Monday, January 11, 2010

What did Lee Kuan Yew learn at Berkley?

The Interpreter blog point us to a weird interview of Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew.   Although the January 2010 National Geographic Magazine article by Mark Jacobson has raised few eyebrows, the full transcript -- released by the Singapore government -- has caused quite a stir in the city state.  That's on account of Lee's description of native-born Singaporeans as "lazy";  his assertion that the Chinese majority might have reason to fear ethnic Malays during a time of crisis; and his reflection that Playboy is more interesting online than in print.

However, what struck me about the interview was Lee's rant against Western values:
Mr LEE KUAN YEW:  . . . we took the concepts of Confucianism and put it into civic subject, that society is more important than the individual, that the individual must care for the society and the interests of the society must take precedence over the individual, which is contrary to the American or Western system which says the individual trumps everything, freedom trumps everything, freedom of speech, freedom of whatever you tolerate even at the expense of making others feel inconvenient. If I don’t like abortion, you’re a doctor who aborts people, I shoot you.”
Lee has chosen as an example of "Western freedom run amok" the religious fanatic who shoots an abortion doctor.  Most people know that shooting abortion doctors -- or anyone else who you happen to disagree with --  is the very antithesis of the modern American or Western value system.  Is Lee not aware that Western values evolved in opposition to religious zealotry (as much as against one-man rule)?

It's puzzling.  Lee claims to have studied at UC Berkley in the 70's and then to have returned to finish his degree in 2004.  It's enough to make you wonder what they teach at Berkley. 

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