Quotable (#132)

Keerthik Sasidharan on the legacy of Lee Kuan Yew:

In the wake of his death, LKY is summarily dismissed by many on the Left as authoritarian or lauded by many on the Right who describe him as a pragmatist. Both appellations, while probably true depending on where in his long career one looks – obscure the true nature of a worldview, a philosophic outlook, around which he built institutions in Singapore. It is a view that is essentially pessimistic about human nature and what men would do if left unimpeded by social constraints. It sees humans as easily prone to material excess, as likely to grandstand at the expense of collective welfare, willing to indulge in emotionally satisfying rhetorical flourishes ignoring the truth of the evidence. It is also, however, a view that is self-aware enough to recognize that all societies need ideological Godheads around which its institutions and identities can accrete.

Inescapably, the result of such Godheads is a class of high priests, interpreters, and clergy who invent elaborate vocabularies to perpetuate their power. Faced with this recognition, the difficulty that faces every newly formed society is the choice of an organizing principle around which its institutions are then measured against. Viewed thus, while India chose ‘secularism’, the US enshrined ‘freedom’, post-Trudeau Canada made ‘multiculturalism’ its metier, the Saudis made ‘Islam’ their lodestar, Pakistan made ‘non-Indianness’ its operating principle, Singapore decided to enshrine (instrumental) Reason as its central organizing principle. Whatever gets the job done became the mantra.

(Emphasis in original.)1

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