Friday, March 27, 2015

To him whom you love to hate and hate to love

It hadn’t always been a smooth relationship.

When I was young, I respected him as I would to any adult, especially one who so crucially shaped Singapore the way it is today. Back then, he was still the Prime Minister of Singapore and I remembered fondly the crowds that stood up and cheered loudly for him whenever he arrived on national day parade every year. I must be one of the last batches of people who had him as the Prime Minister of Singapore before he handed it to the next.

Like a teenager, I went through a period of rebelliousness. That is the phase where I learnt and read a lot more things about the kind of ‘fixing’ he did to his political opponents and how he bulldozed his way and imposed his strong obstinate views on things that matters to him, and to us. Hate might be too strong a word to use, but if all the adjectives in the world can be split up into ‘nice’ and ‘not-so-nice’, I would certainly put my relationship with him then under the same category as the latter.

That phase lasted quite a while, until I started working in the society for a few years. You look at the things you rebelled against in the past, and you shrugged. You go to another country and then you look at your own country. You noticed things that are bad in your own, but there are things that did go right too. In the end, are there more rights than wrongs? At the time when it matters, would anybody who is made of lesser stuff be able to achieve what we had for the past 50 years? Nobody can answer that, but I believe he did what he could at that point in time to ensure that we survive. Philosophy can wait till the war is over. Until then, a strong leadership using more sticks than carrots will have to do.

I started to forgive him. He did his best and nobody could have asked for more. When rumors of his many ‘deaths’ circulated around in social media in recent years, I thought to myself that they should just leave him alone. When his wife left, I didn’t see a politician out to dictate his views on everyone. What I saw was a father, a grandfather and a lonely husband, something everyone can certainly relate to.

In life, he is feared. Oh, how greatly he is feared! It's his intense stare, or maybe it's his no nonsense way of cutting to the heart of any problems that sends the shivers up anybody who dares to face him. He cares not for any public opinion and will gladly be the lone voice of truth, even if it’s his own version of truth.

And in death, he is loved. Oh, how deeply he is loved! It’s his soft touch on anything pertaining to Singapore, even if it’s a trash that floats down the river. It’s his Red Box that is filled with all the necessary documents and observations he had made, marking the start and the end of each day with his country in his thoughts.

Why couldn’t all these human side of him be shown earlier? That would soften his harsh image tremendously. But perhaps this is not what he wants after all. With his boxing gloves ever ready, he would gladly step onto the ring to take on whoever dares to fight Singapore. Maybe, that is how he wants to be remembered as – a fighter who fights for his beliefs.

Like I’ve said, it’s not always a smooth relationship. Like a kid, you love your parents, and then rebel against them and hate them, before growing up to forgive them because you know that they tried their best in their own circumstances that you might never understand. And finally, you came to love your parents and you remember them for all the good things that they had done for you.

All the juicy bits of a roasted chicken that they insisted you eat because they prefer to eat the bonier parts. All the last piece of each year’s log cake that they insisted you take because they were too full. All the understanding and forgiving they had shown you, even when you broke their favorite vase and forgot their birthdays.

All the things we took for granted.

Sleep well, Ah Gong, and thank you for taking care of us when we’re too young to understand what’s at stake.


Anonymous said...

Your article aptly described my sentiments as well.
Going forward,I am ambivalent on where the path is leading us.

darren said...


This was very well written. I was moved!

la papillion said...

Hi anonymous,

Thanks, so I'm not the only one who feels this way. I think we will have to put one foot ahead of the other and find out for ourselves.

la papillion said...

Hi RT,

Thanks bro..I need to get this out of me. It's my own way of grieving his passing.

KC said...

Nice one.

Investopenly said...

LP : Very touching sharing and self-discovery...

He is a giant and we all can learn a thing or two from his vision and commitment...

la papillion said...

Hi EH,

Thank you.

la papillion said...

Hi Richard,

I think I have a lot to learn from his dedication and discipline to a cause.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post ! I would think he wants ppl to remember him as the tough guy so that singapore will not b bullied.
has came to understand more of his policies since his death. I hope that he know that ppl do feel for his death. The unity of ppl just warms my heart n this is something I have not seen for very very long

la papillion said...

Hi anonymous,

Thank you. It also touches me that Singaporeans can do what it takes to succeed. It's very heart warming to see everyone joining hands and heart together in common grief.

BLai said...

Hi LP,

Very wonderful post. I'm also very touched the past week by all the things I have seen, heard about our founding father. Things that were not previously made available except to those nearest to him as well as the many memorable footages of unforgetable speeches on the media. Me and my wife especially liked the one Mr Lee made to the Singapore Press Club in 1996 near the end with this ... Quote “For the young, let me tell you the sky has turned brighter. There’s a glorious rainbow that beckons those with the spirit of adventure. And there are rich findings at the end of the rainbow. To the young and to the not-so-old, I say, look at that horizon, follow that rainbow, go ride it. Not all will be rich; quite a few will find a grain of gold, dig it out.”
RIP, Mr Lee.

la papillion said...

Hi Blai,

Thank you. I think that's the thing that we need now. A hope for a better future. I find that we are a problem of our own success. We succeeded too fast and too soon, leaving the future with nothing much to hope for.

Singapore is in her quarter life crisis - not sure where to go and what to aim for...

Rolf Suey said...

Hi LP,

I am not saying to curry favour you. But I must say, i share exactly same sentiments. Maybe of our close age and pretty similar background.

When we were young, we were influenced by people close to us. They shaped our thinking somehow. Therefore our perception of LKY is not really our own.

As we grow older, we start to rinse the bad memory of the younger days, with new experiences. Of course comparisons and knowing more of the world, allow us to have a helicopter view.

With integrity as utmost importance, how it starts is probably not so important. How it ends is perhaps more important. The ending is filled with LOVE!

la papillion said...

Hi Rolf,

Why do you think you're currying favour me? LOL! There's nothing for me to give you haha!

Jokes aside, I think what you said is true. Somethings we learn only through the passage of time and experience ;)