In my opinion, the main impediment stopping Singaporeans of this generation from making a similar breakthrough to that of our forebears (LKY’s generation) is our obsession with competition. Singapore’s particular idiosyncrasy is that if you look closely enough, we care less about winning than about making the other party lose. Point is, the obsession with making the other person lose is driving us apeshit crazy.
A Singaporean will go to an expensive buffet. Rather than enjoying the good food and ambience, his first inclination is to “attack” the high-ticket items in order to justify the money he’s paying for the buffet. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t like oysters, or prefers cod to crab. He does it so that the establishment doesn’t win, without for a second realising that his arrangement renders both parties losers.
What I’m trying to define here is an extension of the popular Singaporean adjective “kiasu”, which denotes a fear of losing. We’ve actually gone one-up, I feel. Not only must we not lose, the other person / organisation / government / country must be made to lose.
But in the words of the ephemerally-famous Jon Stewart, “this is not a [expletive] game”. Working on a win-lose model restricts us immensely. While it served to move us from third-world status to first-world, it is incompatible with any possible evolution towards a higher form of society. There is no noble cause in obsessive competition, no moral lessons or goodwill. There is only the raw animal instinct for survival, and we will stay at this base level if we continue the way we are - content to snap at everybody else and at each other, always bemoaning the fact that someone has it better than us. More money. More happiness. More.
We have missed the forest for the trees. We are failing to see that we have plenty, and with it a responsibility to help those who do not have as much. In this time of need, let us redefine ourselves as a people of action, willing to do what is right at our own expense, rather than waiting for the phantom hand of government to right all wrongs while we snipe from our armchairs.
I think we’ve come along far enough, at least economically, to realise that no one needs to lose. It would be an utter shame for people to be in desperate need while collectively we have so much.