Thursday, August 13, 2015

Elitism can be good for society - the Democracy Glass is Half Empty

Elitism can be good for society writes an RI alumni.

Only an elite can have the gall to say such a thing. These sorts of remarks like "Get out of my elitist uncaring face", "$600,000 salary is peanuts", "Cardboard aunties collect cardboard for the exercise", "People have a choice to take or don't take MRT", "Everyone in Singapore owns a car", "Eat cake if you don't have bread :)"  speaks of a larger malaise - a fractured society and a ruling class that does not live in the same world as the citizens its governs.

 The writer also writes "Singapore is a society built on the core tenets of meritocracy, fairness and equity. However, in recent years, we seem to have collectively confused equity with equality." 

"Equity" - $$ as in money?? ….

The writer needs to relearn basic things it seems. Our pledge reads: "We, the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people, regardless of race, language, or religion to build a democratic society based on justice and equality so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation." I think the author needs to recite the pledge again - every morning for the next 12 years. I don't know how he forgot that.

The Singapore system was based on Meritocracy. It was based on the idea that if you're clever and hard working you should get ahead in life.

Singapore was also built on good governance. We didn't kowtow to race, religion, money, or race, cronyism… or family. We gave deference to meritocracy. By doing this we succeeded while all our other neighbours (who were at one point in time vastly more richer than us), Malaya, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Indonesia - chose different paths and floundered badly.

Equality goes hand in hand with meritocracy. Equality does not equal communism. It means that everyone is equal under the rule of law. If someone assaults someone say a taxi driver - that person whether he's a doctor, soldier, or a European banker should be prosecuted and do the same time in jail.

A commitment to Equality also attempts to help everyone get a fair go at life - to create a level playing field. To that end in Singapore we provide public housing, public education, public hospital care. The Singapore PAP government at the start was actually very Socialistic - forcibly acquiring land from private individuals at below market prices to build public works like HDBs, Changi airport, Army bases, the MRT etc.. It didn't allow the rich and powerful to hog all the top spots in the government, military, and school systems.

There is of course a balance between public vs private to be met somewhere - and that is the government's role to adjust otherwise we'd just end up back to feudalism where the rich and powerful eventually rig the system to benefit themselves only.

Somewhere along the way since 1965 - we seem to have lost our way to such an extent that we hear the Establishment talking about an aristocracy as if the elites had an unalienable right to rule Singapore.

It is worrying.

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