Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong speaking to Channel NewsAsia at the Istana on Nov 26, 2018. (Photo: Hanidah Amin)

ESM Goh uses classic Spanish literature to mock Dr Tan fighting imaginary enemies

On Sunday (4 Aug), Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong posted a Facebook comment criticising and insulting Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who has just launched the new Progress Singapore Party (PSP).

“Tan Cheng Bock says that Lee Kuan Yew invited him to join the PAP. Ouch! He omits to say that I put his name up to LKY. Surely I deserve some credit — or rather, blame — for who he has become now?” Goh wrote.

“‘For Country, For People’. He has conveniently left out ‘For Me’!” exclaimed Goh.

“Tan Cheng Bock was my classmate in Raffles Institution. I have known him close for over 60 years. It saddens me to see how he has ‘lost his way’. He is like Don Quixote tilting at windmills.”

What is “tilting at windmills”?

The expression ’tilting (or jousting) at windmills’ actually derives from the classic novel, “Don Quixote”, written by Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century.

The novel recounts the exploits of would-be knight ‘Don Quixote’ and his loyal servant, Sancho. The knight was an idealist who proposed to fight injustice through chivalry.

One time, they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rose from the plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his servant, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”

“What giants?” asked Sancho.

“Those you see over there,” replied his master, “with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.”

“Take care, sir,” cried Sancho. “Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone.”

After the novel was published and in time, the phrase “tilting at windmills” was coined to mean fighting imaginary enemies – an exercise in futility.

Imaginary or real enemies?

Hence, Goh is essentially saying that PAP is already doing a good job taking care of Singaporeans and that Dr Tan is wasting his time setting up an opposition party “fighting imaginary enemies”.

That is to say, all is well in Singapore under the People’s Action Party (PAP), if we are to believe in Goh’s words.

However, whether the enemies are real or imaginary, the results of the upcoming General Election would eventually tell.

Meanwhile, a netizen posted the followings on Goh’s Facebook page following his mocking of Dr Tan: