"... the pursuit of intellectual excellence to the exclusion of character or value excellence breeds an exclusionary attitude to the rest of society. Many of the products of our top schools forget they have to give back to the society that allowed them so many opportunities." Sandra Leong
"What is implied there is that people who are successful owe a debt to society, and that if they refuse to "give back" to society, there is something faulty with their character or values system.
But angry doc would like to ask: who in society is calling for this debt to be repaid? On whose behalf is Ms Leong calling for elites to "give back"? What makes us think that we are entitled to the time, effort, or the fruits of the labour of those in society who have succeeded?" angry doc
ape had a dream on that very night after ape read these two articles. ape met a being who called itself "society". However, ape couldn't really determine if ape met one or two of them who chose to call itself (or themselves) "society" because it appeared to ape that it was the same yet different being. However, there's something about the dream that ape wanted to leaf it down into KinJioLeaf.
ape: "Who are you?"
ape: "OK.... but what are you really?"
society: "I'm the one who provides for you to be an elite!"
ape: "But I'm not..."
society: "You are because I say so! You went to an elite school. You have a decent paying job. You've paid off your housing loan."
ape: "That hardly makes me an elite. I only spent four years in an elite school. I'm not a scholar. I'm staying in an HDB flat..."
society: "You are because I say so, so stop denying."
ape: "OK... if you insist." ape wasn't quite sure what this meeting was all about but being in ape's nature to be helpful, ape asked "Is there anything I can do for you?"
society: "Ha! You've finally wised up. Yes, what can you do for me!"
ape: "I don't know... not be a burden to you? Do my job, feed my family, just follow law?"
society: "Not good enough. What about me? Can't you build roads, produce good policies, donate more to charity, help the poor, find housing for them, get more workers, kick out the foreigners, form a new government, arrest the rabble rousers, lock up the gays, give more freedom, uphold democracy, respect human rights, create jobs, build cheaper public housing, ensure property does not collapse..."
ape: "Wait, wait, wait... that's a lot to ask of me!"
society: "I don't care. You're an elite!"
ape: "I didn't say I am. You said it. Even if I am an elite, why should I?"
society: "Because I made you so. I am the infrastructure, education, etc... I'm the opportunities that make you who you are now. So it's time to pay back. To return what you owe."
ape: "But I'm not an elite!" (society was about to retort but ape cut him off since he is getting on ape's nerves) "OK. Cool down. Let's just say hypothetically I am an elite"
society: "You are!"
ape: "OK, I am since you say so. Isn't the infrastructure, education, the opportunities you mentioned offered to everyone? Since ape manages to do better than the rest...hypothetically, due to ape's own hard work and efforts, isn't ape entitled to whatever benefits that comes with ape's success and remain ape's own rights to whom ape wants to share the benefits? To whom do I owe this success? My parents who worked hard to bring me up. I'm not saying I am going to deny you but I don't see how I owe you? Whatever I have achieved so far is on one part due to my own efforts and another from my parents and the many mentors who guided me all these years. You make it sound like I owe you a debt. Do I?"
society: "You do!"
ape: "So if I refuse to study, refuse to work. Laze around and do nothing and become YOU, I can make demands that the "elite" must provide for me?"
society: "You'll never become me! I am the infrastructure, education... THE opportunities... not some lazy bum like you!"
ape: "See! I told you I'm not an elite. You've just admitted I'm a lazy bum so don't make demands on me."
society: "Don't try to play "elite" with me or you'll suffer! You just wait and see. I'll be waiting for you and hound you like an Ah Long if you don't pay back!" (ape was totally lost at this point and wonders how is he going to wait and yet hound on ape).
Whatever, ape was jolted out of his sleep and had to visit the bushes. After ape has... er... watered the plants, ape went back to sleep, not quite sure if he wanted to meet "Society" again in his sleep... (to be cont'd)
society: "Hi ape!"
ape: "Er... hi." (ape noticed something seems kinder in his tone and demeanor but can't help checking him out apprehensively for pig head or red paint)
society: "You look worried. Don't be."
ape: "Who are you?"
ape: "Have you come to collect "debts" from me?"
society: "Debts?!?! What do you owe me?"
ape: "You don't? I thought... never mind. Is there anything I can do for you?" (ape fell back into his usual self)
society: "What will you do to me?" *dismayed* ape knew it! Pay back time! and ape wasn't paying attention to the choice of words society used.
ape: "... ... "
society: "... ... haven't really decided? Don't worry. Take your time. In actual fact, you've started doing something for me."
ape: "I did?"
society: "Yes. You have a job. You take care of your family. You did not upset me. You did not create unrest. All these are good enough."
ape: "Anyone could have done what ape did so it's really nothing worth mentioning... and we certainly don't need an elite to do all these."
society: "Who said anything about Elite? What is Elite?"
ape: "Nevermind. Who are you really? You don't seem to be the same "society" I met earlier."
society: "I don't know who you met earlier but certainly not me. Who am I? I am a product of you! I am you!"
society: "You, people around you, people before you, people after you. I am who you make me out to be. I'm a product of you yet I am you. Enough about me... or you... or us. I'm more interested about what you will do."
ape: "Er... haven't really decided but since you seemed to like what ape has done so far, perhaps ape will maintain the status-quo until ape can decide. Ape is not quite smart so ape may take quite a long time" ape was actually confused and didn't want to make too much a commitment.
society: "Don't worry. Take your time. You'll know when you know. People who take their time tends to come out with better ideas. Sometimes, the smart ones, even with good intentions, moves too fast and hurts me more than those who take their time to plan. Of course there are those who think that they can destroy me but ends up hurting themselves more. I exist because you exist because I exist because we exist." ape is scratching his head and all over his body at this point... going bananas and totally confused.
ape: "So you're not the infrastructure, education... THE opportunities that provided for me to be who I am now and I do not owe you and need not do anything for you in return?"
society: "ape, you can confusing me." (Walao! Who is confusing who?) "Let me put it this way. You can say I am the infrastructure, education... THE opportunities who provided for you to be who you are now but who made me this way? You! OK, if you are particular about this since I know you are a technician by training and tends to think very straight. Your predecessors made me this way. If you do feel obliged to return the favour, or what you call "returning a debt", the obvious thing is to leave a legacy like what they did so that your successors can continue to do the same for their successors and so on. Let me put it in another way. I exist because you exist and I'll cease when you cease. However, who I am and what I am going to be will depend on you. I can give you a bloody big headache if you make me to be one. I can make you achieve things you never imagine if you make me to be one."
ape: "Wow! ape didn't know he has so much influence on society. ape thought it is only the elite who can influence you."
society: "Ape talk about Elite again. What is Elite? Anyway, ape alone cannot have so much influence lah. The act of a single person or even a small group of people may give me goosebumbs of fear or elation but I recover pretty fast if the whole is intact. I cannot be destroyed unless you cease to exist. However, I can change drastically depending on what you do to me. If you make me bad, I'll be and it is going to take more effort to make me good. If I am good, you can make me better. Do you know how easy it is to make me bad? Just ignore me. Want to give it a try. Ignoring me won't make me go away. I'll just turn bad and give you a bloody nose. When it reaches the point of no return, I'll destroy you and myself."
ape: "Isn't that suicide?"
society: "Yes. It is suicidal of you to ignore me or take me for granted."
ape: "ape is just a small fry. What can ape do? Isn't the care and development of you the responsibilities of the government, the smart people, the rich... the er, elite?"
society: "HAHAHAHAHAHA! So this is what you mean by elite. Ape is giving too much credit to these 'elite'. They do have a certain amount of influence on me no doubt, just like anyone else. However, I am the sum of you, all of you. You alone, the government alone, the smart, the rich or the Eeeeeelite you mentioned, operating alone may give me moments of joy or depression but to change me takes the effort of everyone. Boleh?"
ape: "Hmmmm. OK. Back to basics. Since you, society, is me, the people around me, people before me, people after me. You must have the experience and wisdom of everyone, ya?"
society: "Yeap... and the stupidity."
ape: "Can you tell me, what can I do to make you better? Or at least make sure you don't turn bad? I mean, after talking to you, you seem fine and jolly and helpful so I assume you must be good now but then again you could be creating an elaborate scheme to trap me and give me a bloody headache and perhaps ape is thinking too much and ... "
society: "Ape, ape, you're talking bananas. Focus, focus. I am who I am now due to what your predecessors has done. One thing for certain is that over the last centuries, I am getting better and better in most ways. The reason for this is that your predecessors developed me so that I can reciprocate them and their successors. By successors, I'm not talking about the father who hordes money for his son or people who keeps their success within their own family. I'm talking about people who benefited from what the pioneers had done. These 'beneficiaries' wanted to honour the pioneers and did what their predecessors had done - leave a legacy for everyone. Think of people like Tan Kah Kee and Lee Kong Chian, two people whom you should be familiar about since your secondary school days. I'm not talking about just the elites. I'm talking about everyone. Of course, there are some who did more than others but remember your primary school motto - From Each His Best? Some can do more, some can do less. It doesn't matter. Everyone has a part to play."
ape: "So it is not about returning debt or owing anyone?"
society: "Certainly not. Even if it is, once you return the 'debt', than what? You will ignore me and forget me. The end. No. It is about legacy. Continuation. Continual improvement. You benefitted from me because of the efforts of the people before you. You don't owe me anything because I am the creation of the people before you. Obviously, you can't pay them back since they have left. If you feel obliged and wanted to honour these people, do what they did, leave a legacy for the people after you. Once you ignore me, what is left is disaster for the people after you and they WILL definitely remember you, the whole lot of you, provided WE survive.
ape: "So... what shall I do?"
society: "Wake up now or you'll be late in sending your daughter to school! If you don't do anything now, she will suffer, you know?"
By then, ape woke and realised that he is running short of time. Daughter was all ready and waiting for ape. Soon, she will be ready and need not wait for ape anymore. When that time arrive, will it be easier or harder for kids of her generation to get to school?