Stereotyping filial piety and the hypocrisy of MCYS
Thinkfamily, a campaign started by the National Family Council, which is under the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), recently released a new ad on filial piety.
At first glance, the ad appears to be a powerful moving public service announcement promoting filial piety, but reading commentary such as this published in the ST letters soon convinced me otherwise. Firstly why is there a need to stereotype elderly folks as demanding and unreasonable, and younger ones as selfish and uncaring? Is the MCYS ad, which is presumably funded by taxpayers’ money, promoting filial piety at the expense of propagating hurtful stereotypes of people? It’s also not clear if the grandmother was afflicted with dementia, but if this explains her boorish behaviour, is the ad implying that the son should give in to her (unreasonable) demands, which may be borne out of irrational dementia, without considering the needs of his immediate family?
Also, if the grandmother was indeed senile, there’s no indication in the ad that her son ever sought treatment for it. Instead it seems to imply that one should not disrespect the elderly’s past sacrifices by attempting to treat her dementia or even recognising it as a problem in itself. Is this a message the MCYS is attempting to convey?
Secondly, is there a need for the ad to implicitly side with the man’s mother against that of his immediate family? A perennial question some spouses ask of their significant other is to choose between saving their life or that of their parents should a choice have to be made. This is a painful choice, should it ever arise, of the individual themselves and I do not think the state has a right to implicitly endorse either option. If this is what the MCYS is implicitly endorsing, then the same reasoning would apply to the spouse’s parents, that she has the right to do what it takes to placate her parents at the expense of going against her own family, even if this conflicts with the same objective the son is trying to achieve by being filial to his parents. The result would be a broken nuclear family, hardly a picture the MCYS would endorse. Interestingly, the MCYS ad neatly sidesteps this possibility by showing only the husband’s mother.
Lastly, and I believe this is the most important point about the ad, the MCYS ad appears to be downright hypocritical when it comes to care for elderly folks. Leong Sze Hian pointed out in a TOC article last year that the Public Assistance scheme targeted at elderly folks, run by the MCYS, imposes strict criterion for person seeking help from the state with just about half of all applicants rejected:
When the question was last asked in parliament as to the rejection rate for applications for the Public Assistance scheme, the answer was that about 50 per cent were rejected.
As there are only about 3,000 Singaporeans receiving public assistance, the question that needs to be raised is whether the criteria to qualify is too strict?
Leong highlighted that the requirements of not being able to work effectively rules out all childless elderly folks whom are still capable of collecting cardboard boxes and empty drink cans, somewhat torturous work for someone in the sunset years of their life.
The other requirements for qualifying for support is as follows::
From July this year, needy Singaporeans whose CPF payouts under the Minimum Sum Scheme or CPF LIFE are less than the prevailing Public Allowance rate can be considered for the scheme.
They must meet all the other criteria.
These include not being able to work, having no assets and receiving little or no family support.
Furthermore, it is evident that the criteria for “having no assets” would also rule out old folks whom are not able to work but whom own a flat they are unable to tap for cash grants. An option would be to sell their flat but where will they live when they do so? Singapore’s steadily growing cost of living ensures that rental payments would only increase in value, and it’s not certain if they can muster enough cash to see themselves through the rest of their lives.
Finally, to add insult to injury, for those poor few whom qualify for it would receive only a measly $360 monthly, with no indication that the rate would be indexed for inflation:
The current rate is S$360 per month.
With glaring shortcomings such as the above, and the government’s ideological adherence to a “welfare breeds dependency” mindset, one can only wonder if the sole purpose of the ad is to instill feelings of guilt into adult Singaporeans whilst the state shirks its responsibility in caring for the elderly.
Update: The ad campaign cost $1.6M:
Just imagine if this amount were instead directed to helping another 370 poor elderly folks for a year under the Public Assistance scheme. That number could easily be doubled to 740 elderly persons if the the minister running MCYS, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan had opted to forgo his extravagant salary for the year. Maybe then we’ll see fewer elderly folks scrounging around for cardboard boxes and empty drink cans just to survive the last decades of their lives.