Thursday, August 11, 2005

Singaporeans should learn to see "grey"

In my interaction with many Singaporeans, I find quite a common trait. They see things as "black" or "white". They cannot see things as "grey".

For an issue, they make judgement on what is "right", which is based on their personal opinion. They cannot see that there are many other choices that can also be "right".

They are not able to accept that some things are "not right", but they are also "not wrong".

There people are quite to jump to conclusions (without checking the view of the other person), to make judgement and to criticise other people. We see them reported as the "ugly Singaporean" when they travel overseas.

Here are some tips:

- recognise that there is "black", "white" or many shades of "grey"
- recognise that there can be several "right" choices - not only your own
- respect the views and opinions of others
- as you fight for your "rights", remember that other people also have "rights".

Happy National Day.


henghar said...

yes.. black and white is rigid. grey breeds creativity.

K.S. said...

Life is not so simple, my friend! Rainbow (7-colour) over the horizon is a wonderful sight. I even have pictures taken on them.

Colours are always there, some choose red, some white, some green, etc. Nobody is absolutely right and neither is anybody wrong.

What makes the difference is who made the choices.

Will you care or notice if a jobless soul tell you that he wanted the new NTUC Centre be painted in red? Probably you will laugh off at his suggestion (whether the idea is stupid or creative is up to your thinking) and forget what he said the next moment. Imagine if a high-positioned guy like the secretary-general of NTUC (don't tell me you don't know who I am referring to) said the same thing. Will you still be laughing?

The key to ideas / judgements / comments / criticism is who is making it. And it's not a question of whether it is right or wrong! Some matters can be right but are you allowed to say it? Where are the responsibilities to society!

Take for example, in the law suit case against Tang LH (by you know who), it was claimed that JB is full of car-jacking and the Straits Times supported that claim with evidence. But that claim was later withdraw. Why? The impact of the speech of highly-positioned individual meant something to the society.

Likewise, as the CEO of a NTUC-linked company, I urge you to write with care and consideration! I critized heavily what you have written in your "Privacy?" blog is based on this reasoning. There is no right or wrong but being responsible.

Sometimes not many people can choose other colours other than black and white. The leader of any country can't choose grey neither. What did George Jr. Bush says after 9/11? "Either you are with us, or you are with them". That's a black and white statement! And it's a must! Imagine what would happened if he tell you different colours!

Multi-colours are the privileges of individuals, but black and white are for the leadership. That's clear. I can respect what you had written, you deserved that rights. Likewise, I have my rights to critize you. Why do I critize then? The lack of social responsibilities from a leader (although politically I have to admit you are right to say that).

What constitutes 'ugly Singaporean' as perceived? I am sure you have looked at how Singaporean behaved when overseas - no need to go that far, just take JB. There is a saying "In Rome, do what the Romans do". Are we practising that overseas? There is absolutely nothing wrong with Singaporean behaviour as per se. But the same cannot be said when you do that action overseas.

Tan Kin Lian said...

Dear K S

You are entitled to express your opinion. There is no need to criticise or engage in personal attack.

K.S. said...

(1) I admit I had used strong words against you in the "Privacy?" blog. I am SORRY for that. You should withdraw my comments from there too. The meanings are there, but the tone is not correct.

(2) I am definitely not against you as a person (as Mr Tan). Read what I have written about you in your "How much does the CEO of NTUC Income earns?" blog. I saluted you for your frugal and leadership mindset.

(3) What I am against is a CEO (you and others) writting in such a manner openly. Rights are rights. Rights are not responsibilities.

(i) "Responsiblity" is a powerful word. For example, when a couple marry, they must understand the term. Because what has brought them together is "Love" (or some called it "Fate"). But what makes the marriage survive is being "Responsible" to the others.

Vitali Zagorodnov said...

I believe this is a very old philosphical question, whether we should see things as black and white, or with shades of grey. Actually, each one of us is choosing one or another based on circumstances. I have a very gray attitude about where to eat or which car to buy. But I will be black and white when somebody asks me whether a criminal should be punished for the crime committed.

Fortunately, in most issues all people are united in what approach to use. The problems arise only with issues that some groups of people treat as "black and white" while others as "gray". How can these two groups coexist?

Most interestingly, the answer to this question can be found in the Bible, Romans 14-15. In this passage St. Paul talks about two groups of Christians he calls "strong" and "weak". For example, "strong" believers eat everything they like, while weak ones think that some food cannot be eaten (some food is black, some is white). There are other examples in the passages that indicate that "strong" Christians see world as grey, while weak as "black and white".

And St. Paul agrees with Mr. Tan that seeing things in gray in these not very important matters is better. Otherwise, why would he call grey seeing people "strong" and use derogatory "weak" for "black and white" people? Nevertheless, the point of the story is not about who is right and who is wrong. There will always be people who would prefer "black and white" approach. From Romans 15:1, "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves." St. Paul puts responsibility of dealing with this situation on the "strong". But this reponsibility is not to constantly remind the "weak" that they should change, but rather accepting them as they are.

As a side point, by urging people to change to grey we ourselves are being very "black and white". We are saying that our "grey" view of the issue is better that theirs "black and white". How do we know we are right? Isn't it just a matter of opinion?

Sleepless in Singapore said...

Mr K. S.,

Since you brought up your earlier comments in the "privacy" blog, I want to ask you what you mean by "miserable $200 - $300"?

I would have you know that many Singaporeans work long and hard to earn those 'miserable $$'; Sometimes even have to "see bosses' face colour" - not grey but black. You may be surprised to know that our 'miserable $$ actually helped to enriched lives in our maids' homes.

As long as we treat our maids decently and "dui de qi liang xin' (can satisfy conscience), we do not need to answer to you or anyone. In case you jump to conclusions, my present maid is very happy and has extended her contract and now into her 4th year with us. Please note the word "contract" - it is between 2 willing parties.

K.S. said...

Mr Sleepless,

How much is 600k worth to you? In my case, I self-managed my own liquid investment fund of less than 80k, therefore, 300 is alright to me. But 600k is gold to me. However, to someone who managed more than hundred millions in reserve, 600k is peanuts!

We live in a relative world, Mr Sleepless. Our presence here is but a transient and memory. Mr Sleepless, I do not know how much you earn till 300 is so dear to you. By Theory of Induction, Mr Tan commanded a much higher pay and fund, therefore, 300 is miserable in my opinions (my own opinion).

The main focus in that comment on "Privacy?" blog (you are missing the point, Mr Sleepless) is not about the money. It's about the attitude and responsibility!

I supported Vitali's argument, especially "As a side point, by urging people to change to grey we ourselves are being very "black and white"". Do you call a cup with half water as "half-filled-cup" or "half-empty-cup"? There are always 2 sides to a coin, until proven otherwise.

You can call a 'mad-man' mad, but is he calling you the same? The laws that we have and must obey are the results of concensus among the majority, ceteris paribus. It simply meant that there will alway be some who will go against it. Are we always right? (Sorry to the christians) It takes a great presecution and excommunication on a 'heretic' for history to prove that the earth is not flat. Who was right? The logically-majority or the learned-minority?

There is no need for us to impose and 'teach' others what is black or white or grey. We have free and unlinked minds. Creativity is the result of a free mind.

We live in a very small environment. Our knowledge (logical thinking) and power of understanding (rational thinking) are what we have. It takes a great person (Einstein, Newton, Wrights brother) to change the environment (and mindset)or a powerful leader (George Bush, Deng Xiaoping) to influence the world. We do not belong to that cateogry - so we are changed by our environment instead! Lateral and/or transformational thinking can be taught, but how much can you grasp?

Sleepless in Singapore said...

(Mr Tan - sorry to hijack your website for this debate with Mr KS. Hope you do not mind)

Mr KS,

Thank you for your explanation. It is a little less hazy, or should I say 'grey' for me now.

I fully agree with you that we should treat our maids with respect and dignity. If you visit my blog ( you will see that I have been critical of bosses who treat their maids like slaves.

My point is that you should not use an adjective like "miserable" to describe the $300 that we earn 'through the sweat of our brows" because it belittles the hard work that goes behind it. Whether it is a couple of hours' work for a talented individual like Mr Tan or several days' of labour for an ordinary working class person like me, it is still hard-earned money which a 'true-blooded Sporean' like you should be able to appreciate.

henghar said...

hi sleepless,

i believe adjectives can be used to enhance e description. it depends on the individual. its subjective.. may be "miserable" to one, or a "fortune" to another. gives an idea of the person's economical status. this status can never be equal, and adjectives cannot b universified. so i beleive there is no "black and white" for this. i think tat its politically correct to gauge crime to be "black and white" hmm... i believe the expertise of the lawyers engaged is a variable to the outcome of the sentence. lighter or heavier... if its black and white, maybe all lawyers should charge an universified fee. we often heard of a "good" lawyer.. different cultures and religions rights and wrongs may tend to contradict at times.. for me, i feel its difficult to judge too..

K.S. said...

Mr Sleepless, there is no need for you to apologize to Mr Tan. Afterall, when he put up the blog with comments enable, he is expecting comments. Logical?

We are here to exchange pointers. Everyday we learned something new. I hear your views, you hear mine and we hear others. We learn from each other.

We are guided by our emotions in our actions, but please don't be seen clinging to a material money. Money is just a piece of paper some genius created. Neither are we saints till we can detach from the material worlds. So the trick is to balance.

Sometimes we (Singaporean) have taken things for granted too often (even GCT said that). The fact is we have never live through the ages of wars and riots (perhaps Mr Tan has had). Companies in Singapore always have a high tunerover rate - a fact of the people-in-charge perceiving that they have always paid enough to their staff and which the staff don't think likewise. Do maids have choices?

Contracts are not necesary be signed by willing people. We must see from their viewpoint as to why they had put their signatures onto that piece of paper. Do they have better choices in their home countries?

It takes me many trips to poorer countries and richer countries in order to appreciate the differences. We are always at fault for finding problems at something that is incomprehensive to us.

K.S. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
K.S. said...

Lawyers are great twisters of facts. There are no such thing as black or white or grey to them. They see too many colours. But in order not to "confuse" you, they tell you only the some black and white parts.

"A mother ask her boy to go to the market to buy a fruit that cost $1. The boy, with $1 on hand, went to the market and bought the last orange for $1, sold it to an pleading old man for $2 and bought an apple for $2."

True facts but not the whole truth:
a)Boy bought a $2 fruit instead of a $1 fruit
b)Boy sold orange at the market
c)Boy earned $1 from the old man

The whole world that we live in is the truth, unless of course you believe in The Matrix's theory. You see an apple as 'red' in colour, some say 'orange' but a dog see it as 'grey' (colour-blind).

What is the colour to you, is another colour to others. Apply that to ourselves.

Mr Tan, on the heading, declares "I am the CEO..." -> a white statement. Some people will say "Er.. are we sure? What is a CEO doing down here...etc" -> still white?

Nobody knows everything. So what you think as black and white are other colours to others. Never presume others are always looking at 'black' and 'white' only.

Eastman said...

Good suggestion but only a few could play with the illusive grey color.

People with authority are excellent painters..what ever colors they choose the lower echelon is forced to agree either on political or socio-economic grounds.

Too many adopt the safe policy that if color blind helps so be it.

The "Silence is golden" must end if you want to have a dynamic thinking mass, be it in an organization or society.

Tan Kin Lian said...

I hope that more Singaporeans will learn to:

- see grey
- see diffent colors
- be willing to speak out
- express their opinions
- think for themselves
- be positive in prsenting their views.

Freddy said...

Interesting debate.

I agree that on some issues, leaders must let their followers perceived that they see the issues only in black and white. Privately they may not be so sure. If they let their doubts be known, will they be like Brutus and his famous soliloquy? They cannot be perceived as lacking resolve. So George Bush's "either you are with us or against us" statement."

VivaRevolution said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
VivaRevolution said...

Hopefully , Tan K L himself will learn to see grey. From what I have known , he only sees black and white...depending on which colour he prefers at the moment.

So , why try and make yourself appear to be so wonderful and open-minded when you are far from it. Again , I know enough people who know you to know that you are NOT a very open-minded person who is receptive to alternative views.

You also look down on those whom you think are not receptive of your ideas. Well , too bad for you.

Your attempts to paint a positive persona of yourself is nothing more than self-deception.

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