It is amazing how even the most Reformed or Protestant of Christians in Singapore can become such utter Pelagians (in the vulgar sense) when it comes to our national achievements. Let me sound a contrarian note to the popular rhetoric of how we succeeded because we worked hard.
Good Governments the Difference between Labour and Exploitation
While hard work maybe a necessary precondition of our success, it is nothing like a sufficient condition. There are millions of people who languish under the most oppressive and onerous working conditions, working hard quite literally in some cases to death, who enjoy none of our comforts and prosperity. Hard work by the masses by itself means very little to the overall civic order and welfare of the people if labour occurs under faceless multicorporation taskmasters and under the eye of inefficient or useless corrupt politicians.
It is not human work or labour which secured our prosperity, success or comforts; it is the sheer grace of God who sent to us benevolent and competent rulers which did. If we did not have an authoritarian centralised government to direct the investments and labour, impose a relatively corrupt-free and disciplined rule of law backed up draconian laws to root out gangs and corrupt officials and finally aggressive central planning to make basic goods like housing and public transport available cheaply, our “hard work” would mean nothing and lead to nowhere except for a bare day to day existence.
The Disaster of Anti-Colonialism
Furthermore, I reject every attempt to valourise the political struggles of our forefathers against “anti-colonialism” and for “democracy” or “freedom”, which lead to our eventual independence. Let us be explicit on this point. No one, except ironically the Communists, intended for Singapore to be independent. What is conveniently forgotten and glossed over is that the mainstream political movements against “anti-colonialism” and for “democracy”, “freedom”, “self-determination” meant joining Malaysia. That was the direction of the imagined manifest destiny of Singapore, not to be an independent nation but to be part of Malaysia.
This historical amnesia often leads to the confusion of our National Day or the day we became an independent nation as the day we left the British. It is the day we left the Malaysians, not the British. This was not planned nor intended by anyone, not least by even Lee Kuan Yew. He instructed Goh Keng Swee to try his best to remain in Malaysia, but he made the decision to split.
Let me put it very bluntly. Our politicised forefathers were reckless and irresponsible for gambling the future of Singapore based on nebulous abstract airy fairy ideals with little substance or basis in reality. They politically engineered that farce of a “referendum” to drag us out of the British Empire and into Malaysia. The fact is that this highly risky gamble failed, spectacularly.
The Grace of God overcomes the Folly of Political Idealists
All the political cunning, labour and efforts of our political forefathers came to naught with us being booted out of Malaysia. God could have very well handed us over to perpetual stagnation or be condemned to a ramshackle existence, like many other “freed” British colonies all over the world now pining again for their Colonial Masters to return, for our presumption for rising up against his lawfully ordained power. (One need only look at the terrible wrath of God against the Russians for disposing of their Tsar and letting the communist take over the nation. Over ten million Russians dead after God handed them over to their seditious spirit to wreck all kinds of mass genocide over the land. I think ten million dead Russians can barely express the divine fury against the Russians for daring to rise up against His own anointed.)
However, at the mere pleasure or grace of God, He has decided in the nick of time to infuse our Elder Statesman with the necessary iron in his soul to drag us out of our romantic folly and into the sunlight of our current prosperity. Fortunately Lee Kuan Yew woke up just in time from his liberal democratic delusions and acquired the necessary steel to ensure the survival and welfare of this nation. (One should read LKY’s writings throughout his political career. It’s quite amazing how pre-independence, he sounds like any contemporary liberal talking about freedom of speech, democracy and self-determination. But post-independence he suddenly hardened and flushed these delusions down the drain.)
Conclusion: Singapore’s Survival and Prosperity Secured Neither by Effort nor Political Ideology but the Grace of God
Let me be abundantly clear. It is neither the loftiness of our political ideals nor the labours of the people but the sheer grace of God who mercifully decided not to hand us over to our own idiocy and rebellion, condescending instead to send to us good rulers to save us from our stupidity and arrogant presumption, to whom the praise of our present comforts are due.
Let us not dare to rob God of his glory, let us not dare confuse his blessings with our merits. Instead, let our National Day, and every other National Day from hence forth be a time of repentance and contrition, as to how we nearly came to disaster at the hands of our own prideful political cunning but was delivered at the nick of time by the mercies of Almighty God, receiving the intercessions of the Divine Word, graciously decreeing to save us from ourselves.