Sunday 14 September 2008

If Serangoon Gardens is 'middle-class', what am I?

I was watching the news on TV the other night about how plans to turn the former Serangoon Gardens Technical School into a hostel for foreign workers were creating "an uproar in the middle-class estate".

I was deeply upset by the report. And it was not because of the undercurrent of racism and xenophobia.

I noticed the residents in Serangoon Gardens all seem to be living in private homes, ie "ang moh chu". And they're considered "middle-class"?

I live in an HDB flat, so does that make me - gasp - "lower-class"? The horror!

I feel faint. Quick, someone get me some water! And make sure it's Evian. None of that generic crap. I am not lower-class!

And then I realise "lower class" doesn't necessarily mean "low class".

Whew. That was close. I'm OK now, thanks.

You know who I feel sorry for? People who live in condos.

Here they are, paying so much more for their homes than HDB flat owners, but because they don't live in a private estate like Serangoon Gardens, they're not even "middle-class". Ha! Suckers.

Wait a minute. If living on landed property in supposedly land-scarce Singapore only makes you "middle-class", where do you have to live to be "upper-class"?

The Istana?

Well, obviously it has to be some place where they're not planning to convert a unused school building into a foreign worker dormitory next to your house. Or mansion. Or palace. Or castle. Whatever.

No, no, no, it can't be. I must find out what's behind this "middle-class" Serangoon Gardens myth.

So like any other lazy journalist, I'm Googling it. And there it is in Wikipedia. (And if it's in Wikipedia, it must be true. It's not like anyone can just type in whatever they want.)

Wikipedia says:
"The estate was originally built to house the British soldiers based in Singapore. ... In the 1970s, when the British military left Singapore in 1971, Serangoon Gardens was known as an estate for the middle class."
Now I get it.

Sure, Serangoon Gardens could be considered middle-class way back in the mediaeval 1970s. That was when most of the rest of Singapore was living in kampungs.

Nowadays, we have indoor plumbing and lifts that stop at every floor. And property prices certainly aren't what they used to be in the decade of T Rex and The Partridge Family. (I think I love you too, David Cassidy.)

So Serangoon Gardens is definitely no longer middle-class - I am. I think.

For some reason, that doesn't make me feel much better.

My apologies for calling condo owners suckers.

Where's my Evian!

- Published in The New Paper, 14 September 2008

Dear Mr.Ong/Editor,

First of all, I like to introduce myself, I am Kelvin, married and stay in a 4 room HDB flat.

By saying condo dweller or buyer are sucker is not appropriate. Many of them are investor and knows what they are doing. Please do not be a sour grape. By the way some condo have leases which are freehold or 999yrs. HDB don't have this. Just like your hairstyle, with one look, can I say that you are........, do consider other people feeling, a writer not only write to make money but to be responsible for what he write.

Do consider other's feeling when writing....

Best Regards

To SM Ong

What's with the inferior complex?

Don't u know people living in Angmo chu can be as poor as those living in kampong. Go and google what is the meaning of wealth.

Middle class or not is in the mind. Upper class can even behave like no class...

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