US and Singapore: societal values

Regarding the opinion-page article ``A Papa Knows Best Approach to Order in Singapore,'' April 21: The author's description of law and order in Singapore (``The police swiftly pluck serious criminals off the streets ...'') is a simplistic rendering of a complex and deadly social system. The author's observation that ``there have been some very unattractive examples in history of regimes that placed efficiency and order above the rights of individuals'' does not excuse him for the attractive, simplistic picture he paints. But perhaps I protest too much? After all, Mussolini made the trains run on time. Seth Edelman Castleton, N.Y.

I couldn't help being slightly disturbed by the article ``America Takes a Lickin','' April 27, about how the case of Michael Fay illustrates cultural differences between the United States and Singapore.

According to Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's senior minister, ``You should not abandon your basic pattern of culture, because there is a real danger ... of losing your own basic values without absorbing the essence of the other culture.'' Mr. Lee apparently attributes ``chaos'' in the US to an unwillingness to enforce values with harsh punishment.

This unwillingness, however, can itself be attributed to a higher value: the dignity of all human beings, including those who have committed the heinous crime of spray painting. This value is expressed in a constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, so it is necessary for Americans to find methods other than ceremonial beatings to enforce the rest of their values. Dan Might, Cincinnati

Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published, and none acknowledged. Letters should be addressed to ``Readers Write,'' and can be sent by Internet E-mail (200 word maximum) to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115

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