Monday 22 September 2008

Readers write in about class, condo investors and my hair

Let's get this out of the way upfront: Yes, I suck. Condo owners don’t suck. I do.

I suck because judging by the emails I’ve received, I failed to get across the point I wanted to make about “middle-class” Serangoon Gardens in my column last week. (I was too busy professing my love for David Cassidy.)

One reader wrote:
“If you are living in an HDB, get real – you are the lower class of the Singaporean society.

“Who did you think were at the bottom rung of Singapore? Foreign workers? Stop hiding in your cave already.”
I want to point out that I have a rather spacious, Ikea-furnished five-room cave and it’s near an MRT station.

Another reader asked:
“What’s with the inferiority complex?”

Yes, I do have an inferiority complex. Wouldn’t you if you were “at the bottom rung of Singapore”?

The email continued:
“Don’t you know people living in ‘ang mo chu’ can be as poor as those living in a kampung? Go and Google the meaning of wealth. Middle class or not is in the mind. Upper class can even behave like no class."

I’m now Googling “wealth” and what do you know? It’s there in Wikipedia as well.

Wikipedia says:
“Wealth derives from the old English word ‘weal’, which means ‘well-being’. The term was originally an adjective to describe the possession of great qualities.”

Wow, I didn’t know that.

Nowadays, “wealth” is an adjective to describe the possession of the great quality of possessing great quantities of possessions of great quality.

And then there’s Kelvin who introduced himself as “married and living in a four-room HDB flat”, but surprisingly wrote in to defend the honour of condo owners.

“By saying condo dwellers or buyers are suckers is not appropriate. Many of them are investors and know what they are doing. Please do not be a sour grape. By the way some condo have leases which are freehold or 999 years. HDB don't have this.”

Yes, I did call condo owners suckers in a regrettable moment of sour-grapery in my article, but Kelvin might have missed my apology at the end of the same article. In which case, I apologise again.

Kelvin also wrote:
“Just like your hairstyle, with one look, can I say that you are...”

He did not complete the sentence. I’m guessing he meant to say “low class” but is too polite. I’m hoping he meant to say “sexy” but is too shy. Doesn’t he know I have an inferiority complex?

Evolution of my byline photo and bad hair #actblur

A photo posted by SM Ong (@sm_ong) on

Anyway, the main point of my column wasn’t to insult condo owners or to lament my “lower class” status.

My aim was to question the casual use of an insidiously loaded term like “middle class” to describe Serangoon Gardens just because it’s a private estate.

On a brighter note, I also received an email from a reader named Kal, who wrote: “I quite enjoyed your article in TNP today. Thanks.”

Step aside, David Cassidy. I think I love you, Kal.

- Published in The New Paper, 21 September 2008

Dear SM Ong

Keep writin', keep smilin' and keep cool. You're doing a great job and BTW , your hair sits nicely on your head. Talk about one's crowning glory. You've got it.


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