Only change in values can bridge class divide

I agree with Opinion editor Chua Mui Hoong that the present problem of class divide can be attributed to past policies that dished out medicines to cure our Third World malaise and spur us to our present First World success, which, unfortunately, also appears to have come with seemingly inevitable and ugly side effects (Tackling the class divide: We, the people, also matter; Oct 7).

We have built a system that is hardwired for the sole purpose of the survival of the fittest.

Competing to be the creme de la creme has led to a sense of entitlement among the victors, and this jealously guarded victory tends to breed narcissism and self-centredness.

This is evident not only in children but in the adult's world as well, where competing for coveted promotions in jobs can involve backstabbing, mud-slinging and smearing one's closest rivals.

This competitive spirit also spills over into society, where parents compete for limited places in coveted schools, new Housing Board homes and even boarding space in MRT trains during rush hours.

Whether we like it or not, the concept of respect is unfortunately at odds with this relentless drive to compete for the limited resources we have.

I have to agree with the writer that parents and educators have the unenviable task of instilling values such as respect and empathy in children.

It is not an easy one, as the battle for the hearts and minds requires the courage of a lone David fighting against the Goliath tide of societal pressure.

To reach the equilibrium where success for the victor is accompanied by respect for the vanquished, and common space supersedes class divide, we will need to work much harder and see values such as respect for others as something worth fighting for.

Seah Yam Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2018, with the headline 'Only change in values can bridge class divide'. Print Edition | Subscribe