During the Scottish Referendum for Independence, many UK citizens feared that Scotland may actually leave the UK. The fact that a YouGov poll showed that the “Yes” side was very close behind the “No” side, illustrated how the UK’s political scene has become highly chaotic with the second-largest country’s leaders becoming more and more nationalistic.
Additionally, when the Scottish majority voted “No”, the UK Parliament found itself with the need to grant Scotland more power, yet had to cut their influence on English legislature matters, some of which could impact the Scottish themselves such as the decision to keep the nuclear weapons in Scotland instead of moving them to England. This classic “stuck in a rut” situation gave the Conservative Party the opportunity to set up “tripwires” for the Labor Party on the basis that Labor has to honour their deal to cut the Scots off from English legislative matters. Another contentious issue that sparked panic during the referendum was the alleged fear of the National Health Service (NHS) being privatised.
Based on the above, it is reasonable to say that a the UK is currently in a state of chaos (as evidenced by current British PM, Theresa May’s, continual with Brexit in spite of Scottish Parliamentary refusal of consent). As a matter of fact, the conflict between nation and state is best evidenced by an attempt at Scottish Independence this year.
What’s interesting about this situation is that Scotland, as one of the four countries of the UK, had its political body devolved over many years. This resulted in the UK becoming a unitary state with power residing in the central government. Given that this is the case, one can only wonder whether the Scottish Referendum will be all bark and no bite for decades to come.
In last night’s reading from CCR, it is mentioned that “social revolutions are rapid, basic transformations of a society’s state and class structures” and are often carried through by class-based revolts. According to Skocpol, the revolutionary image is dominated by the idea that changes in social systems or societies give rise to grievances, social disorientation or interests that can be mobilized with the aid of ideology and organization and be used to overthrow the existing government. However, Skocpol is careful in defining revolutions as being mass-led and having a deep revolutionary fervor. Instead, she seems to emphasize that revolutions are made possible through through opportunities created through revolutionary leadership and socio-economic and socio-political atmosphere.
With regards to revolutions, it is often oriented around class which can be based on various terms either economic, intellectual, etc. But how can this be completely erased? In Singapore, the government attempts to promote meritocracy which is a political philosophy that economic goods or power should be vested in individuals “on the basis of talent, effort, and achievement, rather than factors such as sexuality, race, gender, or wealth”. To some extent, one can call this a natural aristocracy. Logically, this would make sense but in recent years the class divide has grown larger in spite of the establishment of meritocracy. According to an article from Channel NewsAsia, one of Singapore’s leading news broadcasters, “Some 91 per cent thought the former (upper class) were arrogant, versus 35 per cent who thought that of the latter (lower class). People also thought someone from the upper class was likelier to be luckier than someone from the lower class (90 vs 48 per cent). These are more than just perceptions, however; they also affect interactions between the different ends of the divide”.
This has since spurred a sense of “equalism”. Equalism in this sense can be defined as an attempt to create an atmosphere whereby people of lower talent are now classified as being on the same level as their more advanced counterparts. An example would be the government’s claim that “neighborhood schools” are as good as “elite schools”. Socially, the former was seen as a place destined for poor, degenerate, or “not-smart” students whereas the latter is seen as a place for the rich, academically talented, and children of parents who rank high in the political or business spheres. Personally, I believe that while it is a good attempt to make the majority of kids feel good and confident for their future ahead, I believe that it is an attempt to undermine the natural advancements which some of us hold in the hierarchy. Based on my opinion and what I mentioned previously, who do you think will be the one to launch a revolution? Those who want to gain more power or the ones who are about to lose their power and wish to protect it and ensure the natural order of things?
In last night’s reading, “Is Europe Ready for Non-European Migrants” in the book CCP, we see the various reaction towards migrants fleeing poverty and war-torn countries entering Europe. In the beginning, the book acknowledges the idea that there exists different attitudes with regards to viewing migrants of a different ethnic / racial background in different countries. In order to find out these opinions, CCP mentions how we must first understand the existing attitudes of those living in Europe towards a different race / ethnic background.
Interestingly, CCP mentions of the prejudice towards migrants from poorer nations. It is explained that this bias exists because one would tend to associate migrants from richer countries with higher skill levels and those from poorer countries such as current migrants with fewer skills to bring to the labor market. This attitude is possibly linked to the perception that migrants can be a drain on the market and cause wages to be driven down in the lower skilled areas. As mentioned in CCP, previous research has shown that possession of lower educational attainment is directly correlated to an increase in anti-immigrant attitudes as compared to those who had attained higher education.
In the manifesto of the Alternative Fur Deutschland (AfD), a far-right party in Germany, they have explicitly declared reasons for their thoughts. It is mentioned that “The AfD is committed to German as the predominant culture. This culture is derived from three sources: rstly, the religious traditions of Christianity; secondly, the scienti c and humanistic heritage, whose ancient roots were renewed during the period of Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment; and thirdly, Roman law, upon which our constitutional state is founded. Together, these traditions are the foundation of our free and democratic society, and they determine daily patterns of social interaction in society, and shape the relationship between the sexes as well as the conduct of parents towards their children. The ideology of multiculturalism is blind to history and puts on a par imported cultural trends with the indigenous culture, thereby degrading the value system of the latter. The AfD views this as a serious threat to social peace and the survival of the nation state as a cultural unit. It is the duty of the government and civil society to con dently protect German cultural identity as the predominant culture”. This method of thought has shaped the way that right-wing Germans see Islam. They have seen it as a stark contrast to traditional German way of life and have since called for Islamic education to be absorbed as part of Ethics classes. But through focusing on the German way of life and calling for Islamic culture to be absorbed or modified to suit the host nation’s culture, would this be segregation or desegregation and is the latter bad?
This year, Mexico elected a new President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, also known by his initials AMLO. AMLO was a former Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) state leader who then went on to found his own party, the National Regeneration Movement. As we saw from the reading last night, the rule of Mexico was mostly by the PRI who were an authoritarian regime that provided more civil liberties than their non-authoritarian counterparts. The PRI essentially was the embodiment of the phrase “peace through power” since they controlled vast sectors of Mexico’s wealth and institutions. The rule of PRi was interrupted following the assassination of their candidate in 1994 with the PRI controlling the Presidency under Enrique Pena Nieto. AMLO, who is to succeed Pena Nieto, campaigned on a platform of toppling the elite in the country through slashing of wages of politicians among many other things. But, is the election of such a populist leader a benefit to Mexico?
In Mexico, we can see that there has been a lot of corruption among the various local, state and federal authorities. Just two weeks ago, the police forces in Acapulco were disarmed by federal forces and the town’s mayor was given a deadline of 72 hours to explain why 342 weapons are unaccounted for. This was done based on suspicions of the police having been infiltrated by the Mexican cartels and gangs. At the same time, the left-wing AMLO is focusing on near-trivial issues such as his campaign promise to sell off the presidential Boeing 787 Dreamliner. AMLO was responding to critics on the feasibility of a president travelling by commercial flight and being delayed for three hours as opposed to being able to travel seamlessly to important events via private jet. While it is true and admirable that AMLO wishes to curb the excesses and vanity of the political scene in Mexico, it should be stressed that a politician should not be overly obsessed with such trivial issues. Why hasn’t AMLO focused on his idea of taking a hardline stance on the cartels and appears in headlines over such minor issues? The principal reason is that appealing to the majority of voters based on socio-economic hardships and then contrasting that against the elites tends to win one a loyal cadre of followers. This sort of “savior mentality” is truly dangerous to any political scene as the key objective at the end is the maintenance of the country’s unity and stability.
“Acapulco Official Given Deadline to Find Missing Police Guns”. BBC News. 1 October 2018. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-45705017. Accessed 15 October 2018.
“Mexico’s President-Elect Grounded on Commercial Planes for Hours”. BBC News. 21 September 2018. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-45596480. Accessed 15 October 2018.
In last night’s reading about an interview involving Mr Lee Kuan Yew, first Prime Minister of Singapore, we read about how Singapore has adapted and built itself up from nothing. In how LKY has described the solution Singapore has provided to modern problems like guns drugs, violent crime, vagrancy, and other unbecoming behavior that reflect the breakdown of society. This is best summed up as ensuring a well-ordered society so that people can enjoy their freedoms best and to the maximum. As LKY mentions, these freedoms can only best be experienced when not in a state of natural contention and anarchy. He gives the example of not interfering in the affairs of other countries but at least taking the steps domestically such as immediate drug testing of people suspected of consuming drugs. Compared to the US where it is against the rights of a person, it is done in Singapore. Such actions are oriented around ensuring the ethics of citizens and ensuring the continued survival and order of society for the future.
Next, LKY talks about maintaining social racial hegemony. So far in Singapore it has been very successful. Language-wise, Singapore has managed to unify its multi-ethnic, multi religious populace yet allow each group to retain their individuality. By having English as a first language for communication and a mother tongue, Singaporeans are able to have a dual identity – as a Singaporean and a Chinese / Malay / Tamil. For example, there exist housing policies that ensure a specific ratio of each race in Housing Development Block flats such that no racial enclaves are formed. In Group Representation Constituency election scheme, one member must be from a minority. In National Service (NS), race and religion are not a factor and fosters closer bonds between males of the different ethnic groups. There also exist race-based self help groups like Mendaki for Malays. Most importantly, under the Sedition Act 3(e)1, anyone found guilty of attempting “to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore”, “shall be liable on conviction for a first offence to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to both, and, for a subsequent offence, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years; and any seditious publication found in the possession of that person or used in evidence at his trial shall be forfeited and may be destroyed or otherwise disposed of as the court directs”.
Hence, if Singapore seems to demonstrate the benefits of a ‘benevolent dictatorship’ where certain freedoms are sacrificed in exchange for stability, community, and peace with guaranteed basic freedoms, then is this an exception to the traditional vilifying of authoritarianism and deifying of democracy?