As part of the SG United movement, Singaporeans have been asked to clap and sing for healthcare workers and to display the national flag for solidarity during this pandemic.
This is all well and good. It’s the sort of thing we do every National Day anyway.
But for Singapore to be truly SG United, we need to go beyond the superficial stuff.
We need a society that is more inclusive, not one so stratified by income, class and social inequality. And not one where the elites of the country feel a sense of entitlement.
When the Prime Minister of the country earns over 40 times the salary of an average Singaporean, we see the unconscionable disparity.
This is in stark contrast with countries such as New Zealand, Switzerland and Germany, where the leader of the country earns no more than 8 times the salary of their average citizen.
When Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong warned that we can only get “very mediocre people” by paying a salary of only $500,000 a year, it shows the entitled mindset of the elite in this country.
When former minister and now Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin said that cardboard collectors do it “as a form of exercise and activity rather than being cooped up at home,” it shows that he has been cooped up in an ivory tower.
An editor from Malaysia’s Sinchew Daily, Tay Tian Yan, probably has it right when he said that Singapore’s elitist leaders “came from the sky, not from the land.”
Remarks like a $500,000 salary being too little, and cardboard collectors doing it for exercise, do not come from people who are grounded in reality.
On the explosion of coronavirus cases at foreign worker dormitories, our ministers talk about not having the luxury of hindsight, the wishful thinking of rewinding the clock, and the impossibility of seeing one step ahead.
They feel they are entitled to explain away their mistakes rather than admit to them.
Elitist people “from the sky” can never bring themselves down to admit wrongdoing, and “sorry” is not a word they have the humility to utter.
Members of Parliament feel they are entitled to go against circuit breaker measures on the grounds that they are distributing face masks and playing the role of safe distancing ambassador.
Who is going to take action against them?
In Malaysia, Deputy Health Minister Noor Azmi Ghazali was fined RM1,000 (S$325) a few days ago for violating the country’s movement control order by sharing a meal with others.
Can you imagine that sort of thing happening to an elite in this country?
The day elitism becomes an ugly word in Singapore, the day we bridge income, class and social divide, the day when meritocracy is not a disguise for cronyism and aristocracy, is the day we can truly say we are SG United.