Sunday, May 20, 2007

Challenging Selected Myths

When Singapore became self governing in 1959 and later as an independent country in 1965, many believed that Singapore cannot survive as an independent nation.

Singapore had a referendum in 1963 and voted to join Malaysia because of this belief. Singapore did not have what were considered important to have: natural resources, large population, big hinterland, financial reserves, special technologies and skills in our people. We do not even have water of our own!

How are we to eradicate poverty and diseases and provide enough jobs, education and housing for our people having just emerged from a war, a colony and still facing "confrontation" from Indonesia?.

These beliefs were very demoralizing and paralyzing to many. Fortunately we have people who dare to challenge some of these myths and beliefs and they were proven right. If we had wrung our hands and complained or cried we would not have the Singapore we have today. We must learn from these people how they did what they did.

What we needed was not just capabilities alone but collective confidence in ourselves as a society. Our collective instinctive intuition to do things our way was put to the test. Many discovered how creative they were if only they dared to try. Our successes built up our records and self confidence so important to earn others' trust in us. This is an essential element for success.

Our people have demonstrated that we still have the survivor instinct and spirit in our culture to serve and the survivor instinct we inherited from our forefathers to do the necessary. Yes, there are many who might appear to be doing queer things. Cynics ridicule their ideas and critics criticize their actions.

But these people persevered. They stuck to their beliefs and proved their points against other formidable beliefs of the time. These people are usually passionate in what they believe in. Their rewards are the satisfaction they get when they succeed.

Besides challenging selected myths we also need dedicated and courageous people who can help improve areas that needed improvement especially in the development of our manpower, selected technologies and other areas that are still controversial.

What we lack is not intellectual power and authority alone but enough people who can work together for a good cause to improve the lives of our fellowmen. Many such people have stepped forward for many years. Let us, as a society, continue to attract more of these people to step forward not by money or authority alone but by showing our appreciation and recognition of their work and spirit.

Our history is full of the work of these people if we care to look for them. These people still exist in spite of the materialistic world we are fast moving into. Our institutions and mass media should do more to highlight the work of these people.

With more such people we can build a great society like the ones we descended from and not just a wealthy one. We must continue to give room and opportunities for these people to play their role and contribute to our society as the famous American scientist Benjamin Franklin did.

Who knows, we may throw up a few Benjamin Franklin of our own in the process in the near future. We need our own Benjamin Franklins' for our progress and become a great society.

Lee Kum Tatt
18 May 2007

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