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A thought-provoking reflection this National Day weekend (Singapore vs Japan)

There is an implication to asking ‘Why?’, instead of just asking ‘How?’

Excerpts from the blog above :

Japan’s failure (so far) is Singapore’s warning. Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan Jin recently said:

It is the choices that we make that shape our society. No society is perfect, including ours. However, I see a lot of heart and a tremendous amount of soul in our people. I see that in many of you here, in what you do. We should not short-change ourselves. We shouldn’t run ourselves down. I know many are unhappy with things as they are, they can always be better. The key thing is, what can we do about it?

He says we can volunteer. We can distribute lunches to the poor (See Lynn Lee’s post on what else Singaporeans have already been doing). We can join the government, the army, the civil defence forces.

Apparently asking questions and getting involved with the political process is not a priority for the Minister. ‘Why’ is not one of the things we are supposed to do. Yet ‘Why’ is the question that will create a better Singapore: “Why do we have to pursue economic growth at any cost”? “Why do not treat our migrant workers better?” “Why do we not have a more forgiving society?”

‘How’ has served Singapore well. “How can we can catch up?” has given Singapore its glittering skyline, its efficient ports, and 48 years of high-speed economic development. But ‘How’ eventually loses its lustre for economic development. At the apex, ‘How’ stops becoming useful. Singapore ought to heed Japan’s cautionary tale.

What we can do now is to ask “Why?”


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