15 Dec 2006

Pretending not to be Elitist is Hypocritical

I am distraught to read Adrian's article which seems to propagate his opinion that the elites are right to be above the rest.

This is echoed in his sentences, " we must teach these students discretion. Just because they believe in something (and are right), they are not obliged to loudly and widely broadcast it. Or use emotional or inflammatory language." and "So being humble, or pretending to be, is a good tactic that will pay off when the wheel of fortune turns."

Does he mean to tell us that it is perfectly all right for elites to "look down" on others as long as we do it in a hush hush or politically correct way?

Moreover, what is precisely the meaning of an "elite"? According to him, it seems to be studying in Raffles or living in private housing.

Does it encompass wealth or material acquisition? Does it include decision makers, leaders and bureacrats (and their children) in governmental and public sector?

Elitism breeds arrogance. Pretending not to be elitist but having that idea is hypocritical.

I expected TODAY to practise much better taste when choosing to print an opinion piece. This article hits rock bottom.


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Elites, be not proud
Friday • December 15, 2006
Adrian Tan

RECENTLY, there has been a lot of hand-wringing in the media and among Members of Parliament, about public attitudes to the elite and how the elite contribute to these attitudes.

In particular, a fair amount was said about the attitudes of students in "elite" schools.

Elites have always been with us. While we can, and must, have a society that recognises the diversity of talents, the idea of creating many elites, as has been suggested, sounds Alice-in-Wonderlandish: "At last the Dodo said, 'Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.'"

Many students in elite schools have always thought themselves better than others from "lesser" schools and perhaps other people in general — with or without the help of their teachers.

I speak from experience, having spent the six years from Secondary 1 to Pre-U II in the most elite school at the time (although ex-pupils of St Joseph's Institution, National Junior College, Catholic High and Anglican High would dispute that, naturally) albeit at the wrong end of the examination lists.

Among such schools during my time, there was a lot of elitism which local political scientist Associate Professor Kenneth Paul Tan defines as an "often exaggerated in-group sense of superiority" and a dismissive view of others' abilities.

But we didn't have much opportunity to boast of these attributes because we didn't have the Internet. Today, the Internet allows students from premier schools to boast about their "superiority". They can make fun of and insult students from "lesser" schools and their "loser" elders. And other people read such stuff and rightly get upset.

So, what should we do?

Trying to persuade them that they are not the "special ones" is a waste of time because they "know" otherwise. Most of them will only learn the hard way when they miss the glittering prizes they think they deserve.

The most important thing that can be done is to remind these students constantly that — in the words of the prime minister, albeit in a slightly different context — they "must not end up selfish".

In my time, the premier schools and Government ministers (especially then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew) constantly said that those who were smarter or better off ought to help others.

Unfortunately, as Singapore prospered, this message — while still being articulated — got lost amid other messages and background noise. So, I am glad that Mr Lee Hsien Loong has emphasised that the winners in a meritocracy "must not end up selfish".

Another reason to articulate this message loudly and repeatedly is that today, unlike in my time, scholars come from wealthier families. The Public Service Commission is reported to have said that in the last five years, one in three students awarded scholarships are from families that have household incomes of $10,000 a month, even though official statistics show that such families make up just 13 per cent of all households here. Students from households on monthly incomes of less than $2,000 made up only 7 per cent of scholarship holders.

And I was surprised to read that of 21 classmates of a Raffles Junior College student, only four live in public housing. In my time, most of my Raffles Institution pre-university classmates lived in public housing.

All this means that the sense of superiority and entitlement is less likely to be tempered by the duty to help others. Hence, the need for reminders.

Secondly, we must teach these students discretion. Just because they believe in something (and are right), they are not obliged to loudly and widely broadcast it. Or use emotional or inflammatory language.

They should be reminded that Singapore is a safe place, and it is in their interest to keep it that way.

I have lived in Sydney and Manila, where a remark like "get out of my elite, uncaring face" could result in severe consequences.

And finally, these students should be reminded that just because they are doing well now, this may not continue. The world is unpredictable and messy. Even making decisions that maximise success, does not always lead to the desired outcomes.

So being humble, or pretending to be, is a good tactic that will pay off when the wheel of fortune turns.

The contributor was in the legal and stockbroking professions. He is now a freelance financial writer.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

aiya charles, you fall into trap already lah. The elites will openly condemn his slip of tongue, what else but secretly thank him to shout something secret off the top of the highest tower to their sons and daughters whom they have no time to teach properly.

wah this guy is good. Message of deception hard to take a form better than an open one like that. But hypocrisy everywhere what. Elitism or not.

no, I tell you, elitism means this. Elitism means father give son the estate, and then son give grandson a bigger estate and then to great grandson a even bigger one. It means that even with a war or something, or other events, they cannot move want. Very secure in their own little world which is the entire world. Can move about no need to call singapura home. aiya, raffles and private housing small fry lah. Elites eat breakfast in glasgow, go new york to shop and then watch kabuki in tokyo then maybe come back to changi to go to tibet for hike. Then maybe go to oxford for a master and maybe phd from princeton and have tea with boston gentry. Very nice life.

They no need work want. Sky come down on them they look up and say, some more leh. How to humble if like that? Irrelevant leh. Maybe adrian address wrong group of elites lah.

Matilah_Singapura said...

In every realm, there will always be elites.

Now we'll be having the State educators, who already fuck with young people's heads, teaching them to "reject" elitism.

In the article, this claim is made: "elitism breeds arrogance", a sort of veiled attack on "meritocracy".

This is a wild-assed unsubstantiated claim. Some one just happend to be told of by some silly little, spolit brat of a child, and now it would seem it is the state's job to "mould the children".

Well, the state does "mould the children" – mostly by wiping out any sense of individual identity and turning them into compliant, obedient automatons programmed to serve their political and corporate masters.

Parents are the only ones responsible for the moral upbringing of their kids, not the damned state. A child who is patently rude should be SMACKED and GROUNDED and made to see the error of her ways, and be taught the correct way. A rude kid is a reflects the quality of the childs parenting skills, or lack thereof.

> I was surprised to read that of 21 classmates of a Raffles Junior College student, only four live in public housing. In my time, most of my Raffles Institution pre-university classmates lived in public housing.

All this means that the sense of superiority and entitlement is less likely to be tempered by the duty to help others. Hence, the need for reminders


Huh? Just because people are materially better off than others doesn't mean that they haold a sense of being superiror.

And who pray tell, is qualified to give them "reminders"? If they are not misbehaving, why torment them?

This is akin to the PAP ruling by fear by "reminding" SIngaporeans "who their daddy is" everytime some citizen has bold ideas of, say, "freedom of speech".

An BTW, no one has a "duty" to help others. Helping others is a personal choice.

> I have lived in Sydney and Manila, where a remark like "get out of my elite, uncaring face" could result in severe consequences.

Fucking bullshit. In Australia (my home for 25 years) the "severe consequences" would either be a response and a media circus, and extremely well-written published back-hand, or complete silence. There is a principle at work here, to which the writer is obviously blind to: Never respond to a stupid outburst, because then you give it merit.

If it were a kid who did it, they would be peremptorily dealt with by their parents.

Stop encouraging the state to fuck more with the kids. If you had any damn sense, write a letter to that obstreperous girls father. What his daugher has published for all to see, in my mind, reflect very badly on him as a parent — as it ought to

insens said...

"Another reason to articulate this message loudly and repeatedly is that today, unlike in my time, scholars come from wealthier families. The Public Service Commission is reported to have said that in the last five years, one in three students awarded scholarships are from families that have household incomes of $10,000 a month, even though official statistics show that such families make up just 13 per cent of all households here. Students from households on monthly incomes of less than $2,000 made up only 7 per cent of scholarship holders."

If they are so wealthy, why are they needing scholarships?

soci said...

They don't need the scholarship in monetary terms, they need it to be called a "scholar" and then they can put it on their CV. Its like going to Harvard or Cambridge, doing very little, meeting with other 'elites' forming a network that sets you up for life, but not actually being able to understand the subject you study, you are just well connected. A self perpetuating elite - an oligarchy.

In Singapore because it is UNIQUE they are called elites - cosmopolitan etc... In the UK we call them by their old name - The Upper Class. But class is a dirty word now so we have to say elite. So how do you become a member of the 'elite', simple - a mistake at birth. The possibility that someone born into the Heartlanders group in Singapore actually having a good chance of making their way into the elite based on merit alone is highly unlikely.

Yes I am sure they can wheel one or two how have managed to do this but this does not result in a high level of social mobility, up and down. The education system and policies like the now defunct Social Development Unit makes evident the PAP belief that the 'class' or 'level' you are born into is the 'level' you will die in and perpetuate from one generation to the next via your children. Social advancement is not within the PAP mindset.

There is no room at the top. But pretend that we are all equal when dealing with those you are superior to and from whom wealth comes.

If you don't they might actually realise that we are screwing them and rise up and kill us.

Anonymous said...

Friends, there are no elites in Singapore. They continye to boast and kid themselves. The Chinese race are basically working class. However many degrees they may obtain they are still working class. Poor Singapore spends most of its time boasting and propping up the poor souls who live hand to mouth in vile HDB estates. Also they seem to vbe keen on the word Hub. If you took the islands word, they are hub for everything.

So do not kid the outside world bloasting about elites. The towkay is a chinese businessman, and will never class himself elite.

lee hsien tau said...

"no, I tell you, elitism means this. Elitism means father give son the estate, and then son give grandson a bigger estate and then to great grandson a even bigger one."


Aiyoh, you forget to mention; father buy estate in son's name, and then son transfer to grandson for nominal sum, after which grandson bequeath to great grandson in the form of a trust, so no need ever to pay estate duty. Hi-def TVs in every room to keep extended family happy; father will arrange for estate to be cross-held by sons so he can maintain control over each and every one of them.

Not like Francois Duvalier, wait until die then hand-over to son. Son got no experience what?

Matilah_Singapura said...

I would say that it is a good thing to leave a legacy for the next generation. That's how families are built — they stick together, and accumulate wealth over generations.

Trusts have been in existence since the 1500's. They are a great way to protect assets, as well as FAMILY assets from confiscation by the THIEVING state by way of estate duties etc.

LKY had "issues" about families being wealthy, and in the early days his govt confiscated land as he likened "old money" wealthy families to feudal lords.

... and then on the other hand makes points about "family values".

Families who keep their wealth and build it up generation after generation are to be ADMIRED.

In the early days, LKY dissed "old money" families — why? Because tight families, especially wealthy ones are a threat to absolute state power.

However we live in an era of some very bad "progressive" ideas — like feminisim for e.g. — which contribute to a high divorce rate in most developed countries. Divorce is a finacial killer and it fractures family unity.

Very few people take the vow which states "til death us do part" seriously anymore. If there was a return to the "conservative" value of getting married, staying married and proactively bringing up and GROOMING one's children to be responsible adults (instead of leaving it to the State education system) you will find societal cahnges for the BETTER after a few generations...

... and almost no one whinging and whining and going screaming to the government for "help".

Going to the goverenment for "help" — because people are UNWILLING to solve their problems by themselves and voluntary association — always comes with a high price:

The govt says "We'll help you. But first you must give us your vote of confidence".

I mean, how do you upgrade an HDB?

You simply vote PAP!

Anonymous said...

nothing wrong with having an elite, but the important thing is whether they feel they owe something to society; if instead they feel society owes something to them, then the society is in trouble