Monday, September 22, 2008

TV interview of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew

On Sept. 21 CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria sat down with former prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew.

He asked Mr. Yew about Singapore’s strict laws on behavior, that seem to limit freedom somewhat, and Mr. Yew suggested that it’s important to have a stable, civil society so people can achieve their potentials. You have to limit some things and prevent people from taking undue advantage of the system, he seemed to say. Some of the conversation was about chewing gum and things that don’t matter too much. Okay, litter matters.

He also said that he is a bit of a social Darwinist. If you don’t change with the times, you will be come extinct. He thinks that many people are not “changing” and presuming that they can live beyond their means, in terms of karma, it seems, for ever. Sustainability finally catches up with them.

He was critical of American neo-conservative attempts to export “democracy” to the Arab world. He thinks that tribal chieftans in the Middle East, and various sects within Islam can come to agreement on how to share oil wealth, but we cannot impose our personal cultural values on them, let alone our form of government.

He said that China is reasserting itself as a 5000-year-old culture that has given the world many things, including printing. He believes that the show at the Olympics was a statement to the world of what China is capable of doing.

On the other hand, Russia has a guarded future. It will lose population quickly, despite Putin’s attempts to increase birth rates.

Singapore has a low birthrate, despite supposedly pro-natalist statements in the past by Mr. Yew. Chinese and Asian family values have certainly contributed to a climate of self-discipline, but, perhaps as a leftover of the “one child per family” policy in China itself, Singapore has not enjoyed a lot of births.

Some people regard Singapore as a benevolent authoritarian state and a “procedural” rather than real democracy. It attracted notoriety in the 1990s with canings. Yet, because it is a small and confined society, it rather works. It reminds one of Yzorddorex (a city-state making up the “Second Dominion”) in Clive Barker’s fantasy “Imajica.” It seems like a product of a sci-fi writer’s imagination, but it is real!

Yew also talked about the second life he has gotten from angioplasty in his 60s.

The transcript is here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is Mr. Lee, not Yew. Lee is his last name, Kuan Yew is his given name.