Photo credit: The Borgen Project
I had a discussion on a Facebook thread and thought to share the commentary here:
I think at the end of the day, how many of us who have the opportunity to visit other countries and who have the luxury to come online to lavish praise on the PAP government actually earns $800 or $1,000 a month? How many of us can actually understand their plight and know how tough life it is for them?
Or how many of us know families who have to survive on a household income of less than $2,000?
Of course for many of us who are in the (ad)vantage point of earning high incomes, or being born into families with high incomes, who can then travel widely and talk about how we still think the PAP is good, but what about the 30% of the poor who cannot even earn enough to spend, or the next 30% who cannot earn enough to save and for the majority of Singaporeans who thus can never retire?
Of course it’s very easy for us who earn enough to shower praise on the PAP and think that Singapore is great, but what about the rest of us who cannot earn enough to have a decent living?
I used to earn $4,000 for just a while, even then I would have difficulty understanding the lives of those who are poor. But I’ve heard many, many stories, I’ve spoken to some of them and I know people who work with them. When I was working at the hospital, there were many who simply cannot afford to pay for their healthcare and choose to drop out of the system. Even if they were to apply for Medifund, they have to climb through so many hoops to get it and on top of that, when they are poor, they also have to apply for many other financial assistance. It is very demeaning and demoralising. It is not that they do not want to work. I know some of them work several jobs just to try to make ends meet, and they still don’t get paid enough.
For these people, do we blame them? Do we blame them for not getting a job that pays enough, when they have tried so hard but cannot find one? The government doesn’t want to define a poverty line or implement a minimum wage. The poor and lower middle income in Singapore simply do not have a chance. But how many of us are willing, or able to understand that?
It’s very easy for us to say things are good but of course, it is, if we earn enough and belong to the richer tier. But how many of us are willing to actually try to understand the lives of the poor around us, and how many us are willing to acknowledge their plight and not pretend that they don’t exist?
They are many of them in Singapore, many who cannot pay for their healthcare bills, their homes and some who have to sell their homes to pay for their healthcare bills?
I am in Norway now and even in Norway, they are of course things to critique. But in Singapore, we don’t have the luxury to critique the way Norwegians have. Also, we do not have the luxury of critiquing things which are of a more sophisticated level. Now, we are still fighting over survival, whereas in Norway, they have gone into deeper issues such as equality.
But didn’t we say that Singapore is a developed country? Then why do we still have to talk about the so many of the poor who cannot earn a decent living?
No, really, search our souls and ask ourselves – how many of us are willing to look at the lives of the poor in Singapore to understand them, to acknowledge that they exist and to reach out to them? How many of have the conscience to do that?
How many of us are willing to look beyond ourselves to realise the existence of the poor and their difficult lives and to the advocate to the government for change.
Yes, Singapore (could) have many things going for us but when the government cannot do the simple thing of taking care of the health, education and housing of the poorest in Singapore, I am very embarrassed.
But how many of us are willing to see that? You know, I don’t have to do this. There are much better things to do in life, like get a job I love and spend time with someone I love, I want to do that. But I don’t have a choice – I was thrust into the spotlight because the prime minister sued me. If he drops the suit, if I can get a job, do you think it’s so fun to do this?
Moreover, if none of us bother to speak up, then who will help the poor who have become so powerless?
No, really, you can critique me. You can even tear my reputation or character to bits. That is all fine.
But where there are many poor people in Singapore who are living difficult lives, how many of us are willing to see it? Only Singaporeans can help Singaporeans, but if even we turn a blind eye to it, then who will speak up for them? Who will acknowledge them and help them?
At the end of the day, for some of us, maybe a few of us, our lives are good, sure. But for the many whose lives are not, dare we acknowledge that they exist? Dare we speak up for them? Would we sympathise with them, empathise with them and do something about it?
This is not about me. If every Singaporean would speak up about it and do something about it, and ask the government to do something, I wouldn’t have to do this. I will be more than happy to stop doing what I am doing.
The question is – how many people are willing to look beyond ourselves? How many of us who are well-to-do would do so, and empathise with the poor and lower middle income in Singapore?