Singaporeans are victims of their own success

From ‘SM:We’re victims of our own success’, 5 Sept 2010, article by Irene Tham in The Sunday Times

(SM Goh Chok Tong): It is important that we do not complain too much when we can’t get the house that we want, we can’t get the carpark that we want, when the MRT trains are a little crowded.

We are in fact quite fortunate. These are problems created by our own success. There are many people who are not able to benefit from our overall success. Just remember them as we try to solve our problems at the top end.

…In a sense, we are victims of our own success.

…If you can own two cars, you are not really poor.

…It’s important for those who are facing the problems of success…to think of those who are struggling to make a living every day.

A ‘little’ crowded? Where was SM Goh when the Jurong East interchange fiasco happened where commuters had to run back down escalators because the platform was bursting hazardously at the seams? And why exactly is it important that we ‘don’t complain too much’? Does keeping mum mean that more will be done for the poor, elderly and impaired, or more done to curb overcrowding and foreigners tussling for elbow room? And he tells us to spare a thought for those less unfortunate than us, fine, but are we ‘victims of our own success’ not struggling to make a living every day ourselves, especially if we don’t have ‘two cars’ hence ‘not really poor’? A less inspiring rehash of the vuvuzela analogy, but still, a positive spin, or should I say euphemism, on what ‘victims of success’ really means, that Singaporeans are a spoilt, ungrateful lot who can’t appreciate what the government has done for them. I tend to agree, though, that this lust for carpark space is a result of our ‘autophilia’ and the government should pander least to car owners and megalomaniac hobbyists who can jolly well switch to public transport ( on second thought, maybe not) , cycle (if YOG lanes are converted to bike paths) and do the Earth a big favour. No mincing of words in this 10 July 1979 ST article ‘Hitting at S’poreans who grumble at slightest discomfort’. Seems like we were already ‘victims of our success’ long before the blueprints of the first MRT station emerged.

God only knows where Dr Ow is at this moment, 31 years later. It’s always easy to preach appreciation of the good things in life when you’re well-off yourself. Having an abundance of almost ‘anything and everything’ may have made life more comfortable then, maybe you would have been happy with a TV, a VCR, a stereo with not one but TWO tape decks, perhaps a typewriter to express some creative juice, but it remains to be seen if growing affluence makes us more ‘comfortable and gracious’ today. We still have an abundance of everything alright, 5 freaking million people included. I would think a more effective argument that Singaporeans are indeed a lucky bunch , whether it’s in the late 70’s or today, is that we’re relatively spared from natural disasters, that thousands of South East Asians could die from earthquake or tsunamis around us and all we’ll experience are nervous wobbles and flash floods to remind us not to take our charmed geographical location for granted.

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