Friday, August 01, 2008

What's Wrong with Being Privilleged?

July has come and gone and I'm starting August in a pretty optimistic mood. Managed to complete a rather successful project with Polaris, with the prospect of more to come and GE Commercial Finance look like they're coming back online. The money from the Polaris job will not only replenish the savings account but also add to it and God-knows, I do need those surplus funds in the bank account. Unlike the US government, I can't sell bonds in myself can I? Of course, if anyone reading this blog wanted to buy bonds in me, I wouldn't object - I would borrow your money to buy things from you so that you could lend me more money.

OK, enough of that. It's fun to make fun of Americans but one shouldn't be too harsh about them. After all, much of the prosperity that the modern world faces was made by America and the generous spirit of the American people. As distasteful as I find the Fags in the Bush Administration, I think you have to hand it to American people and American culture for encouraging a 'Go-Getting' spirit in people. Racism may exist in America but by and large, Americans applaud people who come in as migrants and somehow find a way to climb up and make something better for themselves. As long as the Bush Administration does not kill this spirit, I think the future of the USA will remain great.

Look at the difference with Singapore. Over here, bitching about people who become successful is quite a hobby. It's especially noisy when the characters who become successful have less advantages than we do. My young politician would probably site this as an example of how we've become successful but I think Singapore has succeeded inspite of this mentality - or perhaps we've become more like this with age and ironically success.

Philip Yeo, current Chairman of SPRING Singapore, the government body responsible for promoting SMEs and entrepreneurship (Yes, we actually have a government body to teach entrepreneurship), recently made some remarks that if all things are equal, he'll prefer to give scholarships to those from poor backgrounds, because he feels they're more hungry. Suddenly you had lots of people from the well to do and middle class writing in to complain that Mr Yeo was biased in favor of the poor.

I'm no fan of Philip Yeo. The man has an ego the size of a cliff. But in this case, Philip is right. If you have to be biased in dishing out help, you should be biased in favour of the poor. Its like this. A poor boy with a schoolarship will have the chance to go on and succeed and pull himself and his family out of poverty. A boy from a middle class family will see the schoolarship as a means of enhancing his personal family prestiege. Now, tell me, which is more valuable to society? This being Singapore, the answer is will funnily enough, be the later. Instead of thinking, if the other guy has the chance to earn as much as me, I'll have more money by dealing with him, the Singapore mentality is - eeekkkks, there will be less for me.

If you don't believe me, try and remember the Commonwealth Games in Manchester some 5-years ago. Singapore had an incredible running, winning more gold medals than it had in its rather short history. But instead of rejoicing, the nation started to bitch and moan that the atheletes that won the medals for us were not local born and were stealing opportunities from locals.

Compare that with just about everywhere else, where when the national team wins, it's a national triumph and you have that wonderful sense that for a brief moment, all devides are healed. Look at the winning French football team of 1998. France was suffering from major divisions, mainly racist ones between the Whites, Algerians and Blacks. But for that brief moment of the winning of the World Cup, people forgot about colour. The French proudly proclaimed their winning team as 'Les Blancs, Les Blacks, Les Beurs' (The Whites, the Blacks and the Berbers) - Vive Les Bleus (The Blues as the team are known).

Since the government plays such a prominent role in shapping culture in Singapore, I think it needs to look at this quite urgently. I mean, how can you expect Singapore to grow in the world when its people are culturally programmed to begrudge success to the less fortunate and are so unwilling to celebrate the good things in life.

I think of my Dad who grew up in a different era from the one I'm growing up in. My grandfather could barely afford to feed his ten children and I think that gave my Dad a determination to never be poor. My aunt helped him into art school, but he never made it to university, and yet, in the end, my father ended up in the position of hiring those who went to university. I'm not exactly cuddley with my Dad but I hold him in high regard for having climbed so high without a degree. It's like when a few agency clowns mention that he's a little ecentric, I remind them that he made it the hard way.

I don't know, I find myself cheering for people who make it without the paper. They're usually better on the job too. I'm reminded of Uncle Jeffrey who described how he got a 'b' grade on a 10,000 word university assignment, which he did in three days, but it took him three days to write a 300 word article when he joined SPH. What does academia teach you? For the life of me, I cannot figure out why employers bother paying graduates more? Strange isn't it.

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