The countdown (to the return) begins.

datePosted on 20:34, May 14th, 2011 by Pablo

As an antidote to some of the heavy discussion occasioned by Lew’s recent posts, I figured that I would interject with a mention that two weeks from today my partner and I return to NZ. The definitive return was delayed six months by an offer of a teaching position in Singapore, but that has now finished. All of the marking has been done, and other than a videoconference lecture by me, a brief holiday in Bintan and packing, we are done in Singapore. Although it has not always been the most pleasant experience, it has been interesting in many ways and we have learned from our stay. I expect that either individually or together we will write at least one scholarly essay about the place, simply because analyses of things like the gross exploitation of foreign low-skilled labor and domestic workers needs to be more widely exposed. We also have in a mind a comparative project using Singapore and Cuba as case studies–two one party authoritarian island states whose regimes were born of traumatic circumstances that were originally led by charismatic leaders, now in a slow process of political liberalisation in which the original leadership cadres are being replaced by a third generation of less battle-hardened and dogmatic cadres, and in which the attitudes of the younger generation of citizens are not shaped by the origins of the regimes in question.

There is more to the comparison–the state-centric nature of the economies is a structural likeness that defies the clear differences in macro-economic approaches–so it will be interesting to delve into the subject in greater analytic depth. I also have an interest in studying the role of the third generation Singaporean Armed Forces in the process of regime liberalisation, as its role as regime defender is being challenged from within and without the SAF by a new generation of “professional” officers more interested in meritocratic and technocratic advancement than cultivating political ties to the PAP, and who find echo in young professional in the civilian bureaucracy who are not as interested in joining the PAP patronage networks that underpin the supposedly “meritocratic” criteria for promotion to senior ranks.

I think I have a fair grasp on these subjects. My post on the Singaporean elections, along with the version on Scoop, got a lot of play in Singapore, most of it favourable. This a good sign because (especially Chinese) Singaporeans have a good deal of anti-foreign sentiment and reject being told, in spite of what economic growth and government propaganda lead them to believe, about the flaws in their system of governance and culture (for example, the endemic racism against Malays, Indians, Filipinos and Tamils by the dominant group that is codified in not-to-subtle legal jargon, as well as the simmering resentment of Anglo-Saxons in spite of the fact that the country can not operate successfully without them). The fact that I was not pilloried in the coverage of my essay indicates that, written in the appropriate manner, some of what I/we propose to research could provide a contribution to debates within Singapore about the future of the country. We shall see.

In the meantime we are looking forward to wearing sweaters and jeans, enjoying cool weather, breathing clean air and resuming the existence on the western slopes of the Waitakeres from whence we came. That, and contributing in our own ways to political and social debates in the land of the long white cloud.

NB: In light of Phil’s remark I have amended the title less readers think that I have developed some pop idol fixation.

7 Responses to “The countdown (to the return) begins.”

  1. Phil Sage on May 14th, 2011 at 20:55

    With the headline and first sentence I thought you had gone all European and were referring to today’s Eurovision song contest!

    It would be fun to argue over a beer if you have time in UK. ping me an email if you do.

  2. Pablo on May 14th, 2011 at 21:27

    Phil:

    Given my ranting about the corporate media do you really think that I would pay attention to Eurovision? The beer sounds more palatable but for the moment I am headed in the opposite direction–down under rather than over there.

  3. Watapratt on May 15th, 2011 at 02:46

    Hi Pablo, I assume you seen this:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13400296

    And this (although I can’t find any other stories):
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/5005265/Mutiny-Fiji-soldier-rescued-by-Tonga

    Cheers

  4. Pablo on May 15th, 2011 at 14:59

    Watapratt:

    Thanks for the links. Lee and Goh’s departures signal the end of an era, to which can be added the departure of foreign minister George Yeo as a result of losing his GRC seat (Yeo is considered to be one of the brightest and most “progressive” of the PAP second generation and was a potential PM, but as now said that he is retiring). I still think that even with these leadership changes and other reforms the PAP will be hard pressed to stay about 50% of the vote in 2016 even with the gerrymandered system still intact. The genie of opposition is now out of the bottle, and should the opposition coalesce into a united front/grand coalition, the PAP majority will be threatened.

    The Fiji link is also quite illuminating. Sounds like push is coming to shove in Suva. I wonder why Tonga has decided to intervene in what otherwise is a domestic quarrel?

  5. Phil Sage on May 16th, 2011 at 08:19

    Pablo – I am aware you are unlikely ever to view a Eurovision, which is kitsch rather than corporate. Knowing your views is what made it funny to me, but my comprehension must have been well awry as I read Britain for Bintan, hence the invite.

    Enjoy NZ, I am jealous

  6. The Internets on May 16th, 2011 at 22:11

    Singaporeans have a good deal of anti-foreign sentiment and reject being told, in spite of what economic growth and government propaganda lead them to believe, about the flaws in their system of governance and culture

    And the PAP has every interest in maintaining the status quo. The country might benefit if they adopted a line closer to the truth, but the way they’ve been doing things has kept them in power so far, so that’s all they care about (though Singapore’s development over the last few decades is nothing to sneeze at, of course).

    Politics is such a dirty business; small wonder that so many people I know who study it professionally are so turned off by the whole thing.

  7. Pablo on May 16th, 2011 at 22:31

    internets:

    I’ll keep the bulk of your post but have deleted the reference to the disputed joke. Attempts to continue flaming over the issue will see you banned.

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