'No bowing, scraping'

'No bowing, scraping'

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the importance of Singapore remaining an open, egalitarian society:

(We need) to uphold an ethos of openness and informality in our society. What do I mean?

We have to be an open, egalitarian society. You must not have rigid hierarchies or class distinctions. People must be able to interact comfortably up and down the social ladder; comfortably and self-confidently, without obsequious scraping and bowing.

You may be the prime minister, you may be a cleaner, you may be a teacher, you may be the student's parent. We are all Singaporeans together, we treat each other with respect. There is an informality, an easy camaraderie. You don't bow deeply. You don't touch your forehead. You don't, "Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full".

In Chinese, they say: (Chinese characters)

Sit level, equal, same standard.

The wealthy should not flaunt (their) wealth. Yes, you have been successful. Just keep a modest, low-key, unassuming approach. Nobody will think the less of you.

Your status is not marked by the car you drive, or the brand of clothes you wear. Nor should it be marked by the way you talk. I say that because in Britain that is an issue, and in the old days, the upper classes spoke one kind of English and the working classes spoke a different English, very different pronunciations, different terminology and... an Englishman is classified by the way he speaks, as Bernard Shaw said, and Singaporeans must not be like that.

You must feel a certain comfort with one another. So neither should you be ostentatious if you are successful, neither should you look down on others because of their physical appearance.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.