So it’s the time of the year again, for me at least, to reflect on what being a Singaporean entails. The time when I actually do want to watch the National Day parade on TV; the yearning that comes with years of age. When I would stand at attention before the TV screen despite the creature comforts of the sofa at home, as the national anthem and pledge is played at the parade. A time when I tear up during march past and as the F16s tear across the sky.
As I mused to a dear friend who is still in her twenties, about what I hold dear as a Singaporean and truly love about the country, I feel a tinge of sadness, perhaps a precursor to what the elderly feel when sharing their sentiments on life and such, with nonchalant or indifferent me, when she honestly shares that she does not feel that sense of love or belonging to Singapore. Part of me is enraged and jump to the conclusion that it must be the complacency that shrouds the younger generation who never had to fight for what we enjoy now and merely grow up in laps of luxury, whining and complaining for more. Yet I know deep down inside, a lot of what makes Singapore culturally unique to me has also been taken away over the years so who could blame the indifference and angst and lack of loyalty to Singapore, really? I miss my Kallang Wave at the National Stadium for the Lions at the Malaysia Cup. I miss screaming my lungs out alongside fellow Singaporeans of difference races, religions and creed, on the concrete and wood steps of the stadium. I miss loving Fandi Ahmad, Nazri Nasser, Abbas Saad and David Lim as they fought with pride for Singapore against the other Malaysian states. Has the years really gone by like that robbing us of our history, our childhood, our cultural strings to the nation? What about our sand filled playgrounds, grimy hawker centres with glorious local fare, iconically Singapore landmarks of Kallang Stadium and Collyer Quay to name a few?
I truly believe Singlish embodies a culture of ours even though I shy away from the people who I overhear speaking it while travelling abroad. As long as my students are able to code switch from proper English to Singlish, I really have no qualms about it being a symbol of national pride.
Of late, I have growing dissatisfaction with the foreigners in Singapore who obtain PR all too easily as well, and how they love Singapore in a skewed way, for how it is quickly transforming into a little Europe while they wish the end of hawker centres and coffeeshops as I lament their probable demise. How they pride Singapore for being progressive in tearing and building so quickly over the years, as I grief over the loss of childhood buildings that held memories for me. It’s not just the same race of people from a far larger country whose growing demographic numbers in Singapore I frown upon anymore. Even the ang moh expats are starting to get my gripe as well sometimes, much as I still do very much appreciate their thoughts and bouncing off of ideas with me, don’t get me wrong.
It is the Olympics right now as well, and Jeremy Au Yong sure has a point saying that Malaysia’s star shuttler Lim Chong Wei has united a politically fragmented Malaysia with his Silver Medal while in the same breath, “Singapore’s” Feng Tianwei has divided the nation’s opinion on what a true Singaporean-blooded athlete representing the nation really is. I do agree too that perhaps it is about time the government [polldaddy poll=6457292]hand in sports retracted and that they pump merely money into sports associations than have such a big clout over athletes to the point of being their spokepersons at the Games and apologizing on the behalf of our athletes, who have nonetheless done us proud after all.
I guess I love Singapore and believe that has nothing to do with politics or governing party. I am glad for grassroots and bottom up movements in the realms of environment and ecology over the years and do wish that like Malaysia, more local merchants would step up and offer their earnest, hearty and patriotic support from within them to Olympic winners the way Baskin Robbins in Malaysia offered free ice cream to the Malaysians to celebrate Lim Chong Wei’s stunning performance and medal win. A joy and reward that involved the society at large of the country as well.
Rather than raise up a nation of whiners and complainers who expect the government to solve every darn problem to the T, I think it is time the citizens truly stand up for what they believe in, to start ground up movements and take ownership while growing national pride, passion, resilience and opinions of their own that comes from the heart like asking for more elder care support rather than complain about a possible rise in old folks dying in the neighbourhood when rejecting government initiatives to build more elder care facilities in the void decks. I believe in the power of hope and it is my hope that Singaporeans will learn to feel more deeply and took action for the causes they champion, as a community and eventually a nation. Happy national day, Singapore.