If Singapore is going to keep winning – we may need to mothball the myth of the infallibility in our leaders!

August 16, 2010

(To increase the font – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +) Recently Ah Lee Baba big Daddy (minus the 64 thieves) told everyone that the success of Singapore was attributable to 4 main factors – good people, a kick ass arm forces….err the rest I have forgotten. But I am sure you can more or less dredge the reasons out from memory.

There was one area where Big Daddy Lee admitted was not so fairly straightforward and that related to the abysmal birth rates.

Then again Big Daddy Lee fell short of ascribing the blame to his government – instead the whole subject was magic carpeted away and we are just told, the silver bullet is more migration – now what really drives me up the wall is this – why is it so difficult for the government of the day to simply come out clean and say – we fucked it up right and proper?

Fact of the matter remains the lousy baby figures we have today is directly due to the “two is enough, three is a crowd,” population control policy launched somewhere in the early 80’s – the problem there was most of the planners were so fixated with making the idea work – no one bothered with the emergency brakes – wonder no more why it worked so well that even today it’s still working to entrench the misplaced idea in the national psyche, babies = burden. In other words someone fucked it all up.

Why does every serious screw-up have to be accompanied by pork belly politics? I mean if GIC and Temasek fucked up on their investments in Citigroup, UBS and the Stuyvesant condo deal in Lower Manhattan – why can’t the government of the day just tell it the way it is. Why does it have to be laced with condescending platitudes where failed investments are passed off as paper losses or long term investment – in short why can’t the government just admit their mistake and give us all a break from the cult of infallibility song and dance?

The way I see it, it may not be such a good thing when government keeps on insisting on every turn, they are the best in the world. Or the reason why they are successful today is due to nothing less than cutting all the right moves.

That idea only holds water, if you are prepared to believe it’s possible to go through life without making some errors – worse still that sort of attitude does very little to add value to the culture of continuous improvement as what it silently endorses is the corrosive idea that being wrong is somehow shameful  and seen as stupid.

This dog chase tail attitude already pervades our culture: we applaud the public figures who “stay the course”, even if what they may actually be doing is simply reinforcing failure very much in the way a gambler keeps on doubling his stakes on his number – and boo the ones who are prepared to admit their mistakes, return back to the drawing board, do a “u-turn” etc. In other words we are condoning the type of behavior that we know will lead us nowhere; while punishing those who are simply man enough to admit, I’ve fucked up and I think, I need to change the course.

The implications of what I just mentioned are pretty startling when you juxtapose them on running a country. Truth of the matter is stark and brutal, if it was difficult in the period when Big Daddy was trying his to break out from the gravity of poverty and missed opportunities back in the doldrums of the 60’s and 70’s, when Singapore had just a few mud huts – then these days, it’s got to be triple or quadruple harder – as firstly the vagaries of the market and how the affairs of the world may choose to unfold poses such a challenge these days to planners;  that it may even stretch sense and reason to render all accurate prediction painfully limited – we may already be living in a world that is so utterly complex and unpredictable. Any further attempt to beacon out the murk is simply a forlorn dream, that we can no longer take the idea of “good” and “sound” decisions as being solely the by product of the best minds. That idea may have once held water admirably; these days, it holds us much intellectual merit as a leaky bladder.

So the meaningful question about the human condition isn’t really about: do human get things wrong? With these limitations in our ability predict events accurately, even the best of us will make mistakes. The real question is:  have we taken enough time to create an working environment where it is possible to admit our mistakes and more importantly learn from them? Or are we still so caught up in the gyre of keeping steadfastly to the macho – I can do no wrong, did it my way attitude that – we will even continue to defend the indefensible only because doing otherwise would reveal us for what we really are, then and now – we are after all just humans, nothing more or less. That may not make for a page turner – but don’t be surprised, if that’s what really needed to be a life changer today and tomorrow.

Darkness 2010                                                                                                                               

“I have made some really bad calls in my life – there was this time when I made a call to buy a share,  the day I called it, it dropped 20%, the next day, it fell another 8% and the day after it gave another 10% of grief – and through it all I was acutely mindful of how I stuck to my guns as I had already invested so much of my sense of worth, ego and reputation on these calls that I had no choice but to insist seeing them through.

But when I look back at what I did now – I was really just a die die I am right even if I am wrong asshole….that’s why these days when I fuck up. I just take a long look at it. And if I really fucked it up. I take full responsibility for it – once you root that sort of culture in your work place, then people will see failure as an opportunity to improve – they will not hide problems and paint rosy pictures all the time – you can just learn from your mistakes and move right on. It can never come back and bite you. You will be very surprised. Some people can live to even 100 and not know this. That’s why they keep making the same mistakes again and again. And there is no improvement at all. If there is progress and improvement, it is all up there in the mind!”

Darkness 2007 – Pumori Failed Expedition – The Brotherhood Press 2010

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