Monday, February 06, 2006

Democracy --- Idealism or Pragmatism?

Democracy --- Idealism or Pragmatism?

There has been a persistent debate on "Asian Values" versus "Western Democracy" and why Singapore should not take "Western Democracy" wholesale.

PAP has gone a step further by equating "Asian Values" with "Confucius Values". Sometimes, a Western philosophical term will also be used, Socratic "Philosophical King" to determine the "high standards" or "expectations" of political leadership. Ironically, the "Western Democracy" is termed as "Idealistic" in nature whereby the demands of "Confucius Saints" or "Philosophical Kings" are accepted as achievable standards in Singapore?s context. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that throughout the thousand years of human civilization, there were hardly any saints or Philosophical Kings in existence. This is only NAUTRAL as human beings are full of imperfections.

To understand fully the context of Confucius political demands of the "rulers", one must understand the historical background whereby Confucianism was born. Confucianism was born in the midst of warlords fighting each other to gain power and control when the decline of Zhou Dynasty set in. Confucius paid highest regards to pre-Zhou Dynasty emperors whom have passed over power to those who were not of the same blood but had good characters and wisdom. That is the ideal situation of political setting for Confucianism instead of a monarchy rule which is passed from father to son and then to grandson. Those with the best talents or wisdom, in their context, with the best characters like a saint, will become emperors.

In the historical context, Confucius was trying to convince the various rulers that in order to become the ultimate ruler of China, one must be a saint who practices benign, compassionate and "pro-people" rule. However Confucius did not advocate "elected ruler" though he believed that the ultimate ruler would be the one who wins the hearts and minds of the people. A certain element of "divinity" or monarchy element was installed even though he paid highest respect to rulers that give up their position to those with talents and wisdom.

For those who are well verse in Western Philosophy, Socratic "Philosophical King" was developed as against the context of Greek's first "democratic institution". Socrates believed that only a "Philosophical King" with all wisdom, virtues and talents, will give the country best political leadership as contrast to the Greek system. It was never mentioned that the "Philosophical King" must be "elected" but yet his rule would be assumed to be absolute as only he has full wisdom.

Both the concepts of Confucius Saints and Socratic Philosophical Kings have implicitly pointed to an absolute rule of a single PERFECT ruler. And it also assumed that there would always be Saints or Philosophical Kings available at any time.

Is this assumption acceptable or practical in any sense? I truly doubt so. Human beings could aim for perfection but the fact is, in all recorded human civilization, how many Saints or Philosophical Kings or Perfect human beings could we find?

Apparently neither Confucius nor Socrates have catered for the situation whereby there isn't any Saints or Philosophical Kings around.

Human civilization has come a long way to understand that a country cannot do without a governing body but yet, nobody is perfect. To rely on the feudalistic monarchy system will only breed hardship and anarchy. Thus Democracy is born.

Democracy is never "idealistic" as it is designed to cater to human beings who are understood as imperfect, thus the need of checks and balances. Power corrupts and human beings are corruptible. Thus Democracy aims to serve the masses by providing a system of checks and balances for the imperfect human beings that are endowed with powers to rule.

If we do have near perfect human beings around to become our political leaders, then it is our fortune. But if we do not have such good fortune, we will rely on the system of checks and balances provided by the Democratic system to serve the masses.

I would say that it would be too idealistic to hope for a Confucius Saint or Socratic Philosophical King to appear in each and every generations of Singapore to lead us to prosperity. It would be more pragmatic and realistic to depend a democratic system of checks and balances to serve us all.

Goh Meng Seng


Anonymous said...

i so happen to come across your blog.. besides the politics you wrote abt... can i jus ask a question?
... not meant to be rude...
do you think the blog is the only way left for opposition party to forward its message and to present the un-censored facts to the public? especially when PAP is in controlled of mass media.

in fact, to wat extent can opposition party use mass media to campaign in the upcoming GE? or can mass media help in any GE at all?

and do you think PAP are marking your blog ?

Elfred said...

Dear Ah Goh Goh...

I can't believe you are writing rubbish again...

I don't even think that Kong Zi believed there would be saints. His students had sometimes 'joke' at his ideology on fixed plane.

Political thinkers' wisdom cannot be taken in such a manner as many such people across times ain't successful 'kings' of their home or businesses.

Please don't try to talk about political thinking which you obviously ain't adept in and obviously have a weak foundation in.

Democracy is idealistic or not, we have already have great lessons, if not via political wisdom, to understand it.

MM Lee was the biggest caller of democracy, before PAP became incumbent. Soharto won more than 10 times of democratic elections even if the people would ready to dispose of him. President Bush won a democratic elections even as eggs showered on him and for what his great 'archievements' lingering in Iraq. Arroyo cringes onto power via democratic elections. Thaksin play political leader and big business boss and nobody can do anything to him (for now) also because of democratic elections...

And lets not forget, both Hamas and Hitler got into power right into parliament under the eyes of oppositions...

There... can only be one issue about good government: Good leaders, and good governance.

Mr Ah Goh Goh... not that I wanna condemn you... but you really have a problem in political thinking, and Singapore is not a bloody business opportunities for suka suka opportunist.

-Your good old Elfred.

boon ho said...


good leaders or not, a system needs checks and balances. are leaders humans? do humans make mistake? is it possible for mistakes to be covered up?

no offense, but you lack critical thinking skills.

Elfred said...

Hahahaha, Boon Ho, it's ok.

I understand how you people think 'critically'.

No a problem.

Anyway, wrong frequency, Boon Ho. :)


ignatius masayuki said...

I just want "correct" you about the nature of chinese leaders before the zhou dynasty. These leaders were also dynastic in nature (more a monarchy than a republic). See: