Respect for all whatever the class

I am glad to see people openly talking about the issue of class divide (Study finds evidence of class divide in Singapore; Dec 29, 2017).

Class divide is a reality and not surprising, the increasing economic gap today merely accentuates that.

In the early decades of nationhood, upward mobility was not too difficult.

There was a generation who moved from kampungs to HDB flats, and from HDB flats to private housing - all in line with the increasing size of their income.

There was also a time when joining clubs - town and country, tennis and golf - was a sign of upward mobility.

Then there was the issue of the best districts to live in, and the schools one attended. We even distinguished between a bungalow and a "good class" bungalow.

Questions such as "Which school did you attend?" or "Where do you live?" or "What do you drive?" or "What do you do for a living?" (Translation: Are you really the same class?), are common.

As birds of a feather flock together, so we gravitate to people of the same class. That is simply sociologically to be expected - that we would find our own comfort zone of familiar social habits and culture.

And we adapt as we move upwards socially.

That said, the question is: Do we then "look down" on people not in our "class"?

If we do, then, we have a problem.

In Singapore, most of us started from a lower class and we moved upwards over one generation, maybe two or even three.

One way to overcome any temptation to "look down" on others is to remember where we came from.

For me, I am where I am entirely because of grace and not because I am superior to the next person.

To be conscious of grace is to live graciously by respecting all people equally.

William Wan (Dr)
General Secretary
Singapore Kindness Movement

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2018, with the headline 'Respect for all whatever the class'. Print Edition | Subscribe