Call Me By My Name. I’m A Lockdown
From Tuesday Singaporeans have been under the same lockdown measures as much of the rest of the world. Calling it a Circuit Breaker, as the PM did, does not make it different from the lockdown that has been in place for over two weeks in the UK and in most of Europe for much longer. In fact it is an admission of failure and should tell those of you out there who still believe in the PAP Government’s carefully cultivated myth of exceptionalism, that it is precisely that, a myth. A time series of coronavirus infections including today’s 287 new cases, shows and exponential trend. No sign yet of a flattening.
Slightly over two-thirds of the new cases have occurred in foreign worker dormitories. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) licenses dormitories to ensure they are up to the required standard and appoints a Commissioner who reports to the Minister. For Lawrence Wong to excuse himself by saying “we do not have the luxury of the benefit of hindsight”as he did in a press conference today shows him to be totally incompetent and blase about the risks. His Ministry and MOM must be fully aware that the dormitories were hellish and unsanitary powder kegs waiting to blow up. Or else like the rest of the PAP he thinks Singaporeans are too stupid to see where the responsibility lies and will just let the Government off the hook. Or he is shockingly callous. As far back as the 1970s the Government’s attitude towards foreign workers has been that they are just there to be exploited as much as possible. Unfortunately the poor living conditions have now come back to bite them and Singaporeans in general!
Even more shocking is the fact state media either were instructed or took their own initiative to bury the bad news over the last few days (which amounts to the same thing), with the State Times leading with a story on 9 April about “better connectivity” meant to show the Government in a positive light.
Burying mistakes and using euphemisms to disguise unpalatable or electorally damaging facts has always come easily to the PAP Government. They can justly be proud of their world class reputation in developing and extending the kind of Newspeak that George Orwell so brilliantly foresaw in 1984. Flooding becomes “ponding”, a totalitarian state becomes a “robust democracy” and complaining about austerity is evidence that Singaporeans have a “low threshold of pain”.
Lee Hsien Loong’s media advisors, who are probably highly paid Brits or Americans, have him using a vocabulary designed to convey an image of Singaporean exceptionalism, one that is eagerly subscribed to by gullible or venal Western journalists and self-appointed pundits. Calling Singapore a “unicorn”, a phrase drawn from Silicon Valley is part of the process of pretending that we are some newly minted tech start-up with a stratospheric valuation and a total reinvention of business rather than an island which has been at the centre of world trade since at least 1819 and whose future importance was foreseen by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century. By using phrases like this the PM is spinning the fiction that he and his Government are the only people adding value and that without him and his dad we would just be a barren rock.
By using the phrase “Circuit Breaker” instead of “lockdown” LHL is also seeking to pretend that his Government is more technologically advanced than other countries rather than having to resort to measures in the face of a disease for which we have no cure. Social distancing and lockdowns date back to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 and even as far as the Black Death of the fourteenth century.
“Circuit Breaker” (CB) also suggests that this is just a temporary solution and hints at the Machiavellian reasons behind the PM’s choice of the euphemism. What Lee Hsien Loong is aiming to do is just to bring the rate of infection down temporarily, preferably by May, so that he can then lift the CB and call an election as soon as possible. With the opposition hobbled by special arrangements and Singaporeans turning as usual to the devil they know in a crisis, the PM is counting can on another even more comprehensive landslide victory, perhaps a clean sweep. When infections and deaths start rising rapidly again, he can bring back the CB and call it a lockdown this time. After all he will have another five years before he has to worry about the electorate again. Unless Singaporeans at least deny him a two-thirds majority there will be no accountability, either for this public health crisis or for the deep economic recession that is coming.