An Elitist’s View On Life

“Because they don’t know what life is, they’re quite happy. They wake up, they brush their teeth, then they’ll farm, and then they’ll sleep. But do you want it that way?” – Goh Chok Tong
“As if being least emotional nation in the world was not enough, Singapore has claimed yet another title – we are the most unhappy one as well.”Straits Times

“Could Singaporeans have become too mechanical and too busy in the rat race that meaningful engagement with society is lost?”
Faith Leong Siang Nuan

 

This is not the first time that our millionaire ministers make dumb remarks. My thoughts are:
  • SM Goh simply brushed off a citizen’s concern, this shows his disconnect from the ground. There is a real concern on the lack of Quality of Life in Singapore. People work long hours and hard to keep up with the increasing pace of economic development and rising costs. People are richer but not happier, why?
  • He assumed he knew what life is, and the people from poor countries don’t. Even the 22 years old  writer (see below) knew that it is not right to assume we know what others want. Not many people can earn millions of dollars like him, jet setting to meet leaders and celebrities and get the best seats at the National Day Parade, he sure enjoys his life, but how many of us are as fortunate?
  • The statement shows the elitist in him who does not have much respect from people at the lower rank of the society. Remember if we have no cleaners, bus drivers, postmen etc, you are nobody even if you are a doctor or prime minister in a lone island with no value and importance.

Targets like “to grow real incomes by 30 per cent, and Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product per capita will reach around US$55,000 (S$69,000) by 2020″ has no meaning to the men-on-the-street if they feel they are worse off at the end of the day. As an observer of Singapore history, I see people are getting more stress and working longer as their wealth grows over the years and those that could not keep up with the fast pace, fall much behind and that is the reality of social ills of Singapore !!!

[Updated 20 Nov 2011] Now another Government minister Khaw Boon Wan had trivialise many (local born) Singaporeans’ concern of wanting more happiness than more GDP by saying “Bhutan was no “Shangri-La”. When he was there, he saw “unhappy people”, toiling in the fields, worried about the next harvest and whether there would be buyers for their products…….In their mind, Singapore could well be the Shangri-La and they want Bhutan to emulate Singapore.” How can an Government official opined such statement on behalf of Butaneses without facts to back him up? Just because a few Government officials wanted to learn something from Singapore does not mean they want to be like us.

 

what is life?[Updated 24 Sep 2013: Myanmar famed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi summed it up best when she said her country should not copy Singapore wholesale. Below are some of her notable thought-provoking quotes on the subject of Singapore pursue of unrelentless pursue of material progress:

“That made me think, what is work all about? What are human beings for? What are human lives about?

“So I want to learn a lot about the standards that Singapore has been able to achieve, but I wonder whether I don’t want something more for our country.”

It was not the first time she raised what she saw as Singapore’s focus on materialism at the press conference. In her opening remarks, she made reference to it.

See more at: http://www.stasiareport.com/the-big-story/asia-report/myanmar/story/myanmar-can-learn-not-copy-spore-20130924#sthash.mIoBJcxJ.dpuf   AND

‘Myanmar should not seek to recreate S’pore’s policies’

]

“That made me think, what is work all about? What are human beings for? What are human lives about?

“So I want to learn a lot about the standards that Singapore has been able to achieve, but I wonder whether I don’t want something more for our country.”

She added: “I want to probe more into the successes of Singapore and to find out what we can achieve beyond that because I think the human capacity for progress is limitless and I am not just talking about material progress.”

It was not the first time she raised what she saw as Singapore’s focus on materialism at the press conference. In her opening remarks, she made reference to it.

“One gets used to thinking of Singapore as a financial, a commercial city, where people are more intent on business and money than human relations, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised that there is a lot of human warmth going around this place,” she said.

– See more at: http://www.stasiareport.com/the-big-story/asia-report/myanmar/story/myanmar-can-learn-not-copy-spore-20130924#sthash.mIoBJcxJ.dpuf

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says her country should not copy them wholesale – See more at: http://www.stasiareport.com/the-big-story/asia-report/myanmar/story/myanmar-can-learn-not-copy-spore-20130924#sthash.mIoBJcxJ.dpuf

[Updated 15 Apr 2012: just finished watching a thought-provoking local production Singapore Dreaming ( 美满人生), the show had aptly reflected the dilemma faced by many middle and lower class Singaporeans. Many Singaporeans probably will agree with the statement that “how is it that I now have a house, I now have a car, a job, why I am still unhappy?“. If the Elites are so disconnected from the masses, it is only a matter of time before the downfall of the ruling party. Instead of showering themselves with self-congratulatory statements from time to time on growing GDPs and creating jobs (more for others than for born-and-bred Singaporeans), they should make this film a compulsory study case to see how better they can serve Singaporeans better and with genuine care for the people instead.]

 

“You’ve given up your dreams to do what you don’t like for money. I’m doing what I dislike to earn money to help me achieve my dreams.” – Singapore Dreaming

 

“Oh yes, they do own branded stuff and they have more than what we old folks had back then in the good old days. But, they do not have much free time and are always in a rush. Instead of happiness, I see ever more stress and increasing pressure in them.”source

“Come and sit down with us at the neighbourhood coffee shops more often to listen to us instead of just attending RC functions where things are so superficial.” - Amy Ng

[Updated: 7Nov2012: Singaporean Dr Richard Teo, a successful opthamologist-turned-cosmetic surgeon, succumbed to Stage Four terminal lung cancer earlier this month at the age of 40. A 22-minute heart-wrenching video featuring his thoughts on life and the ceaseless pursuit of materialism and success has gone viral online. Source:Yahoo!news]

A farmer’s life deserves respect
Letter from Natalie Cheong

 Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has been quoted as saying of people in less-developed countries: “Because they don’t know what life is, they’re quite happy. They wake up, they brush their teeth, then they’ll farm, and then they’ll sleep. But do you want it that way?”. What concerns me is the assumption that all farmers in less-developed countries do not understand what life is.

I have worked with farmers in Vietnam who have grown up in marginalised indigenous communities. They are able to read and write in English and think more critically than many Singaporeans I have met. They are able to use the Internet and even have Facebook. They humble me with their know-how and adaptability in farming – a skill that has been long-lost in my generation.

Farmers like them help to supply our country’s people with 90 per cent of our food. These are the unsung and financially unrewarded people who have contributed to the success of Singapore today. They are also the people whom millions will rely on to be highly adaptive and resilient in light of changing environmental conditions brought about by climate change.

I am 22 years of age and do not claim to have a comprehensive understanding of what life is. But I do know that happiness, which is not based on disregard for others, is central to what I would want my country to have.

And the best comment from TodayOnline’s reader J. Wong sums it aptly:

“I used to have a very high regard of Mr Goh but have been quite disappointed with him these past few years. Ever since he stepped down as PM, he has made quite a number uncaught statements and this is just one of the many statements he made.

But aren’t we just like farmers? Don’t we wake up, brush our teeth, then we go to work (instead of farming), and then we sleep?”But do you want it that way?”. Not unless I am paid $millions. But seriously, what is wrong with it?

Be thankful you have farmers who provide you with rice! Be humble and be respectful regardless of one’s occupation! I think even kindergarten kids know this!”

I will leave you with a story contributed by Virgo:
“A few years ago, a very rich businessman decides to take a vacation to a small tropical island in the South Pacific. He has worked hard all his life and has decided that now is the time to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He is excited about visiting the island because he’s heard that there is incredible fishing there. He loved fishing as a young boy, but hasn’t gone in years because he has been so busy working to save for his retirement.

So on the 1st day morning, he has his breakfast and heads to the beach. There he spots a fisherman coming in with a large bucket full of fish!How long did you fish for? he asks. The fisherman looks at the businessman with a wide grin across his face and explains that the fishes for about 3 hrs every day. The businessman then asks him why he returned so quickly. Don’t worry, says the fisherman, There’s still plenty of fish out there.

Dumbfounded, the businessman asks the fisherman why he didn’t continue catching more fish. The fisherman patiently explains that what he caught is all he needs. I’ll spend the rest of the day with my family, talking with my friends and maybe drinking a little wine. After that I’ll relax on the beach.”

Now the rich businessman figures he needs to teach this peasant fisherman a thing or two. So he explains to him that he should stay out all day and catch more fish. Then he could save up the extra money he makes and buy and even bigger boats to catch even more fish. The he could keep reinvesting his profits in even more boats and hire many other fisherman to work for him. If he works really hard, in 20-30 years he’ll be a very rich man indeed.

The businessman feels pleased that he’s helped teach this simple fellow how to become rich. Then the fisherman looks at the businessman with a puzzled look on his face and asks what he’ll do after he becomes very rich.

The businessman responds quickly: You can spend time with your family, talk with your friends, and maybe drink a little wine. Or you could just relax on the beach!” 

 

Singaporeans not only emotionless but unhappy as well: Gallup poll

Source: The Straits Times  20 Dec 2012

As if being least emotional nation in the world was not enough, Singapore has claimed yet another title – we are the most unhappy one as well.

That’s according to international pollster Gallup, at least.

Based on a poll of nearly 150,000 people worldwide conducted in 2011 – the same one that branded Singapore as emotionless – Gallup’s reading into the results put Singapore at the top of the list of countries where the fewest adults experienced positive emotions.

Singaporeans were apparently less upbeat than the people in places like Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Haiti.

Posted in Social Ills in Singapore

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My favourite quote today

"I am afraid the cruise ship is over capacity limit, and it used to be a luxury cruise ship. The designer’s claim that it is not sinkable, the name is Titanic. There are not enough life boats, no preparation or provision for failure. Thank you Mr Goh for reminding us." - Low Thia Khiang

"Till today, I am still puzzled by why the PAP cannot fight a fair election without gerrymandering, abusing the GRC system, basically, making sure they enter into a boxing ring with an opponent who is expected to fight them with hands tied behind the back. There is a reason why bullies are not popular in schools. Why not be the school prefect?" - Alvinology

"The question to ask is what lies at the root of the discontent or the disengagement between the G and the people. I am going to stick my neck out and say that it is ministerial salaries. I consider it the root of all evil. Serious. It reduces what should be a social compact into a business contract. " - Bertha Henson