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I am Singaporean V – 2nd Class Scholar? September 24, 2008

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.

So there has been a recent discussion about scholarships with bonds (cfr. The Sun Chair Critic and Tribolum.com) and the question is: why do more and more people take up bond-free scholarships?  Personally, i wish sometimes that my scholarship was bond-free, because i am happier in Germany than i am in Singapore.  But that’s besides the point.  Lucian Teo says that scholarships and bonds are, essentially, different, and that there is nothing wrong with taking up a bond-free scholarship if you can give back to society.  I agree, although society should be seen as Mankind as a whole, and not a partisan kind of Mankind, which is how a bond is seen as.

My German friends are already asking if i will ever come back to Germany and they find it strange that i have a bond to serve (albeit a not very long one.)  But let’s put it this way.  A bond is a transaction.  You give me some, so you get some from me.  It is, at its most simplistic level, a barter, and nothing more.  I signed on the dotted line, and read the fine print, and i have nothing against giving back what the Gahmen thinks i owe them.  It’s just too bad that the Gahmen likes to remain especially limited here, and thus slaps us with a bond saying ‘you have to serve US, and damned be to the rest of Mankind.’  Which i can understand, because ultimately, it’s always good if we make it and you don’t.  The bond also benefits me – i get teaching experience which may be of use to me if/when i should become a professor of anything (hopefully Philosophy though.)

The Sun Chair Critic, however, saw a more interesting development – the comments of his article said that he should just drop his idealism and accept the hard facts.  That i am not a SAFOS/PSC scholar means that i am a 2nd-grade scholar, and only 2nd-grade people are offered 2nd-grade scholarships.  The hard truth which the Sun Chair Critic refuses to accept is this: Governments objectify people, because governments are elected by the people to represent them, to provide an ‘objective’ perspective on the millions of subjective views.  Thus, we have 1st-grade scholarships like PSC, SAFOS, etc., and 2nd-grade scholarships, like those which are offered by the stat boards.  You can see the difference in that PSC also sends people overseas for teaching scholarships.

How are people objectified?  Grades, CCA, appointments in NS.  The interview is a formality and more often than not you already know beforehand if you have it or not.  They don’t have the time or the interest in knowing what you’re really good at.  However, i feel that the comments made that 2nd-grade scholarships are offered to 2nd-grade people are just pure MALARKEY.  I mean, that that is the Singaporean SYSTEM’s way of judging a person’s worth doesn’t mean that it is objectively universally true.  The only objective fact in judging a person’s worth is the fact that people are human, nothing else.  People are human – they live, get educated, do their dues and die.  The ‘objective’ judging criterion measures how much use you are to the system within a particular period of time, and it doesn’t matter if YOU gain something from it.

It hurts to be seen as a 2nd-class scholar/person, but what can you do about it?  Be an Ancient Roman homo novus?  Not very likely.  You’re cut off from that anyway, since you probably didn’t receive a so-called first-class scholarship, and furthermore, you’re not the son of some minister.  The only ideal you can hold onto is the very limitation of your humanity.  You, a 1st-grade scholar, LKY, Bush – they are ALL HUMAN.  And they can only do so much.  That they are judged to be worth more doesn’t mean that they necessarily are.  It’s a well-known belief in Singapore that many 1st-grade scholars produce textbook policies which fail spectacularly in praxis or that they aren’t the people we think we can invest our trust in.  1st-grade scholar does not mean 1st-grade person.  And that is what life is about.

For, what happiness does it bring when you know that you have riches and power, but everyone is just kissing your ass because you happen to have these?  Does it mean that you are wise?  Does it mean that people will like you?  Granted that you may do the right thing because you can see things ‘objectively’ due to your separation from the hoi polloi doesn’t mean that you are doing the BEST thing.  And at the very end, you don’t have to face anyone but yourself.  So yes, i am a 2nd-grade scholar.  The system can equate that with me being a 2nd-grade person.  But only in utilitarian terms.  I can be a first-grade person in my own eyes, i can try to be a first-grade person according to what i define as first-grade, and what society defines as first-grade.

Singapore is bigger than the PAP, and it would do well for you to remember that.