of democracy gone mad.”
The above is from the book Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. The Los Angeles Times columnist/author also points out that the US is the country where fascism was born with its first twentieth century President Woodrow Wilson as “the twentieth century’s first fascist dictator”. “Wilson didn’t act alone. Like Mussolini and Hitler, he had an activist ideological movement at his disposal. In Italy they were called Fascists. In (Nazi) Germany they were called National Socialists. In America we called them progressives…” In Singapore, we call them pragmatists, I’d add, simply because we strongly defend our glorified system as ‘one that works’, reaping the benefits of a success now popularly hailed as ‘an economic wonder of the world’. It’s all in our people’s action… participation!
If it’s taken me all this time to arrive at such a definite definition of Singapore, imagine how alien fascism is to the average Singaporean for the sheer reason that our system has been smartly touting itself as ‘capitalistic’, and since Fascism denounced capitalism... Besides, we don’t normally think of Fascism as ‘humane’, so how can we be such a State? Now, the picture of a Uniquely Singapore just gets clearer.
Goldberg also wrote: “The (American) progressives were the real social Darwinists as we think of the term today – though they reserved the term for their enemies. They believed in eugenics (“graduate mothers should bear more offspring” and center for stem cell research, anyone?). They were imperialists (Singapore is “No Ordinary Country”, my friend). They were convinced that the state could, through planning and pressure, create a pure race, a society of new men (multi-racial boosted with ideal immigrants). They were openly and proudly hostile to individualism. Religion was a political tool, while politics was the true religion… (‘Not a religious issue’—the Govt. announced when it decided to build casinos to boost tourism, but if and when it’s to the State’s convenience, Singapore is always a ‘conservative’ society. That’s how a convenience religion is.)
“In America, we’ve chosen not to discuss the madness our Republic endured at Wilson’s hands (who cares that Olivia Newton-John’s Physical was once officially banned in Singapore or that long-haired males were served last in Govt. offices?) – even though we live with the consequences of it to this day (“Speak better English and Mandarin, and think of out the box, please”). Like a family that pretends the father never drank too much and the mother never had a nervous breakdown, we’ve moved on as if it were all a bad (or necessary) dream we don’t really remember (A History Of Amnesia – Alfian Sa’at), even as we carry around the baggage of that dysfunction to this day (why are Singaporeans so kiasu?). The motivation for this selective amnesia is equal parts shame, laziness, and ideology (and The Straits Times and Progress Package).” Words in italics all mine.
“Under the Nazis, newspapers became little more than party broadsheets. Editors were told what to print and even where to place the story so that items that showed the regime in a favorable light were given prominence. The views of foreign politicians, or news that reflected unfavorably on the regime, were relegated to the back page” – writer Paul Roland wrote of the Nazi system which happened a mere ten years before our Govt. began its plan for a de-colonized Singapore. Of course, our Govt. learned well never to do it the Nazi way! Our broadsheets are, wisely, as all Singaporeans know, transparent in intentions! – to smart, albeit muted, thinking citizens. We know more than they rigorously censor.
I can just hear the authorities refute – Singapore isn’t fascistic. Well, how would they describe their system of governance then? “I think our cardinal strength is our ability to integrate people of very different cultures… That doesn’t happen by chance. It happens through careful planning, and sometimes intrusive regulation,” our Finance Minister revealed (Straits Times, Dec 2, 09). How mildly put – “sometimes intrusive regulation”. What species of humans would not mind “intrusive regulations”? I’d say - docile, muted, disempowered and subjugated Singaporeans. And that seems absolutely all right because nationhood comes first! Not fascist?
Then there’s this quote from our nation’s founding father: "I am often accused of interfering in the private lives of citizens. Yes, if I did not, had I not done that, we wouldn't be here today. And I say without the slightest remorse, that we wouldn't be here, we would not have made economic progress, if we had not intervened on very personal matters - who your neighbor is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think." - Lee Kuan Yew, Straits Times, 20 April 1987. One man decides for all with a self-admitted ultra-intrusive form of governance. Still think Singapore is simply ‘uniquely democratic’?
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive." - C. S. Lewis
Congratulations, Singapore! Voted third least corrupt country in the world after New Zealand and Denmark (ST, Nov 18, 2009). Perhaps the Singapore system can now practise morality at its convenience with even greater impunity since it’s been officially sanctified to look legally honorable. What ‘morality at what convenience’? Let’s see – building casinos in a so-called conservative society was declared “not a religious issue” not by a religious body but by the Govt.; Singapore Shares and Progress Package do not qualify as vote-buying when given out during General Elections because it’s just a “coincidence” that they happened at Election time; the Govt. justifies its world-record salary by its supposed expertise but when national security lapsed (escape of the terrorist Mas Selamat), a “mere ceremonial changing of guards does not solve the problem”. Need I go on?
For those still unconvinced, here are the 14 defining characteristics of fascism as found on the Net: 1) Powerful & continuing nationalism; 2) Disdain for the recognition of human rights (or selective disdain, I’d add); 3) Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause; 4) Supremacy of the military (or police); 5) Rampant sexism (only gay males having sex are persecuted by law; lesbians are exempted); 6) Controlled mass media; 7) Obsession with national security; 8) Religion and Government are intertwined; 9) Corporate power is protected; 10) Labor power is suppressed; 11) Disdain for intellectuals and the arts (unless a unit of some bigger agenda); 12) Obsession with crime and punishment; 13) Rampant cronyism (albeit disguised or protected by law); 14) Fraudulent elections (depends on how you define fraudulent; besides, Singapore’s Electoral System has already been declared by an international body as un-democratic).
And so, it’s surfaced on record at last. There are Singaporeans who believe in me. In the July 09 issue of VIP magazine (now defunct) was a four-page spread including an interview feature about my third book How To Be More Win-Win Than The MM (download from www.xhosux.com) and CD No Ordinary Country. Then, the Sept 09 issue published three readers’ letters all praising the magazine’s effort. You certainly won’t expect something like that to happen in the ST (morality – already at their convenience, what more publicity?). “Our interview with DJ & local music crusader X’ Ho drew more fan mail than we’d anticipated,” the mag stated. One of the letters even went the length:
“X’ Ho is my hero. Many paint him to be a rebel, an attention seeker and talentless. People should learn to listen before they speak. If only they could open their minds to what he’s saying in his music. He’s not saying the PAP (Govt.) is lousy, just that they should listen to the people. And kudos to them, there are more channels for us to be heard now. All thanks to Chris!” Unbelievable - all the more so when you think how the ST would never dream of acknowledging me as a laudable social merit. I am doubly glad that the publisher of the magazine is Hugh M. Hefner whose most famous pin-up magazine is still banned in Singapore (but wait and see, the Integrated Resorts are completing soon, wink-wink!). Goes to show, only a true indie mag like VIP… Cos even TimeOut Singapore had censored a report (the magazine commissioned me to write) on the homegrown punk scene when I wrote about a local punter’s disgust on how the system co-opts musicians. Yeah, TimeOut Singapore just isn’t like TimeOut London AT ALL.
Btw, I’m glad that there’s hardly any exposure given me in the ST for my books and recent CDs. It means I’ll just have to pave my own sweet underground for what I do. In any case, do I wanna look co-opted by the system as one of their players? Me dying to get on ST, STOMP or razortv.sg? Don’t hold your breath.
Listen here, X’ Ho. You’re actually doing us a big favor. We regularly check what you write to know what to rectify through The Straits Times and to brainwash the public further into how we want them to think. We don’t even need to pay anyone a consultancy fee and you still get a bad name in our circle. Perfect!
Ha, don’t I know, don’t I know? Why do you think I’m doing it! It’s nice feeling indebted to. And you know what happens to ingrates! Even powerful ones. And now, there’s cyberspace to restore true history.
So, Singapore as the new Fascist capital of the world un-proclaimed? Well, let me adopt her win-win approach and say – look, I’m the one who dares to bluntly call a spade a spade. Naturally, she will choose to refute. So, perhaps a little placating is required with this sweet reminder – fascism isn’t all bad; even Mussolini and Hitler started with good intentions, you know. Besides, everyone knows that there has been some good done to Singapore despite her totalitarian ways which our leaders prefer to term ‘authoritarian’. Wanting to appear fair and just does require some justness. But however shameless Singapore is, she is still incredibly shy about accepting her spade as a spade. Shameless but still shy! Why’s that? Uniquely Singapore, my friend.
That’s one area I doubt the ST would wanna rectify. But really, it’s just a question of time even in win-win Singapore because the Internet rules. Singaporeans may have been well muted before but the Internet has already changed much to crack open even ‘mouthless fish’.
(The above is an Aug 2013 revision of an essay first written and posted in Jan 2010.)