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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Lee Hsien Loong: My Proustian Nun

My hazy memory recalls a passage by Marcel Proust that has defined for me till now, true service to the world. The book itself has disappeared into the far corners of this new house's ample storage space, but the spirit of Proust's words blaze forth in my mind.

Proust wrote about the nun, curt and busy, who manages her domain with efficiency year in and year out. She is not one to dissolve into excesses of emotion nor easily overcome by charitable urges of the MOMENT. Those are for the easy dilettantes who see misery once in a while and do good once in a while, and feel good once in a while. The nun it is who sees misery everyday and identifies spots where the need is great and bends limited time and resources thereto. She has no resources to feel sympathy because all her resources are bent towards DOING something about misery. Don't expect any fawning. Her charity and her kindnesses are DECISIONS made having considered the sum total of the difference she can make to others... and how important this difference is to her.

In short, the Proustian nun is a TECHNOCRAT.

However, the Proustian nun's DECISIONS are made with feeling and committed to with discipline and forethought. They aren't impulses of the moment. I am sure that Lee Hsien Loong FELT for Singaporeans. He felt enough to want to come home and make a difference. He felt enough to donate his salary to charity. But just like the Proustian nun would have, he convened a committee to review Ministerial salaries... looked at the numbers and now will be following through with discipline after much forethought.

Seriously, you think technocrats can't feel? All humans can feel. I have met MPs who truly FEEL for people. There are others who don't. I remember one who used to be a friend UNTIL she became an MP and became so insufferably snooty that well... I decided I didn't wanna be her friend anymore. I don't think she missed me. I certainly didn't miss her. Such people will examine themselves and WALK away from government now that the pay ain't quite so chi-chi. We will wave them a gentle goodbye and keep our counsel of who and what they are.

I like Lee Hsien Loong, my Proustian nun.

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