Monday, August 27, 2012

Behave

The Prime Minister has just finished his National Day Rally speech for the year and everyone is busy chatting about his speech. The mainstream media published the uplifting bits of his speech, while the online chaps did their song and dance about being more 'liberal' in his approach to government.

One of the things that caught my eye was the fact that he spent a good portion of his speech telling Singaporeans how to behave better. This portion of the speech was devoted to dealing with ugly online behaviour towards our new arrivals from elsewhere and the thrust of his comments was that such bad behaviour ruined Singapore's international reputation.

For the record, I agree with what he said. Perhaps it's just me but the attitudes towards foreigners, particularly those who happen to be dark skinned and from other parts of Asia disgusts me. I feel like vomiting whenever I hear highly educated professional people in Singapore talk about the unfortunate darkies doing the 'dirty' jobs.

I don't know what it is about our society? For some reason, those who have been blessed cannot help but start treating the less fortunate as something worse than dirt. The disease isn't just restricted to native born folk. Perfectly nice people from elsewhere end up getting infected too. Read a comment in the Today paper from some White Australian expat about how clearing up our trays in a fast food joints would be a denial of jobs for old people. Not sure how he worked that one out – he must have been thinking, “Granny, I'm doing you a favour by letting you clean up my shit.”

The nation is unfortunately filled with scum and nobody seems terribly interested in dealing with this type of behaviour. So, it's a relief that somebody as prominent as the Prime Minister has called attention to rotten behaviour that seems to be accepted as normal by the general public.

However, if one has to think of things in their proper context, one has to ask whether it's a failure of leadership that we have to tell a 47-year old nation how to behave and to have some decent manners.

Singapore has been an independent state for 47-years. In those years of independence we've become a serious model for the rest of the world to follow in terms of development. As I've said on so many occasions, our little Red Dot has become so advanced that it's not just people from the less developed world who are trying to prolong their stay here – even Americans, Brits and other Europeans are trying to hang onto the life that Singapore offers them. We are what every city should be – clean, green and rich.

Unfortunately our behaviour or at least our growth as people seems to have stayed in the dark ages, while our GDP has shot into the stratosphere. It's a sad reflection on our nation when the Prime Minister has to tell us how to behave after 47-years of independence.

What's happened? Well, unfortunately, while I agree with what the Prime Minister said, I believe that the government has to bear a good deal of the responsibility for the current situation. Much of what happens in Singapore starts with government policy.

Lets start with the obvious. Government's generally don't deal with personal behaviour issues unless they turn into issues that affect public peace. In the early days of Singapore's development, the key was economic development. It was right to do this in the sense that the Singapore Government actually found the money to finance many of the things that have made Singapore a very livable city.

However, the government has to be responsible for creating a culture where certain people are treated as elite Demi-Gods while certain others are treated as something worse than the shit you scrape off the bottom of your shoes.

Let's start with the fact that Singaporeans children are streamed off into different academic streams at an early age. While I don't disagree with streaming, the way it's executed in Singapore meant that those who didn't make it into the more academic streams ended up being labeled as “stupid” and destined for jobs that would not pay terribly well.

Then, let's look at wages for the white and blue collar. Those in white collar professions pay more than their blue collar counterparts. The difference is so much more that the Middle Class end up telling their children that not being academically gifted means you'll end up in a badly paid blue collar job.

So, right from the very beginning, a child is told that unless you're from a certain academic background, you are somehow less than human. You are, in effect, sub-human if you are anything less than an “A-level” student, for example. I remember being in the army and being told, “But you're MUCH smarter than the men.” I was an “A-Level” student while the men were not. I was supposed to be part of a 'smart' elite telling the mules what to do. Thankfully, I never saw myself as being smarter than the men and unfortunately that thinking still persist in the corridors of power.

It doesn't help that this thinking applies to foreign policy and immigration. Those from the 'desired' countries are encouraged to migrate with large salaries and encouraged to wall themselves in swanky homes paid for by big companies. It's drummed into the heads of school children that people from the less fortunate countries are a cause of social problems.

So, yes, I agree - Singaporeans need to learn how to behave. It's sad that we have to be told to behave after 47-years but we got to start somewhere. However, the government should also look at the cause of why we are the way we are and start tackling the problem with some urgency.


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