Your Letters

Leaders can show way to a more cohesive society

Office workers in Shenton Way.
Office workers in Shenton Way. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Mr Ezra Ho makes a valid point on the inherent flaws of an education system that is competitive because it is based on meritocratic values ("Withholding PSLE top scorers' names a superficial fix"; last Sunday).

Measuring any performance invariably results in ranking, and competitive behaviour is an inherent outcome of such measurement.

When shopping for groceries, would a customer not pick the freshest vegetables and fruits, and the ones that are the best-priced?

All parents want their children to succeed in life and live well. But, to use the example of the shopper, not everyone has access to a fabulous hypermarket, where the choices are virtually limitless.

Some have to shop at the small neighbourhood grocer.

Meritocracy is inherently individualistic and self-centred. By its very definition, not all are equal, and inequality can breed jealousy. It can also be callous and lacking in compassion.

Building a nation solely on this doctrine invariably produces an extreme "me first" mentality.

In the past half-century, the Government has endeavoured to hold together a "heap of loose sand", micro-managing even the very minutiae of life. It now has to transform this loose sand into cohesive clay.

Most people are inclined to look for role models. When we perceive our leaders to be doing well for themselves because they have climbed the meritocracy ladder and earned it, we invariably wish to emulate them. This is the path to success that makes sense to us.

I hope our leaders will lead the way to show how we, as a people, can become more cohesive and caring towards one another, and less complaining and kiasu.

Thomas Lee Hock Seng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 20, 2015, with the headline 'Leaders can show way to a more cohesive society'. Print Edition | Subscribe