Idealists and Pragmatists
This debate over ministerial salaries- make no mistake about it, is a battle between the idealists and pragmatists of singapore. The pragmatists would like you to believe its jealousy- that we’re just jealous because these people who governs us will make more in a month than some people will see in a lifetime. They believe that we, the ordinary people are jealous of their elite status, their wealth, their ability and the gilded priviledged lives that they live. This is what the PAP and the writers of Young PAPÂ would have you believe. They are pragmatists through and through. How would they begin to even understand idealists. Ideals have no place in their world. Ideals don’t put food on the table, ideals don’t get you anywhere.
We idealists on the other hand believe that our leaders should not only be able, but also have a spirit of self sacrifice, a sense of duty to country, of honour, courage and above all to serve with humility. In short we want them to inspire us, to move us. We want to look up to them and aspire to be like them. When our leaders ask us to put nation before self, weÂ ask them to lead us in action and not only in words.
The pragmatists on the other hand believes only in hard facts and figures. Of statistics, of background, of qualifications and of results. Ideals be damned. Look at the people that the PAP trots out every election, Lawyers, doctors, scholars and engineers. Who among them is a dreamer and idealist? Dreamers have no place in the world of their governance. Dreamers are impractical, given to flights of fancy and folly. How wouldÂ they ever place the trust of the nation in their hands.
This is the battle between pragmatists and idealists in singapore everyday. And ideals is always fighting a losing battle. This is how singapore went from singapore toÂ SINGAPORE Inc. This isÂ how people go fromÂ citizensÂ to economic units- little human batteries to power the great national economic engine. This is how parenthood is encouraged because we need them little human batteries. This is how the old national library has to be flatten to make way for a tunnel. A whole lifetime of memories for the people of a nation to make way for motorists so that theyÂ can save 5 measly minutes of travelling time.
5 minutes versus a whole lifetime.
Ideals are getting their ass kicked every single fucking day. This is how nature reserves are bulldozed and flatten to make way for rich people to play a little golf. This is SINGAPORE Inc, and ideals will be sacrificed on the altar of greed and materialism every day.
Once upon a time, when Lee Kuan Yew came on television with tears in his eyes to announce the separation from malaysia, we saw an idealist. We saw someone who stood up for his beliefs and fought for them, consequences be damned. Where did that guy go? I wasn’t even born when that happened, but I’ve heard stories, stories that gave you goosebumps and get your heart pumping. Where are those stories now? What have we left to tell the future generations. Stories that will inspire them. Shall we tell them of stories of hip hop dancing MPs? Shall we tell them of stories of ministers who feels underpaid with $1.2 million? Shall we tell them of leaders that says do as I say and not do as I do?
Ideals die a little everyday in singapore. Ideals die, pragmatists rule. That is the law in SINGAPORE Inc. Pragmatist will say pragmatism has gotten us this far, why mess with something that works. Pragmatist will say we have to beÂ practical, afterall, what is ideals but fuzzy wuzzy populist sentiments. Its messy, chaotic and ephemeral. Pragmatists laughs at us, dismisses us justÂ like how Wee Shu Min dismisses Derek Wee once. Pragmatists believes in power, money, achievements and above all else,Â materialism. What have ideals begotten anyway?
And because pragmatism rules in singapore, the spirit of the people die a little everyday. Those that still wants to hold on to that little bit of idealism, they leave when they can. There is nothing to believe in singapore anymore.Â What is the singapore dream? What does singapore stand for? Money, power, greed, avariciousness and materialism? Who wants to die for that? Who wants to lay down their lives for that. People may fight for money, but people will not die for money. Money moves the body, but it doesn’t move the spirit.
When the people who gathered at the open field at the WP rally during the election and recited the national pledge, they were all idealists at the point of time. I wasn’t there, but I bet you everyone of them felt a release,Â a soaring of the spirit that has been suppressed by pragmatism for far too long. ButÂ of course the very next day at the voting booth, pragmatism kicked ass again. Idealism be damned. We need our progress packages and upgrading goodies. LetÂ idealism come out of its shell for a little breath and put inÂ back in the bottle again.Â
I don’t know, maybe we been down this path for so long we don’t even know what is idealism anymore. Our government is the ultimate pragmatist. If the Borg assimilated the Vulcans, singapore is probably what you get. Idealism will have to make way for globalisation and economic progress- just like how the national library has to make way for the tunnel. Freedom and ideals is the price we pay for economic progress. Maybe SINGAPORE Inc will survive and prosper or maybe it won’t. I don’t have the answers forÂ afterall I am not a scholar, not some uber genius who scored 1,345 As in my A levels, so what do I know. All I know is my beliefs and ideals. Pragmatists will say, if you don’t have the answers, shut the fuck up. Look it up, its part of the Bhavani Commandments. Shut up if you don’t have the answers.
So the rich will get richer, the poor poorer. Pragmatist will say, this will spur people to greater achievements. Pragmatist will say, this will rouse people from their idealistic laziness. To be rich is to be glorious. Wealth has been elevated to a virtue. For what does the pragmatist say but that wealth is a deterent to corruption. Whereas once honesty and personal integrity was the safeguard, the pragmatist has reduced it all to a matter of dollar and cents. They will continue to find ways to solve society problems with money. There’s no problem that is so big as to to be unsolveable with money. Somewhere along the time, our leaders has lost sight of the balance that is needed to built a progressive and matured society.
So when the salaries of ministers go up and they will. This will be the legacy we leave for future generations- let pragmatism triumph over idealism. Perhaps the enduring image of singapore will be one of SINGAPORE, Inc. Efficient, prosperous, cold, sterile and above all pragmatic. A place to work, but never to call home.
Pragmatism keeps you alive. Idealism makes you alive. Somewhere there has to be a balance.