From Kitana, she mentions an excerpt of the media coverage which riled her. A particular phrase from the MP of the GRC where the deceased was a constituent. "Family stopped asking for help". Embedded in this five words is a culture, an attitude, a leaning, towards social welfare which is utterly wrong. Utterly wrong. In many ways, this entry re-states Kitana's highly eloquent entry. So bear with me. It is an issue that needs stating. Needs framing. Before we are inundated by media articles explaining how this case is an aberration. That the social safety nets in Singapore are secure. And we are told of numerous successful case studies.
In Singapore, where competition and meritocracy are held as paragons of our economic success, poverty is treated with extreme delicacy. We are schooled against social welfare. We are told there are no free lunches. We are told to be the best that we can be. We are told to aim for excellence. We breed a form of self-determination which is the survival of the fittest. Exclusive self determination. We are told to win. Win. Win. No room for losers. No room for the downtrodden. Values which are revealed in rant by a JC student. Values which are the subject of abhorrece in the David Marshall interview. In such a system, the dominant perception on social welfare is that once controls on financial aid for the needy are lifted, there will be a floodgate of social demise associated with European countries which practice social welfarism. Images of uneployed and destitute youths lining up with hand-outs flash across the collective Singapore psyche. A mass of leeches. Waiting to suck our coffers dry. Leeches, an anathema in singapore. Set apart. Exiled. Accursed. Denounced.
This trepidation in dealing with social welfare, this aversion and distaste even for the term "social welfare" permeates across the entire structural construction of Singapore's social safety nets. The entire process to receiving financial aid reeks of this aversion against social welfare. The fundamental disposition to disbursement of financial aid is one of extreme prudence. It is a process that is littered with innuendoes and stigma. It is a process designed almost to discourage people from seeking financial aid. This is done to sieve out those "undeserving" of financial aid. To prevent abuse. To prevent images of people lining up for hand-outs. To prevent people from surviving comfortably in umeployment. So it is a deterring structure. Not caring. And while it succeeds in turning people away, at the same time, it can over-succeed. There could be those who simply stop asking for help. Because help is given like this. Like a fucking crime. While we disburse magical Progress Packages like Santa Claus. Images of people lining ATM machines, lining outside CPF building for hand-outs. Happy hand-outs. This is fine. This is an easy process. Money gets sent to your account, quick and efficient.
"Family stopped asking for help" -- these five words magically absolve the politicians, those who act as the custodians of social welfare, from blame. Once someone stops asking for help, the problem has disappeared. Its no longer the State's business. The logical flow of the statement is this : "They stopped asking for help ... so how can we help them? ... they should have asked for help, there are so many schemes to help the needy."
This is wrong. This is wrong logic. This is wrong.
There is a distance between those who act as custodians of all these financial schemes for the needy and those who really need these schemes. It is a distance that is vast. It is a distance that is guarded with a ferocity which is uncalled for. It is a distance justified by the official attitude towards social welfare in Singapore.
It is a distance which the needy must bridge. Again and again. Thats why some stop asking for help. Thats why they borrow money.
Thats why they fucking kill themselves.
This must change. And Kitana is right. An MP and his grassroots machinery should have the resources available to find these people who slipped through the safety nets. To activate this machinery requires a re-understanding of social welfare and stop this turning away.
Quote of the Day --
On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say
Which we won't understand
Dont accept that what's happening
Is just a case of others suffering
Or youll find that youre joining in
The turning away
Its a sin that somehow
Light is changing to shadow
And casting its shroud
Over all we have known
Unaware how the ranks have grown
Driven on by a heart of stone
We could find that we're all alone
In the dream of the proud -- Pink Floyd, On the Turning Away