Another dot in the blogosphere?

Not a popularity contest

Posted on: September 6, 2021

I forgot to reflect on this when I thought out loud about the inequality and inequity of the financial awards for our Paralympians.

To be clear, the inequality is the disparity of the gold medal award for Olympians (currently SGD 1 million) vs Paralympians (currently SGD 200K). The inequity is about recognising how Paralympians likely struggle and sacrifice more than their able-bodied counterparts.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on

My reflection today is about one of the disturbing rationales in this Reddit thread for not initially increasing the quantum from SGD 100K in 2008. A quick read will reveal how some justify the lower quantum based on popularity/majority, i.e., how famous our Paralympians are, what the viewership of the Paralympics is, etc. 

The Reddit rationalisation in brief: Paralympians are less well-known and the Paralympics are not watched as much, therefore those athletes do not deserve as much reward or acknowledgment. This is rationalising from a spreadsheet.

Consider this thought experiment: Imagine allocating financial support by race and using a majority measure. If this was the case, Singaporeans of Chinese descent would get more than Malays or Indians. I also wonder how a decision maker would compute the amount for someone of mixed race.

This thought experiment is just not done because it is unjust. It would reveal us as cruel and racist. This is why I concluded yesterday that what we do sends a message about we are and what we value.

If we say we want a kinder and more inclusive society, then the previously marginalised and excluded need to be given more to level up (equity). In the context of our Paralympians, it starts with rewarding them at least as much as our Olympians (equality).

In a popularity contest, we might choose a winner by majority. Our Paralympians are already winners of our hearts if we open them. Now they are challenging our mindsets by asking us who we are and what we value.

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