How else would you have lived?

18:44




I felt like I had to write something in tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew's passing. I have a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to this man, especially when I've encountered and purposefully researched on an exceptional array of different takes on his personality, policies, decisions, and drive (mostly for academic purposes, and ventured a little further because of curiosity). I don't exactly know where to start, but I shall try.

This morning, I woke up in Melbourne, scrolling through my Twitter newsfeed - which is the first social media platform I usually check. One of the official news accounts I follow is Channel News Asia, which reported curtly of the founding father's death. My first thought was an anticlimactic Oh. It didn't came as a shock; it was that nagging feeling throughout the past month he had been hospitalized that it could be time. But this was LKY, you would think that with his unparalleled stubborn ways he will recover anyway. The only comfort is that release is exactly what he wanted. Because the way he is, he always gets what he wants.

I haven't had the opportunity to meet him in person, so most of my understandings about him occurred through the TV screen or text. Initially, it was through Social Studies texts and lessons that we first knew about his achievements and contributions to the nation. My limited memory space allowed me to remember Singapore's success to be a solo effort; later we knew that he had his Cabinet to support him too.

Then it was through National Day parades and school celebrations that we learnt that our founding father severed us from Malaysia to give us independence and raised us from a small fishing village to a thriving metropolis. In Sociology classes, we were told that this was a constructed narrative that was not very accurate, just to convince the masses of the necessity of some of the hard decisions and to prolong the legitimacy of the ruling party. Later, when I grew older, I also learnt that whoever controls the present controls the past.

It is only in recent days that I realized that Mr Lee Kuan Yew is indeed the most accomplished, talented and strategic politician of contemporary times. Nobody really comes close. He was diplomatic, had great foresight, and extremely skillful in politicking and leadership. Even till the end, he managed to convince a great majority that what he did was right, especially those under his rule. This is definitely formidable in the politics whether you look deep temporally into the past or spatially across geographic regions. Critics can continue to write articles about how he has disregarded human rights, twisted the logic of democracy in Singapore, but we can never prove that Singapore would be better or worse if he didn't do what he did. It is a debate that will never have a winner. What's for sure is that having the courage to take on the weight of building a new nation, is an amazing feat.

A lot of people are overly critical of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. We often critic politicians against a benchmark that is more than what a regular human could do, as if we are any more mortal than they are. But little would pause and re-calibrate their thoughts to measure what he has done as a citizen of Singapore (in a special leadership position). I know I haven't, until now that I'm writing this.

A lot of people have no idea what they are lauding him for (jarringly obvious in the way they parrot what other people are saying), given the way our education system is structured and the political apathetic attitude most people have. Taking on Sociology as my major has helped me to be more informed about what this man is like. Less godly, he makes mistakes... he does stuff sometimes that might be unpardonable by certain standards, just being human. A really hardworking human, too. He puts in a lot of effort to make it work, and the best for the country that he could under the circumstances then, with everything he's got. He guided the Republic's baby steps, and now we're here, fifty years later and internationally recognized. It makes me respect him once more, after coming a full circle of understanding from being in awe, to confusion, to disagreeing, to empathizing with his ways after taking into account many other factors... though it is a pity I will never know him completely.

Today, a giant of our times has left us. How else would you have lived, if you had a talent like his?

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