Sunday, July 28, 2013

Elitism is only half the story

Interesting that retired PM Goh is reminding the privileged people to guard against elitism.

I'll open a can of worms by suggesting that in creating a social divide, it takes two hands to clap. While we would like the privileged to not act like jerks who have too much money to know what to do with, the rest of us not-so-privileged folks should likewise not let the income gap cause us to despair and pigeonhole ourselves into thinking we've stagnated, and blame the 'elites' for keeping us down.

Our economic system still offers opportunity for everyone who seeks it. For us starting at the bottom of the pile, if we set our sights high, there are ways to get there -- but not through the safe, secure office job we've been promised as a child for studying our brains out and passing exams.

We're only stagnated if we swallowed that promise hook, line and sinker. The way up is tough; fraught with failure and dead ends. At times, our progress is so slow that it may look like we'll never get there, but we keep moving forward with our dreams, our plans and our goals anyway. People will kindly 'advise' us with the best of intentions to be sensible and get back on the 'safe' path again, and many times, we'll be tempted to quit. And if we listen to them, that too is stagnation.

I'm not saying that we should gamble blindly, but rather to have a dream we can articulate and have a plan we can put in action. We learn from our failures, pick ourselves up and keep climbing. And even at the end if we don't 'make it' the way we had originally defined 'make it', we're still further along ahead of where we were when we started our journey, and much happier for it.

Or just be content with what we have and live within our means, even if we have to forego the luxuries we see other people enjoying. After all, on first impression, there's no way to tell if they are up to their necks in hock in order to luxuriate in their finery.

Elitism means to keep things from people. Envy seeks to take things away from people. Both forces at work in society cause irreparable rifts between people, making them think that the existing system does not work when in fact it does. It works on the principle of Generosity: to put things in people's hands. Give.

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