Meritocracy meant to advance collective interests

Officer workers crossing the junction at Raffles Quay on Feb 18, 2015.
Officer workers crossing the junction at Raffles Quay on Feb 18, 2015.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

In our call to redesign our nation, we need to also refresh our perspective of meritocracy, human talent and success ("World has changed and S'pore needs to change with it: MPs"; yesterday).

The Government needs to help our people understand that meritocracy should not be about achieving better academic or professional results without having concern for others, and forging ahead without helping those who are lagging behind.

The purpose of meritocracy is to unite, not divide, the people, and to advance collective interests, not serve any ethnocentric interests.

It is to raise the tide for all - and not for any particular group - to achieve a higher level of income and standard of living.

Human talent is not just about intellectual intelligence, which is only one of the many different dimensions of intelligence. For example, altruistic intelligence can be more important than logical intelligence. Moral intelligence is just as important as intelligence of the mind. Capitalising on knowledge and completing a task are more important than just acquiring and retaining knowledge.

Every citizen has a unique set of gifts, talents and interests. We need to help him develop his strengths and pursue worthwhile passions, values and dreams.

By helping him to expand his potential and leverage his strengths, he will be able to find better fulfilment and optimise his contribution to the people and environment around him.

Success should not have just one definition. It should certainly not be defined and influenced by many of the commercial advertisements in an affluent society. Success is not about just having more personal income, possessions, power, prestige and pleasure.

What counts in life often cannot be counted. What matters may not be made of matter.

Sustainable success is about how every citizen can make full use of his unique position, strength and contribution to make a positive difference to others and the environment.

In our quest for progress, we should not leave any of our people behind. We need to continue to develop different tracks to help them achieve success, including those who are late developers.

Our people should be able to access different possibilities and resources to pursue different aspirations in their lifetime, and have a fighting chance to make a success out of them.

Patrick Liew Siow Gian (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'Meritocracy meant to advance collective interests'. Print Edition | Subscribe