Getting into this box is what's best for both of us. During your time in the box, you will learn so much, and yet experience so little. It's a wild ride, my friend, one well worth the time spent...and let's face it, you don't have much to do these days anyway.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A nation of merchants.

Recently, Vox Day ran a piece on Singapore, which I linked in my previous post.
 This is not about that, but rather, a comment that was posted in reply to that piece:
My former company had a policy of sponsoring people from Singapore to work for us for 18 months at our plant in the Bay Area. Subsidized by their government, because they wanted to attract biotech. They were some of the best workers.

What was mind boggling to me was: the women had Masters degrees in science. Yet they were very, very good administrators and dotters of I's and crossers of T's, but no interest in science itself or discovery of new things, testing new ideas. Here they were working at the pioneer of biotech, access to the cutting edge of science....and.....just wanted to make good money.

The other wacky thing was the married women, coming to America for 18 months. Without their husbands. With zero (and I mean absolutely zero) visits by either spouse during the entire 18 months. All of them. No interest in having children, and all they could talk about was networking and getting their next better (read higher paying) job.

I don't understand the absolutely mercenary mindset displayed by some cultures, to the exclusion of all other joys in life.
And from good old Didact:
Singaporeans will tolerate a great deal from their government- they made a pact with their government that as long as the State provided economic prosperity and a basic level of comfort to everyone, they would trust the People's Action Party with basically absolute power.
Why did the Singaporean people so willingly give up their dialects, trash their traditions, leave their kampongs, and do everything they were told and give up everything they asked, so long as they could have jobs and a subsidised HDB flat?

It's not as if they were happier in the HDB flats, not with my paternal grandmother and the rest of the older generation complaining about how things were and how happy they were growing tapioca and raising chickens.

And then the sullen realisation hits: we are a nation of merchants. Founded by merchants, for merchants, for the purpose of mercantilism. The Chinese? Merchants. Indians? Merchants. Europeans? Merchants? Maybe not literally so, but all the immigrants to Singapore were possessed of the merchant spirit, which the whole "abandon your roots to sink your fortune" shtick. Unlanded people willing to abandon everything in the world for the promise of work and money.

Given that psychological traits are at least partially heritable, why am I not surprised?

I remember my history teacher telling me about the '60s, about the push for independence and how a lot of Malayan-born Chinese and their parents rapidly embraced Malayan nationalism, undergoing drives to learn Malay language and the same time when the Federated States of Malaya were shifting their feet as to what to do with all these Chinese and whether to just leave them stateless, kick them out or grant them citizenship with conditions.

If that's not a merchant ethos, what is? The eternal chimaera. How could I have expected any more from the Singaporean people at large, the descendants of merchants and money-changers? So this is what you get when you have a nation of merchants?

The questions remain. Am I a freak in a nation of merchants, or am I just another merchant that has identified the non-merchants as the winning side and is merely seeking to mimic them for my own comfort and profit in the long term? How can I test myself?

I'm thinking that there might just have been something to the ancient Chinese ranking the merchants on the bottom of the class system.

1 comment:

  1. In most old societies - merchants were always near or at the bottom of the social hierarchy.