As senior citizens, our world view is colored by the many ups and downs in our generation. Our lives center on providing for our family and the future of our kids. We hold dear to the principles of having a good job, a roof over our heads and an education for our children so that they can have a good start in life. Our bread and butter ideas have shaped our expectations from our government and society. One can argue that for the past 50+ years, Singapore has done well by these measures. But then, our kids are growing up in a different society and their life experiences demand more. I think we should listen.
- While our kids have heard stories of our struggles to survive as a little island with only our determination and wit, we should also know that the future that our kids will face is no less scary. Job security and life time employment will vanish in their generation as waves and waves of technology will continue to disrupt our economy. They will have to navigate a sea of uncertainty and disruption in their lives — and will need a Singapore that can understand their hopes and fears in their journey. Please do not tell your kids that “they have it easy”. They do not.
- We need to understand that our kids do not expect or want to follow the same life trajectory as their parents. They are more educated and more exposed to ideas from every corner of the world. Instead, they want their parents and their government to enable them to pursue their dreams – THEIR OWN WAY and not tell them how to live their lives. We will do well if we talk less and listen more – and to find opportunities to support and be part of their journey.
- In the Asian culture, we sometime hear that children should keep quiet when adults are talking. Clearly that does not work in Singapore today. Nothing you do will stop the younger generation from having their say – not their parents, not control of the mainstream media and not even POFMA. We keep saying that we need to have tough conversations and confront hard truths – but to many it feels more like a lecture than a conversation. Yes, we have to guard against hate speech and ideas that incite division and violence — but we must not use that as an excuse not to listen and talk about difficult topics.
- A more educated and socially aware younger generation is emerging. They now live in a world, both in rich and poor countries, where the gap between the “haves and have-nots” are widening. For every tech millionaire, there are thousands of minions that just barely scrape by — look no further than the gig economy championed by e-commerce, ride-sharing and food delivery. The next generation wants a different society that not only caters to economic growth as a priority, but a commitment to fairness and equity. We grew up putting simple labels on ideas like socialism, capitalism or communism but that is in the past. It is not that simple any more and we must relearn our understanding of politics and society.
I am happy that the Singapore 2020 election is behind us. And our kids have grown up!