Written by Ng E-Jay
26 March 2013
From day one in the educational system, the young Singaporean child is inundated with class tests, pressurizing examinations, and the emphasis on grades. At a young age, he or she is faced with streaming which separates the weak from the strong, the early bloomers from the late developers. At every stage, our kids in school are subjected to quantitative measurement and are told to absorb knowledge like a thumb drive.
When our kids grow up, the government treats them like economic digits, judges them by their economic output, and enacts policies that regards them as so many cogs in a machine. Our young couples are even treated like cattle, and told that if they do not reproduce, foreigners will be brought in to make up the numbers, even replace them in their jobs should they not perform up to the mark.
Everyone is caught up in a rat race and forced to cope with an escalating cost of living and incredibly expensive property. Few have time to stop and think. From dawn to dusk, it is all about rushing kids to school, getting to work on time, facing increasing competition from foreigners, getting tuition for children and sending them to so many extra-curricular activities, and satisfying the demands of so many people from so many quarters.
Our government scholars are mollycoddled, treated like prices and princesses who have been granted an iron rice bowl. All they need to do is toe the line, not take excessive risks, and their careers will be secure. Over time, no one takes unnecessary risks, few dare to challenge the boundaries, and fewer still dare to challenge the status quo. Those who do so are rapidly put away in a small corner where no one will see or hear them.
From the top down, our society has been structured to follow rules, toe the line, not stray too far from the “norm” (whatever the norm is), to fear failure, to stick to the safe and narrow. The very epitome of this mindset is our government scholars, our military brass, and political elite. From there, it trickles down to the common man.
Today, we witness the incredible spectacle of a blatantly racist woman who posted a racist rant online getting away with a mere warning, whereas a street artist who caused no harm to anyone getting charged in court. The great irony is that Sticker Lady taught us something about ourselves.
In this kind of environment, is it any wonder that we produce so few real entrepreneurs, innovators, and inventors? Is it any wonder that our civil servants are mere followers?
Is it any wonder that GIC and Temasek can never spot the next big investment, the next promising startup company that will revolutionize the way people work and play, but instead get caught up in all sorts of failed investments that makes no sense to anyone?
Is it any wonder that the PAP government is scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for talent, and yet shamelessly paying ministers top dollar for shoddy work?
Our creativity is stifled and our natural inborn talents not given free reign because of our limited ideas of what nationhood and society should be. We have hindered our own ability to think and be creative because we have boxed ourselves in a narrow vision of reality, and focussed on merely making a living rather than making a life worth living.
As a result, we have not begun to scratch the surface of our true potential.