“Give me liberty, or give me Death!”
The famous cry to arms during the Revolutionary War of America has come a long way. All over the world people use adaptations of it in their bid for liberty in various forms. Scientists repressed by the Catholic Church before the Enlightenment cried ‘Tribuo mihi Licentia!’ to their captors, while the Spanish War yielded the Spanish adaptation, “Viva la Libertad”! But in each and every situation in which the word ‘liberty’ was uttered, its meaning adapts to suit a new context like the flow of water meeting a new obstacle. So what is the nature of liberty from the perspective of Authoritarian city-state Singapore?
In a country the size of Singapore, radical variations in style, culture, and preferences are few and far in between. As such, many of the different areas in which liberty can usually be applied to in places such as America may not be applicable in Singapore. Take religion for example. In America, more than 80% of the people are Christians. However, only about 15% of Singaporeans subscribe to Christianity. As such, there are fewer representatives of different groups of people, and some groups may be rendered obsolete or underrepresented and its committed form of liberty may be too minor to be considered a major form. Hence in this context, personal liberty, social liberty, and political liberty will be the main forms of liberty canvassed.
Personal liberty here can be defined as man’s freedom to act as he pleases as long as it affects only himself. As such, the nature of personal liberty in Singapore is largely a given for any individual. Singaporeans are free to do as they wished so long as the authorities ‘don’t know about it’. This may be true for any democratic country or person about to commit a crime, but Singapore is after all an authoritarian state where the country is valued above the individual, and such a liberty is one in which many have taken for granted. Religion would be one prime example. Chinese take up 77% of Singapore’s population, but unlike other countries like Malaysia where people have to practice the customs of the majority Malaysians, Singaporeans are in no way coerced to taking up Chinese customs, or Chinese religions, or lack thereof. People are free to choose to subscribe to any religion, so long as it does not hold any activities that may disturb the general peace. The government also generally does not monitor internet usage and activity, although the Media Development Authority does block certain websites considered ‘unbeneficial’. That is perhaps the only ‘infringement’ the Singapore government has made on the issue of personal liberty in Singapore. The individual is then largely free to do as he wishes, as long as it affects none but himself.
Get many individuals together, and they form a society. The next major branch of liberty in Singapore would be social liberty, which could be defined as the freedom of groups of people to act freely amongst a community of...