LKY hero worship is cringeworthy

From Dr Lee Wei Ling’s Facebook post, 26 March 2016

Lee Kuan Yew would have cringed at the hero worship just one year after his death

The response of Singaporeans during the seven days of national mourning when my father, Lee Kuan Yew, died last March was unanticipated – even by Singaporeans themselves, not to mention foreign observers. As his daughter, I too was astounded by the intensity of Singaporeans’ feelings towards my father.

…Life seemed to return to normal for Singapore over the past year. Personally, it was a different story for me. That I don’t express my emotion in public does not mean I am not hurting inside. The wound has only recently healed, and not even completely. So I declined to comment for publications marking the first anniversary of my father’s death.

What made me write this article was a front page report in The Straits Times (Mar 21). It carried a photo of an outline of Papa’s face made with 4,877 erasers that form an installation which is 2.3 m wide and 3.1 m tall, titled Our Father, Our Country, Our Flag. That was the work of 110 Singaporeans aged 17 to 35 using erasers with the Singapore flag on it.

It was a well-meaning effort but it made me wince. Here is why:

The photo brought back memories of my first visit to China with my father in 1976. It was the end of the Cultural Revolution and I have vivid memories of our delegation being greeted by young children lining the streets chanting loudly: “WELCOME, WELCOME, A VERY WARM WELCOME.”

It was very contrived and my father was not impressed. We are Singaporeans, not prone to excessive, unnatural displays of emotion.

…I acknowledge the outline of Papa’s face made with erasers as a sincere gesture. But in looking at acts of commemoration in general, I would ask how the time, effort and resources used to prepare these would benefit Singapore and Singaporeans.

…Any veneration could have the opposite effect and lead future generations of Singaporeans to think that my father’s actions were motivated by his desire for fame, or creation of a dynasty. He strove hard and determinedly in life to advance Singapore, and not for his place in history, or leaving a great legacy. He is a rare politician and leader, who did what he had to do with no thought to any gain for himself.

lky5

The late LKY once said that even if he had to be lowered into his grave, if he saw something wrong, he would get up. Today, one year after his passing, he’s probably cringing from the other side, with Mdm Kua Gek Choo by his side consoling him: ‘Dear, at least it’s not a giant statue like Michael Jackson’s off his History album cover’, to which her soulmate would reply: ‘It’s damn rubbers. At least you could USE a $50 commemorative note with my face on it!’.

What his daughter is saying about the death anniversary commemoration is ‘Nice, but please don’t waste your time and just get on with your lives already’. An even more cringeworthy piece of news was that of an Indian child born a year ago today in Tamil Nadu, also called Lee Kuan Yew, in honour of His Greatness. There was a nationwide search for people with the same name. Breadtalk wisely refrained from capitalising on the surge in this ‘hero worship’. Elsewhere, people observed a minute of silence, flocked to remembrance sites in Tanjong Pagar, shed a tear or two or, if they have too much time on their hands, create mega portraits made out of erasers, signatures, staples, nose hair, back pocket scraps or their own blood. No it wasn’t a mere hero that people were praying to. It’s a God-Emperor. Don’t forget to plan for Sept 16, your Heavenly Father’s 93rd birthday, devotees!

Lee Wei Ling already saw this mass deification coming just last year (Dr Lee Wei Ling on honouring the late Lee Kuan Yew’, 19 April 2015, ST). Her dad was dead set against a personality cult  growing around him, eschewed hagiographies and had urged an ex-MP to ‘remember Ozymandias’, a pharoah who craved glorious immortality only to have his statue reduced to dust over time, leaving only the desert. Other writers advised against lionising the late leader and making an ubermensch out of him. Then there’s all this fuss over the Owen Road house, which may well turn out to be a shrine instead of a historical building if we don’t watch ourselves. Interestingly, Lee Wei Ling used the loaded word ‘dynasty’ in her post, a word that Lee and company did not take kindly to when they sued the New York Times for the defamatory ‘All in the Family’ article about political dynasties.

The media was, as expected, flooded with tears and sentiment of ex-Ministers paying tribute to Dear Leader, expressing more sorrow and gratitude than if it were their own dead parents. Meanwhile, someone else needs to settle the dead SMRT staff incident, while these guys are busy writing their soppy monologues and rehashing their public sad face, which no one gives a shit about except maybe the PM, who must be thinking at some point: ‘Why can’t I spend some time quietly reflecting on Daddy without going around beaming in approval at all these activities dammit!’

Let’s honour the man not by stroking his ghost ego, but by emulating his agnostic, pragmatic spirit. Our nation wasn’t built by one man, so let’s not undermine the contributions of other important individuals by elevating LKY on a godly pedestal. Stop the wailing, the offerings, the hero worship hang-ups and get on with your lives, Singaporeans.

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3 Responses

  1. […] – Lee Wei Ling: Lee Kuan Yew would have cringed at the hero worship just one year after his death – Mothership.sg: 10 heartwarming photos of people in S’pore making the late Lee Kuan Yew cringe – Five Stars and a Moon: Is This Career Suicide? – Andrew Loh: Who is this Lee Kuan Yew that I do not know? – Everything Also Complain: LKY hero worship is cringeworthy […]

  2. What so great about this dictator,, how many have been executed under his rule(850) every 21 day one gonna beat the dust that him

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