Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lee Kuan Yew as a role model rational, family man

Mr Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) is known to the world as a great statesman with brilliant insights and widely credited to be the man who turned Singapore from Third World to First in his lifetime. Ordinary mortals like me cannot aspire to that kind of near-impossible achievement. However, as a role model, there are certain attributes of him which all of us can copy with some hopes of success. Mr Lee Kuan Yew will always be known to me as a wonderful husband. In his choice of wife, he has demonstrated himself to be the epitome of rationality. These are behavioral traits all Singaporean men can aspire to and hopefully achieve.

I do not earn my bread from the government and do not get any benefits for singing their song. Besides, nobody really knows who I am. The purpose of this post is to describe certain behavioral traits of a role model that can be emulated by all of us regardless of class and intelligence. My intended audience are my sons who will be able to read it a decade later.

I would like to dedicate this post to two past and present Prime Ministers of Singapore and the extraordinary woman who gave us those two Prime Ministers.

  • LKY remained faithful to his wife. Not a single mistress.

When the Jack Neo sex scandal broke loose, one of our MPs commented that a man who has a good career development would find such scenarios unavoidable. How many can claim to have a more successful career than LKY? He never took a mistress in his life.

LKY had many enemies. It is inevitable that a tough leader who bulldozes unpopular policies will make several enemies because those policies, even if effective ultimately, will create many losers along the way. These losers will hate him no matter what. Being a reader of alternative news media, I have encountered plenty of vile comments about him on internet forums by anonymous haters. Yet, LKY was so clean on this aspect of his life that never a single hate comment ever hinted that he had affairs outside the marriage. If it were true, his enemies would have seized upon such news to destroy him. These kind of rumors are the hardest to suppress because they make the best fodder for gossip. It is impossible to shut people's mouths on such topics because they are so juicy. Nothing destroys a politician faster and more thoroughly than juicy news like sex. The deafening silence of such rumors about LKY is solid evidence of his faithfulness to his wife. The absence of such rumors apply to his son, our present PM, as well.

LKY became the Prime Minister of Singapore at the age of 36. At 36, one is still sexually vigorous and easily tempted ( I am fully aware as I am only slightly younger than 36). Despite attaining power at such a young age, he never abused his power and stayed true to his woman. If you have a copy of his auto-biography, the photos showed him as a tall and handsome man in his young days. With such physical characteristics, temptations may even come his way without him seeking it. Unlike the successful men throughout history who have indulged in womanizing, LKY remained a one-woman man.

It is no big deal for a middle-class income boring engineer like me to stay faithful to his wife, but it is a big deal for highly successful men to stay clean. Although I have been a faithful man to my wife, I cannot claim to stand on moral high ground because I am devoid of such temptations due to my lackluster career achievements as an engineer. Should I become rich and successful one day, I cannot guarantee that I can resist such temptations. To be honest, I cannot even guarantee that I would not seek out such temptations. LKY is a good role model to remind potential cheaters like me to stay steadfast to our wives. If a more powerful and more handsome man exposed to more temptations could do it, I should be ashamed of myself if I failed.

This tradition started by the first Prime Minister of Singapore should be made into an iron-clad rule to be followed by future Prime Ministers. If a politician can cheat the woman he claims to love, then what more for strangers like the voters whom he is elected to represent? For practical reasons, I am not sure if this rule should be extended to the Ministers for fear that the country may run out of Ministers. I think a country headed by men who stay true to their women will have a better chance of staying corruption-free.

  • Highly rational in his choice of wife and approach to life
In a speech to university students, LKY said "You either have the Western view: You marry the woman you love. Or the Eastern view: You love the woman you marry. I tried to match both and I think it wasn’t a bad choice." When young men follow the first view to marry the woman they love, they usually end up marrying the woman they lust. I would like to boast on matters relating to women, I am a rational man who acts from the head. Unfortunately, this boast collapses the moment a stunning lady comes along whereupon blood flows from the head straight down to the groin. Most young men made their choices of girlfriends/wives not from the head but from the groin but very few admit it. 

LKY certainly acted from his head in his choice of wife. Mrs Lee caught his attention when she beat him in English and economics in school. A man who is used to winning will probably be furious at being beaten by a woman. He gave new meaning to the phrase "If you can't beat them, join them". He married the victor. 

His choice of wife was unusual in Asian society. Asian men preferred to marry down and not up. Asian men preferred younger women. LKY defied both conventions and married a smarter, older woman. (I think since women generally have a longer lifespan, society will be better off if more men marry older women so that neither party will be lonely for too long in the last years of their lives.)

Mrs Lee yielded numerous advantages to the husband. His political opponents did not enjoy the same edge as he did in having a brilliant adviser behind the scenes. By providing insurance for his risky job, the capable wife who can look after the family independently gave him a psychological advantage over his enemies who have to worry constantly about their own family. Mrs Lee was frugal and therefore careful with the family's finances. No wonder LKY dared to share a joint account with her. As co-manufacturer and nurturer of the next generation, Mrs Lee gave Singapore a Prime Minister, a business leader and a skillful neuro doctor. I think Dr Lee Wai Ling is skillful because I had a relative who was so pleased with Dr Lee's treatment of her little girl that she said she will vote for PAP as long as she lives. (Wonder why the linkage?). 

LKY was very rational in his choice of wife. It is not hard to see that his choice was made on good calculations. As usual, he had his way and got the better part of the deal. I am not sure if Mrs Lee realized her husband's political ambitions when she agreed to marry him. If she did, I have to thank her for the sacrifice made.

LKY was a very risky man to marry. During his time, politics was a very dangerous career. If he had lost to the communists, he could have lost his freedom and be thrown in jail. Even if he won, he still faced the constant risk of assassination. It is also uncertain whether the political opponents would fix the family after fixing the man. The risk of becoming a single mother burdened with the responsibilities of bringing up the children alone in treacherous conditions is not low. On top of that, a politician's wife has to give up her social privacy. Which woman, after careful consideration, would want to marry such a man? It is no exaggeration when LKY said that he would have been a different man had he married a different woman. In fact, the country might have been a different country had he married a different woman. Thank you, Mrs Lee for the courage and sacrifice to marry LKY. It was a pity that Mrs Lee kept a low profile to avoid out-staging her husband. There are few collections of her speeches and writings. We are not able to benefit from her wisdom.

Mr Lee's rational approach to life is a trait worth emulated by Singaporeans. A rational person will not have bad habits like visiting the casino (with the odds always against you, why play to lose?), smoking (why spend on expensive cigarettes to harm yourself and family?) and womanizing (why risk losing your beloved family and a substantial portion of your financial assets for a moment's pleasure?)

Rationality is one trait I would encourage my sons to cultivate, especially in their choice of wives. If they marry the wrong woman, I will lose them and the family will be ruined.

  • A loving husband
Before marriage, cold calculations were made in his choice of wife. After marriage, LKY loved and took care of his wife come what may. Read the eulogies for Mrs Lee and appreciate how LKY took personal care of his wife after she had a stroke. He did not take the easy way out and leave this burdensome task to the nurses and maids. He really loved the woman he married.

It is amazing how a man who has been taken care of in almost his entire lifetime by women (first his mother, then his wife) reversed role to take care of his wife at the age of 80!! Even more amazing was that the quality of care given was so good that Mrs Lee preferred her husband's care to that of the doctors' (as mentioned in one of Dr Lee Wei Ling's letters). Her granddaughter thought that the late grandmother was secretly happy to be taken care of. In her final days, LKY would read her favorite poems at night. He talked to her but she cannot talk back. It was very sad. He persevered to her last days.

As a husband, Mr Lee Kuan Yew has set a very high bar for men to follow. He puts to shame the men who cheated on their wives for prettier, younger women. He puts to shame people like me who may be too selfish to render the same degree of care to my wife should she meet with the same fate as Mrs Lee. 

If Singaporean men were to use him as a role model husband, our society would be strengthened.

Latest update: Lee Kuan Yew died on 23 March 2015. Before he died, he left a note to his children.
For reasons of sentiment, I would like part of my ashes to be mixed up with Mama’s, and both her ashes and mine put side by side in the columbarium. We were joined in life and I would like our ashes to be joined after this life.


  1. Be more clever when you carry balls lah. What is so difficult about remaining faithful to your wife and loving your wife? So many men can do it. If you want to carry balls, find greater things to say lah. Like LKY made a pee-sai country become super-rich. This kind of achievement, few men can boast about. Why talk about trivial things?

    You make me puke.

  2. Hi YouIdiotBootLicker,

    Your nickname implies that I am a bootlicker. This post is an essay on a role model. I cannot help it if it sounds like I am singing his praises. If there is nothing good about the role model, you cannot put him up as a role model.

    I have nothing to gain from carrying his balls because nobody knows who I am. I intend to stay anonymous because it helps one to express one's thoughts freely (but do it fairly).

    "What is so difficult about remaining faithful to your wife and loving your wife? So many men can do it. If you want to carry balls, find greater things to say lah. Like LKY made a pee-sai country become super-rich. This kind of achievement, few men can boast about. Why talk about trivial things? "

    You are implying that I am choosing trivial things to praise the man just for the sake of carrying his balls. I have good reasons for choosing the "trivial things".

    A role model is useless if you cannot model after him. As you said, turning a pee-sai country super-rich is indeed a great achievement. However, is this an achievement ordinary mortals like you and me can achieve? You not only need brains for that, you also have to live in the right time to take charge of the opportunities that revolutionary times presents.

    Is it useful to tell your child to become like Mozart who could play the piano by the age of four and compose his first tune by five? Is it useful advice to the average man to exhort him to be like the man who missed a full term in Cambridge and still graduate with double-first class honours? There are certain achievements which one cannot achieve even with extreme diligence if Nature did not endow the person with the right talent. However, when it comes to acquiring desirable behavioral traits (honesty, rationality, loyalty, filial piety), all of us can strive to achieve even if Nature is unfair and made a stupid person out of me. Hence, I deliberately chose behavioral traits which ordinary people can acquire, not extraordinary feats that ordinary people have no hopes of achieving.

    1. I enjoy your post. you're a rational and thoughtful man yourself.

    2. Think Free: Your article's point as well as your comment to booklicker are crystal clear -- but I doubt if the silly fella sees half of it..
      Don't sweat over such readers.

      Your blog is candid and refreshing. I stumbled upon it after seeing your objective 'business analysis' of the City Harvest fiasco in temasek review.

      Your ideas are well-thought-out; and you have a good grasp of the language, which doesn't make reading your opinions a *pain and an annoyance, so common in cyberspace.

      On fidelity: There are at least 2 types of men/women (and others in between): Those who are faithful to their mates; and the serial cheaters, who have a hard time believing that humans CAN, through their WILL, be faithful the way LKY was with certainty -- despite the temptations that he likely would've encountered.

      I'm no PAP fan, and I think LKY had been overly tough with political opponents. But I believe in his loyalty and integrity to his spouse and to this 'pi-sai' of a country (notwithstanding the catalyst was possibly due to his Achiever-type driven personality.

      The richer for Singapore.

      May you, your wife, and your sons have a 'rich' and happy life.

  3. Jack Neo is a faithful man until he got caught... so the moral of the story is, you can do anything but dun get caught!!

  4. Lee Bok Koon

    I have been fucking arround and behind my wife's back more than forty years ago. Today my wife tells all her friends and relatives that no man can be a better husband than me. even all my friends and office acquantance said that I do not know how to fuck arround and what a waste of my life. I just laugh and said what to do, that my life. Every living creatures on earth think that I am a saint, but I know the devil inside me.

    1. I pity ur wife

    2. Maybe your wife is also playing around outside without u knowing . What goes around comes around

  5. Thumbs up. Love your perspective on all the issues that you have written about. It resonates ever so loudly.

  6. 2 Thumbs up. applaud your ability to be rational!

  7. A cogent analysis and essay on an aspect of LKY that is seldom considered. However one may disagree with the political and policy decisions he has made, you cannot fault him in this role.

    A cool and calculated response to YouIdiotBootlicker's rude rant.

    I also appreciate your analysis of City Harvest Church's Money Milking Model before the recent report of the Pastor's arrest.

    You are one of the more astute and discerning people in the alternative media.

  8. As much as there are a thousand reasons why I love Singapore, I always find pretty dismal when I see views in people your (my) age that seem to come from the Singapore we have behind and not from the one I would like to see in the future.

    I pay a taxi driver to get me to my destination safely, a tailor to cut a suit that fits me and a prime minister to run the country in a reasonably good manner and ensure that my tax money is wisely spent. What the taxi driver, the taylor and the prime minister do in bed and who they do it with it is entirely their business.

    Francois Mitterrand, former president of France,kept a wife and a mistress all his life, and even had descendency with both of them. At a press conference at the beginning of his mandate, a journalist questioned him...Mr. President, there are rumours that you have a relationship with a woman different to your wife and that you even have a child with her. The reply was "et alors?" (so what?). There were never anymore questions about it, and he was subsequently reelected, becoming the longest man to run France in modern history.

    In Europe they have all sort of non role model family men that run countries...the German president is still married yet lives with a woman that is not her wife, the Belgian Prime minister is openly gay and the prime minister of Iceland is a lesbian woman. I do not know what they do between the sheets and frankly I do not care or even want to know, and I guess that is the feeling of most citizen in their countries, since they all were democratically elected.

    In the same way I do not care if my taxi driver has a mistress, or even two of different sexes as long as he gets me where I am going in one piece, and if my suit does not fit me, my taylor will never be excused on the basis that he has married his high school sweetheart and they both kept their virginity until marriage.

    Oh, and if I ever have kids I will always teach them to marry the woman or man they love, not the woman they lust..rather than loving the woman they calculatedly married.

  9. Think free and fair,
    I, like, others , chance upon your blog from your analysis of CHC, which makes your commentary an insightful reading.
    Though my comments on your appraisal on LKY's simple feat of fidelity come years later after the death of his wife, and seeing this great man attending to his younger brother funeral, I just want to add my vocal support to your honesty for speaking out and giving credit on an extraordinary man act of ordinary courage, scruple, and moral authority, when it is necessarily due. In a time where comments critical of governing party are hip and deemed politically correct, many have forgotten that social ills and economic malaise afflicting on many liberal western democracies are due no less to their leadership lack of moral courage to carry out tough pragmatic policies. Instead when leaders carry out popular policies to win votes, and introduce these policies without thoughts of its long term adverse impact, these western countries are now paying the penalties for the mistakes of the past. For all the country's past policies of wisdom, we are now reaping the harvests. We cannot forget these decent group of good farmers' deeds, we cannot pay enough to reward them, but to say a heartfelt thanks.
    Signed: louth1770

  10. I forgive you for your ignorance, because the vast majority of Singaporeans are similarly uninformed.

    LKY did not stray for one simple reason: his wife was more powerful than he. She came from the OCBC family and LKY depended on wife's support and influence. In fact, I dare say that the British government of 1950's chose to support LKY because he married into the OCBC family. At the time, LKY was nothing but just a lawyer for the Trade Unions.

    Olde Timer

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