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The Wee Shu Min elitism scandal was a Singaporean scandal in October 2006 in which Wee Shu Min, daughter of parliament member Wee Siew Kim and a then-eighteen year-old student on Raffles Junior College's scholarship programme, found herself in controversy after posting on her blog what were viewed by some Singaporeans to be elitist,[1] naive, and insensitive statements against heartlanders.[2]

Dismissing the views of Derek Wee who voiced concerns on job security and age discrimination on his blog, she shot back with a take-no-prisoners diatribe,[1][3] calling Wee a "stupid crackpot", belonging to "the sadder class" and overreliant on the government. Her post also called for Wee to "get out of my elite uncaring face."[4][5] Her response triggered an avalanche of criticism, as it came on the heels of the sensational suicide of an individual (said to be facing financial difficulties) at Chinese Garden MRT Station. [6][7] As a result, her name topped Technorati's search terms for a week.[8] She has since appeared to have apologised[9] on another blog and shut down her own.[2]

Contents

Post by Derek Wee

When I read the Straits Times article (dated 24 Sep) on PM Lee calling the young to be committed and make a difference to Singapore, I have so much thought about the issue.

I am 35 years old, graduated from University and gainfully employed in a multinational company. But I cannot help but feel insecure over the future of Singapore. Lets face it, it’s not uncommon to hear, “when you are above 40, you are over the hill”. The government has been stressing on re-training, skills upgrading and re-adapt. The fact is, no matter how well qualified or adaptable one is, once you hit the magical 40, employers will say, “you are simply too old”.

We have been focusing our resources and problem solving on low unskilled labour. But in reality, our managerial positions and skilled labour force are actually fast losing its competitiveness. I travel around the region frequently for the past 10 years. It didn’t take me long to realise how far our neighbours have come over the past decade. They have quality skilled workers, and are less expensive. When I work with them, their analytical skills are equally good, if not better than us.

It’s not new anymore. Taxi drivers are fast becoming “too early to retire, too old to work” segment of the society. I like to talk to taxi drivers whenever I am heading for the airport. There was this driver. Eloquent and well read. He was an export manager for 12 years with an MNC. Retrenched at 40 years old. He had been searching for a job since his retrenchment. Although he was willing to lower his pay expectations, employers were not willing to lower their prejudice. He was deem too old. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have another No. 1; having the most highly educated taxi drivers in the world.

On PM Lee calling the young to be committed and make a difference. Look around us. How dedicated can we be to Singapore when we can visualise what’s in store for us after we turned 40? Then again, how committed are employers to us? But we can’t blame them. They have bottom lines & shareholders’ gain to answer to. Onus is really on the government to revamp the society. A society that is not a pressure cooker. A society that does not mirror so perfectly, what survival of the fittest is. But a society, where it’s people can be committed, do their best and not having to fear whether they will still wake up employed tomorrow. Sadly, Singapore does not offer such luxuries and security anymore.

On the issue of babies. The government encourage us to pro-create. The next generation is essential in sustaining our competitive edge. Then again, the current market condition is such that our future has become uncertain. There is no more joy in having babies anymore; they have become more of a liability. It’s really a chicken and egg issue.

Many of my peers, bright and well educated have packed up and left. It’s what SM Goh called “quitters”. It’s sad but true, Singapore no longer is a place where one can hope to work hard their lives and retire graciously. It’s really the push factor. A future is something we sweat it out, build and call our own. Unfortunately, people like me, mid 30’s going on 40’s, staying put by choice or otherwise, we can’t help but feel what lies ahead is really a gamble.

To PM Lee and the Ministers, we are on a different platform. Until you truly understand our insecurity, the future of Singapore to me remains a question mark

Original Post

mom's friend sent her some blog post by some bleeding stupid 40-year old singaporean called derek wee (WHY do all the idiots have my surname why?!) whining about how singapore is such an insecure place, how old ppl (ie, 40 and above) fear for their jobs, how the pool of foreign "talent" (dismissively chucked between inverted commas) is really a tsunami that will consume us all (no actually he didn't say that, he probably said Fouren Talern Bery Bad.), how the reason why no one wants kids is that they're a liability in this world of fragile ricebowls, how the government really needs to save us from inevitable doom but they aren't because they are stick-shoved-up-ass elites who have no idea how the world works, yadayadayadayada.

i am inclined - too much, perhaps - to dismiss such people as crackpots. stupid crackpots. the sadder class. too often singaporeans - both the neighborhood poor and the red-taloned socialites - kid themselves into believing that our society, like most others, is compartmentalized by breeding. ridiculous. we are a tyranny of the capable and the clever, and the only other class is the complement.

sad derek attracted more than 50 comments praising him for his poignant views, joining him in a chorus of complaints that climax at the accusation of lack of press freedom because his all-too-true views had been rejected by the straits times forum. while i tend to gripe about how we only have one functioning newspaper too, i think the main reason for its lack of publication was that his incensed diatribe was written in pathetic little scraps that passed off as sentences, with poor spelling and no grammar.

derek, derek, derek darling, how can you expect to have an iron ricebowl or a solid future if you cannot spell?

if you're not good enough, life will kick you in the balls. that's just how things go. there's no point in lambasting the government for making our society one that is, i quote, "far too survival of fittest". it's the same everywhere. yes discrimination exists, and it is sad, but most of the time if people would prefer hiring other people over you, it's because they're better. it's so sad when people like old derek lament the kind of world that singapore will be if we make it so uncertain. go be friggin communist, if uncertainty of success offends you so much - you will certainly be poor and miserable. unless you are an arm-twisting commie bully, which, given your whiny middle-class undereducated penchant, i doubt.

then again, it's easy for me to say. my future isn't certain but i guess right now it's a lot brighter than most people's. derek will read this and brand me as an 18-year old elite, one of the sinners who will inherit the country and run his stock to the gutter. go ahead. the world is about winners and losers. it's only sad when people who could be winners are marginalised and oppressed. is dear derek starving? has dear derek been denied an education? has dear derek been forced into child prostitution? has dear derek had his clan massacred by the government?

i should think not. dear derek is one of many wretched, undermotivated, overassuming leeches in our country, and in this world. one of those who would prefer to be unemployed and wax lyrical about how his myriad talents are being abandoned for the foreigner's, instead of earning a decent, stable living as a sales assistant. it's not even about being a road sweeper. these shitbags don't want anything without "manager" and a name card.

please, get out of my elite uncaring face.

 
— Wee Shu Min, on her blog that has since been removed, October 19, 2006.[4][5]

Response

In response to the scandal, Wee Siew Kim stated that he supported Shu Min's point in principle and that "people cannot take the brutal truth,"[10][8] but he and Shu Min's college principal also expressed disappointment and counselled her to be more sensitive towards others. Wee also claimed that his daughter's privacy had been violated.[2] Critics pointed out however, that he appeared to have endorsed her elitist remarks and failed to address values such as empathy and humility, and that he was apologising for the tone, but not the content of his daughter's response.[11] Furthermore, the government had previously made it clear that there was no such thing as Internet privacy with the imprisonment of bloggers under the Sedition Act just over than a year earlier[11], and that Wee Shu Min should be old enough to take responsibility for the consequences of her statements.[1]

What she said did come across as insensitive. The language was stronger than what most people could take.

But she wrote in a private blog and I feel that her privacy has been violated. After all, they were the rantings of an 18-year-old among friends.

I think if you cut through the insensitivity of the language, her basic point is reasonable, that is, that a well-educated university graduate who works for a multinational company should not be bemoaning about the Government and get on with the challenges in life.

Nonetheless, I have counselled her to learn from it. Some people cannot take the brutal truth and that sort of language, so she ought to learn from it.

In our current desire to encourage more debate, especially through the Internet, our comments must be tempered with sensitivity.

I will not gag her, since she's 18 and should be able to stand by what she says.

The new media of the Internet is such that if you don't like what she has said, you have the right of rebuttal.

Hopefully, after the discussion, everyone will be the richer for it. As a parent, I may not have inculcated the appropriate level of sensitivity, but she has learnt a lesson, and it's good that she has learnt it at such an early stage in life.'

 

Public backlash

Two days after Wee Siew Kim first spoke out in The Straits Times, he made a public apology to those who were offended by statements made in his interview, in particular Derek Wee.[12] Commentators used the controversy as evidence that Singapore was suffering from increasing signs that political elitism, "smarter-than-thou" snobbery and class consciousness anxiety were creeping into its meritocracy model,[13][14][15][16] a widening social stratification that will cause long-term implications for Singaporean society,[7] and problems in the education system that need to be addressed.[3][17] The controversy was subsequently raised and hotly debated again in the opening session of the Parliament by fellow MP Sin Boon Ann, who pointed out that elitism was now an open secret in several aspects of Singapore society, including education, the military and the civil service, commenting that it is necessary "(to) break down the institution of snobbery within our society."[14][8]

References

  1. ^ a b c "Time to learn that sorry isn't the hardest word to say", Ong Soh Chin, The Straits Times (Saturday Review), 28 October 2006, p. S10
  2. ^ a b c "Teen blogger counselled for her 'elitist' remarks", Ken Kewk, The Straits Times, October 24, 2006, p. H5
  3. ^ a b "“精英”博客的省思", 社论观点, Lianhe Zaobao, 31 October 2006 (Chinese)
  4. ^ a b Quotation from actual post, "Please, get out of my elite uncaring face.", Wee Shu Min, Tomorrow.sg
  5. ^ a b Quotation from actual post, The Hubris of a GEP student at RJC, Wee Shu Min, Sammyboy.com
  6. ^ "妻子连搭车去认尸的钱都没有…… 跳轨男子山穷水尽走绝路", 林晓玲、杨荣发, Lianhe Zaobao, 20 October 2006 (Chinese)
  7. ^ a b "Political elitism enhances class divide", Seah Chiang Nee, The Star (Malaysia), 29 October 2006
  8. ^ a b c "Mixing welfare and elitism in Singapore", Alex Au, Asia Times, November 23, 2006
  9. ^ Wei Kiat's blog: Wee Shu Min's apology, 19 Oct 2006. Accessed 13 Nov 2006.
  10. ^ "A season of sorrys and a few pitfalls", Straits Times columnist Chua Mui Hoong, The Straits Times (Insight Editorial), 27 October 2006, p. 33
  11. ^ a b "Insensitive blogger also lacked humility, empathy", Yang Sixiang, The Straits Times Forum, 26 October 2006, p. H8
  12. ^ "Wee Siew Kim apologises for remarks", Ken Kwek, The Straits Times, 26 October 2006, p. H4
  13. ^ "How meritocracy can breed intellectual elitism", Chua Mui Hoong, The Straits Times (Friday Matters), November 10, 2006, p. 37
  14. ^ a b "MP Sin Boon Ann warns Parliament of social divide", Clarence Chang, The New Paper, November 10, 2006
  15. ^ "Is meritocracy what it is made out to be?", Law Kim Hwee, The Straits Times Forum, December 9, 2006
  16. ^ "High anxiety an elite affliction?", Ken Kwek, The Straits Times, 19 May 2007
  17. ^ "Students of top schools worry more about elitism", Ken Kwek, The Straits Times, 18 May 2007
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