Thursday, August 21, 2008

Social/Semi-politics: What the Government does for/on behalf of the people ...

This recent blog entry "More on National Day Rally 2008" of NMP Siew Kum Hong made me think a little about how the Government and the society in Singapore are now so intertwined, it's hard to separate activities of the two. The following paragraph is what drew my attention:

I think there are some things that the Government cannot do (e.g. the repeated calls by singles for the Government to help them meet people, e.g. to make it easier for them to use dating agencies, are just a little bit too much for me), but there remain a lot of things that the Government can do, which it has not done.

I think Mr. Siew is right, that finding a spouse or life partner is something that is private and personal. Direct government assistance in this case, just seems ... wrong. Strangely enough, I do not feel as offended if private groups organize to provide opportunities for people to meet up (e.g. blind lunch "dates" for executives whose only "free" time is over lunch on a work day). There are a good number of these informally organized schemes in the US ... I do not know if the same is true here in Singapore.

Now comes the kicker. Singles get desperate to get hitched for a lot of reasons. In Singapore, one of these reasons could be economic. Government housing is, in many cases, forbidden to singles. The one exception I can think of is for someone to live with their parents. Singaporeans are effectively penalized for not performing their "duty" to the family fabric of society in Singapore as envisioned by the government. Rightly or wrongly, the government has decided to enact policies to preserve the family-oriented social fabric of Singapore life in its current form (imho, wrongly, since I believe society needs to be allowed to constantly and gradually evolve over time). The trouble is, the effects of the policy percolates to other aspects of life the government should not try to enact policies or laws in, such as an individual's personal love life. This, unfortunately puts these individuals in a catch-22 ... "If I do not want to have to spend tons of money living in a private apartment, if I do not want to sacrifice my privacy living with my parents, then I better get myself a wife. But ... sigh ... I'm so damn ugly no one wants me and the government would not help!"

Frankly, the PAP government has micro-managed Singapore for so long (kinda like playing "Sim City" or "The Sims") that it has virtually dug itself into this hole along with the rest of Singapore. I see stagnation coming (or here already) and I do not feel hopeful.


Kaffein said...

Yeap LKY and LHL and the PAP gov have been playing Sim City for a long time.

In fact, it's like playing God when you start having 'Stop at 2' and 'Graduate mothers encouraged to pro-create'.

Now a game can be saved at various points, and reloaded.

Real life generations don't.


Chee Wai Lee said...

I think they have been lucky so far. Many of my friends have pointed out the fact that Singapore has the advantage of being an island city-state-nation, small and relatively easy to control.

Of course, things are more complicated than that, being reliant on culture, geography and history. On the whole, I tend to agree with my friends in spite of the PAP government's insistence otherwise (They can insist, but as long as they offer no evidence other than "trust us" ...). This has been reinforced by my lengthy stay here in the US. Many of the "Singapore-style solutions" simply will not work at this scale, or even at the city scale, since anyone from other parts of the country can transit the city at any time.

I will go so far as to agree with the PAP that Singapore has it's own unique context, but I think the PAP is ultimately doing it the wrong way and using this argument for all the wrong reasons.