What is poverty? What is inequality? How are they connected? How are they reproduced? How might they be overcome? Why should we try?
The way we frame our questions shapes the way we see solutions. This book does what appears to be a no-brainer task, but one that is missing and important: it asks readers to pose questions in different ways, to shift the vantage point from which they view ‘common sense,’ and in so doing, to see themselves as part of problems and potential solutions. This is a book about how seeing poverty entails confronting inequality. It is about how acknowledging poverty and inequality leads to uncomfortable revelations about our society and ourselves. And it is about how once we see, we cannot, must not, unsee.
This book is a remarkable rarity—a vivid ethnography of the lives, dreams and disappointments of low-income Singaporeans, skillfully intertwined with the implicit and explicit mental ideologies, social structures and bureaucratic institutions that both bind and separate us from each other. Delivered in slender, evocative prose with insight and empathy, yet informed by analytical distance and infused with theoretical rigor, it shows that the lives of our often-forgotten fellow citizens reveal larger truths about ourselves and our society, and the nature of humanity in our affluent post-industrial state. The highly accessible narrative both touches the heart and engages the mind, and deserves to become the basis for a wide-ranging public discourse on the soul of our nation.
—Linda Lim, Professor Emerita of Corporate Strategy and International Business at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan