The great thing about American history is that within three generations at most people whose grandparents were openly scorned and officially or semi-officially segregated can have their children get PhDs at publicly-funded universities and can confidently announce that America has clearly failed because its civic culture lacks the necessary mechanisms that preserve "cultural and racial separations." James is channeling the same dubious sophistication that led the Progressives of the turn of the last century to be so appalled by the shame of the cities. Leaving aside the masses of immigrants with unpronounceable names, strange facial features and pushy, slobbish behavior in public, what truly offended Roosevelt (T.R., not his cousin), Margaret Sanger and the Adams boys was how the immigrants kept committing the same sins that George has observes each year in Hershey. The slobs not only bred, but they interbred. And still do to this day.

Singapore — like the Venetian Republic in its day — is a wonderful triumph of open commerce in a autocratic island; there is no question that every city in America fails by comparison just as 15th-16th-and even 17th century cities in France and Britain failed by comparison with the jewel of the Adriatic. But we decrepit students of history find ourselves wondering how and when events will find a parallel with the day the French Army arrived across the Lagoon.





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1 Comment so far

  1. Don Chu on June 1, 2009 1:33 pm

    While I doubt that Raffles and the British East India Company had “Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free…” in mind when they ‘finagled’ that treaty to establish a trading settlement on pre-modern Singapore, the largely unrestricted immigration policy in the early years did lead to a melting pot immigrant population reminiscent of America. And with any bubbling cauldron of huddled masses, the double toil and trouble of seething tensions and volatility (ethnic or otherwise), will always be boiling just beneath the surface.

    True, the achievements of modern Singapore is heartening; and like the obedient automaton that so many view it’s citizens to be, I raise my stringed arm to hail and herald the contributions made by our dear Doge. But in truth, it was the unstinting hard work and thrift of generations of stoic immigrants that built this city-state.

    And as Mr Jovanovich alluded to, the fortunes of sparkling, bejeweled city-states rarely overstay their welcome and have never been more than an interesting appendix (or indeed, a sour-graped dismissive footnote) in the capricious pages of History.

    Decrepitude or not, perhaps this may be why this ‘tiny red dot’ of just 4 million-plus spores have often been accused of having a siege-mentality; whether it be born of a genuine fear of losing its much-vaunted racial cohesion amidst the growth pressures of a shrinking island, or the induced paranoia of being in an encircled (see map above) sea of potential fundamentalism.
    Awaiting then, the inevitable…


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