Bloody Shovel 3

We will drown and nobody shall save us


Let me continue with Chinese proverbs.

We have established that the Chinese love eating, and they celebrate everything with a big feast with family and friends. So it's not surprise that gatherings with food are the metaphor for a good time. A famous saying (also vernacular) says:


Which translates as: there's no feast where people don't leave in the end. Meaning basically, all good things must come to an end. I think there's a better, more funny way of saying that in English, but I can't remember right now. Any ideas?

I thought of this proverb after reading this news on Singapore's leading newspaper, the Straits Times.

Two workers from China charged for criminal trespass after crane protest

You can find the news at Youtube too:


The fact that the poor foreign workers have been detained and will probably be deported sounds like business as usual for Singapore. The Rule of Law. Everybody likes Singapore, right? Well look at the comments on the Straits Times piece. It has pearls such as this one:

Looking at the blank and dejected faces of the two Chinese workers, our heart cries for them.   In the eyes of the law, maybe they have done something wrong but then if we are in the same shoes as them, we will equally be frustrated and embittered after coming so far away to slog and toil hard for a meagre salary, they are being cheated of their income.  When they think of their family back home in the deserted rural area who is waiting for their monetary support to survive, their emotion distress will start to overwhelm them leaving them with no choice except to protest in public.

The worst to come is seeing them being charged for criminal offense.   Has Singapore law becoming so inhumane, so merciless and unforgiving that we have lost our touch of human compassion and humanity?   Is a warning letter sufficient enough to settle such trivial issue taking into consideration this is their first offense and they are not harming anybody as far as we know.

This smells of... socialism! In Singapore? But it can't be! Singapore is a well-run place, right? It has rational governance? It has abolished politics, right?

You can never abolish politics. It's like abolishing sexual desire. For better or worse it's here to stay. Now you may say that I'm being specious, and many comments are for arresting the guys and kicking them out. I didn't go through all of them but I'd say the both sides are pretty even.

One thing that those pinnacles of civilisation, Singapore and Dubai, have in common is a reliance on cheap labor from abroad. Which works OK while you have an effective system to take the workers back once they cease to be useful. But you have to be careful with that. See another piece of recent news from Singapore.


Two pieces of labor unrest in little less than a week must be quite disconcerting for the usually uneventful Singapore. But most disconcerting of all must have been that this news haven't been ignored in the drivers' homeland. From the China Daily's opinion page:

Singapore must stop ill-treating migrants

The Singaporean authorities, companies and the public have a lot to learn from this case. But more than that, Chinese workers who seek to work abroad should learn more about the country they go to and know how to get legal aid when they face problems.

The Chinese government now pays special attention to protection of Chinese citizens abroad. The Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Commerce have expressed concerns over the strike incident, and the Chinese embassy in Singapore has communicated with the Singaporean authorities and workers.

The recent Report of the 18th Party Congress said: "We will take solid steps to promote public diplomacy as well as people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and protect China's legitimate rights and interests overseas." This case has highlighted the need for the government to take all necessary steps to protect the rights and interests of Chinese citizens working overseas.

Singapore has been able to withstand Cathedralist pressure against its legal system because nobody in the West cares or has any incentive to mess with it. But if China starts flexing its muscle and meddling with what it regards as its sphere of influence, well, things are going to get interesting. Singapore survives, and this was explicitly declared by Lee Kuan Yew himself, by leeching Chinese talent to offset the flight of its own talent to the US and Australia. But Singapore might not be able to secure it's newly leeched talent's loyalty if Mother China doesn't let go.

The best designed governance doesn't mean much if you don't have the power to enforce it. What can't continue will stop.


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  • I never knew that Singapore used a lot of low-wage migrant labor. To the extent they do, this is perfectly Cathedralist. Singapore is a very capitalist place, and a former British colony, so it is completely Cathedralist.

  • This smells of… socialism! In Singapore? But it can’t be! [...] It has abolished politics, right? [...] You can never abolish politics. It’s like abolishing sexual desire.

    Sure, you can't abolish politics, but you're definitely wrong if you assume that it's impossible to abolish such ideological manifestations of Universalism. These sentiments appear only because they are high-status in the Universalist, Cathedral-run world, and they would never appear absent this motivation.

    Nobody whines when, for example, Cathedral-run governments crack down on some fringe libertarian income-tax protesters and haul them off to jail. Literally all bleeding-heard Universalists will applaud it as a rightful and necessary measure against these vile, seditious, and criminal elements. Similarly, observe the almost complete absence of complaints by Universalists against anything the Communists ever did during their honeymoon with the Cathedral (and even after that), except as a begrudging, decades-late concession.

    It all depends on the ideology of the elite. You could make an argument that in the very long run the elites will always soften up and move towards democracy, with an inevitable slide into chaos or socialism that follows. But as long as the elites have genuine belief in the ideology underpinning the system, a modern society can exist without any ideological manifestations of Universalism at all.

    • "and they would never appear absent this motivation." I dunno. I think socialism predates the Cathedral. I think many in Rome sympathised with Spartacus.

      You do have a point that there is a signaling motive, i.e. it's cool to associate to the prevailing ideology in the US, but it's not the only thing. There is something substantially different between a cultish libertarian protesting taxes (who is essentially outside society) and a wronged worker engaging in Class Struggle. Sympathy with the under dog is a necessary outgrowth of an open society.

      • Sympathy with the under dog is a necessary outgrowth of an open society.

        That depends on the sort of "underdog" in question. More specifically, it depends on the signals people get from the elites' attitude towards the ostensible underdog. If it's an underdog for whom it's fashionable and high-status to express concern, there will be lots of sympathy indeed. But if it's an underdog whom the elites genuinely loathe, nobody will feel sorry for him, and showing concern for him will, if anything, brand you as a weirdo and extremist. (If you don't like the example of the tax protester in contemporary U.S., consider a Jew in Germany after the Nazis were firmly entrenched in power.)

        As they saying goes, everyone likes a strong horse. An underdog can get some effective sympathy only if someone in the elite finds it expedient -- either for some practical reason, or as a matter of moral posturing -- which then causes lower-ranked people to ape this sympathy in hopes of raising their status. Otherwise, everyone is perfectly happy to pile on him and revel in their comparative superiority. (Of course, this isn't literally true always and for everyone, and sometimes people do have genuine sympathy for underdogs that's not driven by elite-aping status-signaling, but this is never strong enough to have important practical consequences.)

        It's true that elite socialism predates the Cathedral, but it isn't a necessary consequence of open society or modernity. It could be an inevitable long-term consequence of the softening of the elite and its loss of faith in the ideological rationale for its rule. But even then, who gets to be the favored underdog is not determined by some objective examination of who really gets oppressed the worst. It's determined by varying and (seemingly?) arbitrary status-signaling fashions.

        • Nazi Germany wasn't an open society. Sympathy for Jews was common in Weimar times, which was. Hell, before that somebody emancipated the Jews, right? Nobody forced Napoleon. And nobody forced the liberal revolutionaries in 1830 and 1848. But the Jews got sympathy and they were pulled out of the ghetto.

          I don't think the mechanism for sympathy-for-the-underdog (hereafter, Socialism) works like that. It might be like that for elites, but what I'm talking about is middle-class socialism. The commentators in the Straits Times website aren't elite, they are normal people. Those 98% of Singaporeans who feel little emotion everyday and don't feel engaged with their jobs.

          Socialism may be moral posturing for the elite. But for the rest of us, it's about Class Struggle.

          I know what you mean, that someone branded as racist or homophobe or whatever label the elite wants to demonise won't get any sympathy. But that's not arbitrary. A racist isn't an underdog, he just has an opinion which threatens many things which normal people don't want to be threatened.

  • Over at Foseti's place, I thought, "White Singapore" was a good distillation of a certain kind of dream. It's kind of catchy too - in a way that "White Dubai" isn't. As far as English expressions go, "Every rose has its thorn" gets at the "there's always a catch / downside" or "nothing's perfect" idea, but doesn't have the entropy / temporal aspect of "nothing goes on forever / eventually good things fall apart" notion. "This too will pass" is too Yiddish and ambivalent about whether what is passing is good or bad. There's "What goes up must come down." Of course, there's always Shakespeare, from the Merchant of Venice, "All that glitters is not gold." But it's hard to beat "all good things must come to an end." "Easy come, easy go?"

    • There's plenty of places which are Whiter than Singapore is Chinese. Singapore is a beacon of civilisation in a bad neighbourhood, which makes it thrive. I imagine that if Europe was as barbaric as Southeast Asia, some elites would find a way to build a beacon in the Channel Islands or wherever.

  • Is Singapore really "dependent" on cheap foreign labor. There is always a wage at which the market clears. Certainly if they simply paid more they could hire natives. You would get less of X then someone wants, but is that such a terrible thing?

    I think this has more to do with enriching the person who owns the business that produces X then any genuine societal need.

    • "I think this has more to do with enriching the person who owns the business that produces X then any genuine societal need."

      You don't say.

  • I think a sense of justice is innate in social animals such as dogs, monkeys and Homo-Sapiens. When we feel safe we would reach out and help the others. This has been the power that undid the West. Lee Kuan Yew is the only leader who is open about his HBD views. I just hope that the next generation leadership is also in sync on this and maintain an island of sanity in a world of the lost.

  • Singapore seems like it is just the latest 'up and coming' area. Look at how grand America looked for a very long time. What hope does a little country like this truly have when push comes to shove and China decides to steamroll it?

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