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General Paper Essay Outline : We are too greedy for our own good. Is this reflective of your society ?

Q) We are too greedy for our own good. Is this reflective of your society ? (MI Prelim 2014)

warning handle with care

Note that these are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only or final answer to the question.


Interpretations : Greed refers to the desire to own and consume to the point that we take far more than what we truly need or to the point when we take at the expense of someone else’s well-being

Stand : There are some segments of society who demonstrate greed and consequently cause harm. In fact, the detrimental effects of greed have actually led to counter-measures to keep it in check.

Point 1 : Greed builds a bubble that grows and grows, waiting to burst. In land-scarce Singapore, an exorbitant premium is placed on land.
Landlords are king and can increase rental rates for residents or business owners to enrich themselves, and even to such a point that the tenant or business gets squeezed and is forced to move out or close down altogether.
Such greed forms the underpinnings of an unsustainable bubble.
When the property sector gets overheated, meaning costs are unbearably high, Singapore loses its draw as an affordable enough place for foreign talent to move to.
Another outcome is that businesses are compelled to shrink, retrench staff or keep them underemployed to reduce labour costs.
In addition, small and medium local enterprises that do not have the deep pockets of large transnational corporations are especially vulnerable, thus suggesting that greed takes its toll on the spirit of enterprise of the local people.
In any case, anything that affects employment almost immediately affects the people’s confidence to consume which then contributes to the downward spiral in the economy.
This is what greed leads to, and this is indeed too much for our own good.

Point 2 : Is the government greedy or has it become a convenient scapegoat ? It certainly seems easy to assert the former claim, rather than the latter, because…—(add possible reasons here)—
However, there is a need to examine the extent of harm that has resulted from such actions.
There is also a need to examine the arguments justifying the government actions that are identified as acts of greed.
Case in point : CPF matters – greed or preparation for the future ?
Case in point : No minimum wage – greed or staying economically competitive ?

Point 3 : The harm of greed lies in the negative values that are perpetuated in society.
wastefulness = loss of money, harm to environment, not knowing how to find comfort in non-material things
manipulation, dishonesty = wanting the satisfaction of maximising benefits given by others (even though such desperate moves are not needed)
excessive competition = more stress, reluctant to cooperate, distrust
uncontented with what we already have = unhappiness
elitism = the desire for exclusivity
calculativeness = as opposed to altruism (doing things for no reward)

Point 4 : Greed in Sg society can be seen as a response. What are the triggers ? Change the trigger, so the response also changes.
– more help for middle income families, or the ‘sandwiched generation’
– ‘Every school is a good school’
– the growth of social enterprises
– property cooling measures
– the growth of volunteer groups doing good, promoting compassion & sharing = showing society another way of being and living

Conclusion : The problem of greed is evident in Singapore and its effects are palpable. However, different actions are being done so that greed does not get out of hand. Singapore still has some way to go but there is hope that positive aspects such as ambition and fair competition can be nurtured but other damaging values or attitudes are inhibited.

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General Paper Essay Outline (double clause) : Should individuals care about inequality if their efforts count for little ?

(Q) Why should individuals be concerned about inequality when individual efforts count for very little ? (YJC Prelim 2014)
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Note that these are just some ideas. This outline is not meant to be taken as the only or final answer to the question.

Stand : It is important to be concerned because by helping others in any way that is within our capacity, we are helping ourselves as well as society as a whole.

Point 1 on HELPING OTHERS TO HELP OURSELVES : Inequality has a long-term effect on all of society, not only those who are disadvantaged. Everyone should play their part to prevent the problem from worsening

Point 2 on STRENGTH IN NUMBERS : Besides, it is also not true that individual efforts count for little. Everyone’s small efforts put together can amount to something more significant.

Point 3 on COLLABORATION : Individuals should be concerned because different people bring with them different ideas, skills and resources to tackle the problem of inequality.

Point 4 on THE WAYS OF SHOWING CONCERN : How effective efforts to fight inequality are depends on how the concern is demonstrated. Individuals should be concerned if they can take suitable action that helps transform society for the better.

Point 5 on THE ROLE OF PRIVILEGED PEOPLE : Individuals who are more privileged with skills, wealth, or influence, should be particularly concerned because their individual contributions have the potential to make a bigger change. Besides, it is not inequality itself that should be rejected, rather society should aim to get rid of any unfair measures that sustain inequality and simultaneously nurture a magnanimous, benevolent upper class. For those who are able, their moral obligation to alleviate inequality is also greater. In short, they should care because it is the right thing to do.

Point 6 on WORKING WITH THE GOVERNMENT : Individuals should be concerned because the government simply cannot do everything by itself. Even if the government has the finances or a master plan, members of society have specific and valuable roles to play without which the vision or aims would not be achieved.

Point 7 on VALUES : No matter how small the deed, and how insignificant it seems to be, any effort that shows concern for the problem of inequality sends a message to others, especially the young, about the need to value kindness and compassion as well as combat self-centredness and oppression.

Concluding Thoughts : While cynics may think that is impossible to change the attitudes and actions of those who have benefitted from inequality (and thus would not want to change the status quo), it is truly unconscionable for everyone else to give up and not champion the plight of the victims of inequality. No social transformation happens overnight. This is precisely why everyone should be concerned and act it whatever way they can. Every single person matters.