The majority of Singaporeans want a more compassionate society and a slower pace of life according to a study by the Institute of Policy Studies. BUT the surprising headline in TODAY newspaper screamed “S’poreans want compassionate meritocracy“!
A note to Today’s editors – there is a big difference in meaning between wanting a “compassionate society” and wanting a “compassionate meritocracy”. The former, as explained in the survey is based on Singaporeans’ desire for a society that is “less stressful, with more family time” and “a less competitive, more holistic education system, and one that is more inclusive, where students learn with others of different abilities and backgrounds.”
The survey, based on 4,000 Singaporeans across different age groups from 15 to over 70, also showed an overwhelming majority supports the building of eldercare facilities in their neighbourhoods and they want strong preservation of green spaces and heritage spaces over infrastructure developments.
Interestingly, The Straits Times reflected the correct headline “Majority want a slower pace of life” on its front page and even had a sub-headline that added “Also a less competitive education scene and fewer foreigners“. The part on fewer foreigners was strangely missing from Today’s report.
Based on the survey findings, I was curious as to why Today would use the wrong term “Compassionate Meritocracy”, a term recently coined by ESM Goh Chok Tong when he asked those who are successful to lend a helping hand to those who are not quite up the ladder. The term compassionate meritocracy is in itself an oxymoron and an odd phrase. And now it is further misused by the media and unnamed researchers.
According to Today report, it was one of IPS researchers (unnamed) who referred to our desires as wanting “compassionate meritocracy.” The reporter clearly doesn’t understand the term and since there was no explanation, we will assume he did not question this unnamed researcher as to how he justifies using the wrong term here. Was it the reporter’s fault or was it an overly protective editor’s decision to use that term? Notice how they placed the term ‘compassionate meritocracy” in quote marks in the headline and even took the trouble of mentioning high up in the report (a standalone liner in second para) that this term was used by one of the survey researchers.
One wonders as the findings, to a large extent repudiates what the PAP led-government still wants to do, which is to push forward relentlessly in developing Singapore as a highly competitive economic hub and to keep importing large numbers of foreigners and new immigrants to hit their goal of a 6.9 million population.
I hope with these latest findings, our country’s leaders will hunker down and give serious consideration to what We the people really want. As NUS Asso Prof Paulin Straughan said in the report, the ranking was also a reflection of the “stressors that have built up over time”, given the Government’s focus on economic health, and “we’re reaching the point where the stressors are felt by a lot of people”. She also added that the findings suggest “a disapproval of elitism”. That, my dear readers, is putting it mildly.
Back to my point of this article, the glaringly wrong heading used by Today highlights once again why we should use common sense and critical thinking skills when we read news reports. Ironically, Today’s brand tagline is “We set You Thinking”. They certainly do, often with some good insightful articles, but sometimes, there is that left-field ball that is tossed at us. If you do not want to end up being misled or read the wrong things, do think about what you read.