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Meanderings of a muddled mind

Now…that was a good speech by the PM. So good that I don’t mind being journalists being paralysed by him. We got the works – excerpt, reactions and all. And we will probably get more when he elaborates on the theme in his National Day Rally speech.

So what did he say and what should we do? The PM has set some parameters: getting children to the same starting line, meritocracy to remain, racial harmony reinforced, financial prudence reiterated, more giving back to society. Can’t disagree with that at all. Maybe we should add income inequality reduced, more public engagement and nationalistic sentiments tempered. Because that’s the reason for all this introspection and angst isn’t it? We feel the pressures of being hemmed in by foreigners, rising cost of living and a sense that while we give feedback, is anyone listening?

My guess is that meritocracy is alive and well, although we should watch the rise of “patronage” – people getting to where they are because of their parents and who they know. Multi-racialism is alive and well too – strangely, I think this is being bolstered by the presence of so many foreigners….so as Singaporeans, we close ranks regardless of race. As for financial prudence….we tend to leave that to the G, with its CPF and Medisave and what have you. So while the G might be financially prudent (Brompton bikes aside), I am not sure as a people, WE are.

Minister Heng Swee Keat is supposed to look at approaches and policies. This must be after we have decided what sort of Singapore we want to have? Then those new/reformed ministries will get to work. Actually, before we get to that, my question is: what sort of SINGAPOREAN do we want to be?

For some time now, I have been thinking about the values we hold and whether we should use a different prism. I prefer to think of a person in terms of being principled, pragmatic and passionate. Over the years, I wonder if we have got this balance right. It looks like pragmatism trumps every time – over principle and passion. And that pragmatism is seen in very economic terms – having more money, paying out less – we have a culture of accumulation of assets.

I see more passion now, especially among young people. They are interested in more than just making money (I hope it’s NOT because they depend on their parents’ money and have never been in economic need). That passion comes across in the causes they espouse, strongly held beliefs – and a determination to have their own way. Sometimes I find passion over-powering. Especially if taken to extremes. It leads to an inability to take in different points of view.

Being principled is I think the most neglected value of all. It involves the concept of integrity, dignity and honour. The only times we use the word “honour” is when we address the court..or when a cheque is not honoured. But honour is an important word – you honour your promises, you say what you mean and mean what you say. There are no two ways about it. We can temper passion and, in my view, pragmatism should always give way to principle.

I don’t know if I am making sense. Being principled is easier if you have options, like chucking your job because you don’t like the way the company is heading or you think it calls on you to be deceitful and dishonest. Likewise, being passionate is easier if you have something/someone to lean on – I can be a full-time tree hugger or work with dogs and cats if I don’t have to work for a good living.

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Without options, we become pragmatic. We do what WORKS for us, never mind if we don’t like it or think its right. In fact, I think we take pride in being a pragmatic people. I am not sure we should be that proud…

Anyway, the above are just meanderings. Forgive my muddled mind please.

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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