Hegemony of planning. The island condition, between two big brothers –Malaysia and Indonesia– that can turn nasty and violent from time to time, drives for the extreme necessity of planning, hence its hegemony in the life of the island. Its goal is always dictated by the demand of the global competition, even when it concerns the most basic of its citizens life, as it is now made naked in the new goal of this island’s development: a better place to live. Its achievement, as a consequence, is a serious business that must be given authority to intrude into each and every one’s life, or it will never be achieved, which will be catastrophic to the floatation of the island as an important dot on the map.
At a glance, it is so absurd that such a mundane goal –shouldn’t all places, cities, villages and any form of human settlements, be a better place to live?—should be justified by the global competition.
When looked closer, it is clear that it is not easy to make an island a better place to live. First of all it has to deal with the ambition of life itself. What is good life? Only from that one can go further as to define “a better place to live”.
Secondly, it has to deal with the multiplicity of the ambition of life. This leads to the question on how to define a “good life”, whether it is a collective effort, a party’s effor, or a leadership effort.
So, it is not a simple goal at all, especially when raised as a public project.
It is not mundane at all. Indeed, its being raised as an issue shows that it is considered as something “qualitative” and “beyond”, after all the other (basic and quantitative) achievements have been made in the last decades. Now it is time to seriously think about the quality of life, after all basic needs have been met (satisfactorily!).
Others, including UN, have by no surprise the same propaganda for “ABC (A Better City) to live”. But most of this has to do with fulfilling basic needs of inhabitants of poor countries, and to promote the so called “sustainable city” ( a concept to uplift the city to its glorious place as the peak of human civilisation, in the face of its greatest challenge in this century and perhaps still in the next one: the environmental sustainability).
Secret Text. Ong Keng Sen said in an interesting phrase, that in Singapore there is some “secret text” that, once it is touched upon, certain reaction will be activated. Untill then, the government is truly a benevolent autoritarian. This secret text is the assumptions upon which the leaders has set the planning as the collective project for every body. The secret text, as one can easily guess, is the assumption of the strategic changes taking place, its risks and opportunities, as well as its preset goals.
Do I make sense?