I was talking to a well-traveled friend about, once the health crisis eases, spending a lot more time in more global cities—specifically the ones that handled the pandemic well. They asked why wasn't on my list, and I had to finally put into words my unease—

Singapore is effectively a single-party state with very poor ratings in freedom of the press, gay rights, and trans rights.

While there's no censorship of foreign media in Singapore, I use freedom of the press as a proxy for the potential for hidden social upheaval (and for how much trouble I might get in for blurting out something about sensitive topics). So though I have no plans for political activism as a visitor, this makes me deeply uncomfortable.

I'm also interested in long-term moves, but I can't tell a trans friend, "Hey yeah I'm moving to a place where you're 'illegal'".


2020 World Press Freedom Index (don't be misled by the "✅" the editors have given Singapore and others, if a country has surgery requirements, it deserves "💀" icon)

Kirsten Han reporting a Singaporean facing prison time for organizing an event where a Hong Kong political activist Skyped in—the government's claim being that they "should have applied for a permit for the event" Again, I don't plan on activism when I travel but I do take this as an indication of apparent stability hiding societal pressure.


A helpful perspective to keep in mind:

‘Life in authoritarian states is mostly boring and tolerable. Americans have an overly dramatic view what the end of democracy looks like. … Life under authoritarian rule in such situations looks a lot like life in a democracy. … The answer to the question “will ‘the people’ tolerate authoritarian rule?” is yes, absolutely.’

@22 this is really true! look at singapore and china

@22 I’ve often said to friends that dictatorships work because most people benefit in some way. I’ve had a Brazilian friend tell me how they liked the dictatorship. Salazar and all the fascist leaders are still beloved by many. I think people underestimate how easy it is to slide into authoritarianism, just like the author of that article. What they ignore is how terrible the price to pay is for the minorities.

@22 Conversely, people often talk about Switzerland’s direct democracy as some form of “the majority is always right” and nothing could be farther from the truth (even if our right wing party wants it to be the truth). Protecting minorities and making sure they all have a say is the most important part and often not appreciated. If we can’t do that, then what’s the point, I wonder. Any authoritarian regime will feel like a tyranny of the majority.

@22 I often think about the motto on the Brazilian flag: Ordem e Progresso. Order and progress. Who doesn’t want order and progress? All the fascists are nodding. To talk about the drawbacks of rational authoritarian regimes is tricky and I find one of the easiest routes is the discussion of human rights. Sadly, that same measuring stick can also be applied to many governments many consider to be democratic…

@22 just found this thread from @kensanata 's Gemini blog. As an Indonesian who's lived in Singapore and visited Malaysia, and now reside in the US this is very relatable. Under our previous pro-Western dictatorship we were led by a self-anointed "Father of Development" who rose to power through a military coup (the parallels with Brazil are not coincidental, see; the regime called itself the New Order...

@22 @kensanata not that much order and progress compared to Malaysia and Singapore, and terrible, terrible death tolls both in their rise to power (> 500k dead in mass murders) and in their invasion and occupation of East Timor (1/3rd of the population dead). There's still a separatist movement in West Papua (exploited for resources even today, though it got acquired under the "Old" Order)...

@22 @kensanata And many still look back to those days of dictatorship with nostalgia!

politics virus climate racism gc 

@kensanata @22 Fascism need an “other” to hate. It was a response to #socialism’s class-vs-class struggle, and to change the class struggle to class obedience they needed to faux unite them both in mutual struggle against an “other”. Corporativism.

Or put it differently, rich-gets-richer is a hard sell so one of the tricks to get vote is to invent wedge issues like hating on muslims, mexicans, gays, trans, black lives etc. Taking an existing oppression and promise to uphold it (such as police brutality), or, more transparently but still works: invent a whole new oppression, like bathroom policies. That’s my take on the main “benefit” of “order”.

It becomes especially ridiculous, and dangerous to everyone, when they use denial of climate change or denial of pandemic consequences, as a wedge issue. America’s politicization of climate change (it’s happening here, too, now) might end up having been in hindsight what doomed the world.

Wedge issues is not the only trick; the other classic is “if rich can get richer that’s good, because one day you might be rich!” Market capitalism, with or without the fascism, a pyramid scheme. All of the gaps between the classes is extreme and it’s easy to point fingers at the 1% but the middle class is also the enemy to some extent. They have their happy safe lives at the expense of the most downtrodden of the downtrodden, who are scrubbing their hospital floors or even just being unemployed (which capitalism loves—they want labor to be a buyer’s market; not only for better pricing for them but also make all kinds of ruckus—unions and strikes for example—seem risky af).


This is a very good point. Plenty of people still love USSR, even if it's only an idealized image of it, but, more importantly, most people don't realize Nazi regime in Germany enjoyed huge popular support as it introduced a lot of social, educational and job programs "for the people", and the beneficiaries were given plenty of reasons to never care about mass executions of disabled people or "subhuman races".


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