My Reelity

Is this the reel life or is this just fantasy?

Archive for May, 2011

Food For Thought

Posted by Ruok On May - 11 - 2011

Just came across this excellent interview with Mr Ngiam Tong Dow, former head of the civil service in 2003. Give that man a Tiger, what an excellent insight!

Two things I wish to highlight from the interview :

Q. So what should this new compact consist of?

A. It should go back to what was originally promised: ‘That you shall be given the best education, whether it be academic or vocational, according to your maximum potential.’ And there will be no judgment whether an engineer is better than a doctor or a chef. My late mother was a great woman. Although illiterate, she single-handedly brought up four boys and a girl. She used to say in Hainanese: ‘If you have one talent which you excel in, you will never starve.’ I think the best legacy to leave is education and equal opportunity for all. When the Hainanese community came to Singapore, they were the latest arrivals and the smallest in number. So they had no choice but to become humble houseboys, waiters and cooks. But they always wanted their sons to have a better life than themselves. The great thing about Singapore was that we could get an education, which gave us mobility, despite coming from the poorest families. Today, the Hainanese, as a dialect group, form proportionately the highest number of professionals in Singapore.

Q. What is the kind of Singapore you hope your grandchildren will inherit?

A. Let’s look at Sparta and Athens, two city states in Greek history. Singapore is like Sparta, where the top students are taken away from their parents as children and educated. Cohort by cohort, they each select their own leadership, ultimately electing their own Philosopher King. When I first read Plato’s Republic, I was totally dazzled by the great logic of this organisational model where the best selects the best. But when I reached the end of the book, it dawned on me that though the starting point was meritocracy, the end result was dictatorship and elitism. In the end, that was how Sparta crumbled. Yet, Athens, a city of philosophers known for its different schools of thought, survived. What does this tell us about out-of-bounds markers? So SM Lee has to think very hard what legacy he wants to leave for Singapore and the type of society he wants to leave behind. Is it to be a Sparta, a well-organised martial society, but in the end, very brittle; or an untidy Athens which survived because of its diversity of thinking? Personally, I believe that Singaporeans are not so kuai (Hokkien for obedient) as to become a Sparta. This is our saving grace. As a young senior citizen, I very much hope that Singapore will survive for a long time, but as an Athens. It is more interesting and worth living and dying for.

I heartily agree with ‘That you shall be given the best education, whether it be academic or vocational, according to your maximum potential.’

And our resemblance to Sparta now is horrifying. I would wish we become Athens as well.

Winds Of Change

Posted by Ruok On May - 6 - 2011

Come tomorrow, I’ll be voting for the very first time. After being subjected to numerous walkovers ever since I was eligible to vote, I am glad to have my chance at long last.

Most like me are also voting for the first time. Which explains why there is a great buzz around the elections this year; notwithstanding the fact that a significant percentage of the electorate are very dissatisfied with how things are right now.

I was at Serangoon Stadium last night to attend the last Workers Party rally. And I can tell you, you can really feel how disgruntled the masses are. I have been following the rally speeches for the past seven days, both PAP and the Opposition, and this is what I have noticed : The Opposition has correctly identified the issues the people are not happy with and they have brought it out to light. The PAP however for some weird reason stubbornly stayed clear of these issues and instead prefers to drone out municipal objectives instead. Worse, they even make light of these issues and dismiss them altogether! And up to the nth hour, some of them are still concentrating on municipal plans instead.

This, despite evidence of large crowds attending Opposition rallies EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. You must wonder if they ever paused to think why nobody (or significantly lesser people) turn up at their own rallies. Surely it must be because you are not talking about issues close to their hearts? But yet you don’t sense a switch in their strategy at all. If you ask me, they are either really out of touch with the ground, or are too complacent to even care.

This ambivalence may well prove to be their downfall come May 8. But in the meantime, the people are flocking to potential representatives who have heard their cries and have promised to be their voice. If you have seen footages of PAP’s rallies from their humble beginnings, you would have noticed that they too have massive crowd turnouts in their rallies. And because of this kind of passionate support, the PAP then began to win power. Many have forgotten they too were once The Opposition.

And I think Grand Uncle, if he had the fortune of witnessing such scenes, would surely have a sense of deja vu. But that sense of deja vu would soon become a shiver down his spine when he realises that the crowds are now following another party instead of his party. In fact last night, after the rally, the people were still shouting the name of the party even as they made their exit. And shouting still even as they crossed the streets of Serangoon. It was as close to a public demonstration as you can get in Singapore.

And that party is The Workers Party. I was very impressed with their showing in 2006 as well as their performance these past five years in identifying critical issues and bringing them up in Parliament. In fact, when I saw their last rally in 2006, in which they recited the Pledge at the end, I was truly moved to tears. Which is why I made my way to the stadium last night; I knew they would do it (recite The Pledge) again and this time round, I was determined to be part of it.

Of course, there were also sizable crowds in the other Opposition Parties’ rallies as well. This is because the Opposition has put up a very united front this time round; not only are they raising the same issues, they have synchronised their debates as well. If the issue of housing was debated by one party, you can be sure the other parties are also debating on housing issues on the same night. And if they are talking about the foreigners issues on the following night, you can be sure the other parties will debate on foreigner issues on the following night as well.

This concerted effort is quite unprecedented, and I am mightily impressed. And i think this really caught the PAP off-guard. The again, a lot of things in this election have caught them off-guard as well. And the response from the ground has been tremendous and who can blame them? For far too long they have been ignored; for far too long they have been taken for granted. And to add insult to injury, the PAP tried to rally them to their cause with cheers of “Majulah PAP! Majulah Sinagpore!”. Party before Country? Are you freaking kidding me?

These past five years, I have seen the incumbent commit political suicide many times and shoot their own foot many times. But because they got away with it, they got more and more arrogant, and more and more complacent. I’m glad the Opposition have been diligent enough to note down these gaffes and have used them as ammunition in this election. The PAP simply have no rebuttal against these, and their weak attempt to dismiss or deflect them just made them lose more respect and trust from an already very disgruntled electorate.

When the elections were announced, I wondered if Singapore would be sheltered from the strong winds of change that has been blowing globally these past few years. From our neighbors in Malaysia, from Asia, from USA and now from the Middle East, winds of change have been blowing very hard. But for it to blow here, this tiny island of a nation, it seems more likely than not that it will siam us.

But last night, amongst a 30,000 strong crowd packed in a small stadium, I felt a breeze. A gentle, cooling breeze, brushing against our tired faces and weary hearts, lifting our troubled souls. It blew for the duration of the rally and it helped carried our voices during our recital of the Pledge to reach those who couldn’t be there. To let them hear the pride and passion that is in their hearts and our hearts.

The winds have started blowing. On May 7, may it blow even stronger.

Vote wisely, my fellow countrymen.