Sunday, 22 September 2013

Weaning S'pore off the Great Man leadership style

Sep 21, 2013

By Rachel Chang

Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew is a great leader.

Yet, after witnessing a week of salutary tributes on the occasion of his 90th birthday, I wonder if Singapore might have a Great Leader problem.

Not so much a dearth of them - although that is a future possibility that may have to be reckoned with one day.

But that Singaporean society has become so wedded to the idea and style of Great Man leadership that we do disservice to our past, and are ill-prepared for a complex and unpredictable future.

Perhaps this is because Mr Lee remained dominant for so many decades after his founding Cabinet - Dr Goh Keng Swee, Mr S. Rajaratnam, Dr Toh Chin Chye, to name a few - retired from politics and faded from the public view.

The Decline of Mother Tongue - Should we be worried?

Assumptions. Unspoken Assumptions. Damn Assumptions.

There is a Malay Language Month. Apparently, the Malay community had long realised that there is a danger that the Malay language (Bahasa) will fall out of use, and fall in standards. So why this sudden concern with the Decline of the Mother Tongue.

First, let's cut through the euphemism and political correctness and speak bluntly. The only reason why this has gone mainstream is because the standards of Mandarin has fallen, and fewer people are speaking Mandarin, and MOE has changed the way Mandarin will be taught, and this has worried the Sinophones/Sinophiles Singaporeans.

So it is not ALL Mother Tongues. Just Mandarin. Right?

Which is strange because years back when Mandarin was promoted and dialects were "ideologically persecuted" (my perspective), the argument was that dialects were the True Mother Tongue of the various Chinese Clans. And Mandarin was just a synthetic synthesis of the dialects at best, and so does not qualify as a natural Mother Tongue (as in no community had a tradition of speaking Mandarin).

But that was then, and this is Singapore 2B (Singapore To Be), not the Singapore That Was, or "How we used to argue, bicker, and complaint without effect".

The point is, there are probably some (or many) common issues for why Mother Tongues are declining, but some (like whether Mandarin is even a "True" Mother Tongue) are specific to each community.

This post will concern itself only with issues specific to the issue of Mandarin as it is declining in Singapore.

Monday, 9 September 2013

A slower pace of life

Singaporeans are under stress.

The cost of living is rising. Wages of the lowest income have not risen as fast. Home prices are rocketing into unattainable heights, COE premiums are rising out of reach of all but the very wealthy. And the statistics show greater income inequality, with the rich getting richer and the poor, well, not getting richer.