My application to join the 'elite' club was rejected when I failed to score 4 As and a S-paper distinction. My eagerly awaited interview for the prestigious PSC scholarship never materialised. For the first time in my life, I felt vulnerable. The clouds I had been floating on since my days at Raffles Institution suddenly evaporated. I was hurled back into reality and felt like another casualty of 'the system'... I stumbled through NS like an elephant on stilts. It was an awkward and uncomfortable time, but I saw the real struggles of those who had fallen by the wayside. I realised that far from being a casualty, I was still very much a functioning product of 'the system' - I had an education. I did eventually secure a scholarship that allowed me to go overseas. I was part of the elite again.Robin Chan contributes his thoughts to the newspaper and proudly announces that after he got a scholarship, he can call himself an elite. First thing that came too my mind was :他怎么好意思在新加坡最受欢迎的英文报纸向大家宣布自己是精英？Anyway, an online journaler I read knows this guy and is thinking of going over and b**ch slap him. I don't know Robin, but I'd love to have tea/coffee with him. I'm looking at this issue from the 'elite is as elite does' view, i.e., what does it actually do to people? What connected the dots for me was reading about the PCK musical a few days ago. Phua Chu Kang Pte. Ltd. is this local TV comedy that has 'bad English' and involves the lives and family of the protagonist, a renovation contractor. So there's this new musical based on the show performed by the cast, and I was reading the official website. There was critical reviews on the front page, three of them from Ministers, and two were the mainstream press. (That's comedy in itself, really.) All of them have nothing but praise, which is nice, I'm sure the cast worked hard at this. The alternative media seems to disagree somewhat. Anyway... the first quote is from the Senior Minister...
"The Phua Chu Kang Musical is a bold and entertaining enterprise by local artistes. It is a commendable creative effort. I find the show fast-paced, hilarious but touching towards the end. Heartlanders will enjoy it." Goh Chok Tong Senior Minister, Republic of SingaporeI did a double take when I saw this. What on earth does he mean when he says that the heartlanders will enjoy it? For those who are not familiar with this terminology, 'heartlanders' are people who:
"...make their living within the country. Their orientation and interests are local rather than international. Their skills are not marketable beyond Singapore. They speak Singlish. They include taxi-drivers, stallholders, provision shop owners, production workers and contractors ... If they emigrate to America, they will probably settle in a Chinatown, open a Chinese restaurant and call it an 'eating house.'"This is contrasted to the term 'cosmopolitan', those who:
"...speak English but are bilingual. They have skills that command good incomes: banking, IT, engineering, science and technology. They produce goods and services for the global market. [They frequently] use Singapore as a base to operate in the region. They can work and be comfortable anywhere in the world.[Goh Chok Tong National Day Rally Speech, 1999, via here]So, does Mr. Goh think that heartlanders will enjoy it, and probably other categories of people will also enjoy it? Or does he mean that heartlanders will enjoy it, and probably other categories of people will not? I think I'd give Mr. Goh the benefit of the doubt and claim that he's quoted out of context. Another possibility is that he really doesn't think much of what he said, it's just a harmless reaction. It's probably like me saying, "Oh my goodness! I just watched Les Miserables! What a fantastic musical! Michael Ball rocked! And so did Lea Salonga! You know what? I think the poor among the audience would really have enjoyed it too!" Although there is nothing inherently wrong with categorising and naming people and using the term 'elite' as brought up here by Hui Chieh, even if difficulties defining it certainly exist, I think my point of bringing Robin and Mr Goh together is to illustrate what this sort of labelling does to people. One thing it does is to enable people who feel they are elites to wear rose-tinted glasses, and see though a glass,