An apology that was not

It is a long time since I last up-dated my blog, I just wonder for those who have visited it in the past is still coming in occasionally to see if I add on any new up-dates. In fact I have been very busy right after my baby Wallace popped out to this world. I have to in fact sacrifice more time to take care of both children as well as my wife, who apparently staying at home on mertanity leave ( how come men don’t get the same treatment).

Speaking of treatment , there has been a huge up-roar during the week of Hari Raya and depavali. It all started with the posting of a blogger named Derek Wee on job security issue of aging work force. Another blogger Wee Shu Min responded to him with some strong criticism. For those who have already known about this saga might find it a little long winded of me to paste all the articles. But hey! It was really difficult to find all these in one single location. Since I find it very interesting, I have decided to collect all the articles of this saga.

The first to come in was Derek’s saga. I do not think that there is any thing new. Even though there is a lack in solid evidence that job insecurity is reaching the age of 40, I share his view that people in Singapore are in fact being laid off at an earlier age. I would expect that in 10 years time, the useful working age would reach a peak of 45 years old. That is to say that you will be out of job by 45 by then. I am not sure. Looking at the situation, it may be shorter than 10 years, if Derek is correct. So below is his article.

Derek Wee's original blog

Monday, October 02, 2006

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 not uncommon to hear, hen 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, ou 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 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 is not new anymore. Taxi drivers are fast becoming oo 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 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 in store for us after we turned 40? Then again, how committed are employers to us? But we can 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 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 isreally a chicken and egg issue.

Many of my peers, bright and well educated have packed up and left. It is what MM Goh called Quitters? It is sad but true, Singapore no longer is a place where one can hope to work hard their lives and retire graciously. It is really the push factor. A future is something we sweat it out, build and call our own. Unfortunately, people like me, mid 30 going on 40, staying put by choice or otherwise, we can 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.

His article was read by a Ms Wee Shu Min, still a JC student from Raffles Junior College (RJC) with scholarship studying Humanity course and is a product of the Singapore Gifted Education Programme (GEP). Her father Mr Wee Siew Kim holds a high post at ST Engineering and is also a member of parliament (MP). She responded to his article through her own blog which is written as follows:

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

The article which was posted on the 19th of October 2006 caused an up-roar on the internet with up to 250 comments on the posting alone ( I got this information from another source ) before she was forced to shut down her blog. The complaints on her continued and some of the photos that she posted on her own blog ( in bikinis ) were circulated in order to get her humiliated. As a father and and MP, her father came out to try and cool down the situation, which is shown in the next quote.

Oct 24, 2006

A lesson learnt, says MP and dad Wee Siew Kim

Teen blogger counselled for her 'elitist' remarks

'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.'
ANG MO KIO GRC MP WEE SIEW KIM on his daughter's comments

Unfortunately, he has made things worse and got himself pulled into the mess, and now he is fighting for his own redemption, most importantly because he defended his daughter’s view. The Netizen demanded him to apologize and some go to the extend of asking for his resignation. He subsequently made an open apology on the Straits Time the second time two days after the his first release.

His complete "apology":

He subsequently issued a second apology.

'I AM sorry that my statements carried in The Straits Times of Oct 24 offended some readers.

I should not have said what I did about people's inability to take the brutal truth and strong language.

I have also counselled my daughter Shu Min. She is fully aware and remorseful over her tone, insensitivity and lack of empathy.

I have advised her to learn from this.

We both apologise to the people whom we have offended, and especially Mr Derek Wee.'

However, his apology did not go anywhere. Even until today, he and his daughter are being bombarded on the internet, with a stronger call for his resignation.

While following this saga, I am to some extend out rage over what was written. At the same time I find it very interesting, mainly because I can do a lot of analysis on this. I think for the sake of writing, I will do one at a time.

Firstly what exactly is an apology? To me a apology must comprise of a few ingredients. Firstly, the apology has to be remorseful. Secondly the one who apologize has to be remorseful about the right thing. Thirdly, there has to be action taken to rectify what is wrong.

Did Mr Wee apologize? Yes he did. However, I feel that the apology lack the remorse ingredient. It is more like a thief being caught red handed and is forced to make a confession. So will the thief feel remorse? I am betting that he is telling himself to be more careful the next time round. Same with his counsel of his daughter. What exactly did he counsel her on? Would it be “ what ever you think about others, keep it to yourself” or “ You need to learn more about humanity practically, so I am going to cut off your allowance and you will have to work at Mc Donalds” kind of things.

The apology did not address the real issue, which is in fact not what both of them said but the mindset that they have harvested. What Mr Wee has said is simply “ sorry that what I have said has offended you, I feel very bad that you are very hurt by the words that I have used. I have told my daughter that she should be more considerate in using her words in the future”. However, he did not go further than that. So does it mean that he and his daughter are still having the same thinking, on others being leeches and trashes?

I am really amused by the apology. It gives the illusion of regrets over a person’s action when in fact he is standing firm on his own opinion. At the end of the day, there is no change in principle and no course of action is need to rectify any thing. In this case, his audience is happy thinking that he apologize, while he at that same time is happy that he has no need to change his own sets of thinking.

It seems like more politicians are saying sorry since the election. At the same time, the “sorry” rarely reflect on the person’s regret on his own action, but only a sorry feeling about the state that the other party is in. So it is an apology that is not. While writing this blog, I listened to one of Mr Brown’s latest podcast. It seems like I am not the only one catching this trick. May be it is high time that the art of apology to hit anoter level.