From ‘My mind was a total blank’, 8 Sept 2011, article by Koh Hui Theng, New Paper
SHE had a burning question for former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew last night. Given the big influx of immigrants here in a short time, and a dilution of the national identity, what can we do to create a sense of belonging and foster social cohesiveness, she asked.
Singaporean Joan Sim, 27, a PhD student at Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) School of Biological Sciences, thought it was a straightforward query and expected an equally direct reply.
…Following her question, Mr Lee spoke about the fast ageing population. That, plus the drop in the fertility rate, are major worries for Singapore’s leaders.
Last year, the total fertility rate – which measures the average number of children born to a woman over her childbearing years – was at an all-time low of 1.15. Mr Lee said: “The birth rate today, the fertility rate, is 1.01. In other words, for every couple, you have 1.01 babies.
…“How old are you now?” he wanted to know. “Twenty-seven,” she replied.
The queries came thick and fast: Are you married? (No) When will you finish your PhD? (In two years) So you’ll be 29 then. Do you have a boyfriend? (No) That was when Mr Lee drew attention to the biological clock and a woman’s child-bearing years. After 35 (years old), the dangers of having children with Down syndrome rises, he said.
“My advice, please don’t waste time. I hope you get your PhD and your boyfriend,” he added.
The audience laughed loudly. Miss Sim turned red. She told The New Paper: “It was very, very embarrassing. At that moment, I wanted to hug myself and disappear.
“My mind turned into a total blank when he started asking those questions.”
It was a case of an NTU forum intended for intelligent and insightful discussion turned into a Chinese New Year reunion dinner grilling session writ large. Of course it’s normal for old people to have such simplistic views of romance and marriage, but LKY threatening and publicly humiliating a brave and smart woman reveals a deep, gnawing agenda for educated single women which he has been espousing since 1983. The reason for this ‘kah-poh’-ish enthusiasm is simple enough, that this is a woman with a PhD, letting her smart genes go to painful waste. Though he did not specify that Joan should marry a man of equal stature, his staunch Darwinian beliefs turned eugenics worshiping reared its ugly head in a National Day Rally 28 years ago, when he blamed the future dip in our talent pool on educated women choosing to have less children, or none at all (Get Hitched!..and don’t stop at one, 15 Aug 1983, ST)
…PM sees depletion of talent pool in 25 years unless better educated wed and have more children. Think about it, says the Prime Minister: If you are well educated, it is your DUTY to get married and have children.
…”For every two graduates, there will be one graduate, and for every two uneducated workers, there will be three…We will be unable to maintain our present standards..Levels of competence will decline. Our economy will falter, the administration will suffer, and society will decline (Full text on LKY’s speech here).
Such mechanistic ideas on social engineering led to the sterilisation incentive scheme in 1984, just a year after he made the above speech, in an ambitious ‘God-playing’ attempt to keep the ‘uneducated malaise’ in check. 25 years on and we know such tactics have not only failed miserably, but probably backfired and made the situation worse, with the influx of immigrants used as an excuse to buffer this ‘talent pool’. But no one would dare bring up the past without having the ISD come by with an invitation to a chit-chat session over tea the next morning. What LKY didn’t take into account in his back-of-the-envelope calculations, is that even our imported ‘talent’ aren’t staying here long enough to relieve the brain drain, especially in the realm of scientific expertise. Not to mention our homegrown talents deciding to apply their skills elsewhere, which makes LKY’s hard mathematical logic as useful as recruiting more rain-dancers to summon showers to relieve a drought, when the real problem lies in the very soil of our harvest.
Incidentally LKY’s only daughter Lee Wei Ling is still single and she’s more than half a century old, and if Joan wanted to get even she could have rebutted the old man on his own failure to ‘harvest’ at least one more graduate grandchild out of his stubbornly single daughter, though I suspect the real reason why Lee Wei Ling never married, other than personal choice and the fact that she looks like a teenage boy, is because no man in his right mind would ever want LKY as his father-in-law, even if the old man were undisputed King of the Land and needed an heir to the throne.
Here’s what Wei Ling shared on remaining single (Why I choose to remain single, 9 Sept 2009, ST)
…I had my first date when I was 21 years old. He was a doctor in the hospital ward I was posted to. We went out to a dinner party. I noted that the other guests were all rich socialites .
I dropped him like a hot potato. In 2005 , while on an African safari with a small group of friends, one of them, Professor C. N. Lee, listed the men who had tried to woo me. There were three besides the first.
Two were converted into friends and another, like the first, was dropped. I am now 54 years old and happily single. In addition to my nuclear family, I have a close circle of friends.
Most of my friends are men. But my reputation is such that their female partners would never consider me a threat. More than 10 years ago, when there was still a slim chance I might have got married, my father told me: “Your mother and I could be selfish and feel happy that you remain single and can look after us in our old age. But you will be lonely.”
Lee Wei Ling’s luck with eligible equals is living proof that LKY’s call for graduates to go forth and multiply is easier said than done. Joan shouldn’t take such teasing to heart and just treat it with the same pinch of salt as one would regard the self-indulgent proselytizing of a granduncle with too much time and experience on his hands, that it’s not all unmarried graduate women’s fault that we’re facing a fertility crisis. Singaporeans, in general, are just not having much sex at all. Meanwhile, we’re hearing more coming out of LKY’s restless mouth than any other politician since his retirement. Someone get the man a job. Anything except Minister Matchmaker, please.
Filed under: 1980s, 2000s, 2011, Babies, Marriage, Politicians, Singaporean women Tagged: | Babies, discrimination, education, Lee Kuan Yew, lee wei ling, Marriage, Matchmaking/Dating agencies, MM Lee, Politicians, sexism, Singaporean women