Snippet from Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore (on “the people’s minds”)


5 more chapters and I’ll have completed reading Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore by T.J.S. George (pub. 1973).

Thought I’d share an interesting snippet from the book. I may add a few more snippets when I gather my thoughts for a review later.

Conversation between two friends — a visiting Asian editor and a PAP minister (Page 109):

EDITOR: I have just come from Djakarta and Manila. Nothing worked there. Here my telephone works, my flush flushes, everything is clean and antiseptic. Singapore is simply great.

MINISTER: All right, old chap, what’s bothering you?

EDITOR: Look, what does it all mean? What about people? Don’t they have minds? I see no evidence of people here having minds of their own, feelings of their own.

MINISTER: They are happy. See those modern high-rise buildings? We gave them decent places to live in.

EDITOR: What have you done to their minds?

MINISTER: Well, we are thinking about it. Having given them a clean city, modern amenities and a strong economy, we are now thinking of what culture we should give them.

EDITOR (after pause): Is the culture factory also going to be in the Jurong industrial estate?

End of conversation.

UPDATE (29 May): Book review + excerpts of this insightful book.

3 thoughts on “Snippet from Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore (on “the people’s minds”)

  1. Good to know I’m not the only one who thinks “The Singaporean is Free from Thought”
    Seriously though, I’m so sick of the govt trying to think for me and I hope a lot of Singaporeans are too.

    PS: Nice to have you back :)


  2. Once upon a time, the late Ruler (1959-2015) tried to copy Switzerland by turning the Jurong Industrial Estate into the Bernese Oberland, Ang Mo Kio into Graubunden, Katong into Vaud etc. Eventually, he gave up when he discovered that the tiny isle of Singapore could just fit into Lake Geneva. Up to the early 1990s, Goh Chok Tong offered Swiss Standards to the down-trodden Singaporeans. In the 21st Century, this Swiss Standard remark has become the butt of many jokes. I have seen Singapore Civil Service types in squeaky clean shirts transiting the Zurich Airport for what purpose I could only hazard a guess !


  3. @rizkhaos: Yeah, I hate that sensation of having my freedom of thought curtailed (whether it’s by a government or something/someone else!).

    @Mubarak: Reminds me of one word: “tragicomedy.”

    PS: Don’t mind my slowness with replies, this is the worst cough I’ve had in the past decade!…


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