I discovered this man yesterday. He has my greatest respect for any political leader of all time.
I will probably not be posting any particular thoughts on him in the future, as I will be busy for -hopefully- a long while simply reading and learning (though I may have some posts with just quotes from him). He is an honest leader of a sort I have not seen at the stakes level that he plays at, and his communication skills and patience appear infinite. This is clear in interviews of him when he was 40, and it is still clear in interviews of him today at almost 90. To say things so consistently over so many decades is phenomenal; we have politicians today claiming to change fundamental beliefs every election cycle, asking the people, “Don’t you change your mind too? Is it so unreasonable?” But all which fits in the bounds of reason is not identical to all which fits within the bounds of strength. What is reasonable to the people in simply avoiding death is significantly broader than what is reasonable to a leader attempting to build a nation. The leader has much fewer choices, and he must make the right one.
Most people look to retire at 50 or 60, and are fine with being senile by 70. Here is a man who is 90 and more articulate than many who are 20.
Others have said his words, but few have both said his words and achieved what he has achieved. Dictator? Let us assume this is true. Would you rather have choice and corruption, or very little choice and very little corruption? The fact that one is able to think about such matters means that the large things are already being taken care of. Not “been taken care of”, “are being taken care of”. In one interview, not one of the below because there are too many (or alternatively, I lack the skill to sort which ones are absolutely better), his analysis of young people in Singapore today is that they believe “we have arrived”. That everything can simply now go on autopilot. But that is not true, and never is true. Simply because a riot of a certain kind was taken care of, does not mean that all riots of the same kind will no longer appear in the future, like some law of nature. We cannot write such laws. We write textbooks, and with education we have confused them with laws of nature, but we cannot write new laws of nature. There must always be a captain at the helm to give order to the rest.
We do not know when we may hit times and circumstances of need. Unknown unknowns exist, and they must be responded to effectively. We did not design reality, we do not design reality, we cannot design reality, no matter how much Sapir-Whorf is whacked over your head in all its politically correct forms. When the crisis has passed, the important questions about leaders are not, “Do I still have my Bill of Rights” or “Do I have a free liberal democratic society”. This is an ideological question, not a real question. Neither correct nor incorrect, because it is first misguided.
The important questions are, did we survive? Did we do well? Are we in a better position than before? Do we believe?
This man has successfully done all of these things for his people.
I allow my grandchildren to speak back to me. But from time to time, when they are out of bounds, I put them down. And when you make that statement without any evidence, I have to put it to you, get to the bottom of it, and you interviewed not 100 but 40, and [only] a few of them said “Oh, I’d rather not say” and therefore you assume that they were [all] “afraid”. How are they afraid, “because we terrify them”. Isn’t it your job to say there’s nothing to be afraid?
Why am I so strong against the media? Because they try to put us down, they twisted everything I said, that I was a communist, when they knew I wasn’t. So I told them in 1959, during the election campaign, as they were gunning for me, “When I win, I will show you how you have to behave yourself.”
You believe for a moment that my son, 53 years old, 54 coming onto, hasn’t a mind of his own? He needs me to whisper in his ear, how to answer, how to plan the future? […] This is not a joke. We are not running this for ourselves. If we were, Singapore wouldn’t be what it is. And let me tell you this… If what you say is reflective of your generation, then I am a bit sad. But the generation that grew up with me – those over 55 are still 35% of the electorate. Those over 40 are 25%; they are 60%. I think you take a poll of that generation, and see whether they think I should step down.
“There’s an impression that the PAP is arrogant, or even bullying.”
“If I am arrogant, would I be talking to you?”
“It is said about you that you are increasingly aware of mortality.”
“Well I’ve been so for some time. At 88, how long more have i got?”
“But you’re not a religious man.”
“No, but that doesn’t stop me from contemplating… the ultimate.”
“And what do you think when you’re contemplating?”
“…Has the life I lived been worthwhile? Have I made the world around me or those who depended on my decisions, given them a better life? Am I happy with my family? And I think on most of them I give myself… a B+. That’s enough.”
“You’ve also said once that you do not judge a man before the coffin closes because he might do something foolish.”
“[laughs] That’s right. So I’ve got to be very careful.”
– Lee Kuan Yew
“To stand atop other people… is to bear a great many responsibilities, and hand down a great many decisions. As a result, governments and organizations have different beliefs and ideals depending on their positions. People are no different. When one wishes to do something, there are inevitably some who see it as good and others who see it as evil. However, if you are able to place yourself in different positions, then all of them will appear to be right.
And… although it is sad, there may not always be a path which satisfies each and every one of their wishes… No matter what you rely on at those times, or what path you show to those below you… If you hesitate at those times… then you must have the courage to stand still and look back at how you arrived there.
And… you must never hesitate to stain your own hands with blood. Those who show others the way must not avert their eyes from the weight of responsibility.”
– Yuuhi Koubuin, Muv-Luv Alternative