One reason Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong got his knickers in a twist over the commentary ("Sink the old sampan, S'pore now a cruise ship", ST 28 Oct 2013) could be the reference to the inequality of life that has come about. You can book a table for fine dining, or join the buffet line - we're talking hawker center, food court or restaurant here. The elites have $10 XO sauce chye tow kuay, the minions have $3 two meat and one vegetable fare. Moreover, like the voyage aboard the Titanic, when survival is at stake, first class passengers have priority over the cattle class. The analogy of limited life-boats brings to mind there's no shortage of Sentosa Cove type developments, while public housing is always in short supply.
Then there's the rude reminder that "cruising is a well-oiled business with precise planning and untiring hard work behind the scene." The fact that trains break down with embarrassing frequency, roofs collapse at shopping malls and floods continue to disrupt daily living confirm that the people who are supposed to keep the system well-oiled are not as hard working, or as bright, as the first generation political leaders. It all makes sense only if they pay themselves sampan wages.
If the country is not yet a cruise ship, it must be more like a Roman galley. With the citizens chained to the oars, while the party is going on at upper decks. Each time some big shot drops in to make an inspirational speech to spur the rowers on, one is reminded of the joke:
"I have some good news and some bad news," the galley master told the rowing slaves, toiling at the oars. "The good news is that today's gruel ration will be doubled. The bad news is that the captain wants to go water skiing."