Someone found my blog by Googling asian values lky (LKY is the accepted acronym for Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s de facto monarch); I Googled it myself to see where my blog places on that search, and found a few very good articles about why Lee’s shrill appeal to Asian values as a reason not to infringe on his inalienable right to exercise sovereignty over 4 million people is wrong.
First, in 1997, Amartya Sen wrote a superb article documenting that historically, Asia’s cultures are as democratic and pluralistic as the West, and explaining that there’s no evidence that fascism is good for the economy. Mind you, that was before the 1997 financial crash, which demonstrated that the basic rules of macroeconomics apply to East Asia, too.
Second, Macam Macam wrote a beautiful piece of snark about the Asian values tirade back in 2004:
Then to think that a Western-style, liberal democracy couldn’t work in Asia just because it hadn’t been part of Asian history. That would have been akin to saying that neither Malaysians nor Singaporeans could rule themselves….because they hadn’t done so previously. And I suppose democracy just popped up in the West, fully-formed like an adult, rather than as concept that evolved in theory and practice over time.
However, as an Asian observer noted: ”When I first came across Lee’s list of supposed Asian values, I saw values that were not so much specific to Asian culture but good British upper class Tory values dear to threatened elites everywhere.” It was not without good reason that one British cabinet minister once referred to Lee, when he still was known as Harry Lee, as the ”best bloody Englishman east of Suez”.
Remember “We are global, and they are global.”