Through the years, there’s a common theme that runs through my life: I am comfortable talking about sensitive issues and temporarily pissing off the people around me. I mostly never shied away from a little controversy and am quite comfortable with temporary negative social feedback.
I published an article last week arguing that saving money isn’t the best way to reach your financial goals on Dr Wealth. It caused some controversy, lots of insults that I’m unable to respond because I’m representing a brand.
However, if you’re one of them trolls and you are reading this: fuck you 🙂
You may think I enjoy causing controversy on the internet or behind a keyboard, I do not. There’s a more important reason to why I write the way I write.
Why I Write the Way I Write: To Move Things Forward
Firstly, I believe that the role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say. (Thank you, Anais Nin, stole this from you)
If you’re constantly debating back and forth on the costs, benefits, pros and cons of any particular issue without taking a stand, you aren’t going to do anything about it. Not only that, the people around YOU aren’t going to do anything about it.
In my opinion, every writer, leader or speaker SHOULD make a stand in his or her arguments. If everything was left to debate, nothing would get done.
I’ll use the first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew as an example. He wasn’t exactly politically correct in multiple instances, on multiple issues. Could Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew debate an issue from multiple angles? You bet he could. Yet, on multiple occasions, he took a stand and said: you’re going to do things my way, whether you like it or not.
He didn’t leave it up to… debate.
Recently, I debated with a friend on the education system in Singapore. I criticized Singapore’s education curriculum because it’s largely rooted in rote learning and memory work.
Read: If you’re interested: I published my opinions on the pros and cons of the Singapore education system.
He/she got pissed off and said:
‘Marcus, why can’t you see two sides of the picture and that Singapore has one of the best education systems in the world?’
He/she didn’t get my point. I wasn’t saying the system is complete crap. Yes, there are plenty of positive sides to Singapore’s education system. However, I was stating that it isn’t the ‘best in the world’ as commonly advertised. Secondly, if you’re always taking a neutral stance, nobody is ever going to try to move things forward. Things aren’t going to change.
Now, let’s take another issue. The issue of inequality in Singapore. I am currently reading This is What Inequality Looks like, by Prof Teo Yeo Yenn.
You can argue that Singapore is one of the most economically advanced countries in the world despite its lack of natural resources. You can also argue that a high Gini coefficient is an opportunity cost of a developed economy. Inequality is a mere side effect of it.
However, when Prof Teo Yeo Yenn asserts in her book that inequality IS a dire issue in Singapore, she is attempting to move things forward.
Never mind the fact that Singapore has been called an economic miracle. Never mind if some of her ‘facts’ are debatable. (Read: statistics, numbers and sources are highly manipulatable anyway.) She’s attempting to move things forward, to shed a light on inequality in Singapore. Only by making a strong stand that she may inspire others to start paying attention.
This philosophy isn’t limited to hot issues. It can also be applied to minor decisions if your own life from starting a business, finally dumping that crappy ex-boyfriend to approaching that beautiful girl on the street.
If you’re constantly debating the cost-benefits of dumping that ex-boyfriend that cheats on you every 3 months, you’re never going to do it. If you’re constantly debating the pros and cons of dropping out of accounting school to apply for design school, you’re never going to it.
If everything was left up to debate, you’re never going to move things forward.
The role of a writer or a leader isn’t to be completely right or wrong. If he is right, or wrong, it’s only by taking a stand, that’ll force either to be discovered.