An edited version of this letter was published in the Straits Times Forums in 2010:
To the young officer who feels that he doesn’t know what he’s defending anymore, here’s a simple reply from an old Lance Corporal:
We are defending our pride, our friends, our family, our past, our present and our future. We are defending our very Asian-ness, our languages, we are defending what it means to be Malay, Indian, Eurasian, Chinese and ultimately we are defending what it is to be Singaporean. If you cannot understand this, I cease to understand how you are qualified to lead your men to battle.
It is a fact that foreigners, both legal and illegal, will bring economical benefit to society. Yes, there is social discomfort of having a foreign body lodged in the flesh of society, but the benefits weight greatly also. You have yet to answer the few questions poised to you: Who is going to build your houses? Who is going to look after a massively greying population? Who is going to serve you at the restaurant? Who is going to remove your trash? You complain that foreigners are stealing jobs, but what about the money they spend that is adding to you keeping yours?
Our small populace cannot afford to be contented with being clerks, waiters and cleaners. It is not that there is no honor in these occupations, what I am saying is in the grand scheme of things, our precious few population should not be contented with pursuing these occupations, or to “accept fate” when thrown such a predicament.
Competition is a powerful tool: it forces individuals to take creative steps to avert disaster.
Read any economic journal and you’ll see the same replies. The problem of immigration is not a problem of Singapore alone. Traffic jams, crowded trains, small space? Take a look at any major city and you will see this same scenario and I am thankful that we have this problem rather than problems of poverty, lack of consumers and slowly stagnating lifestyles.
You say that the sentiment on the ground is different – it depends on which ground you look. The grounds I’m looking at is full of pride, energy and reverence for the Singapore system. If you feed on soured plums, then indeed the flavor is sour. If you read poorly written material from dubious sources, then yes, you’ll probably feel there is great discontent.
If you feel the Singapore spirit is diluted, why not do something about it? Make culture: Singapore is young and culture needs to be built. Pick up a pen and write. Pick up a brush and paint. Speak Singlish. Create a new dish. Write a song. You’re in Aerospace, have dreams to design a Singaporean plane…and why not?
If you don’t make illusions for yourself, you won’t be disillusioned.
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