Thursday 23 February 2012

The Iron Lady's warning about free-lunch mentality

AFTER viewing the film The Iron Lady recently about the life of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, I read a transcript of an interview in 1987 between her and journalist Douglas Keay.

The following is an excerpt from that interview taken from the Margaret Thatcher Foundation website:

'I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand 'I have a problem, it is the government's job to cope with it!' or 'I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!'; 'I am homeless, the government must house me!' and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society?

'There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.

'It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour, and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations, because there is no such thing as an entitlement unless someone has first met an obligation.'

Mrs Thatcher could well have been describing a common attitude among Singaporeans today.

We complain whenever our expectations, even unrealistic ones, are not met.

Not enough places in top schools? The Government should expand enrolment in these schools, never mind that it is an oxymoron as anything 'top' is always limited in number.

Not enough flats in mature estates? The Government should build more, and so on.

A pervasive 'entitlement mentality' is detrimental to building a more resilient country and economy.

We have a personal responsibility to the community we live in. We will do well to reflect on Mrs Thatcher's sentiments in the same interview: 'There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and... turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.'

Alvin Tan
ST Forum, 22 Feb 2012

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