As the child of a single parent, I object to the arguments of Jaxe's Pan online note to Yaacob Ibrahim

By Dominic Foo

My Own Background

I belong to a single family, my parents were divorced when I was a teenager, and I fully support our Minister’s judgement that public institutions exists in harmony and support of the familial institution as the norm in comparison to other imperfect situations. My own mother who has cared for us does not herself wish for any special help, recognition or “affirmation” for being a single parent, knowing full well that civic affirmation of such imperfect arrangement would be subversive of the normative familial order by incentivising others towards such less perfect arrangement. I object to the presumption of Jaxe Pan to take it upon herself to represent or speak for all of us who live in such imperfect situations. Who elected or appointed her our speaker? Let her speak for herself, and not pretend to claim a monopoly upon the whole.

Individual Subjective Background of Participants Irrelevant to the Merits of Public Policy

However, the invocation of personal credentials and background is merely a rhetorical move. The merits of a public policy should be judged upon its objective consequences and effects, especially upon its contribution to the sustainability and maintenance of key civic institutions and arrangements necessary to the flourishing of the commonwealth, not upon the individual subjective postures.

Invocation of individual contribution to the nation is irrelevant to the merits or demerits of a public policy, otherwise that would lead to the absurd consequence that the proposals of those who pay more taxes or has greater talents and contribution to the nation have greater merits than the proposals of those who pay lesser taxes and of lesser talents. The fact that someone contributes to a nation does not entail that his arguments or proposals miraculously acquire merit nor does it change the objective effects or consequence of his proposed public policy.

Not all Familial Arrangements are Equal

The conflation of blended families, adopted children with single and homosexual “parents” is disingenuous as nobody is objecting to all of them at one shot nor is our evaluation of all them exactly identical. Ceteris paribus, we would certainly prefer that children be raised by their own biological parents rather than an adoptive one or a blended family. Situations of adoption precisely arise from tragedies and imperfect situations, e.g. the death of one or both parents, and is acknowledged precisely as a tragedy, not merely an equally valid arrangement amongst others.

Consider for a moment if biological pedigree have absolutely nothing to do with the parental ability and responsibility, that is, if being a child was purely a matter of social convention, and that society can arbitrarily decide whose parents one’s child is and who is to be responsible for it and that all caretaker-child arrangements are all equally valid. Why is there a presumption that the biological fathers have a duty towards the maintenance of children of which they have begotten, especially those out of wedlock and therefore those outside of the social definition? If being a child was purely a matter of social definition entirely disconnected from the biological pedigree, then it would be perfectly irrational to expect and to force biological fathers who have undertaken no social responsibility to care for the mother and her offspring, to pay for the maintenance of the child which they begot since biological pedigree has absolutely nothing to do with the care or responsibility of the child.

But when one sees movies such as Up which contains the scene where the protagonist Carl who marries his childhood friend Ellie later discovers that she is unable to conceive as Ellie sits crying while the doctor explains with gestures her condition, we know that something important has been lost. If the love and care which one has for adopted children was qualitatively indistinguishable from the love and care for one’s own begotten children, then the grief of Ellie would be incomprehensible, if not utterly irrational, for she can simply substitute with infinite ease begetting her own children with adoption. But this grief is one of the most powerful evidence for the fact that biological pedigree does make a qualitative difference in the relationship between parent and child, which no amount of egalitarian rhetoric can pretend does not exist. (I have developed this argument in greater depth and rigor here.)

Civic Order and Human Civilisation itself is Artificial and Maintained by Actively Enforced Norms

The argument that the enforcement of familial norms is artificial is a trivial truth. All human norms and mores which maintains any form of social order or civilisation are artificial, an artifice of man which can only be maintained by active enforcement by man. Language would cease to exist if proper spelling and grammar were not actively enforced. Proper functioning of civic institutions would fail without social sanctions, custom and manners, as well as the law and police enforcement. Humanity emerged from the “state of nature” unto civilisation through precisely the creation and maintenance of human artefacts of language, law, codes and rules, without which we would simply descend back into the state of nature, red tooth and claw.

Books Not Banned and Still Accessible

With regards to the books in question, they are not banned, they are merely removed from the public library. Anyone is still free to purchase at their own leisure if they so wish. The pertinent question in this scenario is the justification of drawing from the common purse to purchase such books, which is something not really addressed.

Children of Imperfect Family Arrangements Affirmed in their Individual Worth

The idea that by recognising a single family model one’s child would be regarded as alien is simply absurd and a mere exaggeration. I have myself experienced no such regard as being “alien” just for being the child of a single parent. We can accept each individual precisely as individuals without endorsing or affirming at the same time the imperfect family backgrounds from which they find themselves in. It is true that the sins of the fathers should not be visited unto the sons, but that does not make the sins of the fathers any less a sin. The imperfections of a child’s background is certainly no fault of the child, but that does not make his imperfect familial background any less imperfect.

The Abuse of the Term “Bigot”

The word “bigot” simply refers to an obstinate state of mind and refusal to change one’s opinions or be amendable to the opinions of others. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as:

"having or revealing an obstinate belief in the superiority of one’s own opinions and a prejudiced intolerance of the opinions of others."

For example, the great Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume, who once made some rather racist remarks, used the term “bigot” to describe his opponent who criticised his own racist opinions obstinately and was not amendable to his racist opinions. Today of course it would be considered by many to be a rather ironic twist in the use of the term. (For more on the evolution of the word, see here.) Therefore, one hopes that Jaxe Pan will be as amendable to change her mind in the face of the facts and arguments and not stick to her position out of sheer bigotry or obstinacy of mind.

On the Humbug of the Invocation of Intolerance

The fact is that there are limits to everyone’s tolerance of children materials. Imagine if you will a children’s book praising the virtues and pleasures of pederasty. Should we give such materials to young children and ask them to weigh the merits of getting into a sexual relationship with an adult for themselves?

If you need help exercising your imagination, look at the following pages of a book:

Then imagine the book portraying the book with a pleased and gleeful expression, and the book ending with the Uncle and child having a wonderful time and relationship with absolutely nothing detrimental or perverse. Would you still be willing to have such a book openly displayed in libraries?

Conclusion: More Objective Analysis, Less Exaggerations

Certainly Singapore must be inclusive, but we are precisely including people into a predefined community and civic order with its own structure and integrity. We cannot include anyone into the circle without at the same time drawing a boundary between those inside and those outside. If you eliminate the circle altogether, there would be nothing left for you to include anyone in.

(For anyone who wishes a much more detail and rigorous argument justifying the familial arrangement, see here.)

Edit: Several commentators have been pointing out that I am taking the book displayed above out of context, etc. So I gave the following reply to a commentor:

" ...I am well aware of what the book is actually about. And I did not take the book of out context because I never meant to discuss the book itself in the first place.

All I did was to use the book as a springboard to construct an alternative imaginary scenario with a different content. That’s why I explicitly said, “Then imagine…” followed by my construction of a different scenario.

So to reiterate, I never meant to discuss the actual contents of the book, I was merely using it as a springboard to discuss the principle of free expression and free speech, that it has its proper limits and that not all literature are equally tolerable."

This post was first published over at the personal blog of Dominic Foo on 12 July 2014. It is reproduced with permission.


Why do we do this to our children?

Reading books: Our children live in different times

Disappointed with those who lashed out at NLB