OPINION: There are only values


Posted at Aug 24 2016 12:07 AM

LEE Kuan Yew did not make up Asian values. But he famously took them up in defense of the tough actions he had taken to make Singapore safe and prosperous. 

Asian values were first called Confucian values, to explain but never to justify why Chinese act that way. Rough. 

Confucian values, said Red China, inform Chinese government abuses of human rights because the same values are ingrained in the Chinese victims of those abuses. The Chinese don’t mind it. They even expect it. They steal, they complain, they are caught; they are killed summarily. And yet the first thing Red China did after the victory in ‘49 was ban Confucianism as the corrosive influence that made China weak before her liberal Western enemies.

Historically, Confucianism encouraged nepotism—the accumulation of private fortune at public expense, the loot to be shared only inside the family. That is why Chinese emperors castrated Chinese officials, to lessen the urge to steal for the children castrated officials could not have, wa balls na kasi. Same thing in the Ottoman Empire. 

Confucian values, Lee Kuan Yew proposed, are how the abuses and achievements of Asian governments must be judged and credited. But that was Lee who got double firsts in Cambridge. Now comes Abella. Not from Cambridge. Invoking the same values to justify the morally indefensible but in my view absolutely necessary summary solution to the mass problem of massive drug-dealing and massive drug-taking numbering 3.7 million. 

There is no such thing as Asian values as distinct from and opposed to liberal Western values. Values are universal by definition or we cannot communicate value judgments to each other across borders or between religions in the same country. While values are universal, customs are local, born of opportunity or necessity. Do not confuse one with the other. 

Values are like justice, “the first virtue of institutions” wherever they are found in the world. 

Justice means doing nothing to others that you would not have done to you.

Or as Kant said legislate only generally, so the law covers even yourself. Never legislate for a special interest. Act only in ways rational people everywhere will approve. This is why we should never follow IMF prescriptions or the TransPacific blah, blah, blah. These are crafted by and only for the benefit of Western business interests. One of the leading Kant scholars today, as I learned to my embarrassment, was the Speaker of the Iranian parliament. How un-liberal Western can you get? 

Red China’s values were German, which means selfless, self-denying service, service and service to country—by the use of a cold intelligence. [Actually Prussian. Prussia was “the army with a state,” as Frederick the Great’s kingdom was called. But “Prussia,” which forcibly amalgamated the de facto federalism of the German principalities into one German Reich, is largely forgotten; so I use “German” instead. 

Sure German aristocrats got the plum posts in the German army but at the forefront of attacking cavalry: first in rank, first in the field, and first in the list of casualties. By the end of World War II, just a handful of German aristocrats were alive and they alone plotted to kill Hitler. 

German values expressed in German victories inspired Chiang Kai-shek when he was still a reformist before he became an American crook. He imported German generals for his armies. The same German values guided Mao Tse-tung. More successfully Japan adopted German values and conquered Asia and the Pacific in 6 months. In our time Singapore has done so. 

German values are not liberal but they are values. They are definitely not Asian, of which there is no example of a value except massive corruption. 

There are exigencies but these are not values. Extrajudicial killings are not values. They are exceptions to values to preserve and protect them; like mass killings of the poor in Central America to preempt popular uprising.

There are no Asian values. There are only Asian and African customs, like feet binding or selling your daughters into prostitution to pay for your drug habit. In Africa there is clitoral circumcision. 

When Abella undergoes that only then should we take his take on Asian values seriously. 

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.