The Awakening of an Elitist

shared from the net , by Pamela Lim

 The old lady held on to her savings passbook in her wrinkly hands and waited anxiously in the queue for the teller. When it was her turn, she asked if the teller could check her utility bills as well. Once she confirmed that she had enough money in the bank to cover her utilities, I could almost see her leaping with joy. Her utility bill was $15.

Standing behind her in the queue, I reached into my wallet and touched a $50 note, but could not muster enough courage to pass it to her as she left the bank branch. It was March 1994, but to this day, I cannot forget her face.

I have never dreamed that a stranger would have such an impact in my life. She highlighted to me the importance of having a more equal society, because when the welfare baseline is leveled up, everyone wins.

Those of us who are doing well: are we so self-righteous that we think we deserve our good-fortune, or do we defend the well-being of those less gifted, less good-looking, less wealthy, less etc… in our society?

When the foreign workers’ quarters were moved closer to our homes, do we oppose and protest about how they will devalue our properties or do we defend their rights to live in more humane conditions?

When we see a special needs child having a melt down, do we teach our children to avoid them or do we reach out so that they know that they too belong to their society?

When we come across injustice in public places, do we turn away or do we stand up for the discriminated?

I remember a dying surgeon once said that the only joy of driving his new Ferrari around to visit friends and family was a boost on his own ego; none of his relative felt good about themselves as a result. So, because we earn more money, we need to tell others that they are worse off than us? So, because we are able to score higher in exams, we need to make others feel stupid? Is our society all about a zero sum game?

Perhaps, I am just idealistic, in that I believe some equality makes everyone happier. Yes, even the snobs among us today will be happier. What pleasure would one get, from making the poor work harder and then making millions off them? Wouldn’t there be more joy in making less money for themselves and getting more people out of their destitude situations?

That March 1994 day incident stuck to this day because I knew her days would be harder as that was the last month the country was GST-free. The $50 note in my wallet that should have been given away is a constant reminder to me that there are still many poverty-stricken people among us, there is no honor in taking more money from them, and that equality is priced above many things in life.

Egalitarianism is not just for the down and out, but also for the elitists, such as the one lurking in me.

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