I can’t say I was unduly affected by his passing this morning. Then again, I’ve never been too deeply moved by the death of someone. Death is something everyone has to face. It’s the pain I see in others that really strikes at my heart.
But he’s a man that has had a immeasurable impact on life in Singapore and even beyond our tiny shores, and it feels only right that I pen my scattered thoughts on him.
I profess to being ambivalent about his ways. There are many things about the way Singapore is run that I disagree with on a personal level, but he stands by his ways and his thinking. He wanted the results to speak for him, and they did. We have an efficient government, a (relatively) clean city, a top-notch education system, superb healthcare and infrastructure, an economy that grows from strength to strength…I could go on and on.
I suppose he’s right in many ways. That the people are the most important, but not everyone will make the right decisions when voting. The shining example of democracy that is the US is also a paragon of inefficiency, often stuck in political deadlock due to its ridiculously petty bipartisanship. Singapore? We just do things, and citizens fall in line, complaining notwithstanding.
But then there are so many things we feel should change. Education is a rat race for grades. ERP hasn’t truly solved the traffic problem, and neither has the high COE prices. CPF continues to be a heavy point of contention, as is the high civil servant salary (but it has kept us corruption-free). The cost of living is rising, and the influx of foreign talent has everyone voicing their often negative opinions. The one-party rule that he has established has seen growing opposition in recent years.
I don’t agree with large portions of his legacy, yet I know that I can come to such conclusions only because I live in relative comfort, with an excellent education in a low-crime environment that has fostered me into a semi-independent thinker. For creating that safe bubble, he has my gratitude. For having the strength, the will, the brilliance to build Singapore from nothing into something, he has my admiration. For giving his life to Singapore and its people, he has my respect.
He left his mark on Singapore, on Asia, on the world, on us. Goodbye, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. You’ve played your part. Now it’s time we moved forward like you would want us to.