Missing The Mark by the Proverbial Mile – A Critique of Janadas Devan.

November 2, 2007

Recently, I read with a mixture of disbelief and amazement how senior writer, Janadas Devan wrote about the parliamentary debate concerning S377A – the article entitled: “377A debate and the rewriting of pluralism,” was nothing short of a vitriolic attack on NMP Thio Li-Ann’s parliamentary speech. 

Describing Prof Thio disparagingly as ‘a formidable warrior,’ who represents the ‘moral conservative majority’ – Mr Devan commits the sin of presumption by presupposing Prof Thio is above all a moralist, concerned only with handing out good conduct marks to cautious centrist and awarding failing grades to just about anyone who doesn’t subscribe to her ultra conservative stance – never mind that this is hardly the case.  

Mr Devan sets out to argue two points rather unsuccessfully – the first, ‘pluralism’ which he defines as among other things, ‘autonomy and retention of identity for individual bodies’, a ’society in which the members of minority groups maintain their independent cultural traditions’, ‘a system that recognizes, more than one ultimate principle or kind of being’, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it.” 

What I find incredulous is how Mr Devan fails to understand the term, ‘pluralism’ beyond it’s mere dictionary meaning. The explanation for his preference to interpret ‘pluralism’ narrowly is seen here: 

“I had always assumed that it was necessary to separate religion from politics as well as public policy, for it was impossible to separate public policy from politics, and both from the state.” 

Mr Devan is not moved by curious facts to investigate how Prof Thio’s definition can be seen to be valid.

Instead he’s all together disinterested in the history of moral philosophy for it’s own sake. After all he continues to insist only secular elements can and should make up the whole idea of a plural society, as though societies were, after all, governed by philosopher kings just as Plato hoped they would be.

Although common sense suggest any discussion concerning pluralism ought to even include a discussion on whether religion could provide the underpinnings to support a stable and peaceful society.

He compounds his erroneous position further by stating:  

“Once one understands the milieu from which this statement issues, one would understand the origins of Prof Thio’s profound understanding of pluralism and secularism. It does not derive from the Enlightenment……” 

Here Mr Devan imposes a single and rather ridiculous theme on his narrative; that the ‘good’ Enlightenment as he would have us all believe, emerged exclusively from the bedrock of the rationalist and secular movement. vis- a- vis ‘Enlightment’ (according to Mr Devan) ONLY includes the usual litany of traits associated with – reason, nature, liberty, equality, the brotherhood of man or wolfs etc.

What is conspicuously absent from his definition of ‘pluralism’ and ‘enlightment’ is the idea of ‘virtue’ which doesn’t refer to Prof Thio’s virginity, but used in this context, it’s a term of art, that relates to, ‘social virtues’ i.e qualities that makes us useful members of society – compassion, benevolence, sympathy – which even British philosophers, such as Edmund Burke and John Wesley (luminary in the Enlightment Movement) believed were attributes which naturally, instinctively and successfully bound whole communities and people together.

Where may I ask did these qualities originate from? Religion or Reason – Wot, you mean to say, you didn’t ask Mr Devan? 

Mr Devan is a vivid writer, but oddly naïve, childlike even in the way he assumes how urgent a matter, it is to understand, who thought what and to award them Brownie points for how well, they managed to skirt, the broad line separating religion and politics from being blurred; but never once did he tarry to even discuss, how much impact religion exerts on the politics of their age, or to wonder what conditions must be obtained if they are to have an impact in our period to make sense of something as alien and controversial as homosexuality to the masses.

He is also a “presentist,” less concerned to emphasize the otherness of how homosexuality has historically been perceived as abhorent by certain quarters in our society. This it appears is an incomprehensible concept to him. Instead he’s preoccupied with fleshing out his own opinions by allowing the subjects he has choosen to base his discussion on, to talk to us under in his terms! That of course makes him a propagandist, rather than someone who truly has a claim on the ‘truth.’ 

Neither does he seem to comprehend the perils associated with relying solely on a rational and secular means to profile governance. This brings with it, the danger of any party political process spiralling into socialism and at best Stalinism at worst. That thought he does not really challenge – I wonder why?

Perhaps, he’s not aware Hume, particularly, argued that ‘our moral judgements are not based on reason alone.’ What prompts our approval is, by and large, a matter of perception as to how we consider the conduct of others will either benefit or harm his or fellow beings. The moral sense that Hume was referring too was less a sense than the everyday disposition of how man makes sense of himself alongside his community.

Two things sprung out directly from this enquiry of the moral sense – first and foremost was Hume’s downplaying of reason and rationality; and, second, and most famously in Adam Smith’s ‘Theory of the Moral Sentiments,’ which emphasized our capacity for empathy. Again, where does empathy come from reason or religion? Please go and find out Mr Devan!

Again Mr Devan is not interested with the implications; how these Enlightened  thinkers made sense of their known world.

Mr Devan is too casual about all this to even see the need to dwell deeper into the history of moral philosophy. If he bothered, he would have realized the benign role religion has always played in nourishing a well ordered and peaceful society.

This was even affirmed by Hume and Gibbons, who were agnostics. Yet, neither saw the merit of depriving the poor of the comforts of faith or to forego whatever disciplinary power religion might exercise over the rich and ambitious – both were unianimous in their belief, religion coupled with politics  encouraged the good currency in society.

Mr Devan, seems totally disinterested in considering, the utility of religion in shaping much of what we consider today as law and how interwoven it is with the whole idea of statecraft, as it consistently serves to provide ample underpinnings for good morals. Although it is less than clear what the private beliefs of Adam Smith, Hume and Gibbon were during the turn of the 19th Century, even these luminaries who were at best indifferent to the follies and absurdities which the literal approach of religion would have on the affairs of politics, believed that religion was good for all of us and should never be completely excluded from the legislative process.

This for some curious reason seems to be convenient lost to Mr Devan (personal attack on Darkness deleted). 

Mr Devan will undoubtedly insist that his resolute stance against finding a happy balance between politics and religion is grounded on some cosmopolitan ethos that stands justifiably against everything that is parochial, narrow, and insular. It’s a position that he has aptly demonstrated, he’s able to hold and defend to it’s illogical end. 

Only I fear it comes at great expense to The Straits Times which on the day his article was published reads somewhat like a fairy tale written by a rather petulant child.

(By LHL and Montburan (Siglap Read Club) – Law / Homosexuality – EP 9973738872 – The Brotherhood Press 2007)  

Click On The Brotherhood Press Articles Tag To Read The Latest Articles!

377A – The Psychology of Culture War.

Publish Date: November 5th, 2007 / Written By Blue Bell.

23 Responses to “Missing The Mark by the Proverbial Mile – A Critique of Janadas Devan.”

  1. Darkness said

    Discrimination doesnt make anyone weaker – infact it makes them stronger.

    They learn new things. Thats why NUS is NUS, MIT is MIT, Ford Motors is Ford Motors and Proton is Proton – that is why a person who lives in the real world and an academic is so very different, they cannot be considered even one of the same reality. I am reminded of this, everytime I ask the question, how many refereed papers have you produced? How patents do you have? How many have been successfully commiditized into manufacturability?

    Here one is given everything yet can produce absolutely nothing and continues to languish no end. Another is given zero and yet is able to produce many things.

    I have asked myself many times this simple question. Not merely ask in a way a man mulls over it when he drinks coffee, but really ask it from the inside out, what really makes good inventors, politicians, successful businessmen and even parents etc.

    In almost every single case, it is not the conditions that would have conferred them a comparative advantage. Or even made them more successful but rather it’s the constraints that would have wiped them out, the rights and opportunities denied. The road blocks placed before them – but it all didnt work, they still managed to pull through to seize the day – why?

    Be it the politician who was once thrown in jail but still managed to survive like Mandela or the inventor like Edison who was laughed at only to laugh last – they all fought for it against extraordinary odds and they won.

    So if you discriminate against anyone even gays, you either have to be a complete fool or a derelict academic to believe you are preserving your world. You are not. How could you? You are just making them more adept, stronger and leaner, so one day whern they appear before you – they will be probably smarter and stronger.

    What are you going to do then? Stand up in Parliament again and knock your shoe on the podium?

    I know your mothers told you life is simple, but it cannot be that simple.

    Darkness 2007

  2. pollock said

    I think Montburan and her gang more of less bagged him into a NTUC plastic bag.

    The question I want to ask is why wasn’t all this given an airing in the public domain?

  3. pollock said

    Darkness,

    I have always meant to ask this question. I heard from frens the NPB has opened up a new connector from East Coast Park all the way to Changi Village, have you tried it? – do review.

    Is it a very straining ride? Me and few of my frens are planning to go there new weekend to check it out, would really appreciate, if you could arrange some of those fine men like Harphy, AB and SB to escort us.

  4. dotseng said

    Darkness Boy,

    “Discrimination doesnt make anyone weaker – infact it makes them stronger.”

    OK now how many times have I told you not to whip yourself on a Saturday night? Nice thought if you can abide it. Unfortunately, it’s false to all human experience to find growth in tragedy, especially suffering. In fact, the dull truth is that pain is tautolgical (what a big word!). The only thing suffering teaches us is that we are capable of suffering.

    Dear All,

    I just wish to say, the above article was from the Siglap read club, they have been threatening to stake me, so I decided to give Montburan & Co an opportunity to state their case.

    I believe she feels much better now, judging from the purring sounds emerging from her camp.

    I just wish to know Darkness, till todate, you have not really made it clear which camp you support. I don’t mean to be pushy, but it would be nice, if you just came out clean and told us all what you really think abt all this Mr Siew thingy that he did with S377A. Dont you think it was noble. What abt the parliamentary debate?

  5. dotseng said

    Dear All,

    I really cannot see how anyone can take miss Thio seriously – she may be paper qualified, but she’s completely one of touch with reality. Neither does she really appreciate what she’s even advocating when she proposes to mix religion with politics! Dont even care if its limited whatever!

    Personally, I don’t like the idea one teeny weeny bit and if you really want to a dystopian picture of what happens when religion and politics is thrown together, all you really need to do is look at what a mess America is under the Bush Administration. Who has in the last 5 years systematically sought to undermine almost every one of the contributions of Jefferson and Williams, names the two religious clauses in the 1st Amendment – by giving religious denominations the right the power to directly influence public policy, it has allowed them to ram their views on ordinary folk making their lives miserable and hellish – the war in Iraq, limits on embryonic stem cell research, abortion and contraception, sex edu the even teaching of why dino’s turned to birds and it goes on and on.

    I mean if that’s the good that religion brings to the table as an acting proxy through politics, then I say lets keep Pandora’s box padlocked and someone do throw away the key! Or smelt it down or throw it into the sea of fire!

    No one is ever going to persuade me both religion and politics can ever sit on the same bench and still manage to trade horses.

    Miss Thio’s assertion will have a hard time finding support in 99% of the rest of the read clubs and Montburan’s read club is really just 1% of the crowd, I am afraid. Dont even care what happened in Parliament, that’s not reflective of the thinking crowd, if she made the same speech in Primus, I am very sure someone will just ask for the man with long hooked crane to come and yelps! Lets all feast on cake! Yummy dummy mummy da yar dah, right darkness baby boy? Wacha say we go cycling one of these days, only my skin is tofu pak fu white, it will burn, so nights will only do.

    tata

    *Dotty*

  6. Harvardian said

    Hear Hear Dotty, if that were really true darkness “Discrimination doesnt make anyone weaker – infact it makes them stronger.” Then how can you explain how the American Negro till this very day continue to languish as poorest under privileged class?

    I agree discrimination or oppression to a certain extent does make one stronger, but as a numbers guy even you would have to agree it starts to fray when it hits the bell curve and after that its downhill all the way.

    You know I know some pretty fierce looking cats in the zoo, but dont be surprise, if the cages are flung open, all they can really do is yawn and go back to sleep.

    I wonder why?

  7. ceo said

    Good Morning,

    Maybe Darkness was talking generally lah. If one takes a look at the bhood, that’s certainly true. Infact, bhood has been compared to a tank many times – can take alot of licking and still keep on ticking.

    But I have to agree with Miss Dotty, discrimination when it is institutionalized can be crippling.

    For me I dont believe Mr Siew aka botak head ever had a game plan. If he did, he certainly made the charge of the light brigade look like a very sensible military enterprise. All he seemed to do is float the whole idea and after failing gloriously tell us all democracy works. You go figure that one out. In my book a few pages have been torn out. I have absolutely no idea what he is talking abt.

    Of course, he probably set back the whole gay rights movement by a good half a million years. What do I care what he thinks, that is irrelevant, for me the only thing is results.

    So in my score card it has to be a fail.

    As for Prof Thio, I really have no comment, except to say this, one has every right to hold an opinion but no right whatsoever to misrepresent the truth.

    She cannot be taken seriously not even by the serious people.

    We live in a world of implications and consequences. You throw a stone and there will be ripples. You set light a match and it may or may not start a fire.

    I mean if I read between the lines, even folk like darkness don’t even dare to piss off the gay community, bc he knows they are a creative super power and their psychology is probably very similar to any tribe where they have a clear sense of identity and network etc so they can organize etc, just think Alan Turing et al, these are not your NUS light weights, you cannot get heavier than that! That is what wise people do, they take a whole sweep of the situation and say – its not worth it, lets co-exist.

    They seek out common ground to co-exist and they NEVER ever whip out the zero sum game plan unless there is absolutely no choice. But once you disrespect a community, you are really asking for it.

    In this case, there were plenty of avenues, but why choose the zero sum option? Someone up there should have pulled the plug on her.

    This only guarantees that this will just be the beginning. That much I am certain.

  8. ceo said

    FYI, I dont think much of the Siglap read club as I understand it they are the smallest grouping in the bro read list numbering less than 20 ppl.

    Beside we all know most of them are fundamentalist Christians.

    Dotty is really too gracious. If it was me, I will hang out a sign or something.

  9. LHL said

    CEO,

    Pls lets just drop the pretenses. We all know the brotherhood probably has more closeted gays than any org out there.

    I happen to know for a very reliable source many of them happen to be public school boys, so it hardly takes a stretch to imagine what they get up too when the lights go out in those freezing dorms.

    As for Bambi Darkness, we all know the only politcs he subscribes too is one of convenience or anything that serves him.

    It will certainly not surprise me in the slightest, if he is gay. It stands to reason all those eye candies who look good are really full of shit.

    Bambi is not silly, he knows there are probably alot of gays within the bro, so what does he do? He turns a blind eye to all these indiscreations. It stands to reason. The politics of compromise.

    As for Prof Thio, I believe she had guts and she said what needed saying and we are all very proud of her.

  10. dotseng said

    LHL,

    That’s not a very nice thing to say. I know for a fact, Bambi Darkness is not a gay!

  11. Darkness said

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Do you all see the dilemma that I am confronted with here? If I act, everyone will say, there he goes again being a bully. If I do nothing, then it could be say, I am derelict and worse still even lending currency to what LHL said.

    She has cast negative aspersions on my character, that is fine as it is well know, I am a forgiving man who never takes himself too seriously. But in this case, she has also done the same to some of my colleagues and that is unacceptable, as I owe them a duty to set the record straight.

    So what shall I do? That’s to say what can I do? What to do lah?

    Well since she’s such a die hard fan of Dr Thio, let me share with you my blend of freedom of speech and civil discourse.

    I will give the Siglap read club, 3 DAYS DAYS TO REMOVE the article entitled: Missing the Mark by the Proverbial Mile. I am of course asking her politely to do so. Note there is NO coercion or even threats! We are all wearing our democratic top hats here!

    Please note: I have not taken away her prerogative as to whether the article should stand or go, this is as democratic as it gets, so please don’t say I am intimidating her or using my infamous hypnotic powers to bend her mind, I am simply exercising my democratic prerogative by suggesting she should remove this article!

    If she doesn’t then I will write a 3 page article in response to what she and your erudite spinster consortium have written – I will run each point down with roughly the same kinetic energy as a freight train, not once but a few times for good measure – after that, I will take it and put it all in an industrial blender, add a lemon twist, give it a whirl and swish it with my dicky dally for a some good olde secret flavoring – then I will feed each point to her lovingly – she will eat – if not I will force feed her and with time she will even learn to like and yearn for more in the Twistian tradition.

    Yes, you will like that very much don’t u? Gibbons, Hume, Smith and Burke etc will just go down the chute very smoothly.

    Am I intimidating you? How do you like the feel of my freedom lashings? All I am doing as I mentioned earlier is exercising my democratic rights.

    However, let me just say this and it must remain between us, I dohope you wouldn’t pull this article off, since it would give me great pleasure in demolishing it in front of everyone here – but if you feel for one moment your democratic principles is unable to bear the test of my rod of reason, do feel free to write a personal note to dotty and tell her to pull the article – lets just see now how strongly all of you feel about your position and how far you are willing to go to put your reputation on the line to defend it.

    You want to play rough? We will play it your way, but remember when it starts, always remember the cho cho train never ever stops till the big horn blows. Understand. You been going around with some half or quarter man, it is time a real man taught you the meaning of the word, respect – Thank You and it wouldn’t even take me 20 minutes to do what I have to do.

    You have 3 days to remove this article after that there are no guarantees.

    Darkness 2007

  12. observer said

    You are such an incredibly dumb bitch Montburan 7 gang, now big monkey is just going to stomp on you and there is nothing any of us can do abt it, not even dotty.

    You deserved to be flattened. You are really too much.

  13. observer said

    You really believe he cares whether you are a girl or boy. Darkness is a communist when it comes to gender, so the Siglap read club is really on it’s own – all of us are just going to sit in one corner while he has his way with you. No one will come to your help, not the govt, not anyone in the net either, bear in mind this is the man who doesnt give two shits abt anyone not Wee Shu Min or even Mr Brown supporters and what did they do to him – nothing, absolutely nothing, they just watched in the way all of us are going to relish you demise.

    Happy Extinction!

  14. darkness said

    Understand this! Previously, we had a few fucks who use to take pot shots at us. For no apparent reason. We know, who they are. The time will come, when we will move.

    They exploited the system bc they were allowed to do so. Here, you all notice, they dont come – why? Bc they know the score. I will slap them.

    But how did we reach here? Thanks to them. So you see, that is how the game is played. The higher you push it, the more we will throttle it and push the envelop till the air thins out and they simply have to say, I have have had enough.

    That’s when, we win and they lose. Now they hope to stop us, how long, one, two, three years.

    We will just slap it down. This is a new order, those days are dead and gone. That is why, you will never ever see that happening here again.

    Like I said, we will just slap and kick it down. I dont have patience for such people. The can run to the PAP for protection, but they will get no quarter from me.

    Let us be clear bfr we misunderstand each other.

  15. montburan said

    bambi Boy,

    I didnt make that offending statement in 1.04, it was LHL and I dont see why all of us have to suffer on the account of one person.

    She was definitely out of line and I really don’t know what has got into her!!! Really!!

    Perhaps if she issued a retraction, the article can stand as it was written by more than one person.

    It would be a pity if it was junked as its our first article written under the banner of the bh press.

    Pls be remain calm. I am sure she was merely jesting in obvious bad taste.

    Reg

    Montburan

  16. killamaru said

    Actually, I don’t want to chap siaow, but I noticed, when women don’t regularly get it, like spinsters, they start to go all pear shaped in the brain and start lashing out at everyone and everything.

    I think, if you just gave her a bit of attention and asked her out for a spot of cycling, she would be very ashamed of what she said.

    Really that has uncalled for and I must wonder why didn’t Miss Prim and Proper Dotty censor it?

    Maybe she is to blame for all this.

  17. […] on November 5th, 2007 Section 377a – Zuco’s Blog: More Reviled Than Steven Lim – Just Stuff: Missing The Mark by the Proverbial Mile – A Critique of Janadas Devan – Yawning bread – Kyle the vampire slayer: Dispelling heat, light and smoke – Mr Wang Says So: So […]

  18. Koalabear said

    It’s stupid to take pot shots at him. He may not be a lawyer, but what you seem to discount is they have a network and they can assemble a posse to the best scholars within a matter of minutes.

    They will take you apart LHL like a lego set. Trust me!

    However, in all honesty, I do not blame LHL.

    As Bambi Bad boy has had plenty of opportunities to state his position concerning gays, yet on practically every single occasion, he has skirted the main issue and has remained neutral, preferring not to commit to any camp.

    Instead, he has issued out vague and obscure signals concerning his sentiments regarding this issue.

    I believe that may have certainly contributed to the misunderstanding.

  19. Koalabear said

    Trust me, all it takes is a matter of minutes and they will be the best gun fighters. They will make the parliamentary debate look like a kindergarden panto.

  20. bluebell said

    He told us, we can write anything, we want. He told us that he would never interfere. He told us that we could do anything, we want. He told us that he invited us into the brotherhood press with open arms. That was only a few weeks ago!

    Then what does he do? He threatens LHL, he insults her and then he demands that her article be pulled!

    I don’t agree with what LHL said, but can someone please tell me what did she say have anything to do with the article she wrote???????? They are two independently unrelated actions which are mutually exclusive from one another!

    As a very independent observer, I believed, she did a very good job of tearing Janadas Devan’s article from its sockets. If not for the word count limit, she would probably take him around the block a few more times, so can anyone tell me what kind of Gestapo tactic is Bambi Boy employing.

    He seems to do anything he wants, go ahead do it lah. You’re just a two bit gangsta.

    Oh forgive me for using my brain.

  21. bluebell said

    Now he is going to assemble a team of scholars to take her apart and in his own words ‘humiliate’ her before everyone here.

    We all know she doesnt stand a chance against the seige machine of the brotherhood!

    I ask you Sir, what kinda of shit of scholarship are you promoting?

    You could have limited the ambit of your ire, by confining it, to just her remark, but no, that wouldn’t do, true to the intents of a dictator what does he do?

    He uses it as an excuse to wage war and intimidate her with his saber rattling and we all know how good he is when he bears down on others using his cruelty.

    Shameful, that’s certainly not a mark of a true gentlemen.

  22. LHL said

    Dear Bambi Bad Boy Darkness,

    Please don’t hold back Bambi Darkness Boy. Don’t fret. Without you. I never would have found a place called the brotherhood press in the first place. Believe me, I am truly remorseful for what I have said concerning your sexual orientation. I have had time to reflect and I really don’t know what possessed me. I am just sickened by all this. It irks me that those who lay claim to a better world for our children have hardly taken a stance against the gay rights movement. All they have done is watch it go by like a band wagon. So that day when I saw Prof Thio standing all alone speaking out, despite being threatened and subjected to all sorts of nastiness, I felt compelled to do something to let her know she is not alone.

    It isn’t you fault that you are like that Bambi Boy, ruthless and heartless. There was a time when you were nice, polite and giving, but the dark side overwhelmed you. Really it isn’t you fault. You do what you have to do. I will not withdraw the article. Things will happen. Good and bad things both. That’s the way it is. We might be the ones who suffer, but there’s a reason for it in the Kingdom of God. A good and even noble reason, and anyone who complains about it simply doesn’t understand what it means to be alive.

    Yours Sincerely

    LHL

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