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Current Affairs

July 23, 2010

The Current Affairs session today was a pretty short session. I found there was not enough time to air my views (trust me, I had a lot of views). So I’m going to post them here. Hey, if you can kill two birds with one stone…

1. Alvin

The strength of his argument lies in the perceived validity of the snowball effect – that small crimes like vandalism and littering have to be solved with corporal punishment (or any punishment) to prevent it from “snowballing” into larger crimes like rape and murder.

Even if we take that argument as true, he does not seem to notice or has purposely ignored the fact that there are other deterrents to crime as well. Be it social pressure,  jail time or fines, these all serve as effective deterrents to crime. I found his comeback argument and his case study that other countries have higher crime rates than Singapore a weak correlation at best, and the argument about students in Philadelphia being rebellious as completely irrelevant. I’m going to attempt to refute them one by one.

I’m just going to pull out a statistic out of my ass here (read: read from some obscure source) and say that Sweden has a pretty low crime rate. It does not support corporal punishment. That means that the other deterrents are useful in preventing crime.

As for the argument about the students in Philadelphia, there seems to be a weak link at best between teacher scolding/corporal punishment and general attitude of students. I don’t get scolded by teachers, nor do I get spanked (and am not afraid of either) but it hasn’t come into my mind to say a giant “FUCK YOU” to the teachers or do something similarly inappropriate. (Like taking off your shirt and waving it in the air, perhaps.) The point is that circumstantial “case study” is completely irrelevant when we’re talking about judicial caning because

a) We’re talking about adults, who presumably are more mature and able to make their own decisions and;

b) Substitutions of caning with jail time or other appropriate punishments would be an effective deterrent and;

c) The factors that drive the kids in Philadelphia to do such inappropriate acts are different from the factors that cause rational adults to commit small misdemeanours.


2. Sian Wen

Sian Wen took a pragmatic view toward judicial caning: his viewpoints were to

a) suggest that the Ministry of Law only use caning for larger offences

b) to be carried out only if the victim “shows no remorse”, and finally

c) reserve caning only for locals, giving foreigners a fine instead in order to “show that Singapore is a civilized country”.

I find point c) the most irksome. The so-called objective of reserving caning for the locals and sparing foreigners/tourists in order to put up a front that Singapore is actually civilized is really screwed up. At one glance the entire motive is disturbing and not exactly impartial or honest.

About point b), there are incidents when a person does not commit a crime but is accused of being so. Assuming we consider whether the victim pleads guilty or not as the measure for “remorse” (because anything else is arbitrary and highly subjective), the person who pleads not guilty (because, you know, he didn’t commit the crime) would be subjected to a more serious punishment. I don’t know about you, but I find that line of reasoning fundamentally flawed and highly disturbing, reminiscent of the Dark Ages and its punishment system.

And even if we do accept that our judicial system is oh-so-perfect and convicts only guilty people, and doles out punishment based on the level of remorse, who is to say that a criminal who shows remorse is any less guilty than a criminal who does not? In which case the law ceases to be blind and impartial.

Point a) is fine, I have no problem with it. It’s pragmatic and not particularly polarized, in the sense that it isn’t for enforcing caning for every single misdemeanor under the sun, nor is it claiming that caning is barbaric and should be outlawed. I personally don’t agree with this point of view but that’s not the point here.

3. Zhen Hui

Only thing really wrong with his argument is that he supports sticking to the “tried-and-tested methods” suggested by our Minister Mentor, MM Lee.

Hey, why don’t we go back to the Middle Ages and organize public executions? Effective deterrent? Maybe go back to constitutional monarchy? Slavery? A caste system? Unsanitary conditions? Rampant diseases like cholera and the black plague?

That sounds like a good idea!

Next up: an argument for slavery.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 23, 2010 3:01 pm

    Though all of them are really very manly so I have no right to contradict them.

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