Responding to a question on class divide at a dialogue yesterday (29 Oct), Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah advised participants to see “people as people”.
“The intrinsic worth of a human being is not measured by how much money you have or the kind of house you live in … it’s the fact that you’re a fellow human being,” said Ms Indranee.
“At the end of the day, it’s seeing people as people.”
Both Ms Indranee and Senior Minister of State for Transport and Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary stressed the importance of not thinking of people in terms of social class, income or status at the dialogue.
“The starting position is in recognising that bias and recognising the ease by which we can put someone down, even by using small words,” Dr Puthucheary said.
“As we get more prosperous, we keep finding reasons to pigeonhole people,” he said. “Some people look at how other people dress, or what car you drive … or whether you take public transport. All of these are a result of stereotyping, bias and unconscious assumptions … and it’s all wrong.”
PM Lee talks about having natural aristocracy in Singapore
It is strange that Ms Indranee is advising Singaporeans about “seeing people as people” when her boss, PM Lee talked about having a “natural aristocracy” in the Singapore’s system.
During a public dialogue in 2015, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, “You want people to stand up, not scrape and bow. But if you don’t have a certain natural aristocracy in the system, people who are respected because they have earned that and we level everything down to the lowest common denominator, then I think society will lose out… If you end up with anarchy, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be delivered with brilliance.”
He was responding to a question on communities that accept challenges to authority, as seen in countries like the US, Sweden and Israel. These are also countries known for their dominance in innovation, science and technology.
If Ms Indranee’s and PM Lee’s statements were taken together, they seem to be saying that Singaporeans can see “people as people” among each other but not with the country’s leaders, as they are deemed to possess “a certain natural aristocracy” because they have “earned that”.