A kindness revolution

4.jpgBy Cobalt Paladin

Monday, 27 November, 2006

During the nation building years, 41 years ago to be exact, the needs of the people were different. During the turbulent years, the people were looking for food, job, housing, social and economic stability. Now, Singapore has successfully progressed from third world to first. All the above issues are no longer as important as they are no longer as much an issue today.

According to Maslow’s hierachy of needs:

1. Physiological (biological needs)
2. Safety
3. Love/belonging
4. Status (esteem)
5. Actualization

Our society should now be moving towards level 5 of the pyramid, Actualisation.

According to Maslow, self-actualising people have a system of morality that is fully internalised and independent of external authority.

In various statements or speeches, PAP MPs and Ministers have tried to justify the linking of votes to upgrading policy. It was mentioned in various permutations that generally meant that non-PAP wards should not expect and would not receive the same treatment and services as PAP constituencies.

Why not? The same people living in the non-PAP constituencies carry the same Red Singapore passport and pink IC as any other Singaporeans; they pay taxes like any citizens of Singapore. Again, in the attempt of explaining their actions through logic, PAP has forgotten about connecting people through the hearts.

Is it fair?

On first glance, it may seem logical but is it fair? There are people in the non-PAP constituencies who voted for PAP too. So what about them? What about the senior citizens who need the upgrading so they can move up and down their floors without needing to climb flight of steps? Is it fair that they get different treatments since they are Singapore citizens too but living in a non-PAP constituencies but still physically a part of our Singapore land, our motherland In the previous election (year 2006), PAP promised $100 million upgrading budget to encourage the people in Hougang and Potong Pasir to vote for them.

In the end, more people voted for non-PAP representative instead. There was an increase of 7.76% in Hougang and 3.39% in Potong Pasir of votes for the opposition. I believe the message from these results is pretty obvious: Singaporeans will no longer be enticed by upgrading promises. Instead, I believe Singaporeans are looking for kindness and fairness in our government. Sooner or later, there won’t be any more HDB flats to be upgraded. What then?

As the society matures and becomes more sophisticated, I don’t think people will easily be enticed by material needs anymore. I believe the government needs to connect with us through the heart.

Let’s take the “Mr. Brown” incident as an example. PM Lee had mentioned in his speech that the government has the right to respond to any criticisms. I agree. But the government had a choice in the tone of the rebuttal. I would think the population would have appreciated a softer tone from the government. We are not looking for tooth-ache inducing lovey-dovey sacharine sweetness but we also don’t want the government to use a bazooka to blast open a locked door when a locksmith would have done the same job with more finesse.

A kinder and gentler government

I truly believe that Singaporeans are looking for a kinder and gentler government.

It is not enough just to attract mega projects like the two integrated resorts and event like the IMF. Yes, it is good for the people, good for the economy, good for the reputation but it does not connect directly with the common people.

To connect directly with the people, stop trying to make people accept the concept of linking of upgrading of HDB with votes. It’ll just continue to irk the people who have a strong sense of proprieties. I understand that once a policy has been announced, it is difficult to make an about-turn so let’s just drop the topic altogether and decrease the mention of it in the mainstream media. If the policy can’t be changed, don’t try to convince us to accept it. It just doesn’t work that way.

Try to do more for the common people and introduce policies that is good for the physically challenged. For example, introduce legislations (if not, encourage) that require new buildings to have easy access for the physically challenged. Show the people that within all the cold and grey concrete jungle, Singapore still has a heart of gold.

Extoll and recognise the achievements made by Singaporeans like Theresa Goh, who just became the the world 200m breaststroke record holder, and Victoria Chorale, who is now the proud champion of the Musica Sacra a cappella category at the World Choir Games. Singapore has always been looking for world-class achievements and they are just at our doorstep. These are our unsung heroes, our national gems.

Instead of becoming obstacles for local talent and prodigy like Ike See, make it happen for him. Be flexible when the need arises. Why make a talent like him settle for second best option (a 2-year diploma course) when he is eligible for a full 3-year Bachelor of Music degree at Curtis? If the government can take effort explaining the linking of HDB upgrading policy to votes, I can’t see why the government cannot spend the effort to explain to the people why an exception was made for him.

Singapore and its people are not the properties of the government. The government is elected by us to lead us. But in the end, we are all one people of Singapore. No government should lord over us. Neither should we lord over them. We are all one and the same, the people of our motherland – Singapore.

If the government can touch the hearts of the people, I don’t think Singaporeans would continue to be a critical lot and continue to harp on the salaries level of the ministers. All the complaints and criticisms are manifestations of our underlying unhappiness with certain policies.

We want a kindness revolution; a revolution in kindness.

The government should not rule through fear, it should govern by touching the hearts of its people, the heart of the nation.

About the author:

Cobalt is an average guy who took the road less travelled since year 2000. In the beginning, full of confidence, awe and wonder. Now, a bit shaken, a bit stirred and a lot wiser. Survived many humbling experiences and expecting more to come. Have learnt the virtues of patience and perseverance.

Cobalt maintains a blog here.