Presentation on theme: "1 Foreword WORDS OF WISDOM WORLD WAR I Who takes the blame? SINGAPORE HISTORY A case of pre-1819 amnesia? An afternoon with… CHERIAN GEORGE 20 th CENTURY."— Presentation transcript:
1 Foreword WORDS OF WISDOM WORLD WAR I Who takes the blame? SINGAPORE HISTORY A case of pre-1819 amnesia? An afternoon with… CHERIAN GEORGE 20 th CENTURY JAPAN the Juku Just a day at the… CLAIMS RESOLUTION TRIBUNAL iii i
2 CHRISTIANITY in the Nova Scotian Settlers’ Freetown, Sierra Leone Why Know… CURRENT AFFAIRS? IS MARXISM DEAD, or Not? MY PERSPECTIVE of Things Acknowledgements ii 51 ii.
3 Foreword WORDS OF WISDOM Mr. Nicholas Stephen Miles, tutor for HACAS, pens his views on the contents of this publication while commenting on the significance of history and current affairs. The Hwa Chong History Society was founded in There was already a Current Affairs Society in existence but its shrinking, albeit enthusiastic, membership meant that it was struggling for survival. In 1997 it was rescued from oblivion by a merger with its younger but more lusty sibling and the History and Current Affairs Society was born. Since then, HACAS has existed in an amicable tension between those members attracted by the lure of the past and those fascinated by the present. That the society is pulled in these two directions perhaps reflects parallel debates and developments within Singapore’s junior college curriculum. When I came to Singapore in 1986 as the first History teacher on the Humanities Scholarship Scheme, there was a welter of different history periods on the syllabus to choose from, ranging from ancient civilizations through medieval and early modern Europe to the history of China and India from the early 19th Century. It was even possible to specialize in the history of Singapore’s erstwhile colonial master. Today’s emphasis on apparent relevance has reduced the “choice” to two papers (both compulsory) and both 20th Century (overwhelmingly post- second world war). The Asian paper has become a study of the very recent history of the immediate locality of Southeast Asia. Modern international history (and its implicit capacity to facilitate an understanding of current affairs) has moved from being one of a number of choices available to centre stage. iii Unsurprisingly perhaps that an interest in current affairs, limited to a few hard core enthusiasts in 1997, has grown among the student population and that HACAS’ range of activities should reflect this. As indeed does its membership which has changed from being highly dependent on the Humanities Scholarship History class to incorporating students from every discipline and faculty. Were it not for the obvious difficulty of pronunciation, the society’s name might well have been changed to CAAHS. It remains important, however, to maintain the balance between the two wings.
4 and to remind ourselves that a study of the past is significant and interesting irrespective of whether it seems to directly explain the present and that too rigid a focus on the here and the now can blinker rather than enhance true understanding. Hence the publication that you have in your hands. In its early years, HACAS published a twice yearly journal entitled BUNK. Reflecting the enthusiasms of its majority membership, the articles focus on the past rather than the present but the irony of the title was wasted on most of the student population and its readership was, to put it politely, a niche one. After a few years, it died an uncomplaining death. “Our Humanity” represents a more ambitious project, an attempt to tap a wider range of authorial talent and hopefully to garner a more diverse readership. It seeks to balance articles on current developments and those of obvious relevance to the Singaporean with material that will introduce the reader to historical episodes and debates remote from the studies and experience of the junior college student. In this inaugural issue, all the articles are by ex-Hwa Chong students who continue to have maintained their interest in History and current affairs either through their university studies or their subsequent employment. The Society is grateful for their positive response to the project and hopes that future issues will provide the opportunity for current HACAS members to publish their writing alongside that of other alumni. iv The HACAS Executive Committee 2007 From right, Benjamin Chow ( Projects I/C ), Kylie Ng ( Treasurer ), Mr. Nicholas Stephen Miles ( Tutor-in- charge ), Dominic Low ( Secretary ), Im Zhen Jie ( President ), Ong Jia Xin ( Vice-President )
5 WORLD WAR I Who takes the blame? Christl Li takes us back into history to answer a most cryptic question The outbreak of World War One in 1914 marked the start of a cataclysmic spiral into four years of unprecedented carnage and destruction, leaving in its wake a battle- scarred Europe with an altered balance of power. Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles saddled Germany with sole responsibility for starting this war and formed the basis for intense resentment by the Germans against this diktat. Yet, historical consensus today suggests that all the European nations must share some blame for having “slithered over the edge of the boiling cauldron of war”. From Sazonov’s hair-trigger reaction that transformed the Balkan Crisis into an international one to Edward Grey’s ambivalence, the actions of Europe’s leaders placed Europe irrevocably down the path of war. All nations had, in 1914, envisaged the possibility of war but their varying degrees of willingness or eagerness to contemplate starting war enable us to pronounce varying judgments of responsibility on them for the outbreak of war. Among all the powers, it is very plausible that Germany shoulders the greatest responsibility for the outbreak of war due to its overt aggression through a series of policies that antagonized other countries and pushed Europe towards war. However, Germany’s aggression was not always unjustified and several mitigating factors have to be considered before we can reasonably pass judgment on the extent of German responsibility for war. assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Without this, Austria would not have dared to take military action against Serbia for fear of Russian intervention. Behind the façade of a “blank cheque”, Germany was essentially urging Austria to act fast and decisively against Serbia – namely, war. The Kaiser was kept in the dark, while Bethmann Hollweg sought to give H. H. Asquith, the British Prime Minister, the impression that Germany was trying to avoid a conflict. Also, the fact that Germany deliberately delayed forwarding Grey’s proposal for mediation in the July Crisis reveals their desire, not for compromise, but for war. Furthermore, after Serbia’s conciliatory reply had been received, Germany went so far as to pressure the Austrians into declaring war even prior to Austria’s complete mobilization. This duplicity clearly points to an active approach towards fomenting war on the part of the Germans. Germany should be blamed for not exploring alternatives to war in In fact, her “Among all the powers, it is very plausible that Germany shoulders the greatest responsibility…” Short term responsibility for war must be assessed based on German decisions during the July Crisis. One example of German aggression was their pledge of steadfast support to Austria in the wake of the 5.
6 aggression can be dated prior to July 1914, implying that it was not so much reactionary as it was a manifestation of her desires for war, stemming from her prior calculations of benefits to be gained from war. The Schlieffen Plan was adopted in the 1980s and essentially an offensive military plan that prepared for a war on two fronts. Germany did not merely “stumble” into war, but was thoroughly preparing for one. Her fixation with the Schlieffen Plan meant that in 1914 she did not thoroughly consider diplomatic options in lieu of military solutions. Given the traditional importance of the military in German society, the voice of military leaders carried more weight in the final days of the July Crisis than the civilian government and was responsible for getting the Kaiser to come round to the idea of mobilization. The Kaiser finally gave in to military action because he and the civilian government were under immense pressure to launch the German attack just so the Schlieffen Plan could be executed smoothly and timely. Hence, the inherent structure of German society and the pre-existing military plans heavily influenced German actions in the July Crisis and are thus responsible for the outbreak of war. Germany’s defence in response to her supposed aggression was one of insecurity. In some ways, German insecurities were not unfounded. Her geographic position was highly vulnerable. In addition, the massive Russian arms build-up was highly alarming, coercing Germany to go to war while victory was still within her grasp. While insecurity can be a mitigating factor insofar as she genuinely suffered fears of hostile encirclement by other powers, it does not diminish her responsibility in causing war. The fact remains that Germany’s actions, regardless of motivation, were antagonistic in nature and increased the likelihood of the outbreak of war. Furthermore, insecurity is a weak defence to absolve German responsibility because her insecurity was largely a result of her own foreign policy – that of Weltpolitik. Weltpolitik sought to achieve goals such as unity of the masses and asserting herself more forcefully on the world stage. Ultimately, it proved to be foolhardy, confusing and inconsistent with no clear plan, and resulted in the antagonism of many countries. Towards the end of the 19th century, Britain looked to Germany as a potential ally; yet her attempts at an alliance were foiled as Germany foolishly tried to impose her terms on Britain. Germany’s navy was purely a weapon of offence and very successfully aroused British antagonism, as it appeared to rival the domineering British fleet. Other incidents like the Kruger Telegram galvanized Britain into forming the Entente Cordiale with France in This was reinforced by the annexation of Bosnia and the Tangier and Agadir Crises, forcing Britain, France and Russia into an inevitable alliance. As the historian AJP Taylor put it, “Most of Europe felt overshadowed by Germany.” Hence, any fears of encirclement were self induced and the world should hold her accountable for this rather than mitigate her blameworthiness. Another policy that contributed to the outbreak of war was that of the “carte blanche” presented to Vienna during the 1908 annexation. This was a repudiation of Bismarckian policy on the Balkans as Bismarck had previously refused to get Germany entangled in Balkan affairs. In contrast, Germany gave absolutely clear support to Austria in This dramatic shift in policy implied that Germany would be obliged to get involved in future Balkan conflicts and this would very well involve the escalation of
7 any localized Balkan conflict into a larger continental war simply by virtue of German involvement. Hence, Germany’s policy reversal in 1908 set the stage for the next Balkan crisis to precipitate a Great War. In sum, Germany should bear the heaviest responsibility for the outbreak of war as the actions of her leaders and their policies pursued were aggressive, at times foolhardy and ultimately increased tension leading to the outbreak of war. During the July Crisis, Serbia’s responsibility for the outbreak of war can be attributed to her conciliatory attitude adopted when dealing with the Balkans. Austria was had thus long been afraid that Serb nationalists would stir up activity in Austria, encouraging the Slavs to break away from Austrian rule, making Serbia a threat to Austria, and these dictated their hostile attitudes towards each other. Since 1903, Serbia nationalists had become more active in expansionist aims for a greater Serbia, and their assertion of leadership over the pan-Slavic moment was destabilizing. Societies like the Yugoslav Club had started resorting to violence and illegal activities to achieve their aims, accentuating the threat Austria faced from pan- Serbism. Serbia was thus accountable for ratcheting up tension in the Balkans, which precipitated in incidents like the first Balkan War and the occupation of Novibazar and the route to Salonika. Most noteworthy was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by the nationalists on 28 June, 1914, leaving Serbia unarguably blameworthy. However, the extent of culpability is dependent on the extent to which Austria-Hungary went to war over the incident. As Princip, one of the Serb perpetrators, said, “If it hadn’t been me, they would have found another some other excuse”. Hence, one can view the killing as the straw that broke the camel’s back as it provided the ostensible justification for Austria to go to war. Furthermore, Austria might not have pursued punitive military action against Serbia without Germany’s firm declaration of support. Prior to executing the ultimatum, Austria had been mindful of probable Russian intervention in support of Serbia and sent Germany a letter asking if Germany would support her in military action against Serbia. Germany eventually gave Austria her blessing, and this was a more important factor since it provided the basis for the war to occur, rather than the trigger. One may argue that Serbia must accept responsibility for having failed to give an unconditional acceptance of the ultimatum, which would have made it impossible for Austria to start a war in the eyes of the world. Yet, Sazonov, the Russian Foreign Minister, had encouraged the Serbs not to yield an unconditional acceptance – it was under such circumstances that Serbia rejected the anomalous demand. Instead Serbia’s masterful, conciliatory reply to the ultimatum scored her diplomatic victory and greatly diminished her responsibility for the outbreak of war. She accepted all the clauses except “…Germany’s policy reversal in 1908 set the stage for the next Balkan crisis to precipitate a Great War.” 7.
8 the contentious one demanding participation of delegates of Austria-Hungary in the investigation of the assassination. Both Edward Grey and the Kaiser felt that taking further military punitive action against her was excessive and unjustified, as she had virtually exhausted diplomatic means of avoiding the outbreak of war. Instead, Germany and Austria’ decision to press on with war must account more heavily for the war. While Serbian nationalism gave Austria-Hungary cause for war, Austria-Hungary’s long term responsibility for war lay mainly in the Annexation of Bosnia in 1908 and her role in the Balkans while her short term responsibility for war lay overwhelmingly in mishandling of the July Crisis. Austria-Hungary’s role in the Bosnian Crisis was a long term cause as it fomented great tension and hostility among the Serbs. This outcome of Aehrenthal’s ironically well-intended annexation was devastatingly counterproductive to his aims of fostering Slavic loyalty and commitment to the Austrian empire. The tension provoked an increase in Serb nationalist, while societies like the Narodna-Obrana flourished, and in term was responsible for the assassination which precipitated in the July Crisis. Austria-Hungary’s mismanagement of the July Crisis caused a localized Balkan crisis to escalate into a world war. She was guilty of narrowly focusing on Serb nationalism, failing to see how her actions would have wider European implications. Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum was problematic – firstly, she did not consider the possible reactions of other powers; secondly, she foolishly failed to include evidence of the Serbian government’s complicity in rooting out guilty Serb officials. Resultantly, Serbia’s stance as a victim of undue Austrian aggression was justified, giving Russia more reason for intervention. Furthermore, Austria delayed her action against Serbia – the ultimatum was not delivered until a month after Sarajevo. Had the Austrians taken swift retaliatory action in Belgrade, a European war may have been averted because Austrian action would be justified as a punitive response to the killing. The time wasted seemed to reflect hypocrisy on part of the Austrians, and thus allowed other issues to crystallize, compared with which Serbia became a minor item. If the aggressiveness of the Austrian ultimatum shocked Europe, the rejection of Serbia’s conciliatory reply was by far more shocking. The Serbian reply had been a masterpiece of diplomatic language, accepting all but one Austrian demand. Superficially, it would seem that the Austrians were totally responsible for being so unreasonable and for aggressively declaring war on Serbia even in the face of this conciliatory reply. However, it may be argued that it was Austria’s intention all along to declare war on Serbia and deal with the “dangerous nest of vipers” once and for all. Alternatively, was Austria forced into taking such drastic military action by Serb nationalism itself? Or, was Austria unwittingly pushed and prodded down the warpath by an aggressive Germany? Military preparations for action against Serbia had existed long before the July Crisis, suggesting that Austria always had the option of dealing with Serbia in mind. Conrad, the Austrian chief of staff, had for years talked of the need for preventive war against Serbia. Arguably, Austria was ready to take the first chance which presented itself for an attack on Serbia; one which took the form of the 1914 assassination. However, the existence of military plans does not necessarily equate their execution – the war involved such high stakes that Austria
9 must have had very good reasons and been under great pressure to do so. In 1908, Austria was also on the brink of war, but ultimately her hesitancy prevented war from erupting. Even at the height of this standoff, Austria did not succumb to war because strong opposition had led Aehrenthal to the conclusion that war was imprudent, even if justified. Hence, the argument that Austria is responsible for war because it merely used the assassination as a convenient excuse to wage war on Serbia is a plausible, albeit improbable. Was Austria then forced into a war by Serbian aggression? Although Serbia had, prior to 1914, been responsible for tension in the Balkan region through growth or her nationalist organizations, she did little in the July Crisis that unnecessarily provoked war. Furthermore, the fact that that Baron Giesl was under orders to reject anything less than an unconditional acceptance of the ultimatum greatly weakens the argument that Austria was “forced” into a corner. Besides, Austria did have alternatives to war. Grey had proposed mediation between Austria and Serbia but his proposal was badly received by Austria, who did not deign to negotiate with Serbia. Hence, after the ultimatum, war could have been avoided but Austria- Hungary’s pride snubbed this chance for peace. German aggression and pressure on Austria to take more drastic military action to resolve the disputes also mitigates her responsibility for war. Austria was initially hesitant about considering punitive military action against Serbia for fear of a Russian reprisal. Only with Germany’s firm declaration of support, and her actively pushing Austria towards aggression, did Austria present such a demanding ultimatum. To a significant extent, Austria acted not out of her own free will but under pressure from Germany. One could argue Austrian responsibility for war because she went ahead with her declaration of war even after Bethmann Hollweg sent them Telegram 323, urging them to halt their actions. If at this stage, Germany was truly willing to limit the scope of military action to an occupation of Belgrade, then Austria must shoulder responsibility for bringing Europe into war through her intransigence and rejection of a chance to prevent war. However, Germany was sending her mixed and confusing messages – Germany intentions were not at all united in support of the Pledge Plan and even contradictory. When Berchtold was considering Bethmann’s proposal for a “halt in Belgrade”, General Conrad was told by Moltke that any delay in Austria’s mobilization would be disastrous. Austria’ guilt appears heavy in her desire for punitive military action against Serbia, but Germany must shoulder as much, if not greater responsibility for bringing on war. Without Germany, Austria would not have had the “German aggression and pressure on Austria to take more drastic military action to resolve the disputes also mitigates her responsibility for war.” 9.
10 confidence to wage war single-handedly against Serbia and possibly also face the wrath of Russia and the Entente Powers by doing so. Austria was urged to war, but Russia blundered her way into it and must take responsibility even if she did not pursue a deliberately aggressive agenda that fomented war. Her immense economic and military size meant that any actions on her part took on a magnified significance as they had potentially devastating ramifications for European nations. Hence, Russia should be blamed for inept personnel that comprised a confused administration which, in turn, produced muddled policies, inadvertently drawing Russia and other countries into war. Her role in the Balkans must also take centre stage because it provided the vital link that led to Russian involvement in the war. Russia’s role in the outbreak of war was her involvement in the creation of the Balkan League. Russia’s long-term ambitions in the Balkans had put her at odds with Austria- Hungary, who did not wish to see the region destabilized by the pan-Slavic movement. By the end of the 19th century, the makings of great power rivalry and tension already existed between Russia and Austria-Hungary, exacerbated by the creation of the Balkan League. The development could be traced to Russia’s renewed interest in the Balkan region, which saw the appointment of Nicholas Hartwig, a rabid Pan-Slav, as Russian Minister in Serbia in He encouraged Serb nationalist operations and secret societies, taking active steps to create an offensive alliance against Turkey, culminating in the Balkan League. The first Balkan War in 1912 was a stunning military success for the Balkan League, giving Austria legitimate justification for waging war on Serbia, given that she and her allies were guilty of aggression. The first Balkan War led to the second Balkan War, where Russia abandoned them and decided not to go to war on their behalf. Her failure to fulfill her promise to the Serbs produced an even stronger sentiment on the importance of Russia helping Serbia. This cemented the sentiment among Russians that they had to support Serbia at all costs in the next conflict, failing which their status and prestige derived from being the protector of the Slavs would surely be eroded. Russia’s strong ideological commitment to pan-Slavism hence necessitated this commitment to Serbia. Given that the Tsar took into account the public mood in his decision-making, the Russian people indirectly caused war by willing Russian support of Serbia. Thus, Russia’s eventual backing of Serbia meant that the next conflict involving Serbia would be a flash point that greatly increased the likelihood of a general war. In 1908, Russia backed down in the Bosnian Crisis and war was averted. Between 1912 and 1913, Russia adopted a pacifist policy following the Balkan Wars and war was averted. In 1914, however, a renewed Russian resolve to support Austria “coincided” with the outbreak of the First World War. Evidently, this was one of the major causes of war. During the July Crisis, in the wake of the ultimatum, Serbia would most probably have accepted it unconditionally in the absence of pledges of Russian support. Arguably, an unconditional acceptance was the only way that Austria would have been placated and hence Russia’s support was an important link between the “Russia’s role in the outbreak of war was her involvement in the creation of the Balkan League.”
11 ultimatum and war. Ultimately, Russia’s responsibility for the outbreak of war lay with her incompetent leaders, whose lack of a clear stand and direction precipitated confused and muddled policies being adopted in the July Crisis, causing Russia to stumble into war. Izvolsky, a Russian foreign minister, foolishly pledged Russian support to Austria’s annexation of Bosnia in the hope that Austria would in turn support Russia’s case for the opening of the Dardenelles. This episode is significant as it was the first major instance of Russia having let Serbia down, and thereby strengthening Russian resolve to help Serbia in future conflicts. In addition to the heightening of tensions between Russia and Austria, the Bosnian Crisis also vastly increased Serb discontent and led to the flourishing of many nationalist groups such as Narodna Obrana, whose splinter group the Black Hand directly brought about the later assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinant. Sazonov, the Foreign Minister during the July Crisis, was a volatile character who, through his hair-trigger reaction to Austria’s ultimatum, transformed the Balkan crisis into a world one. In his fit of rage, he proposed mobilization against Austria as a form of pressure or deterrence. Although this was proposed with no concrete intent for war, his ignorance of the implications of mobilization had severe repercussions. At the time, once one neighbour started mobilization, all others were practically obliged to do for fear of being left defenceless in the face of an enemy poised for attack. Even partial mobilization would have compelled Austria to order general mobilization, invoking the Austro-German alliance and Germany’s subsequent mobilization. Sazonov was inexcusably naïve and ignorant of this, as his question to the Germany Ambassador on 26 July demonstrated, “Surely mobilization is not equivalent to war with you either, is it?” Even though mobilization was changed to a “Period Preparatory to War”, the danger of the situation had been driven home. Furthermore, after Serbia’s reply to the ultimatum, Sazonov turned down Grey’s proposal for a conference of ambassadors, thinking he could settle the matter with Austria himself. His meeting with the cooperative Austro- Hungarian Ambassador, Count Szapary, had left him confident of Russia’s ability to diffuse the situation. Sazonov then foolishly quoted the Count as the basis of Austria-Hungary’s stand. However, not only was Szapary unauthorized to make or accept definite proposals, he was also ignorant of the happenings in Austria. This mistake meant another chance for peace, through Grey’s proposed conference, was rejected and Russia must take responsibility for this. “Ultimately, Russia’s responsibility for the outbreak of war lay with her incompetent leaders.” Tsar Nicholas II was also blameworthy, for his lack of control over the military and government. His indecision led to considerable confusion within the civilian government and his decisions swayed in accordance with influential ministers, who comprised mainly hardliners with no desire to steer Russia away from war. His weak and vacillating character rendered him incapable of exercising control 11.
12 over military planning, making Russian military and strategic thinking characterized primarily by confusion. Russia was also the first to consider military action after Austria’s ultimatum, having kick-started the military processes that culminated in war. She was the first to mobilize besides Austria and Serbia, thus sparking off a chain reaction from Germany, France, and finally England, proving the phrase “mobilization is war, to mobilize is to oblige your neighbour to do so”. Russia may not have instigated war, unlike Germany, but her responsibility for war is also heavy because of her lack of salient reasons for heading towards it. Austria wanted war to protect her vital interests and national honour; Germany wanted war as she stood to gain much and stood to lose much by not doing so. With Russia, war was foolhardy and an inexplicable decision in terms of national interests – she had nothing to gain but much to lose. Her interests in the Balkans, though a plausible issue to go to war over, did not represent irrecoverable vital interests that might have justified war. She could have exhausted diplomatic pressure first, with war as a last resort. Moreover, it was illogical that Russia should mobilize first, since it was to her advantage to delay it until the Austrian army had been bogged down in war against Serbia. As with Russia, France was responsible for the outbreak of war for indirect contributions, as she too was not an aggressor like Germany. France’s involvement in war via her Entente relationship with Russia makes her responsibility seem small; however, her role is far more significant than that. French support for Russia in 1914 gave her the confidence she needed in giving full support to Serbia. France’s support for Russia must be contrasted with that of 1908, where Russia received no backing in the Bosnian Crisis, due to France’s traditional reluctance to get involved in Balkan affairs. This lack of support meant that the Crisis did not escalate to a European war in 1908, even when the Russian case for war was much more compelling. While Russia received no support in 1908, in 1914 they were fully convinced of French support for a war in the Balkans and this strengthened Russian resolve to back Serbia. This change in French policy dated from 1912, where in a turnaround of traditional French policy, Poincare announced that “if Germany supported Austria, France would march.” The talks held between Poincare and the Russians just prior to the issue of the Austrian ultimatum gave Russia the impression of full French support, without which Russian confidence to pledge such strong backing of Serbia would be debatable. France urged Russia to think strategically in terms of an offensive against Germany while strengthening herself militarily. Due to her own demographic weaknesses, Russian manpower was vital to the preservation of France against Germany. Thus, any hopes of a French victory over Germany was becoming increasingly reliant on an alliance with the other Entente powers, Russia included. Arguably, France did not try hard to avoid war (as in the case of Britain, who proposed mediation among powers) but instead decided to plunge into war, knowing full well that Russian support was vital to her survival. Even when Germany issued her Double Ultimatum to France and Russia, it was still possible for the French not to get involved by withdrawing her support.
13 In rejecting it, France failed to halt the slide into war. Yet, French responsibility is mitigated by the existence of the Schlieffen Plan, since Germany was bound to attack France and her best option was to let Russia mobilize so she could help France fend off the Germany attack. A great deal of France’s responsibility for war lay in her leaders, whose unilateral action during the July Crisis paved France’s path to war. Maurice Paleologue, the French Ambassador in St. Petersburg, told Sazonov that “France would not only give Russia strong diplomatic support but would, if necessary, fulfill the obligations imposed on her by the alliance.” He pursued his own agenda of assuring the Russians of French support despite the absence of official instruction, hence indirectly getting both France and Russia entangled in war. Joffre, the French Commander in Chief, was also culpable for pushing for mobilization and military preparation. In the absence of Poincare and Viviani, he had taken some preliminary measures of military preparation, and pressured them to authorized mobilization on their return. His Plan XVII, which led them to believe a swift French victory over Germany was possible, was based on faulty intelligence and this was perilous as it provided the military with a false sense of confidence. conflict. A consideration of France’s long-term role in causing the outbreak of war includes how France shored up the Ententes and made them a much tighter alliance. As a result of Poincare’s 1912 visit to Russia, there was a perceptible shift towards a military alliance that bound France to mobilize if Russia did. France was thus responsible since she created a system that dragged in various countries into itself simply by virtue of these alliances. The nature of alliances, coupled with that of mobilization, made for a very dangerous situation, as all other member countries were inextricable from war should any member of the alliance mobilize. By committing herself so, France supplied the additional link in the chain of events linking Europe to the Balkans, making France responsible for turning a localized Balkan conflict into a continental one. This “shored up” Entente made countries like Germany very insecure and gave credence to her fears of encirclement. Because Germany justified the war as a pre-emptive one waged against hostile encirclement, France should take part of the blame too. Last but not least, the British were also involved in the “France failed to halt the slide into war.” France was also responsible for bringing the British into the war. They exerted moral pressure on the British in order to persuade their entry. French leaders like Poincare and Cambon helped to remind Britain of their moral duty to help France through blatantly emotional rhetoric. France was also careful to play consistently the part of a victim and not an instigator, ensuring that the British would have a moral justification to enter the fray. This was achieved through a series of low-key precautionary defensive measures instead of immediate mobilization in support of Russia. Considering that Britain’s fear of “moral bankruptcy” impacted her decision, France shoulders guilt for getting the British involved and further escalating the 13.
14 outbreak of war. This was characterized by a lack of involvement as well as the absence of a clear and definite stance on the issue of war. This ambivalent and ambiguous stance arguably misled Germany into increasing her confidence of winning the war, as they believed the British would not intervene in such a dispute. It seems doubtful that British actions impacted the outbreak of war since Britain was not one of the key players in the disputes leading to war, and all involvement was peripheral. However, the British government made several costly mistakes that led to war. The British did not maximize their Great Power status to bring strong pressure to bear on Germany. It is argued that if Britain had threatened Germany with British participation on the side of the Entente Powers in the event of any European war, Germany might have capitulated, or been at least more circumspect towards Russia and France. In this respect, British responsibility for the war is large since a substantial degree of Germany confidence stemmed from their belief that Britain would stay out of war. This can be traced to domestic politics, whereby pressures for peace from a war-averse, liberal cabinet meant that Grey would have had a very difficult time trying to convince the cabinet of war. The British cabinet’s indifferent attitude imposed genuine constraints on Grey and explains much of his deliberately ambiguous foreign policy that enabled war to break out. Thus, Britain failed to make her stand clear, forfeiting her chance to secure peace for the European continent. In the end, Britain joined the war because not joining the war effort on the side of the Entente Powers would have rendered her morally bankrupt in her allies’ eyes. The costs of not being involved in the war were great for Britain. If a Franco-Russian victory precipitated, the Entente would break up and Britain would be left once again without allies, in a state of diplomatic isolation. More importantly, if a German victory ensued, its consequent seismic shift in the balance of power in Europe was not a pretty prospect that Britain wanted to contemplate. This real reason for involvement was stated in The Times on August 6, 1914, where intervention was “an elementary duty of self- preservation”. When we analyse how large the costs of not getting involved in an imminent war was for Britain, then the British cabinet should be blamed for its failure to take a decisive stance early in the July Crisis even more. If they had realized the inevitability of their involvement in war, they would then have gone all out to maximize their only real chance to preserve the peace – by adopting a stricter foreign policy and frightening Germany out of war. As it turned out, they did not try hard enough. Britain also increased tension in Europe by deciding that the British fleet should remain active instead of returning to peacetime basis. This step towards taking military preparations contributed to the “…the British government made several costly mistakes that led to war.”
15 prevailing mood of military armament, with other countries deeming it necessary to take military precautions. Even though many such measures were merely basic preparatory military measures, as in the case of France, they nevertheless heightened insecurity in Europe and brought it closer to war. Still, in a fair assessment of her overall responsibility, the dispersal of the fleet was undertaken by an individual and did not constitute a political decision of mobilization, hence the government should not be totally responsible for the war. The British military engaged in an arms race with Germany, representing a movement towards war that rendered it inevitable. It resulted in increasing military armament that further raised tension, such as Britain’s tit-for-tat response to Germany via the introduction of the Dreadnought in 1906 and increasing the rate of her naval build-up. Her obstinacy and refusal to give up superiority in the face of the German challenge meant there was little possibility of the naval race being halted. This is outlined by Winston Churchill’s encapsulation that he must “explicitly repudiate the suggestion that Great Britain can ever allow another naval power to approach her so nearly as to deflect or to restrict her political action by purely naval means.” Her refusal to allow Germany to obtain political concession in exchange for naval disarmament meant there was no dimunition of either the underlying antagonism or the arms race. In essence, the naval race created political and psychological attitudes that contributed to the mood of If not for British stubbornness, Germany could have backed down and both countries would not have then accelerated their naval preparations for war to such a great extent. “The British military engaged in an arms race with Germany, representing a movement towards war that rendered it inevitable.” In conclusion, it would be too simplistic to blame Germany solely for World War One, yet absolving her of built and blaming the aggressive encirclement of the Entente is also an inadequate explanation. 15.
16 The multi-causality of war would mean that in any hierarchy of responsibility constructed, Germany should be at the top for being the most instrumental in her involvement, through Weltpolitik and her latent aggression in the handling of the July Crisis. Russia, though not an aggressor, is responsible for overreacting and muddling her way through, with catastrophic consequences. Serbian nationalism is responsible for fomenting tension in the Balkans that engendered Austrian intervention, though virtually faultless during the July Crisis. Russian intervention on part of her protective pro-Slavic policies in turn invoked the Entente arrangements, dragging France and Britain into war as well. Although France may have played a part in goading Russia into war, Russia still bears greater responsibility for actually entering it. Lastly, although Britain’s opacity of her foreign policy and involvement in the naval race may have allowed Europe to drift closer to war, British involvement alone would not have been enough to stifle German aggression or cause her to abandon the Schlieffen Plan. Without Germany, Austria would not have confidently declared war, single- handedly, against Serbia. This sparkplug that invoked Russian intervention and consequent Entente Power participation was a result of Germany’s explicit support for war, and thus she must bear the brunt of responsibility for having caused World War One.
17 SINGAPORE HISTORY A Case of Pre-1819 Amnesia? Wee Liang En writes about the historical roots of Singapore The inspiration for this article came as I was flipping through my old history textbooks, preparing to consign them to cold storage at the back of some storeroom. Of course by “old textbooks” I mean the definitive textbook that most Singaporean students should have encountered at some point or other: “Understanding Our Past- Singapore: From Colony to Nation”. With the approval of MOE’s Curriculum Planning and Development Division, the account of Singaporean history as published here should be the definitive version: the version that every Singaporean should know. What struck my eye, though, was the very first phrase at the beginning: “the story [Singapore’s] covers the period between 1819 and 1971”. Does Singaporean history really start only in the year 1819? More importantly, are most Singaporeans aware of a pre-1819 past; and if they aren’t, why is that so? Is it vital for them to know? To begin with, it is evident that Singaporean history does not begin with Raffles’ landing in The brevity of this article does not allow for an in-depth discussion of pre-1819 Singapore/Temasek; but it is common knowledge that there was indeed a settlement on Singapore island before Raffles’ arrival. The settlement (also known as Temasek) was certainly no small fry in the politics of the region, from the 14th to the 16th century. Indeed, in the late 14th century Temasek served as a one-time base for the Palembang prince Parameswara (who killed Temasek’s ruler and established himself there), and it was only after a Siamese counterattack that Parameswara moved northwards to establish the city of Melaka (which would later grow into a powerful sultanate, holding territory on both sides of the Straits of Melaka; and was the dominant power in the Malay Archipelago at the time of the Europeans’ arrival). In 1613, the Portugese (who had established themselves in the region by conquering Melaka in 1509), burned down the settlement at the mouth of the Singapore River because they feared it would be a threat to them. For both Melaka’s founder and Melaka’s eventual conquerors to pay Temasek such attention suggests that Temasek must have been of some significance, over a sustained period of time. When Raffles was drawn to Singapore in 1819, then, he was not attracted to a terra nullius, but rather to an island he knew had played a significant role in the Malay Archipelago. It is evident that Singaporean history does not begin with Raffles’ landing in
18 However, in the minds of most Singaporeans, Singaporean history does begin only after 1819, when Sir Stamford Raffles founded the modern-day settlement of Singapore. Raffles’ name is widely remembered in modern Singapore: so much so, that streets, companies, buildings and institutions all bear his name. With two statues (one in front of Victoria Concert Hall, one by the Singapore River) and much else besides to commemorate his name, Raffles is obviously more well-known than Temasek’s legendary founder, Sang Nila Utama. Apart from the story of Sang Nila Utama’s sighting of a lion (and his christening of the city as Singapura, Lion City), nothing else about him resonates with Singaporeans. The only reminders of Temasek in modern Singapore are the Government’s investment arm (Temasek Holdings), and a handful of schools. With regards to Parameswara, nothing about his sojourn here is recorded in our history textbooks. Again, this pre-1819 amnesia is not due to a lack of information about early Singapore. To give Understanding Our Past a measure of credit, a small (4 out of 250 pages) section does talk about early Temasek, albeit with little detail. And artefacts like the Singapore Stone are exhibited in the National History Museum; there are excavations on Fort Canning, the old home of Temasek’s rulers; the old Istana at Kampong Glam, where Singapore’s Sultan once lived, is now a museum. But early Temasek is not, for some reason, at the forefront of modern Singapore’s consciousness. Instead, a number of vague myths and neatly packaged stories have taken its place: that Temasek was a sleepy fishing village, for instance; or Sang Nila Utama’s lion encounter, which has been nicely packaged for tourist consumption in the persona of today’s Merlion, half beast and half fish. Significantly, as we seek to build a Singaporean identity, why have we not played up the history of pre-modern Singapore? An independent history of only 40-odd years makes us a toddler by any standards- an extremely young nation indeed. History, in turn, is one of the main glues that hold any nationalism together- the longer the history, the stronger the glue. The interesting question, then, is: in our attempt to create a national identity, why have we not claimed pre-1819 Temasek as our own? My answer to this question, of course, is mere speculation. But I suggest the reason why we (and the powers that be) have not played up pre-1819 history is that ancient Temasek was always part of one regional empire or another- an important part, certainly, but still a part. In its section on Temasek, Understanding Our Past states that “during the 14th century, the Siamese and the Javanese took turns to attack Singapore because they wanted to make it part of their own empires”. The outcome of those attacks- and the identity of Singapore’s eventual masters- is omitted, conveniently or otherwise. But historians are not mealy- mouthed about facts- and the fact is that ancient Temasek was, at different times, part of Srivijaya (the Indonesians), a vassal of Majapahit (the Javanese) and of Siam (the Thais), and eventually a The history of pre- modern Singapore is crucial to building a Singaporean identity Certainly, in this city founded by rootless immigrants, our lack of a coherent national narrative has been a handicap.
19 Malaysian possession, under the Sultanate of Melaka and finally Johore. Only in 1819 was Singapore transferred to the British, and no longer under the thumb of an indigenous power. Of course in the turbulent times of Separation and early Independence there was no time or need to investigate the history of pre-modern Singapore. But things are certainly different now, and since we have quite a good picture of early Temasek, there is no reason why this part of history should not be reclaimed as part of our national consciousness. History, as the ancient Chinese put it, is like a mirror; and the lesson we learn from Temasek should not be that Singapore must always be dominated by its neighbours; but rather that modern-day Singapore, like its predecessor, cannot survive without the region. The US and Japan are not our only major trading partners; Indonesia and Malaysia are, too. This pre-1819 amnesia should thus be addressed. national narrative- its history, past and present, and how it came to be. From pre-1819 Temasek, to the communist- PAP struggle, Separation and Independence- it is my hope that future Singaporean students can appreciate that the narrative of Singaporean history is not a monolithic one, but rather a weaving together of disparate threads. History has many views and different interpretations- and it is worthwhile that all of them be heard. In closing, Singapore has grown, matured and prospered over the past few decades. While in 1965 Singapore’s continued existence as an independent entity remained uncertain, today it is an accepted fact. The turbulent times of Independence have also given way to stability and unity. This maturation of Singaporean society should also be accompanied by a reexamination of Singapore’s The important lessons of our history, even pre- history can and ought to be applied to Singaporean society today 19.
20 An afternoon with… CHERIAN GEORGE We sit down to have a casual interview with acclaimed alumnus, Cherian George What inspired you to write the book "Singapore: The Air-Conditioned Nation"? The essays were mainly developed from columns I'd written for The Straits Times. Newsprint has fairly immediate impact but is awfully short-lived. I'd put a lot into those newspaper columns, and wanted them to last just a bit longer. It worries me a little, though, that the book has lasted as long as it has. Most of the essays could have used more polishing, and I can't read them now without feeling slightly embarrassed. In "Singapore: The Air- Conditioned Nation", you predicted that four factors would necessitate a paradigm shift in Singaporean society and government: post-LKY politics, administrative fragmentation, a maturing economy and the digital revolution. Seven years on, how well has this prediction held up? Are there other factors that could fundamentally change Singapore Civil society? Oh boy, this is one reason it's safer to stick to newsprint: with newspapers, readers never revisit your predictions to check if you got them right! But seriously, what strikes me now about the items on that list is that they've become conventional wisdom. One other major shift that may affect Singapore's political culture is the rise of China and India. This is having a paradoxical and unexpected effect. It was once assumed that the "Asian century" would be accompanied by the rise of "Asian values", like respect for authority and an emphasis on harmony. But when we meet the new Chinese and Indians now – or, for that matter, the new Indonesians, Vietnamese and so on – many of these fellow Asians don't seem to conform to our old stereotypes. They are self- confident and independent. They are not waiting for their governments to tell them what to do, and they are not afraid to hold their own views or show initiative. They are redefining what it means to be Asian. If we continue to believe that being "Asian" means being deferential, passive and with no sense of self-efficacy, then we will end up being the only Asians who fit that stereotype! But I think Singaporeans are already sitting up and taking notice of these changes. It's not about following the West, but about recognising that certain values, like democracy, have become universal, as the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has noted. “It's not about following the West, but about recognising that certain values, like democracy, have become universal.”
21 With Singapore's aim for a population of 6.5 million people, and a more complex racial/cultural mix, what are some of the more important effects that this would have on Singapore society and its national identity? Different people will have to make different adjustments. As for me, I grew up in decades when the majority of people in Singapore were Singapore-born – and that's going to change. Singapore- born Singaporeans like me will make up the minority of adults. Things that we grew up caring about, like Singaporean culture and heritage, may matter less to the new Singapore, just as they didn't matter throughout Singapore's early history when most immigrants felt more connected to their ancestral homes. The Singaporean economist Linda Lim puts it this way: some of us want Singapore to be a "nation", but economics only demands that Singapore be a "place". It's depressing, but accurate, I think. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being extremely knowledgeable and 1 completely unaware, how would you rate the average Singaporean's grasp of current events/global trends and how they affect him? Do you think that Singaporeans should be more aware of what is happening not just in Singapore, but also in the world at large? I'm reading the book The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, which is all about how mass- anything is less relevant now than niches. In that light, your question really isn't meaningful. Does it matter what the "average" Singaporean thinks? Who is that anyway? I don't know. What I do know is that there are enough Singaporeans with a 9 or 10 rating to make a significant difference in the world, if they so choose. You can try to persuade the 7s and 8s to join you, and link up with fellow 9s and 10s in the region and around the world. What you absolutely shouldn't do is to use the 1s and 2s around you as an excuse for inaction. Do you feel restrained in your civil society involvements in any way? Are there still certain political areas that remain taboo? My main civil society project right now is publishing a current affairs newspaper for children. I've been pleasantly surprised by the support we've received for this cause. Overall, compared with 10 years ago, the establishment is readier to concede that it's not the source of all wisdom, and more receptive towards civil society participation. Of course, there are still causes that are frowned upon. For example, there's a small campaign against the death penalty that is being tolerated, but barely. Campaigns that might complicate Singapore's foreign relations are also extremely sensitive. And no matter how innocent the cause, you have to make sure your tactics are legal, as the "white elephant" campaign reminded us. In Singapore, what do you feel is the mainstream media's responsibility towards society? To circulate information and ideas that help us figure out for ourselves how to live together on one crowded planet without going crazy, killing each other, or melting the ice-caps and drowning. How did your education and experiences in Hwa Chong shape the perspectives you hold today, or influence the career choices that you made? Being surrounded by very 21.
22 smart and talented students and teachers gives you touchstones of excellence that can remain with you for a long time. At the same time, Hwa Chong is not Raffles, so there's a healthy underdog spirit and less of a sense of entitlement (I'm being totally biased here, of course). I've always felt more comfortable as an outsider than subjecting myself to the tyranny of belonging, so I think being a non-Chinese student in a Chinese JC in a Rafflesian-dominated society fit me perfectly! I don't aim to be different for the sake of being different, and in most ways I think I am pretty mainstream in my choices. But on those occasions when I find myself in the minority because I'm being true to myself, it tends not to bother me. We live in a diverse world, and we can't expect everyone to understand us all the time. Assistant Professor Cherian George is acting head of journalism at the Wee Kim Wee School of Information, Nanyang Technological University. His second book, Contentious Journalism and the Internet: Towards Democratic Discourse in Malaysia and Singapore, was published in 2006.
23 20 th CENTURY JAPAN the Juku Nadia Angrainni takes us into the world of Japan as she expounds on the negative social impacts of Jukus (cram schools) on middle/junior high school students in Japan When asked to recall our childhoods, most of us would look back on the times spent playing games with our friends, watching TV at home, and weekends spent with family. Unfortunately, a worrying number of Japanese students today probably cannot say the same. Instead, they are likely to remember spending a significant portion of their childhood in after- class cram schools, also known as jukus, and this trend is likely to become even more prevalent in the future. A study conducted in 1999 showed that a staggering 71.8% of Japanese students who attend public middle schools also attend jukus. Jukus are private institutions that offer students remedial or enrichment help, and act as supplements to the public education system. A typical Japanese child spends up to twenty hours each week at a juku, and these numbers are only likely to increase as the child goes up to the next grade and the high school entrance examinations loom closer. Though this juku phenomenon is by no means new to Japan, there is still much ongoing debate regarding the social impact of the juku system on Japanese children. Some authorities argue that jukus play a large role in causing social problems such as increased stress levels and academic inequality, while others claim that there are no direct causative links between the jukus and these social ills. This paper will provide a balanced analysis of the ongoing debate on the social costs and benefits of the juku system as a whole. high school), and 3 optional years of high school. Even though high school is technically optional, since the 1970s over 90% of students from each cohort has chosen to attend (Roesgaard, 2006), and hence it could almost be said to be “compulsory.” Following high school, students can then choose to enter university, vocational schools, or move directly into the working world. In a country whose citizens are mostly well educated, and where the majority chooses to study at levels above the compulsory middle school education, it is unsurprising that academic competition is often intense. “Studies have shown that 71.8% of Japanese students who attend public middle schools also attend jukus.” Before proceeding further, it is necessary to provide a general outline on the Japanese school system, as well as make certain distinctions with regards to the typology of jukus. Firstly, the education system in Japan consists of 6 years of compulsory elementary education, followed by 3 years of middle school (sometimes known as junior Like many of its Asian neighbors, Japanese society places high value on a person’s degree and the school from which he or she graduates. This further puts pressure on students to enter the so-called “elite” institutions that will guarantee them a secure job in the future. These elite institutions not only comprise colleges, but also middle schools and high schools. This paper, however, will focus 23.
24 specifically on middle school children preparing for the high school entrance examinations. Since entrance to high school is determined solely on examination grades, schoolchildren are often under a lot of stress to perform well in these ‘make-it-or-break-it’ exams, whether they are aiming to get into good high truth there are many different types of jukus that carry out different functions, exam preparation being only one of them. Blumenthal broadly divides the various jukus into three categories: shingaku juku, which focuses on preparing students for entrance examinations, typically into the more prestigious schools; hoshu juku, class size, and cost – these different factors would lead to different social impacts on the middle-schoolers. For the purposes of this essay, I will focus mainly on the shingaku jukus, which are the most widely known internationally and the most oft criticized for Japan’s burgeoning social ills. which provides remedial help for students who wish to keep their grades up in school; and finally, sogo juku, which offers both types of classes for students. Furthermore, jukus can range from a small classroom in an owner’s home to a “chain” enterprise that enrolls thousands of students in each of its centers. Each of these jukus has a different atmosphere, way of teaching, The single most obvious criticism of the shingaku juku is its purported causative role in increasing academic competition and pressure on middle school children. As more and more students enroll in jukus, and score higher marks in their entrance examinations, the benchmark for entry into prestigious high schools is correspondingly raised as well. Students then have to work even harder in order to outperform the rest of their cohort, and the jukus are all too willing to push their students to achieve this. A well documented example of a shingaku juku that breeds competition among its students is the Iriye juku in Osaka. Rohlen, who did a study on this juku, observed that teachers in the juku “harangue students with a language filled with words like ‘fight’ (fighto), ‘battle’ (tatakai) … and ‘give your best’ (ganbaru) and criticize students for being … ‘soft’ (amai).” In a competitive and tough environment like this, it is unsurprising that children are driven to work more in order to schools, or even into high school at all. In light of this situation, jukus have sprung up all over Japan to cater to this demand for academic help. One very important distinction, however, has to be made regarding the typology of the jukus. Most people view jukus as merely cram schools catering specifically to preparing students for entrance examinations, but in A typical Japanese Juku for learning English
25 achieve a certain standard. As a result, middle-schoolers spend an increasing amount of time in jukus, and experience higher stress levels that may consequently lead to social problems. Roesgaard cites the Japanese Council on Lifelong Learning in its report in 1997, saying that shingaku juku causes children to “have less time to develop their social skills and family life, stress and irregular hours ruin the life rhythm with late meals and too little sleep.” Children spend more time after school and during weekends in jukus, and have less time to play (asobi), to develop their extracurricular interests, and improve their social skills. every family will be able to afford this extra expense. As such, children from more well to do families who can afford the extra tuition costs now have an upper hand over their less advantaged peers in gaining entry to more prestigious high schools, and subsequently universities and jobs as well. Beauchamp and Rubinger supported this argument by citing data from a study that showed that the proportion of children from poor families attending prestigious universities has declined over the past ten years, while students from wealthier families show a proportional increase in attendance at more prestigious universities. This creates a vicious cycle where children from wealthier families end up doing better in life, and can then afford further privileges for their children. well-rounded individuals, they also end up learning less and studying more. Sato further argues that as students place increasing importance on the jukus, which usually have “test-driven curricula]”, they correspondingly pay less attention to the government- regulated middle schools that attempt to foster “social, moral, physical, and aesthetic skills and values” on top of academics. She claims that “students placed higher priority on juku homework and studies than on the regular school curriculum, which erodes the role of the teacher and disrupts the sense of community.” These schoolteachers who try valiantly to educate students on the importance of moral development increasingly find themselves being ignored in favor of the juku tutors whose sole concern is academic improvement. Authorities bring up a further problem – the increasing emphasis on rote learning and memory work among students enrolled in jukus. In other words, students are learning skills that help them pass their entrance examinations, rather than develop creativity and critical thinking. Not only do students grow to become less Not only do jukus breed competition, they also lead to inequality of opportunity of education for Japanese children, in turn creating a stratified society. Jukus are private institutions that charge money for tuition, and not every family is financially equipped to handle the additional burden of the juku fees. For example, Monbusho conducted a study in 1999, which showed that Japanese families spend an average of 147,174 yen (approximately USD 1240) on sending a child to juku, when the child is from a public middle school, while this average is a slightly lower 108,681 yen (USD 920) for a child studying in a private middle school. Clearly, not “Not only do jukus breed competition, they also lead to inequality of opportunity for education for Japanese children, in turn creating a stratified society...” An advertizing booklet for Kawai Juku, which is part of a national chain of juku No doubt, the rising enrolment in jukus have led to the creation of several of 25.
26 Japan’s social problems, but we should also question whether these accusations are really justified. Firstly, claiming that the juku system only leads to the degradation of the social skills of Japanese children is taking a narrow outlook on the situation. Both Roesgaard and Sato point out that, in fact, many of the students view jukus as a place for socializing and meeting new people outside their ordinary circle of friends. Jukus, on top of serving the primary function of providing supplemental education, can thus also act as a venue for interaction for these adolescents. The U.S. Department of Education did a study in 1998 which indicated that one former juku teacher actually said that the majority of middle-schoolers who attend juku do so out of their own will, because “their friends are going”, and that “going to juku provides them with an opportunity to spend time with their peers.” The fact that “even after classes are over in the evening many students do not leave the juku” is further proof of this argument. One must note, however, that this report does not distinguish between the more competitive shingaku juku and the more “relaxed” hoshu juku. consideration, there are few direct causative links found between an increase in social problems and increased juku attendance. It is true that a disproportionately large number of Japan’s youth suicides and school bullying problems are closely related to problems with studying (Yoneyama, 1999), but authors such as Roesgaard point out that these social ills cannot be attributed to jukus alone. She argues that “it is perfectly possible to become a socially literate individual and live happily even with a certain amount of juku attendance.” Yoneyama would also agree that these problems are caused by a larger phenomenon than the juku, and suggests that it may be the “systematic” “web of while overlooking the system’s benefits. The juku system cannot be completely negative, or it would not have survived through the past decades in Japan. If the benefits stemming from the juku system outweigh its costs, then perhaps it cannot be said to be a completely unfavorable phenomenon. One benefit attributed to the juku by the U.S. Department of Education, for example, is that it caters for differences in ability in students. In Japanese public middle schools, classes are taught at a fixed pace, with little flexibility for students who either have difficulty catching up or find the class too easy for them. In the case of children with higher ability and aspirations, shingaku control in Japanese schools”, or the credentialist nature of Japanese society, that actually leads to the estrangement of its students. It is easy for people today to blame the jukus for creating Japan’s burgeoning social ills, Even when researchers only take shingaku juku into Juku poetry class jukus thus provide an avenue for accelerated instruction for entering prestigious high schools with better academic facilities to suit these brighter minds. It is easier for these students to maximize their potential and pursue their
27 goals with the aid of juku instruction. Likewise, Rohlen actually argues that jukus teach Japanese students to become more “mature”, to “view public education and its ideals with cautious cynicism”, and to grow up to become “sophisticated pragmatists.” He sees jukus as good training ground for future government bureaucrats, as the jukus tend to instill in children from a young age a sense of discipline, willingness to work hard, and “compliance to institutionalized demands.” These are the characteristics that are so important in making Japan the efficient and rich nation it is today, and Rohlen would argue that jukus play a part in contributing to this. only thing we know for sure today is that, regardless of the negative or positive impacts caused by the juku system, it is here to stay in Japan. What education specialists and the government can do now is to accept the weaknesses of the juku system and attempt to rectify them, while retaining the benefits it confers on its participants. If we cannot prevent Japanese students from attending jukus, the next best thing would be to make sure that they enjoy themselves, while acquiring social and academic knowledge in the process. The juku system in Japan has grown so rapidly and so widely in the past decades that it is impossible to impose generalizations and views on the industry as a whole. The juku market is a very diverse one, with each school having its own distinct characteristics and attracting different students. The motivations of parents who send their children to jukus, or even the motivations of the children themselves for attending jukus, vary widely, such that it is impossible to discern who the perpetrators of the social problems in Japan are. The 27.
28 Just a day at the… CLAIMS RESOLUTION TRIBUNAL We get the low-down on working at the Claims Resolution Tribunal with Pek-Yih Senn-Tham Like many of my career moves, my position at the Claims Resolution Tribunal, which handles claims to Swiss bank accounts previously owned by victims of the Holocaust, arose rather fortuitously. I had arrived in Switzerland in October 2000, and after a brief internship at a local law firm, had been unemployed for ten months when I finally landed the job as an attorney at the tribunal. A German girl that I had met at a party who had worked briefly at the tribunal in its early days had told me about the job. To be quite honest, I hadn’t known too much about the work of the tribunal when I applied for the job. I had done my background research and had the basic information at hand. The tribunal was set up to distribute the settlement money which had been awarded to plaintiffs who had sued the Swiss banks in the United States for failing to return the money of depositors who had been victims of the Holocaust. To describe what happened briefly, depositors who had suffered persecution during the Second World War, the overwhelming number of them Jewish, attempted to retrieve their assets deposited at Swiss banks after the war. Switzerland’s appeal to them had of course been the country’s famous neutrality, and the allure of the banks in particular was their strict banking secrecy laws, which led many in those turbulent times to believe that their money would be safe there. In many cases, surviving relatives of those who had perished during the Holocaust tried to obtain the assets deposited by their loved ones after the war, but were turned away as they were unable to present a death certificate (death certificates were not issued to those who died in concentration camps). Others were unable to get hold of their deposits as they had lost all the relevant documents during the massive upheaval that of course accompanied the war. Without documentary proof of an account, Swiss banks were able, ironically, to hide behind the very iron-clad banking secrecy laws that had drawn so many to entrust their money with them, and to tell account owners and their relatives that they could not reveal any information regarding these accounts. The banks continued to stonewall even decades later, as they told account owners and their relatives that they no longer held records of such accounts, as Swiss laws obliged them to maintain such records for only ten years. It was also owing to these almost sacrosanct Swiss banking secrecy laws that the tribunal was established in Zurich, instead of in the United States, where the lawsuit had taken place. “Depositors who had suffered persecution during the Second World War, the overwhelming number of them Jewish, attempted to retrieve their assets deposited at Swiss banks after the war.”
29 The bank records could not leave the country and as employees working with these records, we were, and in fact continue to be, bound by strict standards of confidentiality regarding these records. The job was fascinating on many levels. It was a legal job that allowed me to combine the more mundane work of being a lawyer, with my first love, which is history. Furthermore, as a lawyer, it was a unique opportunity to be part of a historical legal process whereby more than 50 years after the fact, relatives of Holocaust victims and Holocaust survivors had succeeded in obtaining some measure of justice against the formidable Swiss banks that had profited from their misfortune. And so I was tremendously excited when I received a phone call at the end of my June 2002, telling me that the tribunal had decided to hire me, thus ending my long spell of unemployment. It was only then that I started to be apprehensive about the fact that this was something completely new to me. My first few days on the job were spent getting as much background as possible about the job. I had some background on the Second World War, but coming from Singapore I knew much more about what happened in the Pacific theatre of war than the European one, while my knowledge of the Holocaust was sadly really rather superficial, gleaned from reading “The Diary of Anne Frank” and watching movies like “Schindler’s List” and “Life is Beautiful” and television documentaries. I felt sorely inadequate next to many of my colleagues, many of whom were American and Israeli Jews, who had for the most part, grown up with the subject of the Holocaust. Surely enough, I managed to embarrass myself during the first week at work when I asked my supervisor, who was less than impressed, what a “KZ” was. KZ, is, of course, the abbreviation for the German term Konzentrationslager (concentration camp). It was “The job was fascinating on many levels. It was a legal job that allowed me to combine the more mundane work of being a lawyer, with my first love, which is history.” mind-boggling when in the first week of work, I received a detailed map of the Nazi concentration camp network in Europe, not only to learn that there were hundreds of camps spread all the continent, but that there were specific camps designated for specific purposes. Many will probably be surprised to learn that Auschwitz, the largest and most well-known of the camps, where a significant proportion of victims were killed, was not actually designated as an extermination camp, but as a labour camp. The job contained both a legal as well as an investigative element. Our work primarily involved the review of claim forms and bank records. A list of what special auditors had determined were accounts that “probably or possibly belonged to victims of Nazi persecution” had been compiled, and 21,000 of these names were published in early Claimants were then invited, over the next six months, to file claims to individual accounts, whether these were accounts published on that list or otherwise. This was unlike other class action lawsuits, where plaintiffs would obtain compensation simply from being part of the 29.
30 class. In this case, each claimant would also have to demonstrate that they or their relative(s) in fact held account(s) at a Swiss bank. In fact, in legal terms, the process was not one of compensation at all, but of restitution, albeit an imperfect form of restitution, as often information relating to the balance remaining in accounts, or what the total number of accounts was, or even what type of account we were dealing with, had been lost with the passage of time. Our day-to-day work consisted of comparing information in bank records with that in claim forms. A specially developed computer system had preliminarily matched names in claim forms with those found in bank records, and we were to review all these “matches” to determine whether they were indeed “true” matches. If “true” matches were found, and it had also been determined that the account proceeds were not disposed of by the account owner himself, and that the claimant had plausibly determined that he was the account owner of the account owner’s relative, then an award would be written. In order to determine whether a match was a “true” match, information in the claim forms and bank records had to be reviewed carefully, to see if we could match, for example, an address, a spouse name, or a company name. This was where the investigative element of the job came into play. We often had to telephone claimants, who were located pretty much anywhere from South America to Israel, or to write to them requesting additional information. It was often the case that claimants were very old, and had not filled in claim forms thoroughly, or that they often possessed documents with vital evidence which they had not sent to us. Telephone calls with claimants were arguably the most difficult part of the job. Many of them had been survivors of the Holocaust themselves and having to ask them to recall information about relatives who had been killed was a task which required the utmost sensitivity. Although it never happened to me personally, there were colleagues of mine who found themselves on the telephone with extremely distraught claimants who, under the emotional weight of having to recall information from the darkest period of their lives, essentially broke down. As part of our work, we also pored over much documentation submitted by claimants or otherwise obtained in the course of our work. A simple one or two- page document could sometimes reveal the most amazing things. We often saw copies of German Reich passports which were stamped with a large letter “J” to indicate that the holder was a German Jew: this was the ignominious suggestion of the head of the Swiss police department which had authority over immigration, who was eager to prevent a flood of Jewish refugees into the country. We also often looked at census forms which the Nazi authorities required Jews in the Reich to fill in, with details of their wealth and assets, which were subsequently confiscated. “Many of them had been survivors of the Holocaust themselves and having to ask them to recall information about relatives who had been killed was a task which required the utmost sensitivity.”
31 These were incredibly detailed documents which listed everything right down to individual items of cutlery. Apart from these, we also read many personal letters and cards, including those which were sent from concentration camps through the Red Cross, which were especially poignant, as the authors were restricted from revealing the details of their horrifying plight to their loved ones. There were other challenges as well. Initially, geography posed as much a problem as history. Place names that I read in the course of my work often confounded me. Not only were some places rather obscure, but they had different names in English and German and French and their own local languages. For example, Warsaw is Warschau in German and Varsovie in French. Borders had shifted in the inter-war period as well as after the Second World War, so one had to quickly learn that what was once Breslau, Germany, became Wroclaw, Poland, after WWII, just as Koenigsberg, Germany, is today Kaliningrad, Russia, and that Lwow, Poland, subsequently became Lviv in the Ukraine. Despite these initial hiccups, I am glad to say that I quickly got the hang of the job and enjoyed the three years that I spent at the tribunal enormously. While I had acquired a much better knowledge of the history of the Holocaust while on the job and also through doing some reading in my own time, I still felt as if there was much more to learn. I thus enrolled in a Master’s program in Holocaust Studies at University College London in 2005, where I not only obtained a broader perspective of Holocaust history, but was also able to pursue in-depth new aspects, such as the story of the 20,000 German and Austrian Jews who fled to Shanghai between 1938 and 1939, which eventually became the topic of my final dissertation. What do I make of my four years spent “immersed” in the subject of the Holocaust? On an emotional level, after these four years, including one of intense study, I must say that the Holocaust remains unfathomable to me and that I will never make sense of the sheer horror that resulted in the deaths of six million people who were slain for being born a certain race. Although I am proud to have played my small part toward reversing some of the injustices of the Holocaust, I an always mindful that much work remains to be done. The tribunal is still in the process of distributing the settlement money. There are also other organizations dealing with various other issues such as insurance claims arising from the Holocaust and art looted by the Nazis. And, for the rest of us, of course, there is the much more daunting, long- term task of eliminating racism and intolerance. Information relating to the Claims Resolution Tribunal, as well as decisions published by the tribunal, can be found at 31.
32 CHRISTIANITY in the Nova Scotian Settlers’ Freetown, Sierra Leone Judith Huang shares her views on religion and its effect on the community in Sierra Leone Emanuel Swedenborg, the Swedish mystic who founded the Swedenborgian or New Church movement, wrote, in an extraordinary passage in his Treatise Concerning the Last Judgment, that “the African race is in greater enlightenment than others on this earth, since they are such that they think more interiorly, and so receive truths and acknowledge them”, a daring statement at a time when European trade in African slaves was rampant. Swedenborg also declared that “somewhere between the Nile and Lake Chad lay hidden a pure African Church, founded by special revelation, whose members apprehended unmediated truth in a way unattainable by Europeans” (Fyfe 42). Such a view, although emanating from an obscure sect, fired the imaginations of certain Europeans, and Swedenborg’s ideas were mixed into the heady brew of thought that fuelled the abolitionist movement. As always, the best of what exists in the realm of ideas was translated into more concrete terms – this time by a group of three Swedes, all followers of Swedenborg, who, determined to discover this mysterious African church, signed up as employees of Granville Sharp and the Clarkson brothers’ Sierra Leone Company. This Company, itself seeded by the abolitionists, was set up to revive Granville Town in Sierra Leone by transporting a batch of fervent Nova Scotian black loyalists who had been unfairly treated in Nova Scotia and to seek a new promised land in the continent of their ancestors. James Strand, Secretary to the Council, came out in 1792 to the new Colony of Freetown the Nova Scotian settlers had established; Augustus Nordenskiold, the Company’s mineralogist, and Adam Azelus, the first botanist of Sierra Leone, came the same year in May. All three Swedenborgians contributed loyally and enthusiastically to John Clarkson’s administration, all the while seeking the pure African church of Swedenborg’s visions. Strand and Nordenskiold died in the attempt, while Azelus, the luckiest of the three, “met three persons of great spiritual beauty, but sought their church in vain”, staying on to tend his greenhouse of the flora and fauna of Sierra Leone, which he collected to present to Europe (Fyfe, 43). This European-led, literal search for an African church was paralleled by the Sierra Leoneans’ own search for religious identity, a search which continues to the present day. It is a search which echoes and resonates with the many missions, both white European and black Nova Scotian, which used Freetown as a base from which to minister to the native Africans who lived in the surrounding area, and to the continent as a whole. The religion of the Nova Scotians, by the very nature of their rich and troubled heritage, is curiously cosmopolitan, although distinctly Anglophone. Overwhelmingly and fervently Christian, the Nova Scotian  The name by which this batch of settlers are known in scholarship, to distinguish themselves from Granville Sharp’s earlier settlers whose origins are in the London poor, and from the later batch of escaped slaves who came to be known as the Maroons who also inhabited Freetown from 1800.
33 settlers were influenced by the American South, their experiences in Nova Scotia, Anglicanism as loyalists to the Crown as well as because it was the official religion of the Sierra Leone Company, and finally the African tribal religions and cultural mores they had brought with them when they were first enslaved as well as what they were surrounded by when they resettled in Africa. The churches of Freetown had impeccable pedigree: David George, the preeminent Baptist preacher, had founded in rapid succession the first black church of North America, the first black church of Nova Scotia, and then the first Baptist church of Sierra Leone. Even today, Freetown is known as a “town of spires”, containing the physical reminders of the first Baptist, Methodist and Anglican churches and their progeny. Religion held a particularly important place in Freetown, as in contemporary African American experience – Christianity helped and complicated the Nova Scotians’ ideas of freedom, government, African identity, morality and the politics of evangelism, holding a key place in the foundations of Freetown. It was also very much part of Freetown’s spirit and daily (as well as nightly) life – Mrs. Falconbridge, the wife of one of the Company’s administrators, remarked that Christianity permeated the highest offices – petitions drafted to the Company were always littered with Biblical phrases – as well as the mundane: Anderson (a Nova Scotian) sent (Governor Macaulay) a barrel of rice grown on his own farm with the words ‘it is said Thou shalt not mushel the ox that Treadet out the corn and If so how much More Your Hond ought to be estened More them an ox’ Fyfe, 55 Furthermore, the Nova Scotians developed a new hermeneutic which allowed them to imbue their new Colony with a sense of mission which reminds one irresistibly of that of America’s Puritans – another I never met with, heard, or read of, any set of people observing the same appearance of godliness; nor I do not remember, since they first landed here, my ever awakening (and I have awoke every hour of the night), without hearing preachings from some quarter or another. Fyfe, 55 group of outcasts affiliated with England who sought a promised land. So when the people first landed, their pastors led them ashore, singing a hymn of praise, to a cotton tree standing, tradition says, near where St George’s Cathedral later stood. There like the Children of Israel which were come again out of the captivity they rejoiced before the Lord, who had brought them out of bondage to the land of their forefathers. When all had arrived, the whole colony assembled in worship, to proclaim to the dark continent whence they or their forebears had been carried in chains – ‘The day of Jubilee is come; Return ye ransomed sinners home.’ Fyfe, 37 The image of the Nova Scotians landing and marching to “a cotton tree standing, tradition says, near where St George’s Cathedral stood”, whether apocryphal or not, is a powerful one linking the political founding of the Colony to the founding of spiritual purpose. The comparison of the Nova Scotians to “the Children of Israel…come again out of captivity” is significantly akin 33.
34 The first of the two issues Christianity had to inform for the Nova Scotians were freedom and government – and as evinced by the imagery which their landing at Sierra Leone took on, the two were strongly related. Unlike their still-enslaved brethren, the African slave hermeneutic which favored “the narratives of the Hebrew Bible dealing with the adventures of the Hebrews in bondage and escaping from bondage, to the oracles of the eighteenth century prophets and their denunciations of social injustice and visions of social justice, and to the New Testament texts concerning the compassion, passion, and resurrection of Jesus” could be taken literally (Wimbush, 86). For the Africans still enslaved, “the story of the Jews as related in the Old Testament” (that is, the story of Exodus) was a huge “sustaining influence”, but for the Nova Scotians, it was a lived experience – they had been set free, and they literally journeyed to the land of Sierra Leone, promised by the sponsors in England (Johnson, 20). However, unlike the Puritans, the Nova Scotians could not build a government that reflected their “visions of social justice” of the Bible; they were circumscribed by another body, the Company, which also had a vision for them based on slightly different Christian principles. From the beginning, the Sierra Leone Company recognized that pastors were extremely influential in the settlement, and wise governors maintained close relationships with them. David George, the Baptist pastor, judging by the frequency of references to him in the journals of Clarkson and Macaulay, appears to be the pastor who was closest to the governors . After all, Macaulay registered that many of the settlers “implicitly receive the law from his (David George’s) mouth” (Gordon, 147).The same journals, however, also reveal the tensions that existed between the two different interpretations of Christianity represented by the English authorities and the Nova Scotian ministers. A chief difference, recorded by Governor Macaulay in a  The search for religious identity  Gordon, 142. to John Winthrop’s metaphors in the legendary sermon aboard the Arbella before landing in his new world, which also claims the promised land by a appealing to a covenant with “the God of Israel (who) is among us” (Winthrop, 294). The mirroring becomes even closer when one considers that David George, a black Baptist preacher who had virtually led his entire congregation over the sea, gave a rousing sermon under the sails as they were about to land, a sermon that is, sadly, unrecorded. Arguably the Nova Scotians had a greater claim to the parallel with the Israelites of Exodus, seeing as they had been literally enslaved and were literally returning to the “land of their ancestors”. The kinship between the Nova Scotians’ sense of mission and the proto-Americans’ raises interesting and thorny questions about Christianity, seeing as it was Christian Europe that enslaved the Africans in the first place. The Nova Scotians’ relationship to their captors and sponsors’ religion is further complicated by the issue of evangelism to native Africans. In a way, Freetown was a “city on a hill” too – but to their own continent, not to old Europe, as Winthrop had intended for his own colony.
35 particularly long entry, was between Antinomianism – the emphasis on subjective feelings often attributed to the Holy Spirit – on George’s part, as opposed to leaning on the “objective directions from the Bible” which Macaulay’s Anglicanism stood for. The greater reliance on “feelings” as opposed to text, however, is clearly a product of the Nova Scotians’ slave experience, an experience which often left them illiterate, and so quite incapable of personally investigating the Bible. David George himself only became literate in order to read the Bible; his conversion took place before this, and was wholly unguided by any parsing of the text. He describes his conversion experience in his published testimony, recorded for the London Baptist Annual Register following his trip to London: A man of my own color, named Cyrus, who came from Charlestown, South Carolina, to Silver Bluff, told me one day in the woods, That if I lived so, I should never see the face of God in Glory…This was the first thing that disturbed me, and gave me much concern. I thought that I must be saved by prayer. I used to say the Lord’s prayer, that it might make me better, but feared that I grew worse; and The first of the two issues Christianity had to inform for the Nova Scotians were freedom and government continued worse and worse, as long as I thought I would do some thing to make me better; till at last it seemed as if there was no possibility of relief, and that I must go to hell. I saw myself a mass of sin. I could not read, and hand no scriptures, I did not think of Adam and Eve’s sin, but I was sin. I felt my own plague; and I was so overcome that I could not wait upon my master… Soon after that I saw that could not be saved by any of my own doings, but that it must be by God’s mercy – that my sins had crucified Christ; and now the Lord took away my distress. I was sure that the Lord took it away, because I had such pleasure and joy in my soul, that no man could give me. George, Even granted that this testimony was related after George had learned to read, which explains the infusion of Biblical phrases (“plague”, “saved”, “crucified”), the narration is striking for its interiority. The clarification “I did not think of Adam and Eve’s sin” insists that George’s conversion experience was not one of intellectualized interpretation grappling with a text (of the Genesis story’s implication of Original Sin) but an intensely felt experience – “I was sin. I felt my own plague”. This is what George meant when he defends his Antinomianism – George said, “A man must know when he’s converted” but this was really only known through “inward feeling”. Macaulay differed strongly saying that “it involved a turning from sin to holiness, and that every other evidence was vain” Gordon, 143. However, what Macaulay failed to understand was that, from George’s point of view, the “inward feeling” is the “turning from sin to holiness” – 35.
36 as experienced by George himself in his described conversion. However, what Macaulay was concerned with when he spoke of “turning from sin to holiness” referred to another aspect of Freetown’s life – his concern was not so much with the point of conversion, (which anyway he was suspicious of as the “ruinous notion…of instantaneous conversion” and even derided as the “Doctrine of Devils”) as with the every day morality of the Nova Scotians (Gordon 148-9). What he was addressing in his conversation with David George was the problem of his people not “turning from sin” – manifested in the “particular evils of Drunkenness, neglect of family religion, neglect of instruction of their Children & unchastity”, the results of “‘unscriptural’ teaching and ‘abominable doctrine’” (Gordon 144). Macaulay had certainly put his finger on the rather strange phenomena of Christianity being quite divorced from morality in Freetown – a strange concept which, as he pointed out, arose from the unshakeable conviction of the Nova Scotians that they were saved no matter what moral code they subscribed to. Products of a slave experience Like illiteracy, the “particular evils” which were rampant amongst the Nova Scotians were to some extent a product of the slave experience as well. Of these “evils”, the one that rankled Macaulay and the Europeans most was what they perceived as rampant promiscuity, which often led to illegitimate children who were graciously maintained by their fathers as though they had been born in wedlock. This loose view of the formalities of marriage was probably a development from life on the slave plantations, where slaves were not legally married since they were considered their masters’ property. David George himself ran afoul of the European standard of morality when he “(went) the length of receiving his son with his intended wife into his house to live there as man and wife before the marriage oaths”, which is described as a “too common practice (in Sierra Leone)”, frowned upon by Thornton and Macaulay (Gordon, 149). As George did not receive a salary for his work as a pastor, he also at one point supplemented his income by opening an alehouse, which James Walker, a sympathetic biographer of black loyalists, excused under the culture which was “fond of drink, (where) liquor had no social stigma attached to it…but they seldom became drunk” (Gordon 151). However, Macaulay clearly thought both these actions morally questionable, and when he confronted George about them, George repented, in the latter case giving up his license for the alehouse. The clash of moralities between the European and the Nova Scotians was keenly felt on both sides, and is symptomatic of the wider issue that confronted
37 Freetown as well as other Christian settlements under the British (formal and informal) empire: the question of how Christianity fits with the native identity as distinct from the English one; maintaining Orthodoxy without aping the metropole blindly. On the one hand, George and his fellow Nova Scotian ministers were keenly aware of their comparative lack of scriptural knowledge. Boston King, a Methodist Nova Scotian preacher, professed that while he felt comfortable preaching to blacks, “when any of the White inhabitants were present, I was greatly embarrassed, because I had no learning, and I knew they had” (Gordon, 153). On the other, the dogmatic, arrogant approach of Macaulay and, in particular, the Company chaplain, Scottish Presbyterian John Clarke roundly condemned the Nova Scotians’ admirable trust in “God (to) enlighten the illiterate as the educated” through the Holy Spirit as “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness” (Fyfe, 69). Even while Macaulay and Clarke feared and discouraged the indigenization of their charges’ Christian morals, the Europeans ironically imported some of their own cultural problems to Freetown’s religion. Clarke’s own denomination as a Presbyterian, which had been an issue for the Anglican directors of the Company, faded to irrelevance in the face of Freetown’s exceptional lack of sectarian intolerance. Baptists and Methodists attended one another’s services, and expected the Europeans to do the same, showing an example of Apostolic simplicity. Macaulay assured Clarke that, “Here, we are not Presbyterians but Christians” (Fyfe, 69). However, John Garvin, a disgruntled assistant to Clarke, imported his “deep-rooted tradition of English Nonconformists” and attempted to undermine Clarke and Moses Wilkinson (a local Methodist preacher) by preaching to the latter’s congregation (Fyfe, 70). With the help of Jacob Grigg, a missionary sent by the Baptist Missionary Society, he spread rumors that Clarke was intending to outlaw all the chapels that were not Presbyterian, and that, interestingly, the Marriage laws which Macaulay introduced to encourage formalized ceremonies were a prelude to the closing of the chapels, rousing Freetown to a fever pitch which prompted a violent letter of A clash of moralities and sectarian squabbles protest. It was only when Macaulay discredited Garvin that the sectarian strife, wholly artificial to Freetown, subsided. Sadly, it was not only sectarian squabbling that the European Christians imported. The Freetown Colony venture attracted the interest of well- meaning Europeans keen on missions to convert the “dark continent”, who saw the colony as an ideal starting point for missionaries, particularly to convert the Company’s “landlords”, the Temne, as well as the Sasa and the Muslim Fula. However, out of these good intentions sprung a string of failures which would be laughable, had they not also been ugly examples of immoral behavior. Aside from the Swedenborgians, who were more seekers than missionaries, nearly every mission sent from Europe to Sierra Leone was a miserable failure. After Grigg and Gavin, who were sent home in disgrace for stirring sectarian tension over the marriage laws, came a new batch of  The term used for a chief who allowed “strangers” or, in this case, the settlers, to use their land in exchange for a fee. 37.
38 missionaries in 1796, who, upon landing found to their unpleasant surprise that they were expected to work for a living among the Fula, took the next boat home; 1797 saw two untrained protestants sent by the newly-formed London Missionary Society to convert the Susu, but who instead quarreled openly and perpetually in Freetown until one died and the other turned slave-trader; in 1799 a new society, the Church Missionary Society, sent two German Lutherans who quarreled so spectacularly on the streets that they became popular entertainment for the Nova Scotians, and again one of them went off to trade in Susu slaves instead of ministering to them. Clearly, the European missionaries’ sectarian intolerance, arrogance to the point that they came without knowledge of African languages or basic survival skills, and especially their willingness to go into the reviled slave trade did not endear them to the residents of Freetown. For better or worse, the Nova Scotians learned to welcome Europeans as helpers, not as guides or instructors, relying on the so-called Antinomianism that ruled that the Holy Spirit, rather than human “learning”, was what determined Christian or unchristian behavior. Europeans often brought more harm than good to the colonies In fact, even Macaulay once noted that “Africans were the more civilized the further away they were from the coast”, implying, in his paternal way, that the Europeans who came to shore often brought his colony and its surrounding peoples more harm than good, and raising the issue of Europeans as a corrupting influence on Freetown (Fyfe, 66). This idea came in a different guise when David George, Boston King and John Cuthbert visited London in When John Newton, the famed English abolitionist and hymn-writer who had met David George on his trip, was told about George’s questionable antinomianism and how it may be a threat to the London Baptists, he instead turned around and blamed it on the corrupting influences of the London Baptists, for “setting (George) up in one pulpit after another, as a curiosity, and put him upon attempting what he was not fit for”, implying that the over-exposure may have cemented George’s weaknesses. This fear is confirmed by Macaulay, who, overseeing the trip, regretted the Africans’ exposure to certain London preachers, for what he felt were “the undisciplined extravagances…and their readiness to mix politics and religion in their emotional, even ecstatic, outpourings” (Fyfe, 68). Whether or not they imbibed the harmful influences of preachers in London, Boston King, David George and John Cuthbert returned to Freetown revived and, particularly in George’s case, enriched materially to build up their chapels. They were also more successful than their European counterparts in sending missions to the surrounding peoples. Boston King died in 1802 among the Sherbro
39 people, whom he ministered to with refreshed vigor and greater success after meeting fellow Methodists in London, and after he had overcome his prejudices against white people through the preaching he did in the Methodist pulpits of England. Likewise, David George continued to proselytize to Freetown’s neighbouring blacks, until his death in However, though the first generation of these Nova Scotians were more successful in evangelizing to the native Africans, with time and the passing of generations, goodwill towards the surrounding peoples, and the Temne in particular, turned to ambivalence – the turning point being the Temne’s attack on Freetown following a dispute about charging the colony rent. This uneasy relationship was the result of an age-old misunderstanding between the two parties; the Company had understood their first payment to the Temne as the price for ownership of the land, when in fact the Temne chief (the “landlord”) had intended it to be rent for the use of the land, in exchange for which he would mediate any conflicts between the colony (the “stranger”) and other surrounding tribes. In any case, animosity culminated in a war, which possibly hardened the Nova Scotians against them, reducing their scruples against trading in Temne slaves. David George’s son was charged for “engaging in the slave trade” in 1805, while his illustrious father was still alive. While this is a matter of conjecture, this would probably have adversely affected David George’s ministry. What had begun so promisingly in one of the first gestures upon their arrival, made by a Nova Scotian man of Sierra Leonian origin, who found the man who had sold him into slavery and gave him a present because he had been the unwitting instrument of his conversion to Christianity, was dulled by the complexities of living as a separate people in a hostile world where the slave trade was still lucrative and rampant. In fact, the widening gulf between the settlers and their neighbours, to the point that it was acknowledged that “the native African in Sierra Leone was obviously the social inferior of the Nova Scotians”, and subject to apprenticeships that approximated slavery which the Freetownians would not impose on their own, is a social problem that has been handed down to the Sierra Leone of today (Gordon, 155). Interestingly, present day Sierra Leonian Christians are accused of “failing to produce Native Churches” (Symposium, 129), despite the fact that all the major denominations employ African pastors. This is blamed on an over-reliance on Western forms of worship which were inherited from the Nova Scotian settlers – Because the authority of the Western culture and Western institutions outstripped ours where the expression of faith was concerned, it succeeded in converting Christians into people without a soul or a visage, a pale shadow of the dominating pride of the Christian West. At the very heart and center of the Church in Africa, we have in fact witnessed the mutilation of the African Personality, and the trampling of human dignity in Africa. Alionne Disp, A Symposium, 139. The centuries-old question of indigenization of Christianity, this time clothed in postcolonial rhetoric, rears its head again. However, this claim that the “dominating pride of the West” is what “mutilates the African Personality” does not stand up to closer inspection. After all, the Sierra Leonian inheritance included, in the colony’s inception, and in fact in the 39.
40 proto-Sierra Leonians who hailed from North America’s slave plantations, had actively chosen the British loyalist cause; George, King and their contemporaries were no man’s fools, and fought for their own brand of religion while being challenged by Macaulay; even what Macaulay would have imposed on them if he could have was a hybrid Christianity, mixing both African and European strengths and avoiding their weaknesses. In a supreme twist of irony, the Sierra Leonian brand of Christianity is being described as too European, not “native” or “African” enough, by which its critics mean not antinomian enough, perhaps a sign of Macaulay’s success. Perhaps he was right – it was, and still is, highly improbable to find a “pure African church”, “untainted” by Europe and inaccessible to Europeans. What he unknowingly helped to found, though, was something far more interesting – the very varied, brave new religion of Freetown, which mixed with subtlety, anxiety and sometimes pain the European and the African, American and Canadian, native and Freetownian, Antinomian and scriptural, political and emancipatory, in one fascinating, unique brew. Afzelius, the longest- surviving Swedenborgian and successful botanist, in searching for the pure African church, that mystical institution from which “unmediated truth” would spring forth, noted that Any exterior communication with the African Church I think very improbable in the present state of the Christian world, and until the life of heaven is more internally found, I do not see what use it would be of. Fyfe, 43. WORKS CITED Fyfe, Christopher. A History of Sierra Leone. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Fyfe, Christopher. Freetown: A Symposium. Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone University Press, Gordon, Grant. From Slavery to Freedom – the Life of David George. Hantsport, N.S.: Lancelot Press, Johnson, James W. The Book of American Negro Spirituals. New York: Viking Press, Rippon, John. An Account of the Life of Mr. David George. Baptist Annual Register, vol. 1, London: 1790 – 1793, p Wimbush, Vincent L. The Bible and African Americans: An Outline of an Interpretive History. Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation. Ed. Cain Hope Felder. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, Winthrop, John. A Modell of Christian Charity. The Winthrop Papers. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1931.
41 WHY KNOW CURRENT AFFAIRS? Warren Fernandez, Foreign Editor of the Straits Times, shares his reflections and insights with Im Zhen Jie and Dominic Low on the importance of keep up to date with current affairs In today’s world, do you think that it is important to have a good grasp of current events happening around us? Is such knowledge necessary only for policymakers, or vital to even the man in the street? At the end of the day current affairs is about knowing what will eventually be going to affect you. In general, to be well informed of current affairs is to have a good feel and a direction in life. “To be well informed of current affairs is to have a good feel and a direction in life.” For example to be aware of the raise in COE prices would enable one to know how to act in the future. For policy makers, it is obvious that they have to have a good grasp of current affairs for they are going to shape policies in the future. For the man on the street, events that may initially seem remotely unconnected to the masses would eventually filter down. In your opinion, do you think that Singaporean youth today are aware of social and political issues, both in Singapore and around the world? If not, how do you think this trend could be reversed? Singaporean youths are now better informed and savvy. “In fact they are better informed than the average American youth.” Youths living in as big a country as the USA, would have different concerns and a different world view from Singaporean youths. A memorable instance would be one where my wife had a passionate argument with my friend from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government who insisted on Singapore being located in China. It is really due to the way they are brought up. However, I have observed that Singaporean youths are beginning to be caught up in matters that immediately impact them. This results in a more micro and focused interest. Furthermore with the internet, they no longer have to plough through the whole newspaper to obtain their desired information which would otherwise raise their general awareness. This reinforces the closed mindset. If you were asked to name the single most important event that happened last year (2006), what would be your choice and why? The previous year had been an interesting one. The rise of 41.
42 China was certainly very important. The rise of China raises questions of the USA’s and Japan’s response to this. There are so many constant tectonic shifts and pieces of the puzzle that can be changed, that makes this issue highly interesting. The current generation of Chinese leaders seems conciliatory enough, for they understand the importance of the careful balance of power. However what about the generations that come after Hu Jintao? “It would spell big trouble if the Chinese decide to take their ‘rightful place’ in the world and history as a superpower.” It is all about the attitude towards history and China’s place in the world. On the other hand if future leaders were to continue the current regime’s peaceful assertiveness tinged with pride, peace and stability in the region would be sustained. Much of it depends on the USA too. If the USA were to prove unwilling to give up power to avoid a confrontation, a conflict is imminent. Donald Rumsfeld scaled down the army in Iraq after causing the war and sacked the army chief for suggesting a doubling in the size of the army. Many people accused George W Bush for initiating a failed war. But that is all on hindsight. At the point in time, it seem the correct decision to make and he took it. According to the likes of Henry Kissinger, a major American presence in a region of major economic and strategic importance which is in a mess was the right move. Furthermore there was the probability of Weapons of Mass Destructions, which even the French accepted as a probability. If I were in his shoes I would have made the same decision since a tactic of shock and awe would certainly be effective. But on hindsight, it was indeed a wrong decision. The war removed Iraq in the plans of its antagonistic neighbour Iran. In fact I would think the Iranians thinking which God does Bush pray to? It would be cheap to write a column lambasting Bush as an idiot. Only a skilled historian would be able to place himself in such a situation and to reason out the rationale behind such events. “To accuse and to point the finger on hindsight is always the easiest thing to do.” This was similarly the case with the acquisition of Shin Corp by Temasek Holdings. At the point of its decision to acquire Shin Corp, there was much commotion encouraging it not to continue sitting on the cash pile, but to instead expand into the region, take risks and earn larger profits. Yet with the political imbroglio that proceeded, opinion swung to the other extreme. “Again, only a good historian will take the event back to the point of time, examine the minds of the key players and to carefully balance the many factors.” Clearly Thaksin Shinawatra underestimated the King and his political rivals. In fact he never believed a coup to be possible. There was of course the war in Lebanon which sprung out of control. While locally, following a long lull, the new parliament finally opened and with it came many changes. Singapore has decided to reach out to become a global city by bringing in the Casino and the F1 race, so to liven the city. Together with the decrease in income tax and increase in GST, there was the provision of Workfare by the government.
43 This was really significant considering the welfare was always taboo in Singapore. This was a major step in bridging this income gap. Another issue is that with a declining population and a birth rate that remains low, Singapore strives to attract more foreigners to make up for the dwindling numbers, though this will bring in another set of issues. The view of Singapore is changing. It is no longer sufficient to be efficient, tourists need to like Singapore as well. This is especially so since neighbouring countries could provide greater entertainment at lower prices. “The strategy is thus to create a buzz for Singapore as the creative place to meet new people.” What are your best memories of Hwa Chong? How did the humanities scheme shape your college experience? In the Humanities Programme, there was a lot of room to experiment. We were encouraged to be bold and not straitjacketed. In fact in my first three months I was in the stream and studied to be a doctor. However, after the first three months I decided to try the humanities and the school was very supportive of that. This flexibility was something that I greatly appreciated. Literature had always been my forte and I believed that I would study literature in university. However, I soon learnt that I was equally if not more interested in Economics and Geography. Even though it was too late for change, the teachers were very supportive of me and permitted this change. Later in my course of searching for a university, Mr. Barnard, my Economics teacher aided me and resulted in me receiving the Straits Times Scholarship. This thus eventually translated into my present profession and position. What advice would you give to the present batch of Hwa Chong students? “Have a good sense of who you are and go with the grain.” Nobody can do it for you and so to know yourself and to know your inner strength will make a difference. If there was one thing you wished to do in Hwa Chong, but didn’t eventually, what would it be? While taking History may be one of them, “One thing would be to form personal relationships, personal bonds that would last for life.” Just like in University where I knew that it was not the certificate but the people I could meet that was the most important. But that is not to say that the certificate was not important given that it is the pre-requisite. But I learnt a lot through talking to these friends and learning from their experiences. Mr. Warren Fernandez sharing his insights on current affairs and commenting on his 2 years in Hwa Chong. 43.
44 IS MARXISM DEAD, OR NOT? Ong Rui Lin takes us to through to examine if Marxism really has no place in today’s world Marxism is often considered to have died along with the Soviet Union’s Communist regime. However, despite the Communist experience, Marxism’s death is far from being a foregone conclusion. The relevance of Marxism can essentially be evaluated in terms of its political experience as well as its analytical and theoretical critique of society. In this essay, these functions would be evaluated separately, though Marx saw them as inseparable, as seen in his statement that “the philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways; the point is to change it.” The consideration of the death of Marxism is most relevant taken in the context of classical Marxism, as opposed to subsequent modifications such as Russia’s Orthodox Communism. Death, in the case of this ideology, can be seen in one of three ways: being discredited by current events, losing influence or declining into irrelevance. The essay will first consider the ideas and events which have apparently condemned Marxism, which comprise the Fall of Communism, the failure of historical materialism in predictive abilities and the growing irrelevance of class struggles. Then, Marxism’s continued relevance as the antithesis of capitalism would be further evaluated. Last, but not least, a short exposition of post- Marxist thoughts would demonstrate how they are no longer Marxist in any sense of the word. Marxism as a living political experiment died with the fall of Communism in 1991 marked by the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Other communist states have either collapsed or adopted market- based reforms. Eastern European Communist states collapsed in 1989, Communist China embarked on market reforms since the 1980s, joining the World Trade Organisation in 2001, Vietnam have adopted similar reforms and the states of North Korea and Cuba have become international pariahs. Marxism has fallen out of fashion and many Communist parties have adopted social democracy, defending workers’ welfare in the larger democratic and capitalist system. These events appeared to vindicate Francis Fukuyama’s claim in 1989 that history, as being driven by ideological conflicts, has ended with the victory of capitalism. However, to see the fall of Communism, as the death of Marxism, is to see Communism as the sole possible political manifestation of Marxist theories. Though Karl Marx advised the Russians to proceed with the revolution, that “the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development”, the Bolshevik Revolution did not adhere completely to Marxist ideals.  G. A. Cohen, Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defence, (Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 393  Ted Honderich, The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, (Oxford University Press, 2005), p5582]
45 Firstly, according to Marx, the proletariat revolution would begin in the most advanced industrial societies for which he meant England and Germany. Russia was a semi- feudal state with a majority of peasants. Secondly, the formation of the Bolsheviks as a vanguard party was Lenin’s idea, and was counter to Marx’s ideal of a self- guided proletariat revolution which would find its goal in the process. Thirdly, Marx’s ideal of a collective ownership of property in a stateless society did not imply state ownership of all goods and central planning, such as the Soviet Union’s Five-Year Plans. Lastly, the Communist state was upheld by repression and the brutal elimination of opposition. The Civil War in Russia from 1921 to 1924, the Russian Cheka and later the KGB were contradictory to Marx’s final goal of achieving a society in which the working class was free to develop their talents and creativity. The fall of Communism could not be said to have conclusively discredited Marxism; the Communist state was not truly Marxist and were at best still in the transitory dictatorship of the proletariat when they collapsed. One might still argue that Communism was only the actual manifestation of Marxism but then it has been a failure in implementation from the start, and not necessarily a failure of Marxist ideals. Apart from having failed in implementation, Marxism has also failed thus far in its prediction through historical materialism. The theory of history being successive time periods with different mode of economic organisation within which forces of production eventually advance to the limits and overthrow the existing system has not played out in the case of capitalism. Marx’s prediction of increasingly frequent and severe economic crises have also failed to materialise, as The Great Depression among other crises, did not result in capitalism’s collapse. Cohen defends historical materialism by arguing that attempts towards socialism did not fulfill Marx’s stated requirements of capitalism having exhausted its production possibilities and socialism have become fully fledged within capitalism. Since then, generalisations in history have fallen out of fashion and it is questionable as to the extent that history is a discipline amicable to predictions. Predictions themselves may change future events, rendering the general pattern thus far derived irrelevant. That may be the case for Marxist predictions of the capitalist collapse, but since Marx never stated a time frame in which the revolution can be expected to take place, the attainment of a socialist future will always be an open question. Fundamental to the overthrow of capitalism is the notion of class struggle between the capitalists and workers, exploiters and the exploited. However class analysis is increasingly irrelevant as changes in society such as the declining manufacturing sector and rise of white collar employment have blurred class boundaries. Marx’s surplus value theory, which states that capitalists can only achieve profit by retaining some of the value created by workers’ labour, has been replaced by a theory of consumer and producer surpluses based on the interaction of market forces. Many workers now also hold assets and investments and are shareholders in many companies. This makes them both the capitalists and the workers. People also identify themselves based on a whole range of characteristics such as age, gender and educational levels, rather than merely class. This disintegration of class boundaries can also be attributed to education and opportunities based on merit. However, a cynical view of these opportunities would be that these, reflecting liberal ideas of equality in opportunity, are socialising people to capitalism. Yet, the reality of decreased class identification only makes  Andrew Heywood, Political Ideologies: An Introduction, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), p138  David Marsh, “Resurrecting Marxism”, in Andrew Gamble, David Marsh, and Tony Tant, eds., Marxism and Social Science (Macmillan Press Ltd, 1999), p
46 Marx’s theory irrelevant and his prediction of a proletariat revolution ever more unlikely. Despite its many failings, Marxism is remarkable in its continued, albeit indirect, relevance to today’s capitalist world. Marxist ideas remain a critique on capitalist exploitation and a warning of possible circumstances if injustice within the system is not addressed. Marx’s views on class struggles and systemic exploitation of workers can be seen today as relevant to a widening income inequality within society and among countries. His concept of alienation from oneself in production is still true of blue- collared assembly-line work especially in developing countries with a strong emphasis on manufacturing.. However, Marx predicted socialist revolutions to occur in the most advanced industrial states, which currently have shifted their focus towards improvement in services. Yet, Marx’s “commodity fetishism” is a surprisingly accurate description of today’s consumerist society, with people desiring things for the sake of owning them. The effects of advertising in generating demand and people’s spending on conspicuous consumption cannot be underestimated. These may also be seen as effects of socialisation, Influencing people’s ideas of what is desirable. However, far from generating a problem for capitalism, increased consumerism has recruited more supporters for capitalism among the working class, as their consumption abilities increase with the general increase in living standards. Marx in 1848 has also predicted the advent of globalisation in capitalism. In search of new markets, the bourgeoisie “must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere”. Currently, trans-national companies dominate many industries, operating in different countries based on the latter’s comparative advantage. World trade appears to follow Marxist idea of being driven by forces of production of technological advances, which brought about lower communication and transportation costs. This process of global market integration is likely to continue as trade liberation acquires its own momentum as stakes in its continuity increase, with consumers having gotten used to a wide range of global products and firms having operations in a large number of countries. Marxism, though alive in some form, appears to have been relegated to capitalism’s shadows. Yet, capitalism’s continued existence might well be attributed to reforms made in response to Marxist criticisms. According to Burawoy, capitalism has evolved from competitive to organised capitalism. Competitive capitalism would end, according to Marx, in a market dominated by oligopolies as competition paradoxically must create winners, and this would allow greater exploitation of workers due to greater monopolistic and monopsonistic powers. Marxist engagement with liberal democracies have forced the latter into a concern for the working class, most notably resulting in proportional representation of the working class and the provision of universal education which ironically aided class mobility and damaged the prospects a class struggle. Thus, capitalism has survived and evolved to  Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, as quoted in course notes  Martin Wolf (2003), “Is Globalization in Danger?”, The World Economy, 26, p.407  Michael Burawoy, “Marxism After Communism”, Theory and Society, Vol. 29, No. 2, April 2000, p. 160 , Daryl Glaser, “Marxism and Democracy”, in Andrew Gamble, David Marsh, and Tony Tant, eds., Marxism and Social Science (Macmillan Press Ltd, 1999), P. 257
47 its current state, in part due to criticisms which would have been central to the Marxist argument and hence, Marxism is alive as a reminder of the potential pitfalls of capitalism. Marxism has also survived in the form of post-Marxist schools of thought. These now acknowledge all forms of social inequalities, but reject the determinism of classical Marxism. They also tend to pay greater attention to the role of agents rather than solely concentrating on social structures. These mark a significant departure in both content and analytical frameworks from Marx’s writings, and thus are Marxist However, Marxism in its truest form has never been put to the test in real life, and thus, though currently discredited, it will always remain a remote possibility. In the meantime, it will continue to exist in the shadows of capitalism as a useful and continuing reminder of the possible consequences if capitalism fails to rectify problems of inequality.  David Marsh, “Resurrecting Marxism”, in Andrew Gamble, David Marsh, and Tony Tant, eds., Marxism and Social Science (Macmillan Press Ltd, 1999), p. 326 in name but not in essence, apart from the concern with general inequality. Recently, they have also cooperated with other social movements aimed at tackling inequalities, such as the Feminist Movement, and hence appear to be giving Marxism an implicit equivalence to radicalism. With the fall of Communism, Marxism no longer exists as a visible and tangible form. The Cold War and suffering experienced in the Communist experiment have deterred most countries from embarking on another conscious effort to achieve the Marxist communist future. 47.
48 MY PERSPECTIVE OF THINGS Ignatius Low, a journalist from the Straits Times, discusses topics from citizen journalism to his experience in London How is citizen journalism changing informational flows? I’ll give you an answer from the newsroom perspective. Our flow of information has been controlled by traditional media outlets, such as the print media and news broadcast. With citizen journalism, the channels from which we obtain our information sources have widened, so we as citizens are now able to control and disseminate information. It becomes a many-to-one system (instead of one-to- many) because many voices are putting a spin on it, and more people are reporting on it. Take for example the general elections. The last elections was the first time citizen journalists reported from the ground, with people like Alex How taking pictures. Previously, such activity was heavily controlled. The positive side of citizen journalism is that people get to see more viewpoints. In theory they can get closer to the truth because people are allowed to make up their own minds about the facts. But, the society has to be mature enough to make up its own mind. If we’re not mature as a society, then there will be no plurality of views for us to progress together in one common direction. Does citizen journalism thus take control from the mainstream media? It depends very much on political inclinations. In Singapore, we cannot afford to allow that to happen; there might be dissent from many quarters. You’re right that the media has a degree of control. The Singapore media landscape is such that it is covered, unlike the media of the US and the UK, which are much more liberal. Of course, there are also non-liberal media outlets in these countries, like the Neo-Nazi parties in Britain. UK television and papers depend heavily on the average citizen for views. Because of the rise of citizen journalism, new groups can stage their own opinions. This opens up the risk of politically undesirable elements among the miscellany of views. Do you think Singapore’s interests are too diverse? No, we’re actually not too diverse. This really depends on whether one likes homogeneity. Some people are xenophobic by nature. If you care about the growth of our society, you see that Singapore has no critical mass and so cannot rely on the indigenous population. In fact, major cities are also much opened. In New York, only about 1 in 5 is white, while in London, almost 1 in 2 is non- local. This is an inevitable consequence of globalization that makes cities very transient. But what kind of city are we if we become transient? Of course there will be this sense of the city becoming a twenty-four hour city.
49 New York has become less of an American city, though Tokyo is still very much Japanese, probably because of the language barrier. I have friends who tell me that New York isn’t America, and that you should go to places like Los Angeles or North Carolina to see America. The identity of New York is not necessarily that of an American city. Well, Singapore never had much of an identity to start with. We must remember that image and culture are not at odds with diversity. Singapore should aim to be an ‘exciting’ city. Let me give you an analogy. Singapore should be like a space port where we all gather, and one can go into a bar to see all the different aliens. Something like this is already happening. Go to the Citibank building and you’ll see the diversity of nationality and race of the people in the building. We need to sharpen this port of call, and can actually make Singapore a land of opportunity once we identity our strengths. Are we steering more towards a global identity? Definitely towards a global identity, but we’re keeping our Singaporean identity and badge also. If we do not do so, we will be tearing down the historical identity that we have molded. We need to keep a local identity because we really need people to be rooted in Singapore to serve specific national interests such as self-defense. Right now we’re slowly sharpening that identity. I would say that now, it might not be too glorious to be Singaporean. What are we famous for? Being clean and green and having a good airport. But the things that make people more rooted to their countries are culture, art and the subcultures which develop. The Phua Chu Kang shows are actually very clear examples of this. In London, where I was studying, people actually gathered to watch ‘Under One Roof’. It is this culture which makes us still Singaporean amidst all the other international students, and not our achievements. What do you think of Gordon Brown, and how he compares to our leaders today? I think he is barely charismatic. What is important is that he delivers what the British people want. I think there are actually more exciting candidates. But I think there will be a change of style in the future. Just like in Singapore, when Goh Chok Tong took over from MM Lee, there was a period of transition where the style of leadership changed. At the end of his term, he has become more fatherly. This is strength. Similarly, PM Lee Hsien Loong has over his term become more personable and approachable. I was thinking about writing a column about the return of tears to parliament, when we saw the PM actually crying on national day. The new generation of leaders is known for only being smart but not personable - so it is very important that they work to soften their images. This may also be because people value different things in the past as compared to now. And that is probably why we have ministers like Dhanabalan and Wong Kan Seng; nowadays, people are clamoring for charismatic leaders. 49.
50 Do you think there will indeed be a shift in the balance of power towards China, as the SM has noted on many occasions? Well yes and no, but there is a need to address China’s rights and economic power. It was an IMF issue last year - whether China can be given a much larger influence. In fact, they came up with new moves to accord China more voting power in the IMF. Things like this will happen inevitably. Now, to be an economic superpower, you have to play to the rules of the international economy. China is not at this stage yet. Look at its exchange rates. And they are plagued with problems such as piracy and dumping. These will preclude China from being a true power, whether economic or political. China is important by virtue of numbers. But if we’re talking about China being a key player in the key global issues, it will be difficult for them to be a true power. In fact, they are contributing to global imbalances at this point of time, with their undervalued currency. When China transits to a more capitalist and liberal society, only then will it become a true power. How would you contrast Singapore with London? I would think that London is a much nicer place to be in. In a way it is very intense and they have higher standards in everything. I chose to come back to Singapore more because of the atheist culture than because I feel that I am so much of a Singaporean. An Asian renaissance is probably happening. For example, the confidence of people; Last time, it was probably more aspirational. Also, nowadays, like pop culture, people prefer the renaissance feel, like the cathedral of Rome… What were your most memorable experiences in Hwa Chong? It was when our debating team lost to Yishun Junior College in the quarter finals. We were so affected and shocked by it that we went to the extent of apologizing to the whole school. Surprisingly, articles on us then appeared the next day in The Straits Times, about whether students give themselves too much pressure. Other incidents would probably be that of Grace Quek, who was my classmate, and perhaps the lantern making competitions for Mid Autumn Festival. Mr. Ignatius Low examining the issues of media, China and life in Singapore.
51 The History and Current Affairs Society would like to thank a number of people, without whom this publication would not have been possible; Mr. Ang Wee Hiong, our principal, Mrs. Chin Bee Kuan and Mr. Chan Kwok Leomg, our vice-principals for their support, Mr. Nicholas Miles, our teacher-in-charge, for his continuous encouragement, Mr. Cherian George, Mr. Warren Fernandez, and Mr. Ignatius Low for their valuable time, and Everyone else for their wonderful contributions..