Excerpts from “The Psychology of Military Incompetence”

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Excerpts from The Psychology of Military Incompetence, by British psychologist Norman Dixon (1976). On authoritarianism, leadership, and more…

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Book Cover (published 1976)

EXCERPTS from THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MILITARY INCOMPETENCE
by Norman Dixon

1. Even the worst government and most inept prime minister come up for possible dismissal every so often. (Pg-21)

2. How, if they are so lacking in intelligence, do people become senior military commanders? (Pg-23)

3. Computers make poor leaders and indifferent father-figures. They may be quick and efficient, [but] withal remain cold fish. They do not inspire affection, are devoid of feelings and, what is worse, quite indifferent to the outcome of their decisions. (Pg-33)

* Note: Refer to LKY’s comments on Singaporeans as “digits.”

4. Authoritarian organizations [are] masters at deflecting blame. They do so by denial, by rationalization, by making scapegoats, or by some mixture of the three. The net result is that no real admission of failure or incompetence is ever made by those who are really responsible; nothing can be done about preventing a recurrence. (Pg-44)

5. Certain characteristics of incompetence include:

  • An underestimation, sometimes bordering on the arrogant, of the enemy
  • Little moral courage
  • An apparent imperviousness by commanders to human suffering
  • A tendency to lay the blame on others
  • A lack of creativity and open-mindedness (Pg-67)

6. Military leaders [displayed] behaviour symptomatic of extremely weak egos. . .breeding an insatiable desire for admiration with avoidance of criticism, and an equally devouring urge for power and positions of dominance. (Pg-115)

7. The army was described as “too rigid and lacking in flexibility to be really adaptable to the conditions of modern quick-moving warfare.” (Pg-128)

8. The authorities did become increasingly concerned to prevent the civilian population from discovering anything new that might conflict with the official set of delusions which they themselves espoused. (Pg-132; on Singapore)

9. Military incompetence involves:

10. In extreme cases. . .everything that is free, uncontrolled, spontaneous is dangerous. (Pg-190)

11. A snob is one who is impressed by, and therefore tries to identify with, those who are higher up the socio-economic scale, while straining to disassociate himself from those lower down. (Pg-201)

12. [Authoritarianism] produces submission to the authority of the in-group. It arouses aggression, which is displaced on to a carefully defined out-group. (Pg-260)

13. An authoritarian’s thinking is confined to rigid formulae and inflexible attitudes. He is intolerant of unusual ideas and unable to cope with contradictions. (Pg-261)

14. Since authoritarians have been found to be more dishonest, more irresponsible, more untrustworthy, more socially conforming, and more suspicious than non-authoritarians, they are unlikely to make successful social leaders. (Pg-264)

15. Blind obedience and loyalty [are emphasised] at the expense of initiative and innovation. (Pg-267)

16. One of the least attractive characteristics of authoritarians is their preoccupation with punishment and their incapacity to feel concern for the human rights of persecuted minorities. (Pg-314)

17. The symptoms of this process [of] ‘group-think‘, include:

  • An illusion of invulnerability that becomes shared by most members of the group
  • Collective attempts to ignore or rationalize away information which might lead the group to reconsider shaky but cherished assumptions
  • An unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality (i.e. “incorruptibility“), thus enabling members to overlook the ethical consequences of their decision
  • Stereotyping the enemy as either too evil for negotiation or too stupid and feeble to be a threat. (Pg-399)

AUTHOR BIO:

Norman F. Dixon, M.B.E., Fellow of the British Psychological Society, is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at University College, London.

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NOTE: Check out Phillip Ang’s post on Singapore’s paper generals as well.

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SEPT 21, 1984: Brigadier-General Lee Hsien Loong. Source: ST.

“Slightly more than a quarter [of The Singapore Cabinet] had been generals/equivalent in the military before becoming politicians.

Military men do not make good leaders in the government for the simple fact that they are used to giving orders. They are not listeners but control freaks.

— Phillip Ang (4 Jan 2015)

Saw Phaik Hwa, Former SMRT CEO

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* Thanks to SGClub Forum for the images.

A few choice excerpts on Ms. Saw Phaik Hwa, former CEO of SMRT.

1) “The rot really started with the appointment of Ms. Saw Phaik Hwa as CEO. Her only experience was in the retail business and she knew next to nothing in the running of SMRT and its maintenance. She was however successful in making hugh profits for the shareholders, especially Temasek Holdings, mainly through rentals of SMRT properties and for a time she was able to ride high in the organisation.

It’s amazing that the Government had not learned from the bitter lesson of Ms. Saw Phaik Hwa. The point is as long as the SMRT is privatised and profit-oriented, the poor and unfortunate commuters will suffer from frequent rail breakdowns, not excluding massive disruptions.”
(Source: Singapore Recalcitrant)

2) [Saw joined SMRT] in December 2002. Her appointment raised eyebrows then as her background was mainly in retail and marketing, and she had no experience whatsoever in running a public transport business.

In early 2002, she was retrenched when the global airport retailer [DFS] consolidated its businesses. She then started her own consultancy business in international retail before applying for the SMRT job. “I didn’t have to learn to be a CEO, all I needed was to learn a new trade,” she says matter of factly.
(Source: AsiaOne, 2011)

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3) When asked to describe her management style, Saw quips: “My dream management style is not having to do anything.”
(Source: AsiaOne, 2011)

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Financial Information | Image from SMRT

4) “Since SMRT is a Temasek Holdings owned company, would Ho Ching herself have a say as to whom she appoints to head SMRT as CEO? Can anyone verify whether Ho Ching is good friends with Saw Phaik Hwa on a personal basis?”
(Source: travelbug)

5) Saw, who lives in a landed property off Lornie Road and owns two luxury cars, a Ferrari California and Mercedes-Benz 500, earned $1.85 million in 2010. She also said she had earned her right to spend. . .on her million-dollar pay package, she said, “the package is benchmarked to the job that I do. . .and the pay is not top-end. It’s not top-end.”
(Source: Yahoo, 2012)

6) YouTube video of Ms. Saw with 8 Hunks. Video creator says: “Shouldn’t the profits from SMRT go towards helping the old and needy in Singapore, rather than spending it on a meaningless annual dinner?”

Catherine Lim, Excerpts

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Dr. Catherine Lim wrote “A Great Affective Divide” 21 years ago, a sharp and eloquent critique of the PAP ruling party.

If only leaders had heeded her advice.

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Excerpts from Selection of Articles by Catherine Lim

Excerpts #1:

1) It is no secret that while the PAP Government has inspired in the people much respect for its efficiency and much gratitude for the good life as a result of this efficiency, there is very little in the way of affectionate regard.

2) While the PAP ideology remains the same, the people have not. Higher education, a more affluent lifestyle and exposure to the values of the western societies, have created a new generation that is not satisfied with the quantitative paradigm but looks beyond it to a larger qualitative one that most certainly includes matters of the heart, soul and spirit.

3) The absence of this affective dimension in the PAP framework is what has alienated the people from their leaders. It is easily seen that the main criticisms levelled against the PAP point to a style deficient in human sensitivity and feeling – “dictatorial,” “arrogant,” “impatient,” “unforgiving,” “vindictive.”

4) In other countries, political parties come and go, but the country remains the rallying point for the people’s feelings. [In] Singapore, the Government has become synonymous with the country. Indeed, Singapore is often seen as the creation of the PAP, made to its image and likeness. Hence, dislike of the PAP, even though it does not translate into dislike of Singapore, effectively blocks out any spontaneous outpouring of patriotic emotion. The best evidence is in the attitude towards the national flag. Singaporeans continue to be reluctant to put it up in their homes on National Day for fear of being thought PAP supporters and sycophants.

5) If loyalty towards the country is blocked, it has to be directed elsewhere. In Singapore, it is directed at the good life which the country has come to represent. It has been wryly described as the new religion of “moneytheism.”

Source: A Great Affective Divide,” by Catherine Lim (1994)

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Excerpts #2:

1) The fear in Singapore is a special, almost unique kind, for it is self-imposed. Its most obvious form is self-censorship.

Source: A Climate Of Fear In Our Society?,” by Catherine Lim (2010)

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Excerpts #3:

1) The PAP is incapable of reinventing itself.

2) Reinvention would require the opening up of one crucial area that the government is determined to have tight control over. This is the area of political liberties — open debate, criticism, independence of the media, public assembly, street demonstrations for the cause, all of which are taken for granted in practising democracies.

3) Pointing out the case of the 16 political detainees who called upon the government in September last year to set up a commission of inquiry to look into the allegations said against them, Lim noted that the petition was promptly dismissed and no further action was taken.

“I thought that the government had missed a fantastic opportunity to show Singaporeans that it had the honesty and courage to face up its past excesses or to take responsibility for them,” said Lim.

Source:Yahoo News: “PAP incapable of reinventing itself: Catherine Lim” (2012)

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Excerpt #4:

You transformed little, obscure, resource-poor Singapore into one of the most successful economies in the world. If today Singapore is described in breathless superlatives—‘best’, ‘richest’, ‘cleanest’, ‘brightest’—it is all because of you.

If only you had done so without so much human cost. If only the high ranking of Singapore in international surveys on economic development were matched by a similar ranking in surveys on human rights.

Source: If Only—To The Memory Of Lee Kuan Yew (1923–2015)

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Excerpts #5:

1) The exuberance, boldness and defiance of the young voters, operating in the new media world of instant, dazzling communication, could be infectious enough to have an unstoppable snowball effect, engulfing other groups of voters, including even those normally sympathetic towards the PAP.

2) [Political] reform there must be. For only then can Singapore come into its own, only then can it claim to be a successful society in every sense of the word, and take a proud place among other societies in the world.

Source: My best hope lies in the young Singaporeans (2012)

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Excerpts #6:

1) We are in the midst of a crisis where the people no longer trust their government, and the government no longer cares about regaining their trust.

2) There are [clear] signs that the present situation has reached crisis proportions, that it is not just an affective divide, not just an emotional estrangement between your PAP leadership and the people. How did this crisis arise in the first place? With utmost respect, Sir, I must point out that it is ultimately your inability or unwillingness to listen to the people.

3) While you see yourself as simply going by the rules, Singaporeans see you as the PAP juggernaut ready to mow down the little people in its path.your PAP leadership and the people.

4) . . .even if it meant an apology and the need to make amends, that would have been a gesture large and empathetic enough, to win over even the most vocal critics. It would certainly have begun the process of creating, for the first time in the history of the PAP government-people relationship, a nexus of understanding and reciprocity.

5) In the absence of the people’s trust, effective government is virtually impossible, as every leader knows.

Source: An Open Letter to the Prime Minister (2014)

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Snapshot with Catherine Lim (2015)

CATHERINE LIM’s works deal largely with the East-West divide, Asian culture, women’s issues, as well as Singapore’s culture, history and politics. She has won national and regional book prizes, and was made a Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture and Information. (bio from SWF)

Catherine Online: Website | Wikipedia | Interview | Kenneth Paul Tan on Catherine Lim

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More Info:

1) Catherine Lim: Political Commentaries

2) Catherine Lim: Newspaper Features

3) On Respect and Elitism (FB Comment, by Neo Swee Lin)

4) On PM LHL’s lack of sincerity and humility (100+ likes in 2 hours / FB Comment, by Edrei Valath)

5) Funny Comment by an ardent admirer of Catherine Lim

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Amos Yee’s Speech

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I decided to transcribe the text from Amos Yee’s video so that what he said doesn’t get lost amidst the current lynching being directed at him. This is included in the second half of this blog post.

PART 1:

A quick summary: 16 year-old Amos Yee was arrested for posting an “anti-Lee Kuan Yew” video.

At the time of this posting, you can view a copy of the video.

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16-year-old Amos Yee in video

Amos Yee was arrested on these charges:

Police said Amos will face charges in court today under Section 298 of the Penal Code for utterances against Christians with a “deliberate intent to wound religious feelings”. Other charges include circulating an obscene object and making threatening, abusive or insulting communication which is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
( — Straits Times)

I have a few questions to the Singapore authorities:

1) PAP grassroots leader, Jason Tan, threatened to chop off Amos Yee’s penis and stuff it in his mouth because of Amos’ 8-minute video. Is this not an abusive threat?

2) A pro-PAP page has been set up for the purpose of cyber-bullying and shaming Amos’ family. Doesn’t this constitute “insulting communication that is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress”?

3) The anti-harassment law in Singapore covers harassment in the online sphere including online sexual harassment and cyber-bullying. Does this law not apply to critics of LKY and the PAP ruling party?

Readers, please peruse Amos’ Yee’s speech below to take a look at the points he brought up.

I did some light copyediting to the text, and I removed the expletives and profanity from his 8-minute speech.

I hope this makes the substance of his argument clearly visible to discerning readers and netizens.

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PART 2:

“Lee Kuan Yew is Finally Dead,” by Amos Yee

Video text transcribed by Jess C Scott (clean version)

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Amos Yee

Lee Kuan Yew is dead, finally.

Why hasn’t anyone said, “Yeah, the guy is dead!”

Lee Kuan Yew was a horrible person.

Because everyone is scared. Everyone is afraid that if they say something like that, they might get into trouble which — give LKY credit — was primarily the impact of his legacy.

But I’m not afraid.

So if Lee Hsien Loong wishes to sue me, I will oblige to dance with him.

Lee Kuan Yew, contrary to popular belief, was a horrible person and an awful leader to our country. He was a dictator, but managed to fool most of the world to think he was democratic. And he did so by still granting us the opportunity to vote, to make it seem like we have freedom of choice.

However, during [his] rule, he controlled the entire media and education, proliferating nationalistic propaganda on a daily basis. And he placed an excessive surplus of his books in popular bookstores. In most of his books, look at how he self-indulgently plasters reams of pages with these montages of pictures of his experiences. Like “Ooh, look how much better I am compared to you.”

And of course he is absolutely notorious for suing people who criticised him, forcing them into jail and leading them into bankruptcy. Apparently, his thirst for suing is hereditary, too. So he created an environment where his blatant flaws as a leader were hidden, because most people were afraid of criticising him in fear of being found guilty by the judicial system that he controls. So everything that people hear is about how great Lee Kuan Yew is.

Of course he is able to deceive people into voting for him. Despite our voting rights, he is undoubtedly totalitarian.

Now seeing what LKY has done, I’m sure many individuals who have done similar things comes to mind. But I’m going to compare him to someone that people haven’t really mentioned before: Jesus. And the aptness of that analogy is heightened, seeing how Christians seem to be a really big fan of him. They are both power-hungry and malicious, but deceive others into thinking that they are compassionate and kind. Their impact and legacy will ultimately not last as more and more people find out that they’re full of bull. And LKY’s followers are completely delusional and ignorant, and have absolutely no sound logic or knowledge about him that is grounded in reality, which LKY very easily manipulates, similar to the Christian knowledge of the Bible and the work of a multitude of priests.

On the surface, he seemed quite successful. He turned Singapore from a small seaport into a bustling metropolis, rife with skyscrapers and its own casino. World leaders seem to like him, most notably Margaret Thatcher, and many foreigners and millionaires wish to invest in Singapore.

But if you look deeper, and you find out what the true nature of LKY’s Singapore is…I’m sure most of your parents have told you how luxurious Singapore is, and how, if you go to another country, it would be much harder and much more expensive.

But all you have to do is do a Google search, look at our country’s statistics, and you will find out how delusional and ignorant your parents are.

Most people in Singapore are struggling to make ends meet. And it is reported that Singaporeans work the longest hours in the world. We are one of the richest countries in the world, but we have one of the highest income inequalities, highest poverty rates, and our government spends one of the lowest on healthcare and social security.

The money spent on the public is so low, it’s more representative of a third world country. And yet the amount of taxes is one of the highest in first world countries. And political leaders in Singapore earn more than quadruple the amount earned by political leaders in the United States. They are acquiring so much money — why aren’t they spending it on the people? What are they actually spending it on?

One time, an SDP member told me that once they got into power, they are going to take the key and open every cupboard, and search out all the information on the government spending to find out what those motherf**kers have been doing with all that money.

And whenever somebody wonders online if the government is pocketing the money for themselves, they get sued. Quite suspicious, isn’t it?

How LKY deemed what he considered as success was solely predicated upon measurable, concrete results: a rich country, the love of major powers, a positive public image. And his emphasis on results was transcendent onto how Singaporeans led their lives. Somebody who has the better house, the better results in an exam, the better degree — is deemed “more successful” than the other person.

Because of this emphasis on pure materialism, it sacrificed our happiness.

Because if someone is more concerned about money and status over what they’re actually doing and their life, no shit you would lead a depressing life.

I think the biggest flaw of LKY as a leader to our nation, is that he honestly thought that money and status equated to happiness. And his failure to understand how false that was really showed, leading us to be one of the richest countries in the world, and one of the most depressed.

Ultimately, how do you quantify a great leader?

It is by how he creates a place where people are able to live happily and prosper, based on their own unique attributes. And he hasn’t. So no matter how rich the country he made is, it doesn’t mean a thing.

His death was great for him too, seeing how he was struggling with an illness for several years and even declared that he wished he was dead. He should have asked his son to pull the plug or committed suicide by himself. But he didn’t. You know why?

Because if he did, his band of sycophants might despise him. And his oh-so-great reputation that he so desperately tried to uphold, might shatter. Because it would be deemed quite controversial for a leader to end his life with suicide.

And it is rather tragic, isn’t it, that he had to suffer the last few years with the atmosphere or materialism and the need for a positive image that he himself created.

So there you go: Lee Kuan Yew, an overrated, over-glorified person, a dictator, and exceptionally Machiavellian in nature. With his death and the upcoming elections next year, there is a high chance, that us citizens of Singapore [can] finally change things for the better.

Let’s all hope for change.

For good change, for every possible kind.

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