Friday, April 15, 2011

Hard truths you won’t read about elsewhere, Part V

Our systems are brittle and our country is vulnerable. And our government has no desire to encourage a “crutch mentality”. It behoves every Singaporean to have a Plan B.

Many Singaporeans instinctively understand this hard truth, even though they may not articulate it.

The recent survey by the Institute of Policy Studies is telling. About half of young Singaporeans belong to the “Disengaged” and “Explorer” socio-psychological profile.

Interestingly, these profiles come from the more highly educated, higher income groups, who have presumably benefited more from the PAP’s economic policies than the lower income groups. Yet it is precisely the Disengaged and the Explorer who are pessimistic about Singapore’s economic future. The Explorer also feels threatened by foreign talent.

Why this irony?

Perhaps it is because the Disengaged and the Explorer, who have benefited more under the PAP’s policies, understand better the fragility upon which Singapore’s prosperity is built. And they also understand that what appears to be permanent can in fact be transient, that it can all vanish in a blink of the eye.

The PAP assiduously cultivates a siege mentality among the population, telling us that Singapore is highly vulnerable. Yet it would have us all believe that the PAP is the solution to Singapore’s problems, that self-sacrifice is what is required of all of us, that all of us need to close ranks around the PAP. Otherwise, the ship would capsize without the PAP at the helm.

Well, if Singapore were that vulnerable, should we not all express just a bit of scepticism at the PAP’s infallibility? That is a logical extension of the PAP’s own argument.

But no, that is not part of the official catechism. We are required to believe in the daunting odds we face as a nation, while suspending doubts as to the PAP’s abilities to shepherd Singaporeans through any storm.

And the PAP asks for more than just faith in their abilities, but also tolerance for their obscene salaries, and forbearance for personal costs on the part of citizens that grow more exacting with each policy that they implement. No crutch mentality here, thank you very much.

I wonder if the PAP realizes how successful they have been in instilling amongst Singaporeans the fear that Singapore is indeed vulnerable. The spectre of ever present disaster may have helped the PAP to solidify their grip on power over the decades, but at what cost?

We have imbibed the knowledge that tomorrow, this could all be over. And the PAP government has demonstrably shown through its policies and speeches and admonitions that as individual citizens, we're on our own; we shouldn't count on the government for retirement, healthcare, housing...even that ineffable feeling that this place should still feel like home, what with the incredible rate of immigration, and the attendant questions it raises of what citizenship here is really worth.

And we certainly shouldn't trouble the government with our disquietude. If we do, it's our fault, again. The implicit command is for us to be silent and be governed. If we participate, we are meant only to cheer, not to question.

Our national education programs talk loftily of a shared sense of destiny, of how our people are Singapore’s only resource, and yet the government has nurtured a crisis of affinity.

The statistic of importance is not how many youth are contemplating emigration now. It is how many youth would contemplate emigration in a time of countrywide bleakness.

Hard Truth #5 is not about emigration per se. It is about being prepared. As long as the living here is comfortable, there is no fear of Singaporeans activating Plan B. But Plan B exists. And it is ever at the back of everyone’s mind.

Once, while attending a Chinese New Year dinner hosted by the ambassador at the Singapore embassy in Washington DC, I overheard a spiel from a diplomat holding court amongst a group of university students. He claimed that for reasons of national security, our wealth [meaning reserves], must be kept outside of Singapore.

We should all take a leaf from the PAP’s investment playbook and hedge our bets abroad. Don't put all your eggs in the Singapore basket. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander .

I started this post by stating that many Singaporeans instinctively understand Hard Truth #5, even though they may not articulate it. For many of us, it is not a hard truth, but a simple reality, prudence even. I do not think I need to point out who the hard truth is meant for.

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