ST Oct 24, 2006In a curious way, this episode reminded me of a (much) more intelligent article I recently read. It's entitled America's Middle Class Has Become Globalization's Losers and is about how globalisation is hurting the lower and middle classes in the US. This excerpt provides a flavour :
Teen blogger counselled for her 'elitist' remarks
By Ken Kwek
A TEENAGE blogger has found herself in the soup after comments she made in her online journal were criticised by many Internet users for being insensitive and elitist.
Raffles Junior College student Wee Shu Min, a daughter of MP Wee Siew Kim, sparked a heated debate on the Internet when she derided another blogger, Mr Derek Wee, for his views on the anxieties of Singapore workers.
Both Miss Wee's father and the principal of RJC told The Straits Times yesterday that she had been counselled for using insensitive language.
Miss Wee, a second-year student on RJC's Humanities Scholarship Programme, has since shut down her blog and apologised for her comments, though not directly to Mr Derek Wee.
Mr Wee, 35, a Singaporean who works for a multinational corporation, had written in his blog on Oct 12 that he was concerned about competition from foreign talent and the lack of job opportunities for older workers here.
He urged the Government to understand Singaporeans' plight.
Last Thursday, Miss Wee responded to him on her blog, calling him old and unmotivated and said he was overly reliant on the Government.
In dismissing his views, she wrote:
'Derek, Derek, Derek darling, how can you expect to have an iron rice bowl or a solid future if you cannot spell?
'There's no point in lambasting the Government for making our society one that is, I quote, 'far too survival of the fittest'... If uncertainty of success offends you so much, you will certainly be poor and miserable.'
She concluded by telling Mr Wee to 'get out of my elite uncaring face'
Her attack was criticised by hundreds of Internet users, who accused her of being elitist, naive and insensitive to the lives of Singaporeans from humbler backgrounds.
Though she has shut down her blog, her entry has been replicated on many websites and the issue is hotly debated.
Make no mistake about it: at the start of the new century, the United States is still a superpower. But it is a superpower that faces tough competition from outside and difficulties within. The feedback effects involved in globalization are especially intense for the US economy -- so much so that large parts of the US workforce are now standing with their backs against the wall.What struck me was the next part of the article:
The rise of Asia has only led to a relative decline of the US national economy. At least so far. But for many blue- and white-collar workers, this decline is already absolute because they have less of everything than they used to. They possess less money, they are shown less respect in society and their chances for climbing up the social ladder have deteriorated dramatically. They're the losers in the world war for wealth.
But while that may be their fate, they cannot be faulted for it. And it's certainly not a private affair. Every nation has to face uncomfortable questions when an ever-larger part of its citizenry is delinked from the nation's overall wealth. This is all the more true of a society that has made the pursuit of happiness a fundamental right.Why does the above strike me? Because it is so different from what I perceive Singapore to be.
When Singaporeans get hurt by globalisation (read: competition from India and China), all too often the signal I get from our government is - "That's YOUR problem. YOU lack skills. YOU need retraining. NO, you cannot have your *own* CPF money back. YOU are not competitive. YOU should accept lower pay. YOU are too fussy. YOU are to be blamed." Example here.
Which is really not that different in spirit, from this Wee Shu Min girl, is it.
In contrast, the article about the US asserts:
But while that may be their fate, they cannot be faulted for it. And it's certainly not a private affair.In other words, the American worker may be displaced, but America knows that it is not his fault. And America knows that the American worker must not be left to die. America knows that the American worker needs help. The problem is serious, but it is not a private affair.
In Singapore, my sense is that the government is more likely to tell you: "Get out of my elite uncaring face". Not in those exact words, surely they would be more diplomatic, but the spirit of it would be largely the same. Yes?
If you need further confirmation, just read this further paragraph in the ST article, quoting PAP MP Wee Siew Kim (Shu Min's father). Emphasis mine.
Mr Wee Siew Kim said he stood by his daughter's 'basic point', but added: 'As a parent, I may not have inculcated the appropriate level of sensitivity, but she has learnt a lesson.
Then they wonder why so many Singaporeans want to emigrate, or don't like serving NS, or dare not have babies. Heheh.