Sunday, September 22, 2013

The defeatist mindset of our leaders

Imagine that you are leading your men to an imminent battle. And all you can do is to pick on your men’s weaknesses and coerce them into believing that victory will never be won.

That doesn’t help at all in inspiring your men does it?

Instead of encouraging your men to rise up against the odds, you simply send them to perish fighting for your battle while you stand aloof to watch.

未战先败。Losing a battle without even fighting it.

A defeatist mindset is the worst trait that one can find in a leader, especially a political leader. One who unabashedly shies from challenges and unthinkingly compromises the welfare of his people for easy alternatives.

The result of a defeatist political leader is catastrophic for a nation like ours. One which is deeply-seeped in political influence in every aspect of our lives—well beyond political spectrum. Where “values” of filial piety can be dictated through laws and “anti-family” behaviour of the unmarried individuals could be rectified through public housing policy. Even personal matters such as to what languages to speak and what we should put into our mouth could be decided politically.

Ever ready to surrender on all fronts

“There is no way in which you are going to be able to protect either Singaporeans or Singapore because we are a small country.”

- DPM Tony Tan, 1998 [Link]

How resolute do you think a leader is in fighting for his people when he already hands out a death sentence to them? When the death sentence is merely a subjective judgement of his.

The fact that we are a small country needs not be interpreted as a disadvantage. It could be an advantage by itself. Additionally, and more importantly, being a small country should not be the indicator of resigning ourselves readily to whatever fate the currents of globalization should bring. Neither should that deprive us the liberty to prioritize our own values and goals. With certainty, our size is neither a determinant to the amount of courage for our leaders to take on challenges.

“We don’t set prices. We are a price-taker, not a price-setter,”

- DPM Tony Tan, 1998 [Link]

Our political leaders readily surrender our people to external and internal unfavourable circumstances in which they claim that both are beyond their control.

Blame it on the globalization, they said instead. And shirking their responsibilities to our domestic inflation, hot property prices, soaring healthcare costs or even our transport woes in the name of globalization.

On our wage costs, our leaders choose to stick in the third-world mentality of offering cheap labour as the only means of competitiveness. They place our workers who hail from a first-world living cost to work at a third-world wage price as the most convenient way out to enrich their economic pie.

Globalization may be a fact but given the talents of our political leaders and the purpose of formulating policies, we could do, really, is the decision, with the necessary determination, to minimize the impacts of globalization. We may be a small country but we are a sovereign country and therefore entitled to control the extent of “openness” of our country.

If we have allowed “globalization” to wrench our power from calibrating how “open” our economy is, does that not reveal the fact that our near 5 decade-old economy/nation that we have come to build is an unsustainable one? We have built an economy and a nation that we have no absolute control over against external economic influence? Yet, we have absolute maneuver over our internal political landscape.

The inconvenient reality is, the sky is the limit for the greed of our leaders who pursue economic growth at the expense of the masses and who reserve a larger portion of economic pie for smaller group of people like themselves.

Our vulnerabilities are not justification of surrendering our people without even a pretended attempt to fight for them. It should be the spur for us to explore ways to insulate ourselves from the volatile world.

But no, let’s surrender. It’s easier to do so. Said our leaders.

On fertility woes, aging population worries our political leaders to the extent of instant mass humans import. However, their inert response to the increasing needs of an aging population in the areas of affordable nursing homes and healthcare costs just bare their pretentious concern about the aging issue.  

Khaw Boon Wan took it a step further by urging Singaporeans to consider living in nursing homes in neighbouring JB. [Link] That will save him the hassle of addressing local healthcare issues.

LHL threw in MediShield Life through increased premiums to buffer us against healthcare costs, which is just a disguised way of getting us to pay more for our people without forking out a single cent from the deep pockets of the PAP-led government. [Link]

On transport, our private train and bus companies privatized profits but socialized the operating costs and their inefficiency costs. These companies are given the green light to do so.

“Not only would people have to pay more, nationalising the operators could result in a stagnation of service quality or efficiency over time”

- Lui Tuck Yew, Transport Minister, 2011. [Link]

A simplistic assumption about nationalization and a few illustrations of failed nationalized transport systems were cited to maintain status quo for our public transport system.

Our leaders oversimplify the failures of others, lacking an apparent courage to tread where others have failed; lacking the conviction and confidence to create our own path.

Yes, there are others who have failed due to reasons which we may not have fully grasped. Yet, our leaders recklessly determine our own fate based on the fates of others. No, our leaders say we can't succeed and therefore we will resolutely fail.

On the environmental issues, they are equally defeatist and hide themselves behind climate change. They are averse to challenges and reluctant to address the changes either brought about by climate changes or by our own swift pace of urbanization.

"You can't design for rainfall of this level, it is just too huge. The thing we can accept is that we can only design our canal of a certain size, and at the end of the day, we have to live with some of these occurrences which occur once in 50 years or so".

- Environment and Water Resources Minister, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim,2006.[Link]

It is not possible... to plan for every event. Thursday's weather... occurs once in 50 years. If we design for the largest rainfall or highest tide, then we are going to have huge canals in Singapore.'

-Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Environment and Water Resources Minister, 2009. [Link]

When VB took over NEA from his predecessor, he threw money at the installation of CCTV cameras to monitor flood situations. CCTV cameras do not alleviate flooding. It is another way of passing on the flood problems back to the people.

“Somethings are beyond (that); it’s an act of God unless you want to lose half the roads and have canals.”

-MM Lee Kuan Yew, 2010. [Link]

Spiritual forces were also roped in to justify the defeatist mindset. An irony considering the fact that the same person who resigned our floods to God is the same person who clinched and created every political opportunity, however slight the opportunity might be, in extinguishing Lim Chin Siong’s political life during the 60s to pave way for his own mighty dynasty. He persevered to achieve his goal and did not leave things to the will of God…then.

When haze descended, NEA and MOH were ill-prepared for crisis management. Our law minister came into the scene more promptly to defend our leaders’ helplessness than ensuring our access to N95 masks.

"If it was within our control we will never allow this to happen. My point to Singaporeans is we will continue to do our best, please understand the limitations of international relationships and foreign policy and the fact that every country is sovereign and we have limited control over what happens in Indonesia.”

- Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam, 2013. [Link]

He was quick to highlight that they are legally unable to change the situation for the better. Deliberately leading us to focus on what they cannot do.

We need no law minister to enlighten us on the fact that Indonesia is a sovereign country. Neither do we need leaders who could only persuade us into resigning our fate to any of our current unfortunate situations. We are in dire need of real leaders who could LEAD in crises.  

Instead, our premium leaders could only lead us to surrender to whatever problems that cross our paths while they remain 100% insulated in their ivory towers.

Selective determination

Being told that we are a small country with no natural resources and thus to resign ourselves to being a price-taker.

Unexpectedly, our size did not deter the political will to build up a strong and expensive defence. Contrarily, our size intensifies the determination of having a formidable defence force, leading to the search of possible alliances to expand our safety net for our little red dot.

On the issue of our defence, our political leaders refused the fate of a “price-taker”; they chose the more difficult option, to defend this tiny island with a dwindling local population. 

On other matters, they choose to give up. Bukit Brown is one. The possibility of engineering an underground tunnel to preserve our oldest cemetery is shot down quickly, yet they toy over the daunting idea of an underground city to cater for even more population growth when our flooding woes have yet receded; they gave up on Singaporeans and declare anyone foreign as talent; they endorse Singapore’s openness and subject Singaporeans to unlevel competition with foreigners, yet guarding meticulously at the doors of our political arena, quick to slam the door at any alternative political parties that may threaten PAP’s own survival. 

It is demonstrated of their selectiveness as to where to put forth their tenacious fighting spirit. Fighting spirit is strictly reserved for matters that concern their own survival.

Shirking responsibilities

The last thing we will want is to be caught in a tsunami situation with a leader who could only shift our attention to his broken record of what he CANNOT do instead of what he can do or at least try to do. Or hoping that in the process of monitoring the situation, the tsunamis would have a change of heart and target elsewhere.  The tsunamis is on the brink of sweeping us away, should we just abide by our leaders’ sacred words to accept our fate as there is nothing they could do?

Succumbing to the first sign of adversity is an act of an opportunist, not a leader. Yet, we are paying out-of-the-world salaries to these people whose only solution that they can offer in times of difficulties is their inertness.

We may not be necessarily guaranteed of success in whichever decision we make for ourselves, however, the least we could do is to give up a battle without even trying to fight.

We are not living in a perfect world void of problems. There are understandably problems and challenges. We do, however, expect political leaders who are entrusted with the task of leading our nation and people, to LEAD. To lead us in search of solutions, to err when necessary in the pursuit of the right path and to admit and address mistakes before moving on. Place the well-being of our people first before nation or themselves. 

The nation has to be built for the people and not the other way round. Else, it is just another hotel in disguise.

Let me remind myself that a third of our current Cabinet ministers hailed from the army. Our current Cabinet is led by someone from the army too. These people led their men in the armies; and they are supposedly to lead our people.

But if Singapore was to face an imminent threat of tsunamis now, how different do you think our current batch of leaders would say?

Somethings are beyond (that); it’s an act of God. It is not possible... to plan for every event, and at the end of the day, we have to live with some of these occurrences. We will continue to monitor the situation. Bear with it. Either you survive the tsunamis or you will perish.

The above was purely my conjecture.  

After all that is said about them being defeatist, it is the money-at-all-expense mentality that drives them to be what they are.