One year on, the events to commemorate his death, and his life has been, in his daughter's view, cringe-worthy.
I understand her point and share her view.
He would not have wanted this "hero worship".
But I also understand the need people have for heroes.
My sole "contribution" to commemorate his life when he died last year, was this thinly disguised short story. Of course, I believe I got the essence of the man. It is author's pride. Or arrogance.
Let me have that conceit. Or not.
It is of little consequence.
I did not go to pay my last respects when he passed away, because I owed him none. In my youth, I had questioned his leadership and his policies, and his intent. To adapt a quote: any Singaporean below the age of 25 who does not question his (or the PAP's) policies and politics has no heart. Any Singaporean above 35 who does not understand (not necessarily agree) the reason for those policies at that time, has no head.
So I questioned those draconian policies in my youth and dreamt of a more just world. A kinder, gentler Singapore.
Then I grew up. I was no longer a child, and I put aside childish things... and childish thinking.
I learned or realised that there is no justice. Just us.
So after I understood the man (as best as one can without actually speaking to him), I understood his commitment, his contribution to Singapore and Singaporeans.
And found him worthy of respect.
And I made my peace with him. Or rather that "him" in my head.
Not that he needed my approbation or approval. That was all for me.
So when the newspapers reported that he was gravely ill in hospital, I knew the media was readying us for the inevitable.
So even as people sent goodwill and good wishes, and "get well soon's", I was more inclined to wish him a gentler journey. Like this post suggests.
So I owed him no last respect. He had and has my respect.
Last respects are not for the dead, but the living. It is reconciliation or atonement, closure, a settling of accounts.
My thoughts of him in the last 30 years or so, has been respectful and grateful. So there was nothing to set right, no ingratitude to regret or confess, no disrespect to unwind. No accounts left unsettled. He was a big part of Singapore, and a significant part of the history of modern Singapore, and I knew it, understood it, and was grateful to him for it.
Of course, one still needs to show that one understands the debt one owes to those who came before us. Hence that short story.
But that was for me. He neither needed nor wanted my gratitude, nor understanding.
One year on, what his daughter calls "hero worship" of her father continues.
I can understand her point that he would have objected to this hero worship, just as he tried to block the conservation of his home.
But I can also understand why people need to make him a hero.
There are very few heroes in life. There are very few people worthy of respect. There are very few people who are truly selfless, and altruistic.
So when we find one, worthy of respect and even deification, we have to go all out. We have to make our heroes larger than life, because they have to be.
Otherwise, we could all be heroes.
And if we are not, it is not for want of ability, but only lack of will. Weakness of spirit. Reluctance to sacrifice what is necessary.
The point is, those who put him on pedestals, are doing it to satisfy their own need. There is nothing wrong in that.
And, it does not matter what he wants. He is dead. He is now "public property" for Singaporeans to use as they wish.
It is just that for his daughter, who was close to him and knew who he was and how he was and is horrified that he has become public property, it also does not matter what she wants or what she thinks he might want.
The other people who object (critics and ideological enemies), who are horrified by this hero worship and deification of the man are right. But probably for the wrong reasons. Or their own selfish, or self-justifying reasons.
But that's another story. Or post. Probably not. Nothing will be resolved.
We go on. We can because of what he had wrought for Singapore.
We are in a better place today than 50 years ago. We have more resources, more assets, more infrastructure, a better track record, a reputation for competence, honesty, and integrity. And we are punching above our weight.
And he was a big part of the reason we are here, at this point in history, with all these possibilities.
And what should we use these possibilities for?
For our children, for our future.
This is from the post on Defending Singapore - what will you fight for?
The future.All we can do is to give the next generation options. And the one person who has given us more options, is him.
The future and whatever it brings.
The future as decided by our children/ the next generation.
The future and the opportunity it affords our children/ the next generation to do with it what they will.
The future, whether we think it will be great or not.
And it is very human to want to repay him, to honour him, to lionise or deify him. It is not right, especially since he does not want it. It is wrong because that is not what he tried to teach.
Well, maybe he wasn't such a good teacher.
Maybe some human nature is just too hard to reverse.
So those of us who know, know better than to honour him with contrived, wince-inducing display of unnatural emotions.
He himself was not given to public and overt displays of emotion, which is why when he wept at separation, it was chilling.
Conversely, we can see the US Congressman John Boehner weeping at the drop of a hat. Or anything really. (Google "John Boehner Crying")
But back to the private man, the father to a strong-willed daughter, and her very public spat with the Straits Times.
Bertha Hanson as a former journalist understood the process of editing a guest contributor's article, and not surprisingly took the side of the Straits Times. Though she had this to say about the vetting of the commemoration of the death anniversary:
I was surprised that Cabinet actually “reviewed’’ the ground-up efforts, as if they needed approval to proceed. There are already guidelines, for instance, on the use of Mr Lee’s name by groups and businesses.I think she read too much into the Cabinet's "review" of the commemorative activities. They weren't to approve the activities, but were probably intended to be a veto action if there were any proposals that were exploitative or irreverent.
The Cabinet should have been absolutely hands- off. Never mind if this resulted in the looney fringe going “over the top” with displays of hero worship; people will know they are loonies. But the cautious approach of the Cabinet to try and ensure an “appropriate’’ display level of support smacks of orchestration, even if it was well-meaning.
But the media can defend themselves quite well. What was interesting to me was that the sister accused her brother, the PM, of abusing his power.
This is telling.
Because it either means that a) the sister believes the brother is capable of abusing power, or b) the government, and in particular the PM has a serious credibility gap. I mean I can understand that the uninformed, conspiracy theorists in the public domain might easily believe that the PM would abuse power. It is practical a profession of faith for a conspiracy theorist.
But the sister of the PM should know better right? So if the sister of the PM believes that her brother and his govt is capable of abusing power, then it would not be surprising to know that members of the general public without any personal information as to the PM's integrity or character may well believe such abuse is possible.
That, is the scary and worrying part of one woman's distraught response to her perceived persecution.
And that is the sad sad thing about this incident.