Six reasons to worship Lee Kuan Yew’s newest book

Posted on 12 December 2011

We think this is what the enthusiastic reviews and lavish praise by foreign and local luminaries meant.

By Chong Zhi Ping

Another day and another hefty tome by Lee Kuan Yew, this time titled, “My Lifelong Challenge: Singapore’s Bilingual Journey“.

Turns out, his latest bout of hard truths has been well-received across the real world although word on the street is that Lee Senior may have fallen behind some relatively unknown Singaporean in terms of cyber groupies.

However, with the greater good of our nation in mind, I have taken the liberty to compile these glowing appraisals from LKY’s BFFs that totally don’t mean to hard-sell.

Written and published in both Chinese and English editions, this book is an emblem of the reigning king of bilingualism’s bilingualism.

Get it? So subtle, right?


Bro Schmidt enjoying My Lifelong Challenge.

1. “This book is yet another proof of his perspicacity and competence.” (Helmut Schmidt, former German chancellor)

Other than riding tigers, Mr Lee is also fond of jotting down his thoughts. This kind of makes him on par with leader extraordinaire Sir Winston Churchill, a.k.a. the Greatest Briton of all time.

Don’t get me wrong. Mr Lee’s failure to win a Nobel Lit Prize like Churchill is in fact a reflection of the pseudo-liberal-Western cultural intolerance towards our noble Asian values, rather than any disapproval of Mr Lee’s linguistic abilities.

I mean, we are talking here about the man who let fly with the quote-worthy “repression is like making love – it is always easier the second time” during the conservative 1950s.

He’s got the moves like Jagger – with words. Even before Jagger was moving like Jagger.

Astute observation from the Hawke-eyed.

2. “For anyone seriously interested in Asia – and the essentials of good leadership – this book is a must read.” (Bob Hawke, former Australian prime minister)

What is good leadership?

Well, even in semi-retirement, Mr Lee’s Tanjong Pagar constituency is the only PAP ward that received a 100% mandate in the recent general elections.

Talk about supreme leadership.

And here’s a fact: Lee Junior is now prime minister and his wife oversees our country’s sovereign wealth.

Therefore, good leadership undeniably begets good leadership.

To contextualize, only North Korea’s Kim clan can measure up to Lee Senior’s staying power. Considering that the Kims cheated via autocratic means, Mr Lee’s honest-to-goodness leadership style is a rare breath of fresh air that is not to be missed.

Bro Tian Poh (right) applauding Mr Lee at a hand-clapping event.

3. “As prime mover of the bilingual policy, Mr Lee Kuan Yew is the most authoritative person to elaborate on this issue that involves politics, culture and race and evokes complex emotions.” (Chua Thian Poh, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman)

A good policy needs no explanation. A great policy, however, shall be documented for every details so that it will never lose its benign intentions or be taken for granted.

In this respect, Mr Lee is comparable to the mythical Duke of Zhou or Tun Sri Lanang, legendary figures who painstakingly sacrificed their leisure to construct powerful collective memories for their subjects to always fallback on.

Indeed, it’s surprising that the MOE is taking so long to make My Lifelong Challenge a staple of its syllabus when Heng Swee Keat has been going on so much about values and character education. Do check your boss out, yo!

According to Princess Maha, Mr Lee prefers to talk to her in Mandarin.

4. “Mr Lee Kuan Yew is known to the world as one of the greatest statesmen. And above all it is undeniable that he is the person who knows Singapore the most.” (Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Thailand)

Her Royal Highness Princess from the land of smile can be grim at times, but she nailed it right there.

The problem with the modern world: The person who knows best is not always in the driving seat. That is why we had George W. Bush.

Lucky for us, we have Mr Lee, The One who knows our little red dot by his pinkie. (Latest proof: A friend staying in Hougang but belonging to Aljunied GRC rang me up to repent as predicted).

Devour his thinking process, and you will gain a little of his superpowers.

Prof Kuo sees the big picture.

5. “Mr Lee’s insight and persistence, and the imposition of his personal will, led to Singapore society becoming what some say is the largest and most complex language laboratory, providing rich examples for sociolinguistics and language planning studies.” (Eddie Kuo Chen-Yu, Emeritus Professor, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University)

Do not be misled into thinking that Prof Kuo is hitting out at Mr Lee for imposing his personal will, because if that was the case, this opinion would never have been aired.

On the contrary, the comment was a genuine compliment. Remember, as established, Mr Lee is the person who gets Singapore the most.

Consequently, his personal will is the general will of Singapore. The authority to impose his personal will in turn reinforces Mr Lee as the man who fully comprehends Singapore.

In other words, Mr Lee is the living philosopher-king French idealist Jean-Jacques Rousseau envisioned, only he is more of a hitachi from Lanfang Republic than angmoh from Corsica. So, if the Germans had Mein Kampf (incidentally translates to My Struggle), and the Chinese had the Little Red Book, we can match them with My Lifelong Challenge.

A reflective man, Chong.

6. “This book succinctly illustrates other facets of a language…. that it is about livelihood; about survival and most importantly, about knowing who we are.”(Chong Lit Cheong, CEO of CapitaLand Commercial)

Unlike his fellow luminaries, CEO Chong opted to summarize Mr Lee’s core message in true executive summary fashion. Basically, what Chong learnt from Mr Lee is that, languages are not just figures of speech. They are also the source of social realities.

By extension, therefore, languages must be treated as pragmatic matters. In top-down manner, too.

As normal earthlings, we need Mr Lee’s omnipotence to guide us through our true enlightenment as such.

Or in short, just read the damn book and learn like Chong.

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- who has written 268 posts on New Nation.

Joey is an intern at New Nation. He hopes to be as funny as Belmont one day and get laid at least twice a month.

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