Tuesday, 15 August 2006

Singapore Inc.

Oh happy belated birthday to the nation. Other than some very probable cliches, I don't really have much to comment this year around, so I've decided to quote some good excerpts from blogs I've read. Copyrights earned of course. ;)

The youths in Singapore are losing their identity and sense of belonging. I'm not sure who I'm speaking for, but I'm pretty sure it's not just a lonesome three to four. Polls have said it, half of the youths in Singapore would emigrate if given the chance. To rejoice or to despair?

I believe one of the reasons why Singaporeans are slowly losing their identity is partly the nation's fault, society's fault. Firstly, there's that lack of transparency on what the nation is doing for us. Secondly, they keep wanting us to be something else, or someone else. For example, wanting us to speak perfect English to "match up" with the ang mohs, or learning Chinese to keep up with China the growing dragon or whatever pet name it's given, or brushing up on Tamil as India's growing too. You can call us a multi-racial society and be proud of it, but it's not fair to exploit that and emphasizing on language so much in such a coercing manner. If there weren't those fireworks or the holiday, would the youths remember it's Singapore's independence day tomorrow? Would anyone embrace the day as a special day worth commemorating? Or would it just be another holiday? Singapore is indeed doing a lot for us, keeping the streets safe, making those policies to ensure every one of us gets sufficient education and so on and so forth, but then somehow people know only how to focus on the bad stuff, like rising transportation fares (does anyone ever feel thankful for the considerably-high pay they're getting compared to like native Indos?), stressful work environments, and bad education system which kinda limits students in some way and turns them all into bloody muggers who care only about results and nothing else. Our protective leaders' plans are backfiring on them, turning all their lovely citizens into narrow-minded self-centered money-minded people.

- Gracelina

I've been to the NE show when I was a starry-eyed Primary 5 kid, I've performed when I was a Nanyang Girl in Sec 1, I've been part of the audience 2 years ago, and this year I'm an usher for the last NDP at the National Stadium. For a possible quitter that is quite an awful lot of involvement in THE nation-building show, hahas.

It went from being awed by the fireworks to swelling with pride singing the national anthem after performing on the field to being somewhat cynical while on the audience stands, and this time I don't know what to feel. NDP hasn't exactly changed over the years--the formations are the few basic shapes you toy around with, the song singing of "future" and "peace" and "stars" and "soaring", the videos always appropriately reminding us of how we overcame our hardships etc [I just HAD to stifle a laugh when someone in one of the videos said "I am free to express myself."]

In so many ways the NDP show is a miniature replica of how the government would like Singapore Inc to work--months of hard work in nation-building that would have everyone believing and belonging, celebrating our achievements and the fact that we are Singaporeans and we are here, we've got it made, happy and all (remember, 4 million smiles or the police will arrest you for being unfriendly). Age strips the rose-tinted glasses away--the heart hardens and we dismiss each message as propaganda, which it is, really, but today I realise that it is not necessarily a bad thing because it doesn't make sense to badmouth/feedback on this day, because it doesn't seem right to not be idealistic and hopeful for a better Singapore, especially on National Day.

- Chris

I don't really have something specific to say in these recent times of growing anxiety about youths of our nation and politics of the country, and recently I realised that I'm becoming more of a backseat person - listening more than I speak, which, more often than not, turns out to be the wiser thing to do. But for a very, very inspiring read, go here. It's an interview with the late David Marshall. I know most people would probably dismiss this link but reconsider doing that, coz trust me this read could potentially change how you think, at least for awhile (heck if you had to choose between reading my online journal or that interview I'd say go for the interview dmnit.).

Met Gracia, an old schoolmate and ex-neighbour of mine (actually we still stay very much in proximity) the other day for a round of supper, and I was posed a question: "are you satisfied with your life?" And somewhere along those lines the question "what have you achieved?" probably lingered in anticipation of an answer as well.

How many of us have actually asked ourselves that question, and seriously gave that question a thought? I haven't until now. Deroose's asked me that before and it was half-dismissed because I thought it was too idealistic a question to consider at that point of time in my life when I was very much still in the platoon sergeant hotseat (clearing leave now and handed over! Woot).

Besides, what can you do when you're in the army right? That fuckin' obstacle in the prime of your youth? People can claim to have answered that question and gave an answer as dismally as I have thinking that it's okay, but now I realise it's not really alright.

After some reflecting, I guess I've tried to make my team, if not my unit, a better place to be in, and that's as heroic as I can get within my legal means. Because trying anything beyond that, especially as an NSF sergeant, is simply out of the question. Perhaps I've tried to change the system but failed, and maybe I can say that's the cause of my dissatisfaction. But I think I do have reason to be satisfied. In very basic, physical terms, I hope that I've cultivated a sense of pride in our team to be the best at what they can do, both for and against the system. Unity is strength, and you can't underestimate people power. Think I'm getting a little carried away again... But changing the system on my own would amount to opposing the government in its very funny, micro-level kinda way; a government which has cleverly buffered itself in its God-complex so as to be untouchable.

Take OC and CO relations for example, and why the chain of command is so strongly enforced upon the men to go through the right flow of channels. For those who aren't in the know... I can't elaborate here. Touchy issues.

Then again sometimes I think, is that really it? Or is that what I'd like to believe it is... Am I really as pensively intelligent as I think I am? Or am I just making a crapload of noise here, just like almost everybody else? Because sometimes I see chinks in my armour of seemingly correct principles.

I'm in a period of time where I'll probably look back on in the future and feel stupid of myself about. I've read back on some of the stuff I wrote, especially during phases of my life where I'm especially impressionable, not just towards trends but towards perspectives and beliefs as well. And I wished I could just go back in time and slap myself for the immature, silly stuff I did or said.

When it comes to being really clever, I suck. There are people I know whom I admire for their speed of thought and strategic foresight (qualities I think I fall short in), and when it comes to actually knowing stuff, I'm sorely lacking as well. I do not know global problems because I do not follow the news. But then again can I be faulted just because this is what society says is the right thing to do? Who determines what's right or wrong, or normal anyway?

I am who I've convinced myself I am to be. That's about it but it's more profound than it actually sounds.

Sometimes I do feel a sad longing for some place in society I'd really belong to. I've been constantly constrained by a lot of circumstances to do things I don't feel purposeful for. Going to schools to ensure I'm kept in the paper chase, I'll admit, is important. But it's left me feeling terribly empty. Through the years I've ended up in cultures devoid of people I can come alive with. Don't get me wrong, I love the bunch of fellas that make up my platoons through my army stint, but the stuff that they talk about or the music they listen to just simply don't cut it with me, and I'm constantly lying to myself just to keep up... It's tiring. Maybe as a platoon sergeant I saw it as a job to interact so as to understand the men better. But now that I'm letting it go, I'm really gonna let it go. Going to SMU after I ORD sure gives me sensations of escapism.

To what extent can I be faulted for not trying hard enough to be different, or make a difference? I genuinely believe I'm not a typical Zhonghua-to-NYJC-to-NTU-engineering student but whenever I have dreams of my own, voices tell me to forgo them because they're not practical. Truthfully, am I all for the paper chase and emphasis on the rice bowl? Why am I being faulted when my focus on a money-making career lapses when that's not what I really want? People can really try to convince themselves with their self-help books and blog rants that life is more than just a rat race but each time I talk to people, they keep convincing me that in the eyes and minds of the masses, that's all there is to life and ambition.

Weijian once said that we're living in a fucked up country. It is indeed an acidicly sweeping statement to make, but it does hold a certain amount of truth when he points out that every morning, people are rushing to bus stops and through train stations chasing god-knows-what and going home late at night. It's bad enough just to be in the rushing crowd for more inconsequential reasons like booking in to camp, and it's sick to know that conventionally, they're who you'd eventually become. Anonymous automatons of society.

But being in my unit has woken me up a little and while I have done what I could to make a difference there, I think it's about time to try and step out as an individual to be different. And eventually attempt to make a difference in society.

I wished more of us could have the courage to live. To give to your fellow brethren without expecting anything in return.

Starting to clear leave now. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter... Just hope there aren't any potholes along the way that could really fuck things up in very unwelcome ways. Can't wait to throw all this down and escape into the life of a student again. I'm being an optimistic idealist for the moment.

Yes, I have a charmed life but it's not because of fairy dust, of self-help books, of circumstances or a bazillionheirress cash-flow. It is because I choose the path in which I walk.

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