Li Ao’s “Singaporean stupidity” redefined?


A sign board explaining the Mt. Iwaki trail // Photo by Jasohill

Both Penny and I were flabbergasted upon hearing this on NPR yesterday morning…

‘Karate kids’ rescued after Japan mountain quest
Thu Apr 6, 8:07 AM ET via Reuters

Three Singaporeans were found safe Thursday after getting lost on what they said was a mission to find a legendary karate expert on a snowy mountainside in Japan.

One of the three men told police in Hirosaki, near the northern tip of Japan’s main island, that they had come to Japan after his dying father, a martial arts expert, had ordered them to seek out the karate teacher, TV Asahi said on its Web site.

“Japan looked so small on the world map that we thought we would be able to find him straight away,” one of the group, aged between 25 and 50, was quoted as saying.

All three were dressed in light clothing and huddling in an abandoned car when they were rescued from the slopes of 1,600-meter (5,249-ft) Mount Iwaki in the early hours of the morning after calling for help on a mobile phone, a police spokesman said. “Neither police nor local people know of anyone running karate classes in this area,” the spokesman added.

While both of us felt ashamed of this “intellectual tragedy” amongst those Singaporeans, it did beg me to question why this could be…

In terms of general knowledge and computational skills (e.g. geography), Singaporeans should already be above the worldwide average. Since 1st January 2003, Compulsory Education was implemented in Singapore. This also doesn’t exclude Singaporean children living overseas. Even before its implementation, it was very rare to encounter a Singaporean with little or no education at all.

Thanks to a tip from Isaiah, what’s even more startling is the fact that this “intellectual tragedy” only served to strengthen famous Taiwanese writer/politician, Li Ao, and his recent critic that Singaporeans are “stupid”. According to the local Chinese papers, ZaoBao (see Babelfish English machine translation), Li Ao claimed that because Singapore has “perfectly” practiced the Chinese legalist school politics ideal, this therefore creates a Singaporean society that subscribes to the “collective creation achievement”, which he argues, does not permit anyone to “stands out” in character. He goes futher to explain how the social system has conditioned Singaporeans to “toe the line”, and dare never go beyond to think “out of the box”. This in essence is why he perceives that the so-called “ideal Singaporean” is actually amounting to “stupidity”.

Of all Asian countries, Singapore receives hefty worldwide critic for issues on freedom of speech, but I see this as a the very nature and success of our country. Even in my East Asian media class, we all agreed that for some reason, Singapore does get an above-average amount of academic papers written about her, over other Asian countries. I argued that perhaps this was because we happen to converse in English, which allows for easier worldwide debate. Another classmate from Political Science believed that it’s because of the economic success and geography of the island that lends itself to represent the Asian economy as well as values.

As a last ditch effort, I did a little investigation as to where they went in order to determine the “uniqueness” of this place they ventured to. Mount Iwaki is one of Japan’s most sacred grounds (See map location). According to these photos, the mountain has three summits, the southern base has a mainstream Mountain Shrine (Iwakiyama Jinja) and the region is generally well known for its Aomori Apples.

I don’t know about you, but it sounds like a great place for a vacation. These aren’t your typical Singaporeans… they really think different! Next time I have to leave work, I’ll have to tell my boss that I’m actually Black Mamba and I need to find Bill in Mt. Iwaki! ­čśŤ

UPDATE: Looks like these Singaporeans weren’t nuts after all! They found what they were looking for…

7 thoughts on “Li Ao’s “Singaporean stupidity” redefined?

  1. I’m not trying to pick a fight or be defensive, but I think Li Ao ain’t too high on the intellectual list (acknowledged critic or not) if he chooses to associate all 4 million people in Singapore with the actions of 3 people. Ah well…

  2. i can’t believe out of a group of 12 grown persons, not one had some sense of self-preservation then to just wonder around Japan looking for some mystical dude… I mean u can probably die if u get lost in bukit timah hill long enuff…wat more some mountain in Japan!!

  3. Well, it seems Li Ao’s words came true. S’poreans are definitely shallow. Even the East Asian Uni Undergrad said it.

    Dear Readers, just a word. Think deeper, don’t be so defensive just yet. By positioning yrself on the macro scale, you might see the light.

    Just sit tight, check your safety belt and prepare for a crash landing…

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