Friday, September 17, 2021

Understanding Elitism in Singapore

This is supposed to be a busy pro-bono month for me as I ramp up my schedule to do some non-profit work and have been busy working on my next presentation to Raffles Institution. Next Monday, I will be rehashing a presentation I made some time ago on The Richest Man in Babylon but this time round, I took some steps to donate some books to quiz winners I intend to conduct as part of the program. 

Make no mistake, RI is a great brand that I want to associate my training programs with. The students are bound to have parents who will be listening in via Zoom and conversion is a definite possibility. But I’ve decided to donate some books because, as elite RI is, some students are on financial assistance, and I hope they get to win some of the stuff I have planned for them.

I am not as angry about Vivian Balakrishnan’s quip about Raffles Institution because this is not a signal of disregard for ordinary peasants but an expression of the rivalry between ACS and RI. It’s like Harry Potter and the rivalry between Gryffindor and Slytherin, it does not reflect VB’s views on ordinary folks like us. 

If anything, I would jump at the chance to speak to students from ACS, RI or HCI. 

What I find interesting is the media’s immediate reaction to sell Tan See Leng as an alumni of Monk’s Hill Secondary School because PAP is actually very self-conscious of their elite branding as a liability. The fact that PM Lee, Tan See Leng, Vivian Balakrishnan and myself are all NJC alumni, is not something that needs to be mentioned to the public right now. But two years in an elite JC is not long enough to build strong alumni bonds, I was drinking $1.50 kopi at Toast Box yesterday with my two NJC buddies and none of us were invited to any Illuminati meeting that can determine the fate of Singaporeans for years to come. 

( I think we spent more time complaining about PSLE math problems, one requiring some advance skills in tesselation or  Eight Queens recursion algorithm to solve properly. )

Elitism and classist inclinations will take a generation to cleanse from our society, and that’s only when it is in our interests to do so. 

I have my own personal model about our elite secondary schools. I call it the Great Wheel as it is inspired by the Game of Thrones.

I imagine Singapore education system like a wheel with RI, ACS and HCI on top and it rolls forward over all time but with us peasants at the bottom. You might be fixated with the school on top and get upset about a top secondary school, but the issue is really the wheel that keeps rolling on and on, there will always be a top secondary school as one displaces the other. You can evade the wheel, seek FIRE, or buy some shitcoin to avoid facing this kind of labelling at work or you can use the political process or 50 years of your life to attempt to Break the Wheel.

If an ACS boy inherited a lot of wealth, we can argue that he got lucky in life. But if an RI boy inherited a higher intelligence and conscientiousness, we have to accept that the genetic lottery played a big role in this as well.

Anyway, until I realised how elitist the government sector was, Breaking the Wheel was my personal fantasy. 

But these days, I suspect the PAP wants to Break the Wheel a lot more than I do. Alumni bonds are way too strong and can even threaten party coherence and loyalty to the nation state. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Chris,

    The Authority considers themselves as the elite. So be it la. As long as one considers himself or herself as capable and put in his/her best effort, the views of other people (inclusive of the Authority) does not matter at all as per my perspective. The same also applies in the outcome of the effort in which one has tried his or very best in making it a positive one.

    You may have a differentiating view. It is fine.

    To each of one own.