20140321 Compassion-deficit leaders create a compassion-deficit society

Singapore is a country in which its ivory tower leaders live in denial. Every criticism or negative comment invites a knee jerk defensive response from PAP politicians eg. New York Times’ editorial on the Little India Riot link, criticism of politicians’ wild claims of housing affordability on a $1000 monthly income, etc.

Freelance writer Charlotte Ashton moved to Singapore last year. She had a shocking experience on the MRT. During a trip, she felt nauseous and had to crouch on the floor for 15 minutes without A SINGLE commuter batting an eyelid. Even if she was not pregnant, she would have been offered assistance in a normal functioning society. Very quickly, MPs Lee Bee Wah and Irene switched to defense mode. Even non-MP William Wan, who was recently called “full of crap” by a TRE reader found himself fit to comment on the issue. link As for the mainstream media’s biased reporting, I dont know what to say.

In typical PAP fashion, even our PM had to give his take and said that “the article is “a good reminder” for Singaporeans to be more gracious and kind to others”. link I was shocked to learn from our PM that words in print could be reminders and transform Singaporeans into better human beings! No wonder our country continues to be run on fancy slogans.

Our government firmly believes in an academic approach to every issue and human beings can actually be told to behave in a certain ways like, “report anything suspicious in the train”, “do not litter”, “please give up your seat”, “keep the corridors clean”, “flush after use”, etc. Human beings are not programmable, my dear PM.

To a large extent, our behavior is conditioned by our rat-race environment. Leadership has always placed an emphasis on success which is largely determined by a monetary yardstick. As the stress level increases disproportionately with the lower income group facing survival issues, people become short fused and workload at the IMH increases. Are we kidding ourselves believing that people can become kinder and more gracious in such an environment?

Even our ex PM, presently MP Goh Chok Tong, was divorced from ordinary Singaporeans’ reality when he said “We’ve become a more gracious society”. Goh could not have said otherwise because the Singapore Kindness Movement was initiated by his supporters in response to his call to develop a more caring and gracious society. All the councils and committees set up by the government will fail because these are piecemeal measures which ignore problems created by our flawed policies and compassion-deficit leaders.

Of course one cannot deny Goh’s personal experience as who would dare be ungracious to him.

In most countries, it is natural for a human being to render assistance to another who is in need. But in Singapore, there are a ridiculous number of signs and announcements telling us what we should do. To prevent an act of terrorism, the SMRT has been reminding commuters to report “any suspicious-looking person or article” for more than 10 years.

We are largely shaped by our experience and no amount of reading/instructions can reshape that experience. Children of the wealthy will never understand what it’s like to go hungry or how hard it is for a poor kid to save $50 dollars. If PM Lee seriously wants a more compassionate society, he should encourage the elites to frequent hawker centres and food courts as well as regularly visit homes for destitute and elderly Singaporeans.

When you keep seeing elderly persons struggling over many years in menial jobs, compassion seeps into you and every policy that you implement is based on that direct experience.

Instead of looking at an issue in the face, PM Lee had even said that “being poor in Singapore is better than being poor elsewhere”. link Where is the compassion?

Politicians continue to reward themselves with tax dollars. Where bonus in the private sector seldom exceed a few months, a minister could receive up to 13.5 months. link (At one stage PM Lee’s salary was $3 million + pension, a President who did not know the reserves were used 55 times was paid $4.3 million link)

According to an article which the government seems to have silently acknowledged, “Poverty in Singapore grew from 16% in 2002 to 28% in 2013″. Almost half a million Singaporeans are earning less than $1500 per month. How compassionate are our leaders when they reward themselves with million dollar salaries with the knowledge that an increasing number of citizens are suffering?

Will our leaders say that cleaners in Singapore are having a better life than in other countries?

PM Lee should reflect on Chan Chun Sing’s laughable ‘’kueh lapis” approach to social assistance where instead of helping as many needy Singaporeans, it limits the number. Why put a piece of delicious kueh lapis in front of some poor fellow when there are huge obstacles preventing him from eating it? link

There is a lot of truth in Ms Ashton’s article which PM Lee somehow seems to have missed the forest for the trees when he advised Singaporeans not to “accept everything that Ms Ashton had written”. There are serious policy issues which have resulted in our compassion-deficit society. Policies are implemented by leaders and ultimately reflect on them.

Hopefully the government is not tinkering with the idea of setting up a compassion surplus committee.

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