Wednesday, August 5, 2015

SG50: what were we celebrating?

Working in marketing, you get bombarded with SG50 requests long before the SG50 ads pop up. Along the way, I also received similar messages of disappointing arguments in parliament on why single mums should not have the sake benefits, the massive breakdown of SMRT, the billions of dollars thrown into the firework sky and the upcoming elections.

Money never looked so beautiful.

Of course, the shadow cast after 9 August includes whispers of the 10% GST behind closed family doors.

I wonder as a Singaporean who left my country on national day, what were we celebrating? Our freedoms and way of life are bound by many factors, our jobs become increasingly difficult for Singaporeans, as graduates find themselves underemployed. Our ways, defined by awesome fried hawker food, the easy commanderie of the wet markets, the diligence to put our heads down to work for a future, are being undermined by ourselves, deleting the absolute sacrifices of those who came before us for our country.

As we desperately hold on to our entitlements, as the "next generation", I cannot help but feel they sacrificed for nothing. Their own parents came to SEA for a better life, will they smile at our livelihoods now? Will they be happy to learn we work 9-8pm everyday? Will they be pleased that we no longer have families to share our bounty with? Will try be comforted to know we are mostly a lonely nation obsessed with screens?
Yet we also deserve a pat on our back, the thousands of civil servants fighting against an impossible system, the millions of good quality-of-life-changing ideas trashed. The muffled voices of those who spoke up, the unwritten parts of our country is perfect, but at least what Hossan Leon sang before, "at least it's interesting".

We throw up fireworks because of spectacle. I also think we are burning the ashes of the unheard, unsung, unrecognised. I know when we sing the national anthem in D major, what we feel about the future really seems more like Ab minor. We worry because we know we can do better - in some strange way for all the merits of LKY's legacy, the pursuit for perfection in combination of gumption to succeed did rub off the rest of us.

My father has been watching the old speeches of LKY, and in all intents and purposes, that man can really rally a crowd. He spoke with sense although his logic might not always be proper, people were ready to listen because he had the art of persuasion down to a tee.

"You will trample over us, over our dead bodies."

As a Singaporean, I feel privileged to be able to speak English flawlessly, to also be able to converse in Mandarin and some French. I travel with my head held high knowing my passport is respected everywhere. As we build Singapore, may we never shield our children from the harshest part of our history, may we never shelter and protect them from the stakes we play to get here. May our children never shy from asking difficult questions about their government, that they may also develop the capacity to express themselves most persuasively. May they be proud of the fact that they can call this ever changing landscape home.

It's a country with many idiosyncrasies, we hold on to those quirks very seriously. We jump into delightful Singlish when we bump into each other abroad. I had a friend who said, "walao, you know I am damn happy to how to see you. Can speak singlish and faster, the angmohs here all have to speak slowly one."

Indeed, our thirst for growth reflects in our speech and efficiency. We compensate our low productivity with long hours, while is a bad thing, nevertheless shows our willingness to still work for it. This is a country of hardworking people who try to make a way.

This is my home, my country, and my (sometimes jin jialat) people. We are not family, for we came from all over and never had a shared identity in the traditional sense of the word. We bond over kopi-o and teh-c siudai. We laugh at our politicians and curse at the rising GST and retirement ages.

I don't wish to whitewash our bitterness as a Singaporean. Anger is important, that fire and passion, tempered by logic and patience for delayed gratification - "for our kids" - is something I never want to let go. I am fiercely proud of my island despite my vast interest in everything and anything anglo-franco phone. We are not nationalistic, as nationalism has never been good for anyone (Nazi Germany anyone?). We are a community of a very small and limited species. For that, we become fiercely protective of our culture and practices because we are the only ones who care enough to do so.

"Welcome to Singapore, and for Singaporeans, welcome home."

I did not celebrate SG50 because Singapore is not 50 years old, our grandparents are older than that and have endured much much more (WWII, and all that).

"Due to track fault, please expect up to 15mins additional travelling time."

To all my fellow Singaporeans, Majulah Singapura. It will take us additional 15 mins to travel in this stuffy train and we will complain like mad, but we endure and move onward.

Of course, we also know in the next coming election, who to blame of this stupid delay. #justsaying