Friday, February 03, 2012

More sacred cows

Hi Gary
You have very specific sacred cows you wish to see slain: the recruitment of high-calibre statespeople to justify high ministerial salaries; the continuing dominance of the old man (a very sacred cow, indeed) in our local political scene; the Confucian style(?) perpetuation of public dependance on the government; and the withholding of our CPF as State capital for our national reserves.

I guess you want to hear my thoughts on these specific issues, which I am happy to oblige. I believe in sharing ideas, but I'm not in this discussion to rehash old debates. My interest is in writing as a craft, taking this opportunity you are presenting me with to weave stories, not perpetuate ideologies. Having said that, let's address your concerns:

1) High ministerial salaries: when they first decided to pay themselves huge amounts of money, I did not feel any poorer. When they reduced their payscales after the recent round of reviews, I did not feel any richer. I work for what I have earned and I can sleep soundly at night. I don't worry about whether they can do the same.

2) The old man did talk to us like children. Why did we listen to him as if we were children? Because, I suppose, we respected him for what he and his party did before. He tried to talk to us like children again, this past election. We didn't listen, did we? Who's standing in the corner now?

3) Confucius' analogy was that the emperor was the father of the kingdom. Unfortunately, that idea stayed with us, Chinese. We don't understand that democracy knocked this political concept out of the ballpark. In the emperor's day, the responsibility for the entire kingdom rested on his shoulders because he had the mandate of heaven. He decided everything for his subjects, who were free from the responsibility of taking care of themselves. Democracy took the mandate of heaven from the sole decision-maker and replaced it with the mandate of the people, and hence the responsibility of looking out for ourselves and each other fell squarely on our, the people's, shoulders. We have an unfortunate hybrid system now. But if we still depend on an elected Government for the sun and the rain to grow our crops, don't be surprised if all we get is fertilizer.

We must concede that the government has delivered the goods in all the big things. That's not what rankles our electorate. Where it's screwing up, and what we rail at it about, is its poor handling of domestic issues. Foreign workers arriving in droves, rising housing and living costs, breakdown of social mores and graces... do we really need policy from on-high to settle these household and neighbourhood affairs, or can't we just take some initiative and fix them ourselves? If we don't identify and take action on the things we can act on, then some dumb policy is going to drop from the sky because someone has to make some kind of decision before things get out of hand.

We're not disallowed from growing up. We have remarkably free media that allow us to air political dissent and satire (and a lot of embarrassingly childish prattle) openly, to a potentially massive audience, even though what we say can be easily traced back to us. Ironically, it's the American government that is proposing SOPA and PIPA and shutting down Megaupload. We are no longer a 'police state' either. In fact, we complain more now that our boys in blue would neither step in and solve our personal and domestic disputes for us, nor work to punish those we feel have slighted us somehow. Looks to me like we are the ones not willing to grow up.

4) CPF: my CPF is tied up in the monthly installments I have to pay for my HDB flat. Why does it cost so much? Well, it would have been cheaper if earlier generations of homeowners had been grateful for cheap housing, but instead they saw it as a way to make a quick buck. Who's the real estate genius who invented COV? Here's the official value of my flat: V. Here's what I have to pay to own my flat: CO + V. Instant and cumulative inflation with every resale. Now if I have to sell my flat at V (extreme cooling measures), I'll go bankrupt. As long as I want a roof over my head, I'm never going to see my CPF, let alone get it back. Whose fault is that?

Oh, btw, before I mislead you any further, I'm not -- as you have apparently assumed -- a woman. ;)


Gary said...


Sorry about mixing up your gender. lol. But you must admit your nick
is not a dead giveaway!

There is in a lot of what you say here that I can agree with. But you do sound a mite naive and I should clarify that those issues I mentioned in my note were really no more then mere illustrations as
I am really too lazy (lah) to go into any sort of detailed analysis and 'dissertation' for your benefit. But living is not just about the
quantitative alone-eat, sleep, defaecate, procreate and die. Man does not live by bread alone. Nothing personal. Anyway, lots of blogs around which have been doing an admirable job of this you
may avail yourself with if you so desire.

I can see that you too don't believe in the existence of a 'perfect'
system. My complaint, if you can call it that, is that sometimes some
people should be gracious enough to realise/recognise this and their own inevitable fallibility and limitations which must come one day
when age catches on and time evolve and be gracious enough to step aside and mature enough, rational enough, to allow others through and have a try. If there is the fear that we could fall like a
house of cards, then shouldn't this be justification to reflect on the possibility of the limitation of the work done so far? Unhelpful
statements like 'getting out of the grave...' and the like simply expose a lack of a sense of 'others' and calcification of the mind and
thinking. It becomes a crutch which unfortunately others have to bear the cost of. This is not fair, as each and every one of us has but ONE life to live. So I can completely understand why many had
and many still are leaving. There may be a lot of uncertainties and difficulties fending in a foreign land, but at least it gives one a fighting chance, a satisfaction, the freedom, to live a life and fulfills possible potentials and dreams of one own's choosing. Isn't that what being a human being is all about? And who is to say that your way is the only right way and my way the wrong way all the way? Nothing in
the universe is that cut and dried or immutable.

Min Seah said...

glad we have this chance to chat about our concerns about this nation of ours. On some issues, I admit to being facetious but only because I have no illusions about being a political commentator, and this blog was never meant to focus on political issues, though the topic and I may cross paths from time to time.

I believe we are approaching the same problem from opposite sides. You want the govt to make the first move and be more open to the people and their concerns, while I want the people to stop depending on the govt so much and stop using their so-called "threats" as excuses from doing what we need to do, and what is right to do by our own initiative.

Either way, nation-building needs time, and 50 years is hardly any time at all to say what Singapore is or isn't. Let's just hope that we, the people and our govt can meet each other half-way and see if we can't squeeze out another 50 years of national evolution.

Gary said...

There is no running away from the saying that the child is the father of the man.

The issues are not imagined by the common people, as the perception engendered is corroborated by graphic evidences in the public domain.