the social slums amidst our affluence
Today we celebrate 41 years of success and great leap forwards. On the media, on air or on prints, it is very comforting to see all the smiling faces of people who are well fed, well schooled, well clothed, secured and living a life of plenty, and all happy and confident of the future. Last night at 9pm, there was a short docu drama of an obscure woman with a simple title, Life Story: Mdm Tan Chin Neo. I was just back and flipped on the tv button to catch the last glimpses when the story ended. An elder woman in Mdm Tan and three little grandchildren sharing some biscuits from a plastic bottle. The biscuits looked like Jacob's but definitely not. The last comment from Mdm Tan was a resigned. 'We just live from day to day.' They have lived without light in their lives. There is no electricity in their little flat. We are a nation with tremendous wealth. We build beautiful houses and infrastructure and landscapes to complement and match the grandeur of huge detached houses and fine architecture around the island. It just does not look good to have the ugly slums amidst all the beautiful homes. If there are, we will look no different from some less developed third world cities. A picture of contrast with little oasis of wealth and unkept, disorganised and broken down slums standing side by side. We have taken great care to present a wholesome picture of the physical structures around the island. Clean, organised, well kept and well planned and well maintained, green and full of flora. An admirable and envious garden city. We spent great amount of resources in developing our physical infrastructure but somehow neglected the social map of our society. Mdm Tan and people like her, are the slums among us. The slums that were kept away from view under a veil. Almost, if Mediacorp does not think it relevant on the eve of our National Day to show the other side of the 4 million smiles. Why would the govt spent so much on beautifying the island and clear away all the slums? Shouldn't the slums be left where they are, no upgrading? As a nation progress, it looks better that the whole package moves in tandem. It will be an awful sight dressed to the nines to dine in a surrounding of slums and broken down huts, and foul smelling air. If we can do that to the physical, I am wondering why we can do away the social slums at the same time. Or is it better to showcase them for a tug of the heartstring to raise funds? The govt has many roles and responsibilities to the people and nation. It is not their responsibility to make sure that everyone is taken care off with public fund. It would be better that they provide the environment and opportunity for everyone able to take care and prosper by their own effort. That they are doing quite well. But yes, the govt or the people(voluntarily) should take care of the stragglers who have been left behind. This is what a civil society is all about. Those who needed help should be helped when funds are available. It is different from a govt spending all its resources and funds to help and the people all be content to stretch out their hands to just to take. This responsibility of the govt is towards a small group of people that constitutes the slums in our affluent social map. We have eradicated our physical slums. And it is time that the social slums be dealt with and be removed from among us. Is it unbelieveable to know that $500 million given to Comcare, plus the millions from all the charities, are unable to work out a comprehensive strategy to reach out to all those who need help. It is evident that all the efforts were badly coordinated and many were done piecemeal and not a complete solution to the individual problems. It is a case of too many hands, too many funds and a big mess.