by Joseph Nathan
I remain flabbergasted lately, each time l read about some of our political leaders in Singapore advocating for our youth to be more active in volunteering for social causes. I am not sure if they intended their advocacy as a joke or are they just being sarcastic.
Any youth would know by now how well-paid our political leaders are. Some parents may even be suggesting a political career with the PAP as a career choice for their children as how many other careers are there that pays million for ministerial internship or ministerial-trainees?
We have an exceptionally large pool of political leaders who are Minister of State. They are basically under-studying their respective ministers and yet got paid in millions. Is there any management-trainee position in the private sector that pays so well?
Some of these ministerial-trainees even stay as trainees for many numbers of years as they get rotated from ministry to ministry. They are even allowed to sit on board of public listed companies to further supplement their income. Seriously, such practice would have bankrupted many financially-viable organizations in the private sector unless they are the scions of large family-owned businesses.
If their public or service contributions deserve millions in remunerations, then what is the fair market value of our youths’ social contributions? Have our political leaders unconsciously turn their public service “volunteerism” into a pure-economic equation, largely denominated by currency? Are they still seeking to serve in our public office for the good of the country or are they turning our public service into a career-platform for their own personal well-being?
If the unit rate of returns of our political leaders is so lucrative, then the unit rate of returns of our youths’ contribution should also be denominated similarly. Isn’t that what we should be teaching our children if we want them to be financially savvy? Isn’t that what “walking your talk” mean? So what exactly does “walking your talk” means in such a context?
Relooking at it from another perspective, if a leader is selfless and inspiring, they can easily influence others to “walk their talks” with them. These leaders possess great moral authority that they could advocate and even rebuke their volunteers for any shortcomings. Since the co-relationship is not denominated by financial currency, it is fair to assume that moral authority could be that critical part that is driving them harmoniously along as one unit.
Let us look at our 1G political leaders as they go around digging holes to plant a tree. When we see them sweating under the hot sun, all dirtied and sweaty, advocating for a Greener Singapore, we too joined in and do likewise without much argument or thoughts. Why? Is it because they are seen to be walking their talks? Was their collective moral authority a factor that united us as a nation?
If true, then we can also assume that moral authority begets more moral authority among the followers. It strengthens our social fabric as a nation. Was our collective moral authority to do what is right the foundation of our earlier success as a nation? So when we demand that our political leaders “walk their talks” lately, are we actually questioning or reminding them of their lack of moral authority?
Since currency was not denominating the co-relationship between our 1G political leaders and our parents during our early years, moral authority was part of our collective driving force that propels us from Third World to First World. But when the co-relationship was denominated in the currency, moral authority was replaced by currency. This caused an upset to the status quo.
If the co-relationship has been upset by currency, and moral authority is being displaced, what on earth are these 4G or current political leaders leveraging upon to support their advocacy for volunteerism? If they no longer have the power of moral authority, then aren’t they actually ordering us around with the positional-power of our public officials?
If any of them cannot earn our respect, then any person trained in business administration will know that the positional-power of their public officials will be lost over time, rendering them ineffective even as political leaders. Could that be the reason why so many Singaporeans are so frustrated each time some of our 4G political leaders speak about working together to make Singapore better? Have they unconsciously over-corporatized our Nation Building to the point that even their speeches are no longer making any sense?
I am lost trying to figure this out. Maybe l should return to elementary school and ask my teachers or principal each time any of them asked me to be more active in volunteerism. Because financially speaking, any logical answers that they could conjure up will still not make any financial sense as long as I don’t gain a positive financial outcome. Can anyone fault such thinking since we are simply following the exemplary examples and being just as financially savvy as our political leaders?
In any financially-denominated scenarios, the positive financial outcome does matter. That means that the greater the financial denominators are, the more selfish and calculative the citizens will become. If allowed to further perpetuate uninterrupted, then any nation will ultimately be reduced into a corporation. Looking from either historical or economic perspective, we will still conclude the same outcome – the corporatized nation will falter prematurely just like the imperial courts of old.
Can we then equate the advisors of our current political leaders to the eunuchs or court-jesters of imperial times? Have they not learnt or are they still not learning from those past mistakes? They are obviously unpatriotic and clearly lack moral authority or any sense of wisdom by putting their self-serving interests ahead of the nation without due regards.
If our current political leaders have indeed reduced our nation into a corporation or SG Inc, they should then stop talking about seeking a socio-economic balance but should be talking about Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR. From that organization perspective, SG Inc rightly doesn’t owe the citizens, who are their employees, a living. All Singaporeans, therefore, must be grateful with every handout that is being doled out since beggars can’t be choosy.
Such a new corporate direction will naturally hit many road bumps. If our current political leaders have corporatized our public service and think that all is well, then there will be a natural push by the citizens that their public service and contributions deserve the same treatment. Some volunteerisms are already being reimbursed financially, some indirectly. Such a pushback will definitely grow over time. Very soon, our whole Nation Building effort will be based on the pure financial transaction. That D-day will come if we do nothing about it.
I am so lost trying to figure out this paradox. Is this another Hard Truth?
This was first published on Joseph Nathan-Hard Truth SG‘s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.