It’s just a game

I’ve just finished my weekend Netflix binge, which was a series called “Anatomy of a Scandal” staring Sienna Miller as the wife of a politician (or more specifically the former Home Secretary in Her Majesty’s Government) who is accused of rape by a staff member he was having an affair with. [LINK]

What makes this series so “bingeworthy” is the fact that it touches on one of the key hot topics of the day – power imbalance between the elites and the rest of us. The protagonist of the story (specifically Ms. Miller’s character and her husband) are from an elite institution (Oxford University). He is a government minister and his best friend is the Prime Minister. The only way they can be more elite is to be born into royalty.

As the series progresses, what becomes clear is that the couple are essentially living in a bubble. As the series progresses, it becomes clear that people in this bubble believe that there is a different set of rules for them. There’s a scene when the husband is playing monopoly with his children, who accuse him cheating and then descends into something playful.

While this scene is innocent enough, the wife takes the kids to see his parents and the mother tells her that her husband was “always cheating” at monopoly. When the horrified wife ask how she could raise a son with such values, the reply is “it was no big deal – it was just a game.”

This remark is very telling. In the series, we see how the husband treats everything as “just a game,” and basic morals don’t matter as long as he comes out on top. It’s not that he’s intentionally evil but he’s so used to getting his way that he genuinely cannot handle people saying no. In the series its very noticeable when it comes to the rape accusations. He’s handsome, intelligent and successful. His wife confirms he’s good in the sack. So, in his mind, there’s no way any woman can say no to time. He insists that those accusing him of rape actually wanted it and when his wife finally asks one of the women, he assaulted why she never made a police report, her answer is – “Who could they have believed? I wouldn’t have stood a chance.”

Unfortunately, this mentality isn’t limited to drama series on Netflix. It happens in real life, where people members of the one percent get caught being out of touch. You get the examples of the world’s biggest causes of Covid Spread – Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, who used the defence of “You’re too ugly for me to rape” when they’ve been accused of rape and sexual harassment. It’s worrying that there is a large enough segment of the voting public that think this makes these men viral because what they’re effectively endorsing is members of the elite treating the lives of ordinary people like a game. A President of a country is as powerful as it gets. When someone with that much power says “Your too ugly for me to rape” he is effectively saying “You are a used doll for me to play with.”

Mr. Trump and Bolsonaro are the most extreme examples of members of the elite showing their “it’s just a game” with the lives of ordinary people very obvious. The problem is not limited to the West either.

In Singapore, we’re more subtle about it. We won’t produce a Trump or Bolsonaro who like to say and do awful things for media attention. However, what we have is a system of people who genuinely believe that God really gave them the right to play games with the lives of ordinary people. It’s not that they’re evil or malicious people. They genuinely believe that their success in the system is preordained and they cannot see the issues that the system has caused other people because the problems ordinary folk have don’t exist in their universe.

One of the most ridiculous examples of this comes in the shape of Mr. Calvin Cheng, a former darling of the ruling party. One of Mr. Cheng’s greatest claims to fame was to start a modelling agency that got finned for price fixing in 2011. Mr. Cheng came up with the brilliant defence to state that he was merely fixing prices to raise the wages of models. It should be noted that there is no evidence to suggest that Mr. Cheng’s aims actually translated into higher wages for models.

Mr. Cheng gets plenty of press coverage for saying all sorts of interesting things. One of the most telling came on Linkedin link where he expressed rather interesting views on what he thought ordinary Singaporeans were capable of:

Unfortunately, he’s merely a vocal example of this symptom in Singapore. The most prominent examples can be found in our large government linked companies which are run by prominent civil servants or more specifically generals. You’re talking about a group of people who are so used to “success” being pre-ordained that they forget the principle of “no wealth without work.”

Just think of Ng Yat Chung the former CEO of Singapore Press Holdings as an example. Mr. Ng was a government scholar who became Singapore’s top soldier at the age of 42 in 2003. Mr. Ng was what you’d call the typical scholar, who managed to rise from recruit to three-star general in the space of 24-years (By way of comparison, General Mark Miley the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs took 34-years to make it to three-star general and 36 to be head of the US Military). Success came so easily to Mr. Ng that when he moved from the military to the commercial sector, he was simply unable to cope with having to earn his success. The shock was so bad he actually took “umbrage” when asked questions that he was prepared for at a press conference by a reporter.

The solution is simple. We need to make people earn their spurs on the proverbial battle field. Nothing wrong with giving generals commercial positions. However, they need to earn it. Big companies need to run like actual businesses and face competition.

Look SIA as an example. Our national carrier is widely acknowledged as one of the best in the world. Several Air Force Chief’s have become board members but none were parachuted into jobs they were no qualified to do. SIA actually has a pilot on its management board. – The reason why SIA stands out, its because its in an industry where government protection is pointless and it has to face competition from the likes of Emirates and Qatar. It cannot afford to keep people who have never faced competition. Surely, there’s a lesson for the rest of the economy here when it comes to hiring people who will treat their jobs as more than just a game.


Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.




6 Responses to “It’s just a game”

  • xoxo:

    The FOOLISHNESS of rich elitists is glaring.
    Just listen to their stupid chatter.
    Does it make human sense?
    Bloke$ like Calvin Cheng utter nonsense to further their own interests while outwardly trying to be intellectual.
    Inside their pea-brains are just mere SHITS!
    Garbage !

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  • opposition dude:

    Well, dear old PAP is having competition in parliament now if you have observed. 2 GRCs lost and a double digit number of opposition MPs voted in if you need a quick reminder. More to come for sure.

    As for Mr Umbrage we can all see his track record isn’t so fantastic. Sold off NOL and couldn’t even raise the circulation and advertising of the newspaper when there is absolutely NO COMPETITION. So which MNC would want to employ a failure like him who has kosong experience in running a business?

    It will take time but the same will happen to PAP eventually. Now with a bit of competition and questioning in parliament we can see for ourselves just how they avoid answering questions and try their darndest to turn the tables around by saying the opposition MPs are being divisive or even demanding like hooligans to apologise after their pride got wounded when they were “accused” of having test balloons in place ahem.

    Human nature is such that when you have never experienced failure in your life you tend to think you are invincible and will never, EVER fail. Unfortunately this is the real world we are all living in so reality catches up one way or another, one day or another. It’s all a matter of time you know.

    And when the end comes, those who have never experienced it will have a catastrophic breakdown since it was so severe. They will be asking themselves over and over why did it happen, it cannot be I cannot accept it etc etc.

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  • myfirstscrew:

    Calvin was a lap puppy and for his loyalty, he was rewarded with a lot of free loan from our fund. Google the news.

    Pappy rewards their dogs and you can see even after they retire, they are given money milking position in GLCs as chairman or advisors.

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  • Rolls Royce Owner:

    Ok. The average lapdog is only capable of peeing at my RR’s wheels.
    For him, VIP privilege. I will have my guards castrate him first.

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  • Relax:

    Life is not just a game, it’s like a dream. “一切有为法,如梦幻泡影,如露亦如电,应作如是观.”
    I have seen many businessmen who were rich and went broke.
    风水轮流转(every puppy has its day).

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  • Asd:

    I think beware of the populist policy of giving out hell lots of money

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