The next Prime minister of Singapore…..

January 8, 2018

Should be a renaissance man. That is because for nation and people to succeed these days is not as straightforward as yester year. Everything is very complex these days, it is like a big machine with so many moving parts that is hard to point to one thing and to say, this or that will be the future.

The man here is key.

He should ideally be able to speak at least two European languages. French…only because it is the language of elegance and a deep appreciation of the arts and culture will always guarantee a certain élan and style that will give him confidence. German as a close second. As it is a precise language that is both spartan and utilitarian to always remind him of the value of holding his tongue. As less is always more in the company of the wise.

He should have a fine balance of the arts and science in equal measures to steady him. This way he will know how things come together and also fall apart.

He should be well travelled. Ideally a person who has spent at least ten or more years studying or working outside Singapore. Preferably with a prolonged stint in a hardship country. This contrast will serve him well. As a man who has endured hardship can only acquire a sort of wisdom that only patience and pain can teach.

He should experience the horrors of war and human inequities to remind him that peace is indeed to be valued above all things as it’s fragile and must be continually nourished….better still if he has the credentials of having done jail time or bears a deep scar to show for it. As that would certainly remind him of the importance of loneliness along with impart the arcanum – who am I really? Without this…a leader can never stand alone or hold his water when push comes to shove….strength can only come from being comfortable alone.

He should be well versed in both the eastern and western philosophies and classics, so that he understands that life is not just black and white but there are plenty of nuances that would always benefit from plenty of reflection and different points of views…..without an enquiring and curious mind he will not be able to inspire or lead those to the edge of the cliff to test their wings in flight.

I wish for a wise man….a man who I may look at and from time to time say to myself. He would be great company for dinner and brandy.

Not a very easy bill to fulfill….good leaders are hard to come by even in Singapore.

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‘The advent of the age of Trump to my understanding is not just a passing abberation or hiccup in the party political process. I wish that were so. But it’s conceivable we are witnessing the end of reason as a reliable means to perpetuate the whole of idea of democracy as we know it. After all the idea of democracy can only continue to command currency if it serves the imperative of producing more good than bad. The problem as I see it, a tipping point has been reached between those who have and have not, those who are empowered by reason and those ruled by ignorance…..as it stands now…the world is divided right in the middle between those who believe that the system no longer works for their benefit and those who still believe in the idea that this is the best machinery we have.

To my understanding Brexit and the growing xenophobia and sentiment of protectionism is merely a function of how so many people no longer believe in not only the party political process, but also the whole idea of globalization and free trade as the reliable purveyor of the good life…..of course you can fool yourself into believing, we are Singaporeans…we are not Americans who voted for Trump or Britons who plumbed for Brexit etc etc.

But it cannot be denied the same sentiment will find it’s way into the Singaporean stream of consciousness….and when it does many of the divisions that we see in the US and EU can only grow sharper even in Singapore.

What does this all mean? Well for me it simply means that the political process cannot possibly be what it used to be. As these social pressures will mount and they will have the effect of altering the relationship between citizens and leaders. To put it very bluntly we are increasingly living in an age when most people are beginning to awaken to the awful realization, the custodians of power don’t actually control anything at all….that’s to say all the levers of power are connected to nothing. To heighten the tension, Politicians and leaders are increasingly conscious that the public already knows this, that they are not in control….so the proverbial cat is truly out of the bag.

In the good olde days of LKY when he could appear on TV puffing on 555 cigarettes and drinking Tiger Beer. Government was everything…it had absolute power to shape the idea of destiny. But these days that idea no longer holds true…instead it’s giving way to a new reality, but what the final outcome of that reality between citizen and state might be is still in a state of flux…you see we don’t know and that brings into sharp focus the whole idea of leadership….not just any run of the mill leadership, but a thoughtful sort of leadership that can wordsmith a new compact between citizen and state.

The way I see it, we don’t a choice but to write it ourselves. The days of leaving all of the US or the Europeans to write it all down like some instruction manual on how to walk the yellow brick road no longer holds true any more….so as you can see I have no illusions as whoever will be the new PM will probably have the most difficult job of all PM that came and would come after him…..so I hope he’s a thoughtful, steady and above all someone whose very comfortable in his own skin sort of chap.’

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