All for the pursuit of wealth

A very well written letter that appeared in today’s Today (4 May 2007) that is truly worth reading.

Letter from Aaron Ho Chien Kwok

Much has been said concerning Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s recent comments regarding the possible liberalising of laws with regards to homosexuality. The purpose of my writing is not to argue the merits or flaws of such an action but to look at the basis upon which decisions such as these are being made.

It is my humble contention that the value which is esteemed above all else in our country is wealth — material wealth — and that is an extremely dangerous ground to be on. We are taught this in subtle, and sometimes not so subtle ways.

For example, Mr Lee said this: “They tell me that homosexuals are creative writers, dancers. If we want creative people, then we have to put up with their idiosyncrasies.” If I may have the liberty of paraphrasing this statement, I would put it this way: “If they can contribute to the economic bottom line, their lifestyle does not matter.”

The still recent debate over the integrated resort issue is another example.

One justification of having an integrated resort — make that two, actually — in Singapore is that if we do not have them, we would lose out to other countries that do have them.

Lose out in what way? In revenue, of course. We can have more jobs, more tourists, more money. The fallout from people who may get addicted, the families who may suffer as a result, these are but minor considerations that can be dealt with.

It seems “we must be realistic” or “we must be practical” is more important than “we must do the right thing”.

It is not surprising that a me-first (maybe a me-only) mentality is prevalent here. It is not surprising, therefore, that I take the lift every day and find litter scattered all over the floor, I squeeze onto the bus trying to find space to get on and find that the back of the bus is still relatively empty, and I read the papers and discover rich people scurrying for cheap books meant for the poor.

The family in Singapore is deteriorating. While we are out earning our wages, our children are at home, being brought up by maids (and this is in no way a slur on the job that they perform).

Of course, some would take exception to what I am describing and say that this generalisation is overly simplistic and I cannot draw a conclusion from these observations. And they would probably be right. However, the purpose of my writing is to force us to think about what is truly important in life.

If we persist in this philosophy of life, we may indeed find that our country remains on top of the economic pile but has lost its very soul.

I conclude with words from an ancient book of wisdom: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”

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