Singapore-on-Thames : can it work?


GrimReefer

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Horses for courses. Personally I find what you describe to be an appallingly rigid, claustrophobic society that I, personally, would find to be an authoritarian dystopian frigging nightmare to live in. We have a factory in Singapore and I deal with the work colleagues there on a daily basis - living in Singapore would drive me completely bananas within a couple of weeks.
I do think it's a mentally awful place to live! I have simply learned to compartmentalise so I could set aside money. Most expats basically live in a bubble anyway. When they meet the odd local they think they've integrated by having lunch with them. but you have not integrated with them until you have ACTUALLY integrated with them. And then you're Colonel Kurtz in Cambodia clutching your head and saying "the horror". But as long as the money is good, and the women are friendly, you can take it on the chin. I'd never get a maid though, the Irish who gush about their "helper" (actual description is "doer") can't get over how they have indentured servants working FOR THEM!!

Is it Mad Max leather-clad gangs gunning one another down in the streets dystopia? Obviously not. Is it verging far too close to an Equilibrium style dystopia for my personal tastes? Absolutely. There are more forms of dystopia than violent anarchies.
Well. It's neither form really. Dystopia is such dramatic term. I mean, Singaporeans will surely consider themselves to be goofy and colourful in their own ways. And my bass guitar teacher was as groovy an individual as I have ever met. But there are lines that are just not crossed which westerners for their part feel need crossing just to feel alive.
 

raetsel

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Do recount your life living in Singapore. It appears to have been vastly different to my 15 years there.

Now, I think the society there is very standard East Asian in the sense that you keep your head down, submit to authority figures, cuss the other races and hate people who upset the social apple tart. However any Irish person who has gone to live in Singapore (I can presume this does not apply to you) lives a life of pretty decent comfort and gets locked and shagged on a far more regular basis than in Ireland.

What I *do* find dystopian about Singapore is the obsession with one's status compared against everyone else's that the locals as a whole subscribe to. Status of race, riches, children's performance in class, house, car, possessions etc. Like most Westernising societies, it is mellowing in tone, but due to the ferocious materialism and capitalism in the country, the status gaps are still keenly felt.

Now, this is nothing to do with the government (colloquially referred to as the gahmen). This is just traditional East Asian society, good as anywhere else in the region.

Singapore isn't dystopian, I mean, Jesus, come on. I do consider it to be an intellectual wasteland once you step outside of overseas educated company, or into deep Asian company.
That's a matter of opinion, even given what you say about the place yourself. It depends on how you define 'Dystopia'. Singapore is run along Confucian values, and westerners who want to work there must accept that and self regulate in order to conform, in ways that are alien and would be pretty unthinkable and unacceptable in a western democracy.
I think you'd accept that yourself. For most westerners that is a form of Dystopia. Think 'Stepford Wives' and apply it to both men and women. Some westerners, particularly those who find authoritarian societies appealing, of course disagree, but they are a minority.
 

GrimReefer

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That's a matter of opinion, even given what you say about the place yourself. It depends on how you define 'Dystopia'.
There are more forms of dystopia than violent anarchies.
OK. Everyone. For the record.

dystopia | Definition of dystopia in English by Oxford Dictionaries

Dystopia is not "something that bothers me" or "something that isn't what I am into" or "not sure I fancy yours, mate". Dystopia is FUBAR.

So, going around using the term is making an explicit statement about dysfunction.

In no world ever does dystopia apply to Singapore.

Authoritarian? Yes. By general agreement and established cultural practices, the people defer to authority figures on the basis that they know what they are doing and society will be the better for the coherence. Dystopian? No. Because Dystopian means "An imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic." according to the Oxford dictionary.

Now, if you dislike the place for all sorts of reasons, I will never reject your feelings towards the place. But using a phrase like dystopian means that either the place really involves great suffering or injustice (there are some sufferings and injustices, which happen to be different to the sufferings and injustices in Ireland for example), or dystopia is a place where you won't get mugged, will get paid loads of money if you are a foreigner with a masters degree, has insane eating out options to suit every pocket and will guarantee that you can go to work in shirt with no tie and have drinks in a balmy tropical breeze after work every day of the year.

I still won't ever be from there, and gimme the cold, grey, gummy cracked pavements of a small Irish town any day of the week. But Singapore is no dystopia.
 

GrimReefer

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That's a matter of opinion, even given what you say about the place yourself. It depends on how you define 'Dystopia'. Singapore is run along Confucian values, and westerners who want to work there must accept that and self regulate in order to conform, in ways that are alien and would be pretty unthinkable and unacceptable in a western democracy.
I think you'd accept that yourself.
Yes. I would.

For most westerners that is a form of Dystopia.
No. It isn't.

It's weird and sometimes annoying, it means you will never truly fit in or be from there, but it's not. what. dystopia. means. god. damn. it.

Think 'Stepford Wives' and apply it to both men and women.
I haven't seen the movie or read the book. But I have heard about it and lived 15 years in Singapore, and people there are not robots. They are just Asian.

Some westerners, particularly those who find authoritarian societies appealing, of course disagree, but they are a minority.
I don't disagree with the first part of your point. I think that you are not applying the term dystopian in the right context.
 

Roll_On

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Obviously SOT is pure cac, Tory w@nk fodder. They'd love a Singapore style authoritarian state, with the welfare state completely dismantled, free flowing immigration, wages super low for half the workers and no drugs or alcohol(to the extent the UK is used to). Europeans just have higher living expectations, and have been known to behead leaders who threaten that.
 

Sync

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Dystopian is obviously ridiculous, but a lot of Singapore's darker bits are forgiven because of its massive success. Unemployment's non existent, good jobs, great schools, no crime and domestic policies designed to protect the locals from being eclipsed in things like housing by rich foreigners.

And that's not down to luck, it's down to decades long planning and discipline. The tradeoff from that was the ability to vote for people who want to deviate from that planning, or anyone who legally transgresses being harshly dealt with. If things go wrong, then you start asking "Well are the tradeoffs worth the sacrifices".

But they've an economy that's much stronger than Ireland's and is built to be more robust, maintains its own defence, has a murder rate 1/4 of ours, and a much lower crime rate in general. And they've got the next 2 decades growth and development on the island planned out. Dismissing this as "dystopian" is pretty silly.

But the UK's ability to replicate this is very limited. It's a jigsaw puzzle, and an approach of "Well we REALLY like this ONE piece. But screw putting all the other pieces in" won't work. If nothing else: The entire Brexit plan was "Parliament retaking power". When Singapore's approach has been authoritarian centralised planning.
 

raetsel

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OK. Everyone. For the record.

dystopia | Definition of dystopia in English by Oxford Dictionaries

Dystopia is not "something that bothers me" or "something that isn't what I am into" or "not sure I fancy yours, mate". Dystopia is FUBAR.
You've taken the narrowest definition possible.
There is a broader definition. The societies painted by Huxley and Orwell in Brave Now World and Nineteen Eighty-Four were places where everything was fine, everyone could live in reasonable comfort as long as people conformed and didn't ask questions. The point is that they were, by most modern western definitions, dystopian. A quick google will confirm.
You've only got to look at the human rights abuses in Singapore to see the parallels.
If the effective outlawing of democracy, free speech, judicial execution for drugs offences, physical torture (judicial canings), suppression of gay rights etc. etc. is not dystopian enough for you then I don't know what would be. :)

SINGAPORE 2017/2018 | Amnesty International
Singapore: Cooperate or die: Singapores flawed reforms to the mandatory death penalty | Amnesty International
Refworld | Amnesty International Report 2015/16 - Singapore
Refworld | Amnesty International Annual Report 2012 - Singapore
Refworld | Amnesty International Report 2010 - Singapore
 

raetsel

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It's weird and sometimes annoying, it means you will never truly fit in or be from there, but it's not. what. dystopia. means. god. damn. it.
I think that you are not applying the term dystopian in the right context.
See above. We should agree to differ.
 

Niall996

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I do think it's a mentally awful place to live! I have simply learned to compartmentalise so I could set aside money. Most expats basically live in a bubble anyway. When they meet the odd local they think they've integrated by having lunch with them. but you have not integrated with them until you have ACTUALLY integrated with them. And then you're Colonel Kurtz in Cambodia clutching your head and saying "the horror". But as long as the money is good, and the women are friendly, you can take it on the chin. I'd never get a maid though, the Irish who gush about their "helper" (actual description is "doer") can't get over how they have indentured servants working FOR THEM!!



Well. It's neither form really. Dystopia is such dramatic term. I mean, Singaporeans will surely consider themselves to be goofy and colourful in their own ways. And my bass guitar teacher was as groovy an individual as I have ever met. But there are lines that are just not crossed which westerners for their part feel need crossing just to feel alive.
What's this about? Home help/maids/cleaners whatever work all over the world. There's nothing wrong with it. It's no different from paying a chef to cook your meal in a restaurant. Or to home deliver it. Or paying someone to come and collect your rubbish bins. Or to come and fix your fence. It's just work that you pay people to do.
 
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Sync

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What's this about? Home help/maids/cleaners whatever work all over the world. There's nothing wrong with it. It's no different from paying a chef to cook your meal in a restaurant. Or to home deliver it. Or paying someone to come and collect your rubbish bins. Or to come and fix your fence. It's use work that you pay people to do.
There's nothing wrong with the concept, but Singapore's approach is similar to middle eastern countries and can lead to problems for the helpers. The Helper's status in the country is entirely dependent on the largess of the employer, they've few rights and it's does lead to some cases of abuse. A simple example is that the employer is meant to cover food and rent and it's sometimes deducted from salaries.
 

Ardillaun

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GrimReefer

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What's this about? Home help/maids/cleaners whatever work all over the world. There's nothing wrong with it. It's no different from paying a chef to cook your meal in a restaurant. Or to home deliver it. Or paying someone to come and collect your rubbish bins. Or to come and fix your fence. It's just work that you pay people to do.
Man, I have seen an extra morsel put with a snooty expression on the plate of a maid as a reward for "getting it right" before she was sent to eat in solitude in the kitchen, where she slept behind a curtain near the closet on a small camp bed. She had to cut her hair short in case she gave the wrong idea to men and was expected to deal with constant denigration and arrogance from "old school" employers. Now, there are maids who are certainly better treated and in some cases cherished. They, nonetheless, have to give up their lives in their third world countries, often leaving their children and husbands behind, to wipe arsses, mop floors, cook food, walk dogs, hold umbrellas over the heads of employers in the rain, carry diddum's school bag, dress in loose fitting clothes as mandated, not look others in the eye particularly not men, never speak to strangers, and for sure not have anything remotely resembling a romantic partner. This is expected as standard. Few chefs cooking meals for you in restaurants are treated this way I'll bet. Clearly, having one's own room is for those maids lucky enough to live with pretty rich people in houses, or maybe expats, and bear in mind the maid is a convenient way for two adults to work and save money while living in a government apartment with children, so she will not under any circumstances have her own room when living that way. She will either sleep in the closet if she is lucky, or most likely on the floor by the child or in some spare corner of the living room or kitchen depending on how many apartment occupants there are. And all for 200-300 euro a month minus flight costs minus this and that and the knowledge that you are considered a prostitute and untermensch by the vast majority of people who think you are by any yardstick simply a lower class and Not The Same Class Of Person. God forbid you ever express an opinion, let alone a contradictory one. You know your place, which toilet to use, and what can happen if you don't get into act fast enough.

There's nothing wrong with the concept, but Singapore's approach is similar to middle eastern countries and can lead to problems for the helpers. The Helper's status in the country is entirely dependent on the largess of the employer, they've few rights and it's does lead to some cases of abuse. A simple example is that the employer is meant to cover food and rent and it's sometimes deducted from salaries.
Singapore is far better a place to be as a maid / helper than the Middle East where rape and murder are regular occurrences. A Filipino friend noted to me that Filipino maids arrive home in body bags from the Middle East in numbers that would shock us all if they were made public. But that's a pretty low benchmark to base off. I watched the mobie The Help and noted that the black maids in the US were far better off than the Third World maids in Asia as far as rights and life were concerned in general.

Maids are an Asian thing still in the way that they used to be a thing in the UK and the US, but where those maids often lived at home themselves and were also citizens, Asian maids are from overseas, and are completely dependant on the employer for food and shelter. The power differential endows the employers and maids with expectations that are not written into any law or contract.

As far as nothing wring with the concept is concerned, well if you are from a jungle village in the Philippines, being a maid means you get to live in a better country, and earn more money than whatever pitiful amount you could get back home, but you are treated as untermensch and you are, to all extents and purposes, an indentured servant. Plus you are really there to send money back to other people, usually children whom you might only meet in person once a year, and who are raised by others. The fact is, conditions are so desperate in these third world countries that this is seen as a step up. And Singapore is happy to provide a place for you to climb up one rung in society's ladder, but society will always remind you of who you are.

Even the best employers do not want their maids socialising with other maids, and certainly not looking for boyfriends.

You sort of have to be there for years living among locals. Expats treat their maids pretty well, seeing them as workers. For locals emphasising the status, ethnicity and power differential is part and parcel of how to have a maid. This is also not dystopia, it's just Asia.
 

raetsel

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Yeah I guess. I will go out on a limb and bet that we both have better things to do than argue over grammar. Too easy to be Mr Logic.

Speaking of whom, here's a laugh!

Mr Logic - Gas Leak - Viz
:)
Talking of the "dystopia" discussion I saw an online article last night in an online article where it was used it in the context of Trump's America. Now I'm anything but a Trump fan but I'd have thought that was stretching the meaning a bit too far.
 

Ardillaun

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The old lifestyle with maids can be hard to give up. One South African doctor lamented the crime rate in his country to a Canadian recruiter and then explained why he wouldn’t leave: “I’d rather be killed in my bed than have to make it”.
 
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GrimReefer

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:)
Talking of the "dystopia" discussion I saw an online article last night in an online article where it was used it in the context of Trump's America. Now I'm anything but a Trump fan but I'd have thought that was stretching the meaning a bit too far.
Ironically he spoke of American dystopia (or carnage) in his first Presidential speech.

The States are still largely the States, the mindset of what it means to be a patriotic American is being persuaded to the conservative right through Trump leadership. Actually, it's far less "conservatism" or the "right", and far more "reactionary". The politics of Brexit and Trump are fairly well headed under reactionary politics, versus the progressive politics of the EU and the inexorable browning of America.

Off topic, sorry, back to Singapore.

To try and bring this into the topic, the progressivism of Singapore is moved along slowly but surely, rather than through lurches of progressivism and reactionary response. The level of social management if not control required for this may lead to the description of dystopia used throughout this thread. So, example, it's illegal to be doing naughty gay things in Singapore. A few years back there was a party on the beach organised for gay people to have some fun, and all quite self contained. Nothing followed it, presumably because the apparatchiks of the government were testing the social temperature to see if this is the sort of thing people were OK with. Lee Kuan Yew himself was quite clear in an interview in later life that he had no issue with people being gay. It was more that he (and many others) figured "the time was not right" for this to become mainstream. Nonetheless, there are government apartments built for "singles" who can of course "happen to be gay". There was an openly gay GE candidate for one of the no-hoper political parties recently, and it's not like he was marched off and reeducated. It's just going to be a while before there will be marriage equality in Singapore. Most likely this will happen in a decade or two when the current generation are sufficiently fine with it to enshrine it in law. Once that happens, I dare say it'll become the pink party city of choice for the wider Asian continent, with ample outlets for pink shopping and lifestyle dollars to be spent.

To really understand Singapore as an Asian society, think "stability" as the overriding factor in Asian cultures. Using that as a north star to be guided by, imagine whatever path you need to take to ensure you are managing a society that is inherently stable. The understanding is that stability allows prosperity which underpins security which leads to the Asian understanding of happiness. To achieve that you can apply confucianism, communism, juche whatevah.

What is happiness in the West? The US? The EU? Likely different. There are all manner of definitions of "good" which are different for different cultures. I'm not sure myself how much of me is culture versus nature, but I have moved around a lot and been fairly countercultural often enough in my life to figure a large part of me is defined by "nature", which ultimately boils down to how my brain rewards me for thinking or acting in a certain way.
 

GrimReefer

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The old lifestyle with maids can be hard to give up. One South African doctor lamented the crime rate in his country to a Canadian recruiter and then explained why he wouldn’t leave: “I’d rather be killed in my bed than have to make it”.
If maids were paid a living wage and worked regular hours I imagine that this would disrupt Singapore's economy more than a war.

A few companies are trying to offer app-based maid-hiring, but really what's needed is not a convenient worker to show up and do a few hours, but some way to ensure both parents can work long hours at their jobs and still have the kids washed, fed, dressed and the house cleaned.

For some reason, this is more doable in the West, but damn hard to achieve without live-in grandparents or servants in the East. Life's a treadmill in Asia in general. Paranoia, status and FOMO are pretty big influences on life expectations. Chilling out seems to have gone out of vogue.

In a society where 7 year olds are getting multiple grinds so they don't fall behind in class, it can be traced back to the lack of social security safety nets, and the sense of atomisation of society where everyone is in it for themselves, amplified by status anxiety.
 

McTell

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No
Let's put this in context. In Singapore if you are a road contractor and your trench is not dug and refilled on the planned date, you will do 30 days in jail.

Can't see that happening in hackney....
 
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