>On 1 December 2006, The Online Citizen went “live” online, after several months of preparation. Today, we celebrate our 3rd anniversary. We thank everyone who has helped and contributed to TOC in ways big and small. We thank especially our readers – those who support us and those who criticize us.
For those who may not know, TOC’s original blog can still be viewed here. And as part of this day of our 3rd anniversary, we re-publish here the very first blog entry on TOC. It is an article written by Charissa Lim and it was on the hot topic of Wee Shu Min and her elite uncaring face. What memories!
Thank you, everyone…. 😉
“Please, get out of my elite uncaring face.” -Wee Shu Min
I am sure many people recognized this quote by Miss Wee. After all, the Wee Shun Min saga has been one of the most widely debated topics in Singapore.
The whole issue started when Derek Wee published his rejected letter to the straits times on his blog. Derek wrote in response to the “Straits Times article (dated 24 Sep) on PM Lee calling the young to be committed and make a difference to Singapore.” Basically, he pointed out the uncertainties and pressures Singaporeans are facing in Singapore.
He touched upon issues on the competitiveness in our society, ageism faced by Singaporeans in their 40s, “quitters”, the call to procreate etc. He ended off by expressing his opinion that the current PAP government is on a different platform from the people because they do not understand our insecurities. His honest letter echoed what many Singaporeans have been feeling and hence many people started pouring in comments supporting his point of view.
Miss Wee Shu Min was one of the few who responded to Derek’s post in her own blog. However, her response was curt and insulting. She not only lambasted Derek’s post into pieces, she personally insulted him by calling him “wretched,” “idiot,” a “leech” among many other degrading words.
Furthermore, she labeled him as “the other class” and stated that Singapore is “a tyranny of the capable and the clever, and the only other class is the complement.” She then stated how her future is not certain but “brighter than most people’s.” The worst part was she ended her diatribe with “get out of my elite uncaring face.”
Derek is an average Singaporean while Miss Wee is RJC Student, Humanities Scholar and daughter of PAP MP Mr Wee Siew Kim. People interpreted her post using this context and came to conclusion that Miss Wee was being elitist. They then started chiding her post. As a result, she closed down her blog after a few days. (Her blog link was “http://www.suchvividnothing.blogspot.com“
Caught in a wildfire
Little did she know, her post was replicated in the sammyboy forum and was spreading in cyberspace. It was scrutinized, analyzed and debated by all who came across it.
By her post, Miss Wee has broken many Singaporeans out of their “false consciousness,” thereby making them realize the great class divide inSingapore. Thus this is where the story begins. The story of how the “divide just grew larger.”
Note: Below is my analysis with regards to this saga which was posted in my blog a few weeks ago. In it, I analyzed the truth of her remarks, and how this saga intertwined with other events and our current government. Through all these, I would illustrate how the social divide in Singapore grew larger. Lastly, I reflected upon some questions we might want to ask ourselves.
Point1: The daughter of a PAP MP
So, it is true… her father is PAP MP Wee Siew Kim (of Jalan Kayu division in Ang Mo Kio GRC). I think the only reason why this saga has taken the Singapore cyberspace by storm is because her father is a Member of Parliament. He was voted in by Singaporeans and thus suppose to serve us Singaporeans. Thus, linking Miss Wee ideas to her background would in turn lead to her family upbringing. Singaporeans naturally infer that ideas reflect her father’s teachings.
Being an PAP MP, he is expected by Singaporeans to have good ideals. Singaporeans hoped that he embodies their version of good ideals. Sadly, after this episode, many find their whiter than white impression of PAP MPs tarnished. Many fail to realise that perhaps most PAP MPs ideals are quite different from what the common men desires his leader to have.
From Miss Wee’s post, Singaporeans were offered a glimpse of the ideals of a PAP MP’s daughter. Most who read it would likely conclude that her ideals were uncompromising, uncaring and selfish. Hers was one of class divide and survival of the fittest. There was no room for discourse, discussion and airing of plights. Whether or not one tries to think otherwise, it is difficult to deny that her ideals are reflected partly in her upbringing. Although these ideals were not blatantly conveyed by a PAP MP, Miss Wee is somewhat seen to be a representative.
These were not the ideals which most Singaporeans hoped their MPs to have. In the past, many have chosen to ignore this, but the truth has surfaced again. How many people would remember and try to make this party change? How many people would choose to bury this memory?
Point 2: The elite
In Singapore, when one is a scholar, he/she is automatically labeled as elite. If one goes to top schools like RGS, RI, Chinese High, RJC, Hwa Chong JC, ACS, ACJC etc., he/she would be labeled as elite.
If one’s parents were doctors, lawyers, directors in companies etc, he/she would be labeled as elite.
If one’s family is well-to-do, he/she would be labeled as elite.
If they continue to be successful in life as a result of all these supporting factors, he/she would be labeled as elite.
These criteria are not exhaustive. However, to be labeled as true blue Singaporean elites, it is sufficient for individual posses all these criteria mentioned.
Here, “elites” is a “dirty” word. The country can be said to be build up by “elites”, but yet most Singaporeans have a distaste for “elites” and especially against those that call themselves such. Miss Wee posses the 1st four criteras; she is a RJC Humanities Scholar, she went to RGS and RJC, her father is an MP, President of Defense Business of ST Engg and her family is well-to-do. Therefore, most would label her as an “elite”. Miss Wee herself blatently declared she is “elite” anyway.
Since it is already obvious to people reading her blog that she is an “elite”, she could have made people madder by telling people that she is one. What perhaps made it worse is the context in which she used this word. She told her readers/Derek Wee to “get out of my elite uncaring face.” That final sentence summarized where she is coming from and how uncaring she is to anyone else that is not part of her class.
Normal Singaporeans who are not as “rich” and “smart” like her would thus take offence. By her background and her wanton use of the word “elite”, she effectively pit herself against the “other class”, the non-elites, the commoners. Not exactly the smartest move.
Before the newspapers revealed that she is a scholar, people already had grievances against her being elitist. Now, some are starting to question why they are funding the education of “this type” of scholars. After all, scholarships are paid by the taxpayers, who are the “other class.”
Why should the “other class” pay for such a scholar to belittle them and possibly give them more chance to advance further in life than them? Why give her a greater possibility of “ruling” over the “other class” in the future? As a result of this, more Singaporeans would come to realise something is not right and ask, “Why, Why, Why?”
Point 3a: Her beliefs
From her blog, it can be inferred that some of her beliefs are;
a) Singapore is “a tyranny of the capable and the clever, and the only other class is the complement”
b) A society which is “far too survival of fittest” is ok.
c) The PAP government is not to be blamed for “making” such a society.
For part a), in the context of the using words used (“tyranny”, “other class” and “complement”), it is difficult to dispute that she is not speaking what she truly felt.
“Tyranny” is equivalent to “ruthlessly ruling” over someone/something.
By using the phrase, “other class,” she effectively divided the society into half; rulers and those being ruled.
The word “complement” could imply that those being ruled are supporting the rulers.
Therefore, most people would feel that this ideal implied that the “clever” and “capable” rules over the common people who merely exist to serve them. Thus Miss Wee has reduced the commoners to servants to the rulers. She forgets that the only reason she is able to be in such a position and privilege class is because the “other class” allows her to do so.
If the “other class” do not accept their position in society and go against Miss Wee’s class, then she would most likely be reduced to a commoner like them. Thus there is some truth to her words; the “other class” is in this sense complementary to the “elite” class she belongs to.
For b) and c), I think she meant that since the world is in a perpetual rat race and there is no escaping it, one can only accept it and find ways to cope with this (ie. get better qualifications, upgrading skills etc).
Due to the same reason, the government should not be blamed for the bad things that happen to people. She seems to imply that the only person to be blamed is oneself. This is a chilling echo of PAP’s ideology. How many times have we heard them repeating this idea but in different forms?
The thing is, Derek was not lamenting about these facts. I felt that he was merely voicing out his concern that the Singapore society could be more humane and the government should try to understand us better. In fact, judging from the comments in his blog, many Singaporeans do relate to what he said.
What then is wrong for calling for a more compassionate society? Can our government not help to relieve the stress? Can our government not do better in understanding us and thus formulate policies to help us cope better? Is that too much to ask for?
Not everyone is calling for a total welfare state. There are those that just want the existing help avenues to become truly open, the stigma of being labeled “unsuccessful” reduced, want more protection for older workers who are being retrenched due to ageism, etc.
Ms Wee argues that the government is not to be blamed. I will only buy such an argument if only governments are not governing people. Which is ridiculous. By the very status of being a government, they are the ones molding the society which we live in.
I can name so many instances by the back of my hand; they create the rules of the game, foster racial harmony, provide affordable education for everyone, formulate laws, help foster economic growth, ensure Singapore continue to be attractive to foreign investors, relocated people from slums to HDB flats in the past, stipulate compulsory savings via CPF, adjust GST, adjust ERP, provide disincentives and now incentives for people to have more than 2 babies etc.
These instances are just a few which demonstrates that the government is meddling in all aspects of our lives. Thus, whether we want it or not, they do affect us direcly or indirectly. The successful policies that manifest themselves in society are often highlighted as their clever doing.
Yet, when policies go wrong and directly/indirectly adversely affect Singaporeans lives, they tell us not to blame them and blame only ourselves. They are known to be too quick to claim successes and deny failures. The government has to learn that they are partly to blame for manifestations of their policies in society that have gone wrong.
The extent governments are affecting our life can be found in their wide ranging legislation. You can check it out in this website. It ranges from the broadcasting act to Singapore employment act to Road safety act etc. Basically, there is an act for every possible thing imaginable. They are required for the rule of law to prevail in Singapore anyway.
Through legislation, the government policies affect our lives.
My whole point is the government does play a part in shaping our society and hence they do have to shoulder part of the blame. Although it might not be blatant, they do have the power to affect our lives and make it better; they can formulate more citizen-friendly policies. In the context of Derek’s letter, perhaps a clearer legislation against wrongful dismissal of Singaporeans in their 40s would help, for example.
Point 3b: An apology of sorts
Noticed that her father only apologised for her “insensitive language” but “he stood by his daughter’s ‘basic point.’” He claims that her basic point is that Derek “should not be bemoaning about the Government and get on with the challenges in life.” Right, somehow, he forgot to comment on her other points which rile Singaporeans more.
Her basic points (as put forth in point 3a) have been illustrated above. Since he never commented on these basic points, I shudder to think that he could be harboring such views (refer to point 1).
Mr Wee then pointed out that his daughter’s “privacy has been violated.” Right, judging from the way our PAP government persecutes racist bloggers and want to “manage” the internet chatter, it seems that they do not hold privacy rights in high regard. Anyway, most people know that the internet is not private.
The ideas highlighted by Miss Wee and her positions as an “elite,” have set off the alarms bells for Singaporeans again. Their suspicion that many of the “elites” (who might possibly become future leaders of Singapore) are disconnected with the rest of society has been reinforced again. The suspicion that this “elite” class think they are superior, do not understand the plight of an average Singaporean.
Most average Singaporeans harbor a dislike for them. This hooha “nicely” coincided with the news of a poor 40 year old man who committed suicide at Chinese Garden MRT station. He was a poor men with S$39 K worth of debts. More was dug out and people concluded that he had fallen out of Singapore’s tiny net. As a result, many began to link both problems together.
Hence the class divide jus grew larger.
Many Singaporeans are now questioning if this is the society that we want to live in? Whether the government policies of extreme meritocracy are really that good? Whether our political leaders who come from the “elite” class understand average Singaporeans and thus are able to tailor policies suited for us? Whether the ideology of system of government should change?
On a happier note, Mr Wee is of opinion that “new media of the Internet is such that if you don’t like what she has said, you have the right of rebuttal.” I think most people would be glad that he realises this point. This perhaps signals that the PAP government realizes that political & social discussions online is self-regulatory to a large extent. This episode shows the extent Singaporeans would go to rebuke or refute claims by other individuals.
I feel that this is the gist of this episode. We Singaporeans must hold our government accountable to us.
After all the government exists to serve us.