One of the reasons that Singapore went from a post-colonial third world island to a socio-economic first world country was because under Lee Kuan Yew’s leadership, Singapore concentrated its development strategy on rapid economic growth, high quality education and investing the proceeds of FDI (foreign direct investment) into hard infrastructure. Beyond this, Lee’s Singapore is the perfect example of a country that created a uniquely holistic Singaporean identity but one which simultaneously allows the citizens of the multicultural/multiracial country to maintain their own family traditions and unique personal identities.
But while the specific economic and political action steps taken by Lee Kuan Yew are well known, there is an important qualitative step that he took which insured that Singaporeans never succumbed to the complacency that is derived from a post-colonial victim complex. When Singapore was drawn into the Confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia (of which it was a constituent member from 1963 until 1965), the people of Singapore were objectively victimised. Prior to that, during the Malayan Emergency, many people in Singapore suffered. Of course the worst suffering of all came when Britain abandoned Singapore in 1942, thus allowed a brutal Japanese conquest and occupation.
But in spite of these very real instances of victimisation, Lee did not allow a history of oppression to dictate a future based on the collective social lethargy derived from self-pity. Instead, Lee prioritised hard work, education and intensive economic engagement with the existing first world. Lee was likewise unabashed about the fact that he had little desire to emulate the culture of western first world nations in modern Singapore. Lee only sought to learn economically from the first world. This knowledge of how to most rapidly enrich one’s country according to internationally recognised best practices was then used to construct a sustainably prosperous country that according to multiple qualifiers became a more desirable place to live and do business than many places in the western world.
In achieving his great national success, it is important to emphasise that Lee avoided an anti-American martyr complex whose likely conclusion is the road to sanctions and possibly even war. Lee likewise avoided the road that far too many post-colonial nations took when they allowed a devious and cunning western liberal intelligentsia to promote self-harming economic systems and an imposed culture that fosters a colonial mentality of self-loath in the pursuit of forced westernisation.
Whilst Singapore was the 20th century’s most towering post-colonial success story, far too many developing nations have fallen into a dangerous trap set for them by a foreign liberal intelligentsia. This is the case even though in western countries, such liberals are hardly taken seriously anymore and were in fact never taken so seriously at home as they were in post-colonial states that were fooled into believing they could attain some social advantage by adopting the perverse ultra-liberal version of self-described “wisdom”.
In reality, when one is a sovereign nation, one must think of one’s self in the way that Lee thought of his countrymen and women: as those who with hard work could create an economy that would give the first world powers of the west no choice but to respect Singapore as an equal. Now as a result, many in the west are in fact jealous that Singapore has a better education system, safer streets and more beautiful buildings than just about any western city. If Singapore could accomplish this so too could other post-colonial states, especially larger states with more natural resources.
One must remember that no one elevated the condition of a nation and no one ever became wealthy by taking the advice of foreign liberal intelligentsia. Such foreign liberals are in fact nothing less than that which on paper they oppose – the modern colonial masters of the developing world. By forcing people to prioritise changing one’s culture over improving one’s material condition, the foreign liberal attempts to impose a wholly alien lifestyle on people entitled to their own traditions whilst ignoring the fact that the worlds of finance, of numbers and of economic productivity are universal realms that transcend specific cultures so long as one works hard to implement economic reforms correctly.
Lee Kuan Yew not only understood all of this but he also articulated it clearly, plainly and indefatigably. It is only a shame that too many people across the developing world have refused to listen.