Friday, September 16, 2011

A Singaporean reporter sharing her new-found pride of being a Singaporean

A visit to Spain for an event and a witness to protests, high unemployment rate, inefficiency and even fluctuating weather gave rise to her pride of being a Singaporean.{Here} Because of the inconveniences that she encountered over the few days of weeks, Jeanette Tan decided that she could barter her education debt, our issues on housing, foreign influx and inflation in exchange for the conveniences that she value…..To each his own.    

However, intriguingly, her revelation begets two debatable questions:   (1) The constitution of her pride and (2) the need to play down others to boost her national identity  

(1) A glance through her listed sources of national pride. Orderliness, high employment rate, efficiency and consistent weather, in her own interpretation, constitute a Singaporean. And suffice to make a proud one too.

To side track a little—imagine my eldest sister visited a friend's house to come back telling me how beautiful her friend's sofa was and the abundance of food that they had at their place; my second sister visited that same friend came back telling me how cosy her friend's house was and how good her friend's brother was at computer games. Both my sisters chose a different perspective to judge their friend's house but it was my second sister who was able to see beyond the materials.

But the reporter could not. Weather aside, her pride circled largely around materialistic traits. And thinking a little beyond, these traits buoy down to the results of “good governance”, little or no credits were given to the citizens of our country. Not to mention that “good governance” is highly disputable in our case, if we think along the line of the huge maintenance cost of our Cabinet and compared that to the cost of the Spanish Cabinet for a country of such scale and size. We cannot forget the fact that the first 30 highly paid politicians in this universe all came from Singapore {Here} . We must therefore remind ourselves for the premium that we are made to pay. In such light, “good governance” is not a blessing or a gift from the providence, but AN EXPECTATION. It still remains to be calculated economically, psychologically, socially and politically, whether such maintenance costs are met with proportionate returns.

One interesting thing to note amongst the reasons of the reporter's pride, is the severe lacking of any country-specific characteristics, ie. what constitutes Singapore and a Singaporean? Surely beyond high-employment rate, efficiency and social peace? What about our outwardly less civil but inwardly warm-hearted traits and the simplicity of our people or our ethnic vibrancy? Can sole governance be an absolute representation of a country?

Seemingly, on a bold assumption, any place on earth that could provide high employment, calm weather and efficiency will be equally worthy of the reporter's pride?

I am not saying that I dislike high employment, efficiency and social peace. Nobody does. But certainly, these would not be the things that would MAKE ME PROUD of my nationality. Rather these are the materials which I will enjoy, desire and APPRECIATE. I am materialistic too, like many of us.  

(2) As for the latter, the constant need of self-glorification through playing down others is really uncalled for. In fact, it’s a manifestation of low esteem.

Imagine again, my eldest sister visited her friend’s place came back only to say, “How wonderful my house/family is! I am so proud of ourselves! We have abundance of good food, nicer-coloured walls and cleaner toilet bowls.” What kind of person would you make out of my eldest sister? To denounce her friend's house/home to glorify herself, my eldest sister is uncivil, shallow, self-centred and pitiful. Such mindset will never allow her to appreciate the goodness of others. Moreover, she overlooked the fact that good and bad are both sides of the same coin. Additionally, such act of comparison is also simplistic.

We have a bad habit of consistently comparing other nations with ourselves to convince our "success". And not realizing that the gesture of comparison as in most cases are only selective to different extent where the differences of history, languages, demography, geography, climate, social, economic and political systems of the nations involved are disregarded and therefore the gesture of comparison itself is simplistic and limited in scope. Because no two countries in this world are alike. Yet, our Southeast Asia neighbours are still our faithful negative examples to re-affirm our “successful story”, where we are totally oblivious to each country’s unique historical and cultural circumstances. Such gesture only serves to flaunt our shallowness and naivety.

Not forgetting that any country of this planet has a far longer and richer history and development, therefore more complicated than ours. It is therefore narrow-minded to denounce any nation based on a few factors or brief encounters. And it is even bad taste to sing praises of ourselves whilst turning noses at others! It is appalling, how one can condemn Spain in absolute after a brief stay and a few incidents?

The spirit of a nation goes beyond the façade of infrastructure and administrative system that distinct itself from any other place on earth. And this would be the trait that I choose to be proud of. Again, to each his own.

Sunday, September 11, 2011