I have been reading “The Singapore Story”. It’s strange that I never picked up the book before despite my respect of Lee Kuan Yew, but I was a self-avowed ahistorical and apolitical person. I knew the importance of history, I just didn’t enjoy it. And I’m a little self-indulgent that way.
It has been a long time since any book lit any spark in me. This did. More than history, more than politics, it was the writing, the story-telling and what it reflected of the man who told the story as much as of the times. There was an unerring stamp of Lee Kuan Yew’s identity in his words. A complex, thoughtful, hard man with a razor sharp vision – not always likeable (least the image of a warm old grandfather in white hair waving to his supporters in modern day Singapore misleads you), but someone who made his own path to get what he wanted and in the end, the good thing for Singapore was that he wanted a world which is better for the people around him.
Because of his precision of thought and careful use of words the book said as much from its printed letters as it did from in between the lines and also what was left unsaid. There is a story you read, and then there is a story you get from between those words about the man who said them. He is surprisingly fair and honest in the book, and totally unapologetic. This was a man who was clear of what he did, and would do it again, no matter how you would judge him to be.
I have always been a very straight-forward person, and I took pride in that unflinching core sense of identity. Saying what I felt and immediately doing what I wanted made me “real” and “sincere”. If anything, this book showed me the importance of vision, of observation and reading men, of knowing when to take a step back to gain two steps ahead, and when “politics” is really an art that goes beyond the defined arena. He was an honest man, honest in what he wanted and driven to achieve that. Some would say he was ruthless and manipulative. I can see hints of events that might have been interpreted as such. The actions are always factual. The story that ties them together will always be intentional, and driven by the storyteller.
History is kind to him when looking back at the events on hindsight. But he built this history, which a nation of people are grateful for. One could hardly begrudge some one like him that favour. No one is perfect and I doubt he aimed for perfection. Thankfully for a nation of people, he aimed for something more, and achieved that. Was he always right? Probably not. In life we could perhaps think of better conclusions, but I couldn’t think of a better person who might have have been actually able to achieve that, or even something as close to a good chapter as The Singapore Story had. I’m still awed, and even more, I’m inspired.