Three expressions or words are currently circulating in social media: elitism, snobbery and rights. They have been used to describe the entire PAP establishment, particularly the top countries, which means the Cabinet and MPs and all SAF generals and key officials. The feeling of disgust on the ground will not disappear until, in my opinion, a satisfactory response or defense is provided by the PAP government.
These are serious accusations.
Let's take the first – elitism. This has always been a facet of the PAP DNA. A long time ago, in the mid-sixties, students from the then University of Singapore (now NUS) slammed the PAP for practicing or worshiping elitism, which is actually that there are people who are just more capable than others and these people will be the natural upper part of a society. At that time, socialism, a milder form of communism advocating social equality, was a prevailing philosophy in a number of countries, for example Britain and France. Trained young Singaporeans caught the wind. Hence the protests on the campus against any kind of policy that was aimed at favoring the "elite".
But the late PM Lee Kuan Yew would not bow. He had at least one unblocked speech referring to anthropological differences between countries in Southeast Asia, which I do not want to repeat, otherwise the subject would offend people in other parts of Asia, especially our neighbors, and make life difficult for Minister of Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan. LKY spoke about, among other things, intense and less societies. Suffice it to say that LKY was abstinical – or in his eyes pragmatic – elitist, even in his view of other countries!
LKY imported the Mandarinate system from the Middle Kingdom to Singapore. In China, scholars had to pass rigorous exams to come to Beijing to serve the emperor. That is why the education system has been unabashedly elitist here. Apart from the fact that elite schools could flourish, young Singaporeans were sieved through examinations and so-called scholars were selected by different categories: president-scholars, SAF scholars and so on, who later called the armed forces, the civil service, GLC & # 39; s and statutory councils (the latter two have also created their own scholars). The best went to the SAF because the need was that we would be vulnerable without a strong army and that was the highest priority. That is why you can see why so many generals and rear admirals have been elected to the cabinet as a second career. Premier Lee Hsien Loong was in the first batch of SAF Scholars. He did his national service. I was in the same company in the SAF school for cadet officers.
I can continue elitist thinking in the PAP system. A lot has already been said, I will not repeat it. Has it produced the right result – a system that has served the country well? Or has it made the gap between the highest and the lower middle class and the low income group so great that it has immensely affected our social mobility to such an extent that a class system has arisen and has become entrenched?
I'm afraid it has. Apart from the question of dishonesty to those who do not grow up in families with the right connections and who have the backbone to study in the best or better schools and universities, ugly symptoms manifest rather quickly.
One of them is snobbery.
This comes, for example, from the way in which people very much like to move from HDB flats to private property where they can enjoy a remote life behind gated gates away from the hi polloi. It is not just about investments. It is also a way to distance yourself from the rest. All this despite the fact that the HDB has done a lot to improve the environment in the states.
Top schools, top clubs, top restaurants, luxury holidays, Porsches, obscenely priced handbags al la Rosmah – they are part of the package of a great lifestyle. We must not necessarily mislead the real achievers who have arrived & # 39 ;. Many people strive to have all of this. But Singapore is not Monte Carlo, where the rich and famous come together. We are still an immigrant community trying to be a nation, and not a rich male cage that focuses on an elite class.
The second by-product of elitism that is fiercely discussed in social media is the feeling of right. It is becoming clear that the system is so widespread in the PAP and the government that it is taken for granted.
The issue of ministerial salaries continues to reverberate. The thinking behind the PAP leaders in their introduction of candidates for the elections and later in the cabinet has a huge element of the law. Only high salaries attract the best and nothing less will do. If that is unquestionably true, other people who earn less than the PAP benchmark must be practically blind. If that is true, why do we have a cabinet that can not meet the quality and ability of the first generation – and maybe the second – to get out of the ivory tower and involve Singaporeans in a serious and open way in debates on important issues – meaningful heated debate and not only have polite or choreographed conversations. Helicoptered, overly protected leaders do not deserve their millions if they can do something as important and basic as debunk-no-sayers and persuade them to the government's cause.
Elitism, snobbery, justice. I add a long sentence to end this column – pure arrogance, in combination with contempt for others.
Tan Bah Bah is a former senior leader writer at The Straits Times. He was also editor-in-chief of a local publishing house of magazines