MM Lee was posed a question by Dr Quah who asked about Singapore’s progress in terms of social graces and environmental consciousness just as the country succeeds economically. "Not in my lifetime" was his answer. To this, I actually agree with him wholeheartedly.

Give me five, Kuan Yew! With all due respects of course, Sir.

I believed I’d have blogged about this some time or other, that it is very difficult for Singaporeans to be as matured socially as it is economically. An oft-used statement that I tell my friends is that while it is easy for Singaporeans to find ways to boost the economy and be entrepreneuring, habits are harder to cultivate. After all, humans are creatures of habit (and actually so were my cats).

From the complaints of people on seats not being given up to the elderly, pregnant and disabled to that of people not keeping to one side of the escalator to how people just condemn others with their "holier than thou" (thanks Dr Chua for the phrase) attitude when others did something wrong or something that is not accepted by the society, it is quite prevalent that it will remain this way for many years or generations (*gasp*!)to come.

Indeed, we recall about how the angmos are supposedly treated better while the locals experience more hostility less friendliness. This, after much thinking (not analysis, just thinking), could be due to:

  • the encounter of more friendly and appreciative angmos
  • the higher expectations of Singaporeans

Of course, there may be many other reasons, but since this is impromptu, these are the only 2 reasons that I can think of. Many a times, we may have encountered rude angmos but again, this is a statistical game. What I do think I know is that they have probably came a long way too.

Like MM Lee, I think think I’d see a gracious Singapore in my lifetime.

A gracious Singapore? Not in my lifetime: MM

He says cultivating social graces will take longer compared to environmental consciousness

By Li Xueying

ENVIRONMENTAL consciousness among Singaporeans will come about very quickly when they realise how they will be in trouble when changes in the climate take place.

But attaining a gracious society will take more time, said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew on Monday at a dialogue marking the 40th anniversary of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas).

In fact, he believes it will not happen in his lifetime.

‘I will not see it, maybe you will live long enough to see it; I wish you well,’ he told 48-year-old economics academic Euston Quah to laughter from the audience of diplomats, academics and government leaders.

Dr Quah had asked a question about Singapore’s progress in terms of social graces and environmental consciousness just as the country succeeds economically.

The issue he raised was among a host of subjects brought up by the audience, from the situation in Myanmar to the rise of China and India.

In his reply, Mr Lee said a gracious society will not happen so fast. ‘I think it will take more time to develop and mature culturally as a people.’

Even the British, he said, were ‘sitting at a very high level over an empire for nearly 150 years before they developed their culture and then being invaded by football hooligans and foreigners who are now joining them and coarsening their society’.

‘So it’s very difficult to get a rough society onto a cultivated plane and it’s very easy to bring it down,’ he concluded.

Environmental consciousness, on the other hand, will come very quickly ‘when something happens and they say, you do that, your whole environment changes and you are in trouble’.

On the other hand, the idea of a gracious society – ‘where people are considerate to one another, where you don’t make more noise to upset your neighbour than you need to, where you tell the other motorist, please have the right of way’ – was ‘harder to come by’, said Mr Lee.

‘It will take time, but I hope it will come with cultivated living over a long period of time.’

Mr Lee recalled how, 45 years ago, Singaporeans wanted to take their chickens with them when they were resettled from kampungs into high-rise flats.

‘So it took some time to get them adjusted. A more cultivated way of life takes a very long time,’ he said.

Article obtained from on 9th January 2008

Reader's Comments

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: