Tuesday, October 30, 2012

of Dr Richard Teo & MY Singapore Rat Race

I chanced upon an article in Yahoo today. This article is about a video of Dr Richard Teo giving a speech to a group of medical personnel. But this video is not an ordinary video, it is about Dr Richard’s sharing of his life lesson with his audience.

In a nutshell, Dr Richard Teo’s speech was about his own personal story; how he was “a product of our society” which equates Success to making millions and millions of dollars and high social status. From what I read, Dr Richard was influenced by our society’s definition of Success and went to become a successful figure in the medical arena. Dr Richard eventually achieved his goal of making good monies in his career; then he found out he contracted cancer and later succumbed to it.

What Dr Richard said in his speech is something I can identify and relate well. After reading Dr Richard’s article, I am propelled to share with you readers of my experience of the Singapore Rat Race as follows -sit tight, relax and enjoy!

Since young, I found myself being part of the never-ending Singapore Rat Race though I do not like it. When I was in Primary 1; that was the era when Singapore education system still had the Primary 7 and Primary 8 levels as well as the Monolingual and Extended streams of primary level. Though I did well in my studies and was not part of these streams, there was this constant fight among classmates to enter into the top class (in my times, the “Top Class” system commenced in Primary 3). I almost made it to the top class in Primary 3 by just few percentages. However, I topped my class in Primary 3 and eventually made it to the top class in Primary 4 till graduation in Primary 6.

On looking back, these 3 years of my primary school education were actually the formative days when I tasted a bit of the rat race of Singapore and elitism. Classmates would just flock to those top students and teachers then would keep singing praises of the top students like “Adrian is so good, Adrian is so clever.” I still have this image of the little boy called Adrian who was (I do not know whether I should use ‘is” as it is a long time I no see him) a nerd and controlled very much by his tigress mother, the last I know of him is that he is a medical Doctor today.

In the top Primary School class, I worked hard and despite competing with the elites in Primary School, I managed to do well and entered the Special Stream of Secondary School. In Secondary 1 and 2, I found out that the school system was still the same, classmates fighting over each other for good grades and befriending the top students. Though I did well enough, during the streaming into Secondary 3, I made a choice not to enter the top class. Instead I entered into a worst class with hooligans, but again I did well in O Levels and entered into a top JC.

My JC days were again about elitism, about classmates fighting each other about good grades, classmates flocking to those top students, and so on. In my JC days, beside local students, there was fierce competition from the ASEAN scholars (talking about Foreign Talent which is such a hot topic now, now I realise I have actually competed with and experienced these Foreign talents decades ago). Actually those Foreign Talent classmates treated me quite well, as like them, we did not really like the school system of emphasizing too much on grades and hence we have a more carefree style of studying; for love of the subject rather than for grades.

One thing which I would like to point out is that during the JC days, I did not know understand why some of my classmates actually made it a point to “Cheong” so many Co-curricular activities (CCAs) and snatching those leadership positions in them till the days I graduated from JC. Upon graduation from JC, I have great results, these classmates results are at most as good as mine but because of their CCAS “track record”, they went on to clinch good Scholarships and are now earning double or triple my salaries now!

So what comes after JC? Yes, it is NS. Again, I found myself in a platoon in BMT where I did not understand why many people keeping “cheong” and “cheong”. For grades? Of course NOT as we are not in a school! So what is it for? For those who have been through the army, the answers are clear: “OCS” and “SISPEC”.

After NS, like what many young people do to have a better earning power as an employee in Singapore, I enrolled into a local university. Again, the same scene greeted me, scene that was exactly the same almost 20 years back: classmates fighting for 1st Class Honours, flocking to those smart Alexs with an unbelievable CAP of 4.9 to a full CAP of 5, competition made fiercer by the many Foreign Talents- PRCs and India Indians.

After University, the Rat Race does not end there, instead it got even worst as I entered into the workplace where the REAL Rat Race commenced! I become on the receiving end of colleagues indulging in all sort of office politics, curry-favouring of bosses and rumours and gossips. These colleagues do this all for the sake of promotion and more monies and monies. Face time is a norm in my office and office politics really bring the people with mediocre ability to leadership positions in my office while those with abilities (like myself) are brushed aside as we do not know how to carry balls of management or to play politics.

Okay, my sharing has now become lengthy. I think I should stop here. Well, what I have described above is just my sharing of the rat race of my life which many others would have similarly followed and even encountered the rat race I have described. I have also experienced Rat Race in other aspects of Singapore living; as an example even during the days when I went for those speed dating! Yes, you may be surprised that rat race also features in those speed dating when a majority of those ladies I met on these speed dating sessions look for their prospective mates with the prized “5 Cs”. Anyway, these girls are materialistic and I believe I am very blessed to meet my wife who is an excellent woman and who really does not mind that I am not rich.

Rat race in Singapore is inevitable to me as Singapore has moved too fast, emphasized too much on economy growth as a matter of survival post-independence. As a result, materialism, success based on monetary and social status seems to have been instilled in our minds from young and it is hard to wean it off.

The Rat race in Singapore has become more ferocious now as we have foreign talents in our shores in our midst! My advice on how to deal with the Singapore Rat Race is that even whether we choose to ignore it, the Rat Race is always there, hence we should really adjust our mind set, stick to our moral ways of doing things and believe that one day we will be rewarded with doing good moral deeds.

You can read Richard Teo’s article .

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