On the 7th of September, former Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo posted a link to this article, with the note “To read before 11 Sep”.
In the article, Pope Francis is quoted as saying:
I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor! Politicians who look after the vulnerable: the hungry, the unemployed, the homeless, immigrants, indigenous peoples, the elderly who are increasingly left alone and abandoned, children who are still in their mother’s bellies. All those who are exploited and those whom today’s throwaway society has turned into waste, “leftovers”, because in today’s “economy which kills”, “people are less important than the things that give profit to those who have political, social, economic power.
What exactly may Mr. Yeo be thinking about? Maybe he’s thinking about the roughly 387,000 people who live at or below S$5 a day for food and transport (source). Or perhaps he’s troubled by the cardboard collectors we’re all a little bit too familiar with. Personally, I keep on thinking about the elderly toilet cleaners I see in our MRTs and shopping malls. I always am embarrassed by the fact that young people like me live in a society that forces such old people to clean our piss and shit.
Regardless of his private thoughts, it is a timely reminder by the former Minister. Not only is there a political need to deal with poverty, we have the moral and spiritual need to do so. We keep on hearing that Singapore is free from corruption, and on some level, this is true — there are very few cases of bribery that see the light of day. However, the Pope points to a different kind of corruption — a spiritual kind. As he notes in the article:
the corrupt are those whose hearts have hardened to the extent that they no longer hear the voice of God and are blind to people’s needs, showing an interest only in their own affairs and the affairs of their party.
Whoever gets into Parliament, I hope they heed George Yeo’s reminder. Thankfully, this isn’t idealism that only looks good on paper. Singapore can do what the Pope and our former Minister recommend — the numbers have been crunched.