Friday, February 16, 2007

Family unit and family values. This report on Channel News Asia about what PM Lee said just riles me up!

At the same time, Mr Lee refers to how generous state welfare benefits for the employed and the elderly have led to the weakening of the family unit in many Western countries.

"When somebody loses his job, he falls back on state unemployment insurance. When he grows old, he relies on state pensions and medical care. As a result, family members often feel little responsibility to care for one another," says PM Lee.

My personal interactions with many of my friends here in the US (including Europeans) have led me to believe that their family relationships are probably stronger and not weaker than asian families. All my life back in Singapore, I was fed with anecdoctal evidence about the strengths of our "traditional family values" until the 7 years I've spent here woke me up to the realization that "Western" families feel as much of a bond, if not greater, as that of Singaporean families.

The difference here is that families place emphasis on respect for the individual. Members of the family are expected to challenge their elders, respectfully, if the former believes the latter is wrong or misinformed. They encourage their children to achieve monetary independence early and young. They expect to be treated with the respect and a sense of independence when they grow old, even if they are frail. Their love is reciprocated by connection. They talk a lot to their families and the phone companies recognize that ... talk time in the evenings are free under most plans. They frequently fly and drive thousands of miles to be with family, just for a few days.

PM Lee, in my opinion, has made the mistake of making a statement without the necessary statistics information and casting it as a general "truth". It made me doubt how much he really knows about how a "Western" family really interact with one another.

Still, I support the overall theme of his message. It is a good thing to encourage family love. I just get really pissed off when he wrongfully bashes the "Western" ideals in a lame attempt to present a contrasting scenario. It just breeds a stereotypical worldview amongst our citizens and completely smacks of hypocrisy when we turn around and accuse the "West" of not understanding our culture when they try to highlight what they think is wrong with our policies. There are two sides to the story, it is counterproductive to keep thinking "our side" is always right and "theirs" is always wrong. People need to start becoming more aware of the great diversity (and similarity) of the world around us.


Teck Beng said...

Well, not sure if it makes sense to respond with a comment on your blog in response to one on mine. Sounds like a roundabout way to me ;-)

In any case, been busy lately with the new project picking up. Also, am now serving the nation for 2 weeks hence have limited chance and time to update the blog.

But let's keep in touch in any case and I'll try to post more videos/blogs...
Have fun with the bugs :-)

Chee Wai Lee said...

hehehe, that's cool!

As long as we keep in contact. In any case, my comment on your blog had nothing to do with the topic, so I apologize for that!