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Satisfied pigs or dissatisfied socrates?

In returning the courtesy of a response to a blog comment today, I was reminded of my old article one year ago (attached below).

I blog for fun and consider myself a so-so writer, at high school standard level.
But this blog I think I came close to some semblance of intellectualising our state of being. I'm quite proud of this piece personally.

Thought worth sharing with those who missed it. You might recognise yourself somewhere in the blog.

I'm being presumptious, but I would have loved this blog be read out in high school classes in Singapore. It would I think, switch on many bright lights.

"It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied." -- John Stuart Mill

What drives you in life? The same as everybody else, most assuredly. Desires and needs are varied across the board, but it can be generalised to a singular metric of happiness. Everyone seeks happiness in their life, in one manner or another. Those with higher faculties seek contentment in more grandiose designs, the less endowed settles for more humble ones. To some, happiness is the power that looks down from the barrel of a gun. To others, the endeavor to build their Babels. To others still, it is in service to fellow humans. There are of course, those who seek happiness in pleasures of the flesh.

This is a utilitarian way of looking at life, measured in happiness and lack of happiness, which is pain. If the spectrum of happiness is an imagined utility ladder, then everybody is constantly moving up the rungs to happiness or down to pain.

The industrial revolution stratified society into four groups of ruling class, elites, middle class and the underprivileged. Modern history has been a continuum of political jostling of these groups, often with disastrous consequences in human sufferings. In peace times, people go about their lives, unwary of insidious power maneuvering and palace intrigues. In war, people march against encroaching enemies, or force-marched by draft to fight wars engineered by powers for causes eventually proven fraudulent. As Singaporeans, you fall into one of these classes. Are you satisfied, or dissatisfied in utilitarian terms of happiness.

Ruling Class

The ruling class has existed since time immemorable. There are those who inherited power, those elected to power, and those with power thrust upon them. Some govern with benevolence, others malevolence, but most somewhere in between. In every country, there exists a core of families that run the show. In some countries, the core changes as the ruler is replaced. In some, the core are families that earned their positions through centuries of leadership roles they played. This is the landed aristocratic class in Europe, notably in United Kingdom.

British historian Arnold Toynbee, whose book A Study of History influenced the students of the day in English universities. One such notable chap was a brilliant scholar Harry Lee. Toynbee had dealt extensively on the roles of a minority class, the landed English aristocracy, who put their personal interests aside to come together for country and King in times of crisis. This provides the continuity of leadership of their civilisation.

Lee Kuan Yew was concerned about this lack of political leadership for Singapore. In a lecture in 1971 he spoke about " New countries do not have this continuing hard core of people to provide for continuity in political leadership......... these men have risen to the top by their own merit, hard work and high performance. Together they are a closely-knit and coordinated hard core. If all the 300 were to crash in one jumbo jet, then Singapore will disintegrate. That shows how small the base is for our leadership in politics, economics and security. We have to, and we will, enlarge this base ......"

That speech gave an insight into LKY's earlier quiet political preoccupation of building the leadership base. The task continues. Unlike Toynbee's leadership class of people whose families made great sacrifices over the centuries to lead, PAP co-opts from the talent pool of scholars. Today, Singapore's answer to the English landed aristocratic class, is a networked and well connected group of insiders. Highly paid, access to vast opportunities to public projects, well supported by all sorts of incentive programmes, privy to national master plans, revolving doors to prestige appointments with pristine remuneration, a fall-back circled-wagons support when chips fall, all these and the price for happiness is loyalty to the brand.

The Elites

These are the economically successful citizens, the 10% who owns the 80% of the countries' wealth. They are better known as the bourgeoisie. This group always goes with the flow, riding on the coattails of the ruling class. Not one to stir trouble nor controversy. Rare do they sacrifice for country and King. Rarer still do they throw up leaders to fight for social causes. Do you see anyone from this group speak up against the horrible CECA foreign labour policy? Or anyone lament on the hardship of an ever growing population of food delivery and grab driving Singaporeans who got displaced by cheaper foreign labour? Or rising healthcare costs? Or timing of the increase in GST? Where are Ong Beng Seng, the Queks, Jumabhoys, Goh Cheng Liang, the Khoos ........

The relation of this group to the middle class and underprivileged is, in the best of times, mutual welfare, in other times, exploitation. Their relationship to the ruling class is money. In other countries, influence buying is standard fare. In corruption-free Singapore, they say this never happens, although sometimes they give discounts. In some countries, the elites jostle for political power. The billionaire elites in the western world today are all buying into the globalist march to a new world order under their control. This is never the case in Singapore where elites have political apathy, or bo-chup.

Once their wealth is threatened, elites turn on the ruling class. The true perfidious chameleons arise. But these are treacherous people who entertain no thoughts of taking on the King personally, no, not them. With their wealth, they play both sides, the ruling and middle classes. The Rosenberg, Schwab families for example, aided Hitler when it was in their interest. The French Revolution of 1780s is classic illustration of the devious treachery of the bourgeois. Once Singapore Inc's Keppel corruption case broke into an international affair, they threw some low level managers under the bus and the problem goes away.

The middle class

Division of tasks made possible by the industrial revolution gave rise to the massive middle class, where there was none before. The middle class form the biggest demographic in all countries. This is the mainstay of stability in any country. Where countries are run well the middle class is generally satisfied with their economic well being and there is political stability. Where social dissatisfaction explodes, this class is the hotbed of revolutions.

The tragedy of the middle class in social revolutions is their lack of leaders and ideologies. Their play gets hijacked by the elites. Sooner or later, the revolution always devours its own children.

On the other hand, any palace conflict for control of a country always turns on the middle class. Destroy the middle class and the economy and social structure collapses. It is a tactic to break the tyranny of the majority. The middle class drops to the poor under-privileged class, totally dependent on government handouts. The new ruler steps in bearing gifts of promises of bread and butter. The poor will own no property and be poor but happy with socialist handouts. Dystopian rulers enter the palace with long knives to chop off the heads of the higher educated and intellectual folks amongst the middle class - the teachers, professionals, etc. Pol Pot chopped off a few million heads. As did Stalin. The Chinese, to their credit, sent folks to re-education camps.

Biden's policies are working towards the collapse of the US middle class, this being as clear as daylight in the recruitment of 87,000 armed Inland Revenue agents. The subjugation of this class can then be followed by full scale socialism and totalitarian takeover.

Are we in Singapore also witnessing a planned collapse of the middle class? It sure looks like it. The public housing price levels and schematic of CPF paying off mortgage loans has been fine-tuned to the plimsoll line. It knocks off about 30% of median household income, living one with just about survival level, almost going underwater but just. The CECA policy of cheap foreign workforce disadvantaged Singaporean PMETs into the gig economy, forcing a wholesale restructuring of the labour market that is hollowing out the middle class. A swelling number now increasingly dependent on breadcrumbs from the government.

The under-privileged

In every society there exists the economists' 30th percentile, a huge mass of the poor, under-privileged class. Some of these are physically or mentally impaired, some old and feebled, some retired and leaving off meagre pensions, some living through a bad patch in life and trying to make the best of it, some uneducated who simply have no chance of holding on to a good job, and some given to a hedonistic life sunk in indulgence of alcohol, gaming, drugs, and sex. Then there are the plain lazy buffs who just want to live off welfare. In India, there is the caste system with the 'Untouchables'.

This is the class Henry Kissinger referred to as the 'useless eaters'. Hillary Clinton calls them the 'deplorables'. LKY preferred to use the Marxian term 'lumpen mass'. To Hitler, these are the genocidal markers.

This is the class that most supports socialist promises of redistribution and handouts. Unable to help themselves, they are totally dependent on the government. Dystopian regimes love them for they are the easiest to control. It is the reason why western countries are currently pursuing policies that are engineered to collapse their middle class and cause a massive shift to the poorest class..

A Pig, a Fool and Socrates

John Stuart Mill, famous English philosopher, economist, and political thinker, wrote 'Utilitarianism' in 1863. The prefaced quote of this blog came from his book where he dispelled what he called the 'swine doctrine' against utilitarianism.

In the most basic terms, utilitarianism is a moral theory of looking at any action from the point of view of whether any utility, or gains, is derived. Utility is traditionally taken as pleasure and absence of pain. An action is considered morally right if it generates more pleasure and lesser pain compared to alternatives. Pleasure, or happiness, is taken in it's most broadest sense. It could be intellectual, spiritual, physical, sensual, social, aesthetic, etc.

One objection to utilitarianism is that it is a theory that recognizes no higher purpose to life than the mere pursuit of pleasure. Such a theory is unfit for humans. Mill's called this objection the 'swine doctrine'. The reference to pigs seek nothing but to chomp all day long.

The reference to Socrates is of course about his quote 'An unexamined life is not worth living'. One has to question and seek answers about life and the world around us.

The meaning to that quote of Mill is, should humans be like pigs, eternally hungry and simply be happy as long as they have something to eat, anything literally. Or should humans be fools living in ignorant bliss. In Singapore linggo, be KIASSU, KIASSI and BO CHUP (read my previous blog). The swines and fools don't question nor seek the truth and are satisfied. Or should humans be like Socrates, lead an examined life and seek. Those that seek will be dissatisfied since not all answers in life will be revealed.

Should the ruling class, the PAP parliamentarians, be pigs and fools, questioning nothing and be satisfied?

- Like when Minister Khaw stood in parliament on 15 May 2013 and declared PAP owned the AIM consultancy company. That contravened The Societies Act, punishable with de-registration of a political party.

- Or don't they ask what did Nancy Pelosi seek in private when she visited Singapore in August on her way to Taiwan. The question has pertinence now that it has come to light South Korea is shipping arms to US for Ukraine, shortly after Pelosi's stopover in Seoul on her Taiwan trip.

Or how about Temasek's huge investment in the crypto exchange FTX, now that stories are breaking that indicate company founder, Samuel Bankman-Fried, funneled cryptos to Ukraine as aid and round-tripped it back as donation to the Democratic Party in US. There is also suspicion US aid money sent by Congress to Ukraine could also have been round-tripped back via FTX to fund Democrat midterms election.

- Or where's the report on the KKK Hospital's test on mRNA vaccines for children?

- Or MPs in your meet-the-people sessions. Don't you see a rise in PMETs coming in for assistance and complaints of jobs lost?

- How about asking why is it HK MRT is able to subsidise fares, but SMRT is unable. Both operators are public listed companies.

- Most importantly, an existential issue. Surely you are well-read and have seen studies from all over the world of the rise in health issues relating to the genetic vaccines, more specifically rise in deaths, cancer, still births, blood clots, etc. What is the status quo for Singapore?

I could go on. Perhaps a million dollar pay cheque keeps one satisfied quite easily.

As for the elites class, you big tycoons, CEOs and chairmen, surely you are smart enough to see a structural change going on in the labour market. Surely you see our local talent pool being hollowed out. Surely you understand the long term implications for the nation. You are the folks with visions and world views and understand a few steps ahead of the ordinary folks. You are no pigs nor fools, but the impossible satisfied Socrates as long as a pool of cheaper labour is made available to you. Your happiness lies in the kachang of your cash registers.

As for the middle class, if kiassu, kiassi and bo-chup are your food of love, enjoy biting into the negativities and be satisfied. The middle class is the most powerful in the land. All rules, policies, and objectives must be for the benefit of the majority, subject to rights of the minorities never be trodden. That is the social contract of a democratic society. I am not preaching any social activism, neither do I see a government in degradation. The Singapore government is primarily doing great, when we see in perspective to what's going on around the world. But there are certain areas of governance where concern is justified.

To a query by opposition leader Pritam in parliament recently, Minister Indranee retorted "It won't be helpful or meaningful to" provide the breakdown of the development cost of HDB flats. This is on a level similar to Hillary Clinton's exclamation "What difference at this point does it make!" in the Congressional hearing on the US embassy in Benghazi incident. Both seemed innocuous but they are reflective of the dismissive arrogance of power who has forgotten they are representatives of the people.

Society must remain vigilant to a dystopian creep when truth or quest for truth, is dismissed. There is no one coming to help us and so participation in social discourse is an obligation. Ignorant fools live in temporary bliss on borrowed times of their children. Pigs live in ignorant bliss on the swill because beyond gorging, they understand nothing else. Socrates is dissatisfied with not having all his queries answered but he is happy in having stood up and asked.

Cogito, ergo sum, I think, therefore I am.

 

Patrick Low

* Article first appeared on Down The Rabbit Hole.

 

 

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READER COMMENTS BELOW

7 Responses to “Satisfied pigs or dissatisfied socrates?”

  • Sibei long:

    I am. PERIOD.
    Think or not think. I still am.

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  • rice:

    I think,therefore I am?
    Sure or not?
    I also think and think but who am I?
    So many sgs think but cannot say or get POFMA?

    In $in City,the more you think,the more you don’t know who you are???
    WTF!

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  • opposition dude:

    Wah, long article sia.

    Just make it simple lah. The middle class votes out the ruling class and installs a new class. The old ruling class either gone case or adapts to the new situation. Situation gets better for the middle class for a while before rot starts setting in once again.

    The problem with people who have either gone through hardship then have been in power for decades is that they get complacent. Same goes for those who are just given the power to do as they like without having to go through hardship. The so called “natural aristocracy” as one goondu so eloquently put it, exists until they become the opposition. He knows his party has caused hardship for citizens which is in turn reflected in their vote share and the number of seats lost to the opposition.

    The only issue now is whether more kiasees will vote for the opposition in the next GE.

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  • Dalai Says "Read My Lips":

    A long-winded piece full of portentous platitudes. The premise for the title was great, but I am utterly disappointed by the execution. I think the author (and maybe Mill) missed an important distinction between a perfect world and a perfect self. Even in a perfect world, there will be plenty of opportunity for improving the self — e.g., growing in patience or compassion, or for simple achievement — writing a novel, composing a symphony, running a marathon.

    For most of us, life reveals itself as a spectrum ranging from agony to ecstasy. I like the implications of thinking about yin and yang and no light without darkness. We are most fulfilled when we achieve a balance between these two opposing states of being and cannot endure or enjoy one without the other. There is a problem of course and it is that one person’s idea of happiness is not the same as another’s. A moderately priced, durable brand of car—especially if one can buy with cash, not debt—should be “good enough” for more of us. More frequent home cooked meals, with good ingredients, should be “good enough”. Classic clothes that will last for years should be “good enough” to keep and not excessively add to. And some purchases at resale shops also help. (“Reduce, reuse, recycle”). Even the mega-rich who seem to live idyllic lives need projects to work on, goals to achieve, or they simply end up snorting all their wealth up their noses to dull the pain of uselessness, meaninglessness, and boredom.

    I’m trying to imagine a more utterly pointless way of spending one’s brief turn on the mortal stage than to spend it worrying what would happen once satisfaction in the world is achieved? Bloody unlikely! Which underscores the point about Wordsworth; rather than spend time worrying about an utter impossibility, as Mill did, better to simply open your eyes in real time and contemplate the beauty around you!

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  • Insightful:

    Insightful.
    Good read of society at large.
    Can Singapore be the exception ?

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  • Singaporean R Free Rider:

    Dear Patrick,
    Count yourselves lucky you are not under Chinese Communist rule but great PAP rule.

    This, Gangsterism, is what you get from the Chinese Communist.

    Harder Truths: You mean “the elites have our money and assets to look after them”.

    You mean “The Chinese Gangster have scammed money and assets to look after them” ?

    The Chinese are using the Belt and Road Initiative to export gangsterism.

    Facts#1 Human Trafficking Hell (#167)-Inside The Chinese Colony In Laos
    https://shorturl.asia/FsMDm

    Facts#2 Watch video at time 2:30 Gangster in red T with Chinese word Bai
    https://shorturl.asia/gfozF

    Where are all the Chinese Chauvinistic Pi (CCP)?
    Where is CCP Chief Dave?

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  • I think satisfied lab rats are more appropriate?

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