I am thousands of miles away but even so, I can sense the grief. The immense sadness over the passing of what is no doubt, a remarkable man. Online, there are tributes and stories of his achievements, expressions of gratitude and sorrow, even a few (badly written) poems. All this is understandable – he meant a lot to millions of my fellow Singaporeans.
But what I cannot comprehend is the condemnation that greets anyone who dares say anything negative about his rule. It is not right to speak ill of the dead. It is rude. You’re not being human. Think of the family. Allow the rest of us our grief. Shut up. Look at what he’s done for us. Stop being an asshole.
But why? Why should those who believe they’ve benefitted from his actions think they have right to silence those who feel they’ve suffered? Is gratitude the only emotion allowed at his passing? What about the people he jailed, bankrupted, persecuted, destroyed? Are they to deny themselves feelings of relief, anger, perhaps even glee?
I am not sad today. Neither do I rejoice. After all, his life was long and fruitful. He was adored, feted, handsomely rewarded. Along the way, he destroyed a few people. He undermined our fundamental liberties. He never once showed he was sorry. Maybe he did all this to bolster his own power. Maybe he was just being a politician. Maybe it was necessary. After all, look at Singapore now.
But why should we all be grateful? Why is it not patently obvious that there will be diverse reactions to this man’s death? He was controversial. He was not nice. Some of his ideas were pretty fucked up.
Yes, for most of us, life’s been good. But for some others, it’s been less than ideal. Grief does not give anyone the right to be an asshole. You believe yourself to be a beneficiary of his brilliance? Good for you. But while you wax lyrical over his achievements, allow those who see themselves as his victims their space, their emotions too.