Lee Kuan Yew has been laid to rest today. The world is a little colder.
At the outset of this blog, I wrote the following:
The German and Prussian instantiation of the Enlightenment has a great deal to teach us in times like these. I think that there has been a marked tendency to overvalue the American experiment as a model. America’s founders relied on Britain to chase off the other Imperial contenders, and then had no native opponents except the tiny handfuls of natives who survived the smallpox (estimates of the kill rate of that plague rank easily at 95%). Once they had been cleared off or wiped out, it was easy to build a society from scratch. However, it is quite another thing instantiate an Enlightenment society when you are surrounded by hostile Empires and have to also to face an ‘installed base’ of a reactionary ancien regime. Prussia was, contra to its reputation today, the most tolerant of all the German nations, and even one of the most tolerant in Europe, while having to see off some of the nastiest cultural predators in Europe (the Holy Roman Empire, the Russian Empire, the French Empire etc.)
I stand by that assessment. Lee Kuan Yew proved that he understood this – and built a great nation, one its people can be truly proud of. Like Frederick the Great, he did it the hard way, the Prussian way, something that too many decadent Westerners cannot understand. Despite all the complaints I have been reading in places like the Guardian, Singapore isn’t just one of the most successful nations in the far East, it is one of the most free. Consider some of the neighboring nations – Indonesia and Malaysia, both Islamic with all the blood and cruelty that that entails. Or China, still autocratic and fantastically cruel to many of its citizens.
Lee Kuan Yew proved how non-Western, non-White societies can succeed, and for that reason he is admired by many in Africa, including Paul Kagame.
So, ave atque vale. The world could do with more like him.