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自满导致衰亡

In recent years, Britain has been afflicted with one scandal after another, and these have been widely publicised by media everywhere.

  These scandals have far-reaching consequences for its once much-admired public institutions. They reflected the falling standards in education, postal, transport, health care and social welfare services, to name a few key areas.

  Education is a clear example. Reduced government subsidies have led to the deliberate lowering of admission standards and easier attainment of degrees in some universities aimed at attracting more students.

  To bolster the funding of an ancient university, a don there offered college places to offsprings of substantial donors who would not otherwise be eligible for admission.

  Most recently, the A-Level examination marking debacle affecting hundreds of thousands of students shocked the nation.

  British hospitals face an acute shortage of doctors and nurses. Numerous patients with life-threatening ailments, perforce, have to wait a long time before being treated. Some subsidised patients have been sent abroad for operations in order to alleviate this problem.

  Staff negligence at its hospitals costs thousands of lives annually.

  Brain drain of its elites is becoming serious, as many have emigrated elsewhere for a better future. More will follow suit, unless effective solutions are found soon.

  Yet, before World War II, the British Empire was one of the mightiest in history, with colonies worldwide. The sun never sets on our Empire, they boasted. But, by the 1960s, it had virtually disappeared except for a few overseas possessions.

  Singapore was once a British colony. As colonial subjects, we were taught to believe that everything British, be it education, public institutions, system of government or manufactured products, were second to none. It wasn‘t an empty rhetoric. Some of us will recall that, just forty years ago, not many Singaporeans would buy Japanese cars or goods in preference to their British equivalents, but nowadays the reverse is true.

  What has gone wrong with Britain, after the glory days of empire? In a nutshell, complacency set in and, over time, they lost their earlier pioneering fervour and competitive advantages over others.

  On the other hand, their major rivals caught up with them industrially and technologically and eventually left them behind.

  The demise of the British Empire followed the same fate of the other powerful empires throughout the ages. Prominent examples include the Greek, Roman, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish and Ottoman empires.

  In our own time, the sudden liquidation of the Soviet Union in 1991 has ramifications for the rest of the world.

  In this new millennium, the United States is now the sole superpower on earth. Its preeminence looks secured for some years to come, provided it continues to maintain its economic, industrial and technological supremacy over its European, Japanese and Chinese competitors.

  Be that as it may, history is an unerring arbiter of national destinies, with their inevitable ebbs and flows just like tidal waves. Sooner or later, a stronger superpower will emerge to replace the Americans as the new world leader. This cycle will always repeat itself.

  Singapore is too tiny a country to achieve a great power status. However, we are most fortunate that our national leaders are keenly conscious of the lessons of history, and are continually helping its citizenry to enhance their knowledge and skills and to strengthen their competitive edge as theway forward in an ever changing world.

  Hopefully, Singaporeans will have a place under the sun for a long time to come.

  (The writer is a retired lawyer)

  最近这几年,英国丑闻层出不穷,引起各地媒体广泛报道。这些丑闻对一向为人称道的英国公共机构带来巨大的冲击,例如,它们暴露了教育、邮政、交通、医药服务和社会福利等方面日益低落的服务水平。

  教育是一个很明显的例子。因为政府减少津贴,造成一些大学刻意降低入学水平,让人们更容易获得学位以便招收更多新生。

  一所历史悠久的大学的学监,为了筹募基金甚至愿意接受不合格的学生,条件是家长必须捐献一笔款项。

  不久前,“A”水准考试评分风波影响了数以万计的学生,也震惊了英国社会。

  英国的医院面对医生和护士严重短缺的问题,许多生命垂危的病人不能马上获得治疗。一些获得津贴的病人被送到海外动手术,以减轻医院的负担。另外,每年有数以千计的病人因为医院医务人员的疏忽而送命。

  顶尖人才外流的问题也日趋严重,许多人为了追寻更美好的未来选择移民。除非政府提出有效的对策,移民潮还会持续下去。

  回顾历史,在二次世界大战前,大英帝国国力鼎盛,在许多地方拥有殖民地,英国人甚至夸口说大英帝国永远不会衰退。但是,所谓的大英帝国在60年代已不复存在,它在海外的殖民地也所剩无几。

  新加坡也曾是英国殖民地,殖民地人民相信英国的一切,例如教育、政治制度、公共机构或英国制造的产品都是世上最好的。

  一些新加坡人可能还记得,大概在40年前,没有几个人愿意舍英国产品而购买日本产品,现在的情况却刚好相反。

  为什么大英帝国会没落呢?简单的说,英国人变得自满,逐渐失去了以前的拓荒精神和竞争优势。另一方面,英国的主要竞争对手很快的在工业和科技领域迎头赶上,并最终超越英国。

  大英帝国的灭亡,只是和历史上一些曾经盛极一时的帝国遭遇同样的下场。比较显著的例子有希腊、罗马、中国、葡萄牙、西班牙和土耳其等。

  这些可能是比较遥远的例子,苏联在1991年的突然解体,我们却应该记忆犹新,因为这对整个世界带来了一定的影响。

  美国现在是世界上惟一的超级强国,只要它在经济、工业和科技等方面,继续领先欧洲国家、日本和中国,它的超群地位应该还可以保持一段时日。

  然而,历史有它一定的规律,一个国家的命运有时就像潮水的起落一样。一个比美国强大的超级强国迟早会出现,取代美国成为新霸主。这是一种周而复始、生生不息的循环。

  地小人寡的新加坡不可能成为超级强国,但是,我们的领导人对历史的教训却有深刻的体会。政府因此时常提醒国人不断提升他们的知识和技能,因为这是在瞬息万变的世界里继续前进的惟一方法。

  希望国人能努力不懈,保持新加坡历久不衰。


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