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The Polaroid of Marty Mcfly

Tolkien had it down pat when he created Frodo, the quintessential archetype of the overladen worker. Frodo was burdened by a ring – a small innocuous object that couldn't have weighed more than a gold coin. And so it is to those around, left scratching their heads wondering why employee x, stay-home-mums and school teachers complain as much as they do.
You really won't know how heavy the ring is unless you've carried it.
Work has risen to a fevered pitch and I find myself working on the clock, off the clock, and pretty much any clock I can get. Even while patting Anne to sleep during her numerous nightly tantrums I devote spare processing cycles to work.
It takes a lot to produce good work, and even more to make its production look effortless. The catch-22 is that should you succeed, the people around you actually believe that it's easy. The fact that you even had time to blog about it at 5 in the morning confirms their belief.
"It's just a friggin' ring. What so hard about that?""Uninspired" seems to be how I'd describe my own inner state these days. But upon closer inspection it isn't that I'm uninspired – I have been sapped of whatever inspiration for work I once possessed.
I chose the road less travelled because it would result in the greater good. It has come at a heavy personal cost and the journey bears down on me. I have chosen to be the better husband, the better father, the better employee, craft better things everyone could use.
The imagined outcome once glorious now sits naked before me. The destruction of the ring would be celebrated only in the the little echo chamber of the fellowship. It would mean nary a thing to the rest of the world, and maybe even those who entrusted the task to me.
It is just a ring.
As for me, getting the job done right feels like I'm saving the world. That is why I do the things I do – sleep as late as I do and plough endlessly to learn and incorporate the best into stuff I create.
It's like a slap in the face when Lee Kuan Yew, who like me serves the people of Singapore, proclaims loud and clear that expecting the leaders of our nation to sacrifice their own personal wealth is "an admirable sentiment, but we live in the real world" (<a href="http://sharontan.nomadlife.org/2007/04/more-from-mm-lee-kuan-yew.aspx">interview archived by Sharon</a>).
I've rejected better paying job offers out of a sense of duty to my employers, the government of Singapore and my fellow citizens. Kuan Yew's statements leave the taste of blood in my mouth, like a sucker punch I didn't see coming from a friend.
In <a href="http://tribolum.com/archives/2007/04/13/analogies.php">my previous post</a> I said that I was "ideologically lost as a citizen of Singapore". Lee Kuan Yew still sets the agenda for the country, even if it is from his quasi-official post of omnipotence as Minister Mentor. This is his ideology for us all:
<blockquote><p>I started off as a socialist, believing that all men should be given equal opportunities and equal rewards. I know that doesn't work.</p>
<p>You have competition and reward the winner.</p></blockquote>
I believe in meritocracy. I also believe that meritocracy means giving equal opportunity to all individuals to seek their own destinies. Equal opportunity is incompatible with the Singapore system. Scholars are identified even before their teens and put on the fast-track while the rest of us eke out a living.
While most Singaporeans are bound to live dual-income families, spend less time with our children and subcontract out our parental obligations to total strangers, our leaders list their own sacrifices as the <strong>potential</strong> opportunity cost of having a few more million dollars of spare cash in their bank accounts. The average Singapore family struggles with bread, butter and education for their children. Our leaders are sticking it to us regardless of what noise we make because of what they could have, should have been were it not for the involuntary burden of public service foisted upon them.
The repeated crucifixion of democratic government should ring warning bells for us. It is understandable that most of us carry on life as usual – it is hard to hear over the din of daily mundanity and the sound of casinos being built.
My family is thinking of leaving.
There is no place on the fair earth that is ideologically perfect. But at least in most developed countries we get to speak out against injustices and sometimes things change.
I came back to Singapore hoping to make a difference.
"Too bad. Not a scholar".

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