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Greatness is not guarding yourself from the people, it is being accepted by the people

The big news this week was the fact that Mr. Samuel Seow, a prominent lawyer in the entertainment scene was struck off the roll of advocates and solicitors for verbally and physically abusing three women who worked for him. The story can be found at: [LINK]

This incident is horrifying and while it is good that Mr. Seow has been struck of the rolls, the punishment does not seem significant in a nation that makes a song and dance about having harsh penalties to deter crimes. What Mr. Seow did was not just abuse but criminal intimidation (What else can you call holding a knife at someone and threatening to kill them?). If we really are a nation that believes in justice and equality, Mr. Seow must face our famously harsh penalties so that future abusers are “deterred” from doing such things.

What makes these crimes particularly awful is the setting of the crime. This did not happen in a seedy bar in the red-light district or in a dark ally way in the migrant worker area. This happened in a lawyer’s office located on Singapore’s main shopping district. The three young ladies that he assaulted were not “looking for trouble” by going to “dodgy” areas and behaving inappropriately at a time when they should have been at home. They merely went to work like normal and get got assaulted.

Then, there is the issue of who the assailant is. He is not a migrant worker who lost his money in a scam and decided to rob someone out of desperation. He is not someone with a low IQ nor is he some kid who ended up in “Bad Company” and spent his days committing armed robbery instead of going to school. If anything, Mr. Seow is the picture-perfect Singaporean. He is a lawyer (which means he’s not only been through school but also had to go on a number of professional courses) and he’s a lawyer with 20 over years of experience – hence you can’t say he’s an immature kid acting on impulse. Furthermore, he’s not just any lawyer. He is known as the “Entertainment” lawyer or the man that people in the publicity industry turn to.

It’s one of those cases where the more you look at Mr. Seow’s status and all the good things he’s achieved, the more inexcusable his crimes become. There was no way Mr. Seow could not have known that he was doing was criminal and there is no evidence to suggests that Mr. Seow was suffering from mental incapacity. Yet, despite this, he chose to engage in criminal activity.

So, what makes a man in Mr. Seow’s position behave like this? This question needs to be asked because, while Mr. Seow is a very visible example of a boss behaving badly, he is very likely not the only one to be behaving in this manner. As I’ve argued previous postings, Singapore has peculiarity from the rest of the world. In other places, crime like taking upskirt videos, mistreatment of workers and so on, are usually crimes associated with the lower strata – the poor, unwashed and uneducated. However, in Singapore, these are crimes that are committed by the educated and well to do (University students and working professionals).

I think of the first time I ever had to hand my identity card over the police. It was an exquisite spa, when the woman I was hanging out with at the time decided to throw a tantrum because the spa wouldn’t let me sit in on her massage. When I told Flesh Ball, her reaction was “Oi – how many years you hang out with me in Geylang [Singapore’s Red-Light District] and how many time the police ask you for your IC? After three dates in attas place you have to hand over your IC to the police.”

So, why is it such that Singapore’s “Educated” class in behaving in a way that you only associate with the rubbish in other parts of the world? A part of me suspects that while things may look good on the surface, we are in fact a very repressed society and this situation is in part due to one of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s biggest failures – an obsession with using fear. He himself said that if given a choice between being “feared” and “loved” he would prefer to be feared.

I don’t doubt that fear can be a useful tool for people with power. I don’t doubt that fear if used correctly can have a positive effect. Sad to say, there is an element of society that needs to fear something (jail time etc) in order for the rest of society to be able to function. However, this can be taken to an extreme, where fear is used to the extent that the people creating the fear have no fear of the consequences of their actions.

Mr. Lee Kuan Yew got away with it because he was a man of strong character and although he did get used to enjoying power, he was also wise enough to know that there had to be limits. He knew that trade-offs had to be made. People would fear the government but government need to use it to get things done and ensure a better way of life. Like him or loath him, Mr. Lee saw to it that government performed at a certain standard.

Unfortunately, not everyone who comes into power has Mr. Lee’s character. As Mr. Seow has shown, weaklings do come into positions of power and after awhile they develop what can only be politely described as a “God-Complex,” believing that they can do anything to the people beneath them because nothing will happen to them. You will notice that weaklings in power enjoy reminding the people beneath them that they are somehow dependent on them so its best not to change things.

This is not healthy because it effectively corrupts things and corrupt systems do not produce anything of value. The rot that starts at the top because the top does not believe it will be held to account. Then the rot moves down. Most people from the African continent will, for example, be able to testify to the fact that corruption at the top creates systems where you cannot survive by being honest.

If you want to see the ill effects of our over reliance on fear, one only needs to take a trip to the Malaysian state of Johor. You will find litter bugs are inevitably Singaporeans. If you were to ask them why they litter in Johor but not in Singapore, the answer is simple – because they can. The thing keeping Singapore clean is not the fact that the people are clean but the fact that they fear the fine imposed on them if they get caught and once you remove that fear, the people behave in a way that suggests they are not as clean as the city they come from.

Ironically, Mike Tyson said it best when he said, “Greatness is not guarding yourself from the people, greatness is being accepted by the people,” when he was rebuking Floyd Mayweather for claiming to be the greatest boxer ever. When you use fear as a tool of power, you become fearful too and then you set yourself apart from the people. Think of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, where people lived in constant fear of Saddam. Funnily enough, Saddam was also living in constant fear.

Fear can be used initially to get things done. However, you need to produce results that make life better for everyone. Tech legends Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were known to terrify employees. However, they created revolutionary products (hence the feeling of being part of something) and they also made ordinary people very rich. Seattle is filled with “Microsoft Millionaires,” who may have disliked Bill Gates for terrifying them at work but in the end, he saw to it that got a better life by merely working hard. Fear turned to respect. Same is true for Lee Kuan Yew.

This is something many of the word’s strutting peacocks forget. People will only put up with being afraid of you if its going to lead to something for them. If they have to feel frightened on a daily basis because you are uncertain if certain parts of your anatomy exist, they will either leave or do whatever it takes to ensure you will never have the ability to terrify.

In order to ensure that Singapore does not suffer from the corrupting influence of fear-based leadership, the justice system needs to see to it that Mr. Seow pays for his crimes so as to set a message that people in power are accountable. Making Mr. Seow would remind Singaporeans that Singapore is the “Lion City” and not the “Ameba City” and we should expect people in leadership positions to be lions and not ameba.

 

Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.

 

 

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READER COMMENTS BELOW

13 Responses to “Greatness is not guarding yourself from the people, it is being accepted by the people”

  • MarBowling:

    THINK this “SEOW” bugger deserves to be CANNED on top of a heavy fine and jail term!

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  • illiterate pap voters:

    MarBowling:
    THINK this “SEOW” bugger deserves to be CANNED on top of a heavy fine and jail term!

    criminal intimidation?

    hahaha.

    let us rewind to the pap saga.

    the pap saga is, when pap clown slapped pap dana, it was said pap jiak liao bee was so upset he resigned. it needed pap wooden goh cock tong to say publicly there was no such slapping. nothing happened to pap clown. he was even promoted to PM seat thereafter.

    1, in pap island, INSIDE 200m is not within 200m.

    2, in pap island, caning is only for cotton sheep.

    3, in pap island, if anyone dares to ask, how come like that, sure as sunrise POFMA contempt of court or such charges shall be applied.

    criminal intimidation?

    pap does it everyday. where got caning?

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  • AristoCATs - no Limit ?:

    > “Mr. Lee Kuan Yew got away with it because he was a man of strong character and although he did get used to enjoying power, he was also wise enough to know
    that there had to be limits. ”
    -
    Really ???

    How many opposition politicians made bankrupt?

    How many detained wo trial ?
    -

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  • xoxo:

    These days,impudence seemed to a quality of so-called *atas*(well-educated) younger sgs (under 45/ 50) who emulate the arrogant ang mohs of similar age-group.

    Many learn some form of martial arts especially the unscrupulous *MMA* that detracts from more orthodox art forms.

    They resort to brute strength rather than REASON.
    FRANKLY,oftentimes,there is hardly any sort of REASONABLENESS coming from them or their ACTS OF AGGRESSION N VIOLENCE.

    OUR YOUNG tends to ape ang mohs’ bad conduct.
    I am speaking not just from observations but from my personal encounters with some thuggish people who hold executive positions like expatriates ,etc.

    I make no apology on my sincere comments here.
    Ang moh FTs are getting more n more arrogant here even if they try to be better behaved just across the CAUSEWAY.
    THIS IS PROBABLY SO BECOS OF HOW OUR GOVT LEADERS MAKE DAFT COMMENTS ABOUT us like racist,ungracious and whatnots.

    Many of our indignations have links to the way the govt treats us.
    Why ,just some years ago,foreigners living n MAKING A LIVING HERE IN tiny SG were more courteous and respectful towards us but this is no more the case now?

    Daft leaders are disruptive to our general QELFARE(DECENT EMPLOY) N WELL-BEING.
    JUST LIKE TO REITERATE THE ALLOCATION OF THE RECENT $100 BILLION TAKEN FROM SGS’ OWN RESERVES WHERE many needy n deserving sgs received a mere $600 out of a claimed PER CAPITA GRANT OF $23.5K?
    MULTIPLY THE SHORT-CHANGE OF $22,900 BY THE NUMBER OF sgs who received only $600.
    I am sure it is a HUGE $UM!!!

    Senior sgs are being marginalised to grave extents and are even subjected to bashing/bullying from *economic $cavengers* who dare show not only disrespect for our citizens but even breaking the LAWS.

    THIS MUST BE STOPPED ASAP before it spreads and becomes more n more wide-spread.
    The onus falls on the same govt leaders to rectify this off-tangent unacceptable disrespect foreigners n others accord to our PEOPLE especially seniors as evidenced by not a FEW(out of many unreported) real life cases reported PUBLICLY.

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  • Sin City:

    Two kinds of fear. Most are accustomed to self preservative fear. The kind of fear that is entirely opportunistic and would comply with the law to avoid punishment. They are mostly your regular and average residents or citizens to religious and political opportunists. You can still get round the law and commit the forbidden.
    Then there is the truly reverential kind of fear born out of humility and from one’s mortality. The fear for your creator and his established authority on earth. You lack the latter kind of fear, you are doomed.
    Should pay particular heed to the sound of the wind if you proudly regard
    your preordained animal sign, the king of the b****, in this part of the world.
    1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

    Your king “devoured” the region and beyond. He even influenced and awaken the dragon.

    He was a man of the law, wasn’t he? He carried a mighty sword and was feared and widely respected(greatly honoured)beyond his shore.

    What does that mean, Sin City?

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  • Harder Truths:

    Mr. Lee Kuan Yew got away with it because he was a man of strong character and although he did get used to enjoying power, he was also wise enough to know that there had to be limits. He knew that trade-offs had to be made. People would fear the government but government need to use it to get things done and ensure a better way of life. Like him or loath him, Mr. Lee saw to it that government performed at a certain standard.

    You have no idea Tang Li. Your articles are full of fiction and self-praise. You write a lot about how clever you are. Yes by all means post in TRE. You have as much standing as used toilet paper.

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  • Chao Ah Gua:

    Sidetrack a bit. This story is for Spore R FRee Riders.

    I once worked for two chao ah gua bosses. Boy do they enjoy flying off the handle and having hissy fits, throw remper and shout at people. All over minor issues.

    It’s unacceptable to be screamed at in public. During the 90s fresh out of school, One chao ah gua interviewer in advertising screamed at me because I did not have a portfoilio or even knew what it was. He could just say nicely what was required.

    Moral of the story, it’s ok to have chao ah gua as colleagues but not as bosses.

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  • illiterate pap voters:

    Harder Truths:

    You have no idea Tang Li. Your articles are full of fiction and self-praise. You write a lot about how clever you are. Yes by all means post in TRE. You have as much standing as used toilet paper.

    We agree. So we say, focus on the comments many of which are usually informative.

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  • Stupid Singaporeans Vote PAP:

    It was the camera that caught him. Can you imaging during the SLAP, no camera was there or perhaps….. And no one dare to even whisper about it. Was the slapper less guilty than this Seow fellow?

    THINK. Simon always asks you guys to think, did you?

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  • stop the abuse:

    Good to see such bosses punished.
    Should stop all abuse,especially from the top people.
    No one has damn right to abuse others.

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  • Production:

    Name already say Gila.

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  • panyusg:

    I felt the punishment was too severe. While the offence was inexcusable, it was not such that the women were damaged for life. It could have been stress or that he was a temperamental person normally. There was no testimony that he was a violent person normally.

    Whatever, Spore must be a society that can forgive and not seek the pound of flesh. A period of suspension would have suffice.

    Lesson: Never, never have a camera recording events. So many got into serious trouble because of the video recordings.

    To me Spore is now a Hotel…nice five start hotel. Stay when I wish and leave when I wish.

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  • No self control:

    I worked for so many bosses. So far I can truly say only one or two never lost t heir remper.

    The others all lost their temper or threw their weight around because they think employees have no avenues. Or are afraid of losing their jobs.

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