2006 Singapore elitism controversy

The Wee Shu Min elitism controversy occurred in October 2006 in Singapore. Wee Shu Min, daughter of parliament member Wee Siew Kim and a then eighteen-year-old student on Raffles Junior College's Humanities scholarship programme, found herself in controversy[1] after posting on her blog what were viewed by some Singaporeans to be elitist,[2] naïve, and insensitive statements against heartlanders.[3]

Dismissing the views of Derek Wee who voiced concerns on job security and age discrimination on his blog, she shot back with a take-no-prisoners diatribe,[2][4] calling Derek a "stupid crackpot", belonging to "the sadder class" and overreliant on the government. Her post also called for Derek to "get out of my elite uncaring face".[5]

Her response triggered an avalanche of criticism, as it came on the heels of the sensational suicide of an individual (said to be facing financial difficulties) at Chinese Garden MRT station.[6][7] As a result, her name topped Technorati's search terms for a week.[8] She has since appeared to have apologised[9] on another blog and shut down her own.[3]

Response Edit

In response to the controversy, Wee Siew Kim stated that he supported Shu Min's point in principle and that "people cannot take the brutal truth,"[8][10] but he and Shu Min's college principal also expressed disappointment and counselled her to be more sensitive towards others. Wee also claimed that his daughter's privacy had been violated.[3] Critics pointed out however, that he appeared to have endorsed her elitist remarks and failed to address values such as empathy and humility, and that he was apologising for the tone, but not the content of his daughter's response.[11]

In 2019, after a remark made by Raffles Girls’ School's staff on the school's relocation to a neighbourhood estate, concerns about elitist sensibilities, similar to Wee, were raised again.[12]

Public backlash Edit

Two days after Wee Siew Kim first spoke out in The Straits Times, he made a public apology to those who were offended by statements made in his interview, in particular Derek Wee.[13] Commentators used the controversy as evidence that Singapore was suffering from increasing signs that political elitism, "smarter-than-thou" snobbery and class consciousness anxiety were creeping into its meritocracy model,[14][15][16][17] a widening social stratification that will cause long-term implications for Singaporean society,[7] and problems in the education system that need to be addressed.[4][18] The controversy was subsequently raised and hotly debated again in the opening session of the Parliament by fellow MP Sin Boon Ann, who pointed out that elitism was now an open secret in several aspects of Singapore society, including education, the military and the civil service, commenting that it is necessary "(to) break down the institution of snobbery within our society."[8][15]

References Edit

  1. ^ Ken Kwek, Aaron Low. "Internet users learning netiquette the hard way". The Straits Times. Singapore. Retrieved 25 July 2007.
  2. ^ a b "Time to learn that sorry isn't the hardest word to say", Ong Soh Chin, The Straits Times (Saturday Review), 28 October 2006, p. S10
  3. ^ a b c "Teen blogger counselled for her 'elitist' remarks", Ken Kewk, The Straits Times, 24 October 2006, p. H5
  4. ^ a b ""精英"博客的省思", 社论观点, Lianhe Zaobao, 31 October 2006 (Chinese)
  5. ^ "please-get-out-of-my-elite-uncaring-face"/ The Online Citizen Archived 14 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine 1 December 2006. Accessed 9 January 2014.
  6. ^ "妻子连搭车去认尸的钱都没有…… 跳轨男子山穷水尽走绝路", 林晓玲、杨荣发, Lianhe Zaobao, 20 October 2006 (Chinese)
  7. ^ a b "Political elitism enhances class divide", Seah Chiang Nee, The Star (Malaysia), 29 October 2006
  8. ^ a b c "Mixing welfare and elitism in Singapore", Alex Au, Asia Times, 23 November 2006
  9. ^ Wei Kiat's blog: Wee Shu Min's apology, 19 October 2006. Accessed 13 November 2006.
  10. ^ "A season of sorrys and a few pitfalls", Straits Times columnist Chua Mui Hoong, The Straits Times (Insight Editorial), 27 October 2006, p. 33
  11. ^ "Insensitive blogger also lacked humility, empathy", Yang Sixiang, The Straits Times Forum, 26 October 2006, p. H8
  12. ^ "Why netizens are fuming over RGS spokesman's comments on 'the ordinary Singaporean'".
  13. ^ "Wee Siew Kim apologises for remarks", Ken Kwek, The Straits Times, 26 October 2006, p. H4
  14. ^ "How meritocracy can breed intellectual elitism", Chua Mui Hoong, The Straits Times (Friday Matters), 10 November 2006, p. 37
  15. ^ a b "MP Sin Boon Ann warns Parliament of social divide", Clarence Chang, The New Paper, 10 November 2006
  16. ^ "Is meritocracy what it is made out to be?", Law Kim Hwee, The Straits Times Forum, 9 December 2006
  17. ^ "High anxiety an elite affliction?", Ken Kwek, The Straits Times, 19 May 2007
  18. ^ "Students of top schools worry more about elitism", Ken Kwek, The Straits Times, 18 May 2007