Thursday, June 21, 2012
Assimilating the foreigners among us
Some cultures just know how to turn adversity into advantage. Of course the repression must not be too extreme. Japan is one society which have not been able to overcome the dysfunction of their elites. Had their civil infrastructure been less developed, and with a smaller government, families and small groups would figure ways around an inept government. There is hope for grassroots initiatives to make a difference when laws are few or sparingly enforced, and organized crime do not entrench themselves. This is too wishful for most societies. The country would be militarily weak but potentially economically vibrant with many small businesses. I wonder if Vietnam is heading that way and how far down this road they can go before being blocked. The Chinese have a similar culture. Small businesses were thriving until the government stepped in to redirect resources to SOEs.
Of course my main interest is our own society. Many western societies have come to depend on welfare, but could we have developed the same, if worse habit by depending too much on government instead of welfare? When you have no alternative to government, you will eventually be forced to accept a poor one. This is always the risk for us.
Government here may be viewed as too powerful but is deemed to be necessary in view of the threats and vulnerabilities we faced.
Had Afghanistan enjoyed a good and united government, she would not have been repeatedly invaded. On the other hand no conqueror is able to pacify Afghanistan because of the culture of its people. Indeed people power is often not strategic or intelligent but effective only where the "wisdom of the crowds" is applicable. What "wisdom of the crowds" is Singapore society capable of?
We are having a bad tummy ache assimilating the huge influx of foreigners among us. It is knee-jerk for Singaporeans to demand the government solve the problem, but I don't think there is any magic pill which you can pop to cure this over night. Government can only do two things quickly. They use laws and money. Clearly the government had created a problem with no easy solution. What are we to do? Nothing actually. When the government says it takes time to solve a problem, it is just salving the pain as much as possible. What solves the problem is time. Slow down the inflow of foreigners and eventually the tummy ache will go away because locals and foreigners will learn to get along. Bear with it, tough it out, this is not forever.
It is not clever to make foreigners become like us. The smart outcome is that we influence each other to produce something better. However no society can survive if the locals are forced to become more like the new comers. This is simply conquest by another name. This government want to make Singapore into a global city but does that mean we will be invaded and conquered by the world? Viscerally this has created a backlash against government policies going in that direction because not enough people are winning from that strategy.
The government have failed to persuade the people that either we become a global city or will become a backwater village eventually and assimilated either by Malaysia or Indonesia, i.e., back to our historical position.
I have noticed and the psychologists have proven it, that most people cannot distinguish the very smart from the very very smart. Whoever reason and argue in a way that resonate with them emotionally, that is the argument they will buy. Very smart people are criticizing this very very smart government and the government is losing support.
I harshly criticize the government but mostly it is about their pathetic ability to communicate and connect with us. We would be more resilient and capable if they were more successful in persuading us, but alas I suspect too many of the people at the top have their hearts in the wrong place in the first place!
Posted by PengYou at 10:21 AM