Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why They Hate Singapore

Last Saturday, I read with some distaste an commentary titled "Why they hate Singapore". After I finished reading the article, I was distinctly reminded of many statements made by a "senior parliamentary figure", who often reminded Singaporeans of the many threats facing Singapore. The same view was echoed by the Government, which always gave the idea of an all pervasive threat looming around the corner, ready to strike at any moment.

I've always felt these threats to be artificial constructs aimed at invoking a siege mentality in the minds of Singaporeans.

There are, of course, many motives for doing so. By making a people believe that they are threatened by some force, this would generally motivate them to work harder. For example, in sports, some managers/coaches may make the team believe that the "system" is against them, hence causing the team to work harder to stave off the unfair system.

Another possibly positive effect of the siege mentality is that the "persecuted" parties would be bonded together by this common persecution. This fosters feelings of common persecution and hence a sense of commonality against the "threat". Applied to the context of national entities, an external threat tends to galvanize a nation's people. The latter effect is most notable in the event of war, where feelings of patriotism are unusually high.

I consider the last point to be most important. Governments can, by the construction of an imagined external foe, effectively manipulate the dispositions of the people. A siege mentality, by creating a hostile "them", also creates a friendly "us". Undoubtedly, the "us" also contains the Government, the effect of which is that a siege mentality leads the people to empathize with the ruling Government. This is a considerably effective strategy to win the emotions of people, and hence the tactic of invoking an enemy, preferably unseen and dangerous, can be commonly seen in many nations in the world.

With these points in mind, perhaps we can see why the pervasive threat is often invoked in Singapore media. In fact, I might even argue that the siege mentality is even more important in Singapore, a nation with little national identity. With little history to construct a viable and universal national consciousness, the fastest way to meld the hearts and minds of Singaporeans might just be to raise a banner against some unknown and external threat.

Although, once you realize that there are no monsters under the bed, the magic stops working.

1 comment:

Will Dwinnell said...

B.F.Skinner made an interesting point about exactly this sort of thing in "Walden Two", in which one of the characters suggests (and I agree) that the purpose of labor unions is not to make workers happy, but rather to make them unhappy. Happy workers do not need a union, nor its leaders.