This post is the hardest ever to write. Some things are so deep... so rich... and so vast that words are not enough. I do not have enough skill with words to write a worthy tribute to a man like LKY. I know because once this piece was done, I still felt full and and unsatisfied. Words I write on a page often give me release. This post gave me no release. There is much I feel that I am unable to put into words. Not enough skill.
He is so loved, but he is not around to see it.
In his later years, he must have heard (and been hurt by) all the talk of his "mistakes". Dictator... ruthless... blah blah blah... For years and years, people like me read these comments and stay silent. Maybe we should have said something. Perhaps we should have defended him while he was yet alive. Yet, these comments seemed the height of ludicrousness. They were not worth reading, let alone rebutting.
His legacy stares me in the face everyday and everywhere in Singapore. That is the best rebuttal. The crowds lining the streets chanting his name as the cortège passed is the next best rebuttal.
Can anyone argue with what he has done and what he has achieved? Can anyone argue with the spontaneous outpouring of love that flooded into plain sight as a nation went down on its knees to assuage the pain of losing a beloved?
People who could not be bothered to attend any 2011 PAP election rallies braved the sun (fainted on the streets) and braved the rain (soaked to the bone... and probably will go down with flu). It is so odd that foreign journalists (especially the American ones) presume to judge his track record and strive to bring errrr... balance into the rhetoric surrounding his death.
Who asked you to bring any balance (you who interpret our actions through your own values and history)? Come live our story and then you will have the right to bring balance.
At this point, in this week, for these 7 days of mourning, we do not want balance. We want to mourn in peace. We want to mourn and remember the man who made us whom we are. Those who call him a dictator, do not know him as Singaporeans do.
He loved us, you see.
We love him back.
The person that is hardest to master is the self.
LKY mastered himself. He walked his talk all the time. His own kids attended Chinese schools because he wished to honour those who spoke Chinese. His own house is close to decrepit because he was frugal. He turned down a huge CIA bribe but asked for 10 times the amount for aid to Singapore. He exercised every day... well into his old age. Wow! How does anyone have such an iron will to do that?! LKY willed away from himself all greed... all self-pride... all lust ... and all corruption.
He made sure that his cabinet and his MPs did the same.
He could master himself... every bit of himself and therefore we trusted him to master us.
He was a man of first principles. He never went starry-eyed about silly international rankings. He didn't set out to impress the world. That the world was impressed wasn't important to him. His concern was for Singaporeans... how to make our lives better... how to make us better.
He wanted us to be better. It is this fundamental attitude that ensured that we would not suffer any other PM after LKY to scold us nor berate us... but if it was LKY, we shut up and sucked it up, and were grateful.
That is love. We love him... plain and simple. If Western journalists cannot understand that love has no balance, then just too bad. Sure! He was badass! He was a Class A Badass that one felt safe to hide behind... and follow.
He had the ability to make us better than we were. A nation of air-conditioned sissies braved rain and shine to pay their respects. A nation of money grubbing materialistic and profit-oriented mosquito people gave away food, water and flowers for free. A nation of smartphone toting selfie takers lined the streets to see his cortège pass and whoa... we waved not a single smartphone. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Even as he passed in death, he made us want to be better than we are. In his eyes, we saw our own potential for greatness.
And now, he is gone. Who else is going to tell us, a mosquito people living on a tiny island of nothing at all, that we can be great?
Goodbye Lee Kuan Yew.
Thank you for my life.