Peppered across the internet and woven into rebel rousing speeches of politicians, you will hear constantly how the Government has failed. You will hear how it has failed to bring a Swiss standard of living. How it has failed to deliver housing. How it has failed to integrate foreigners into Singapore. And even how the Prime Minster has failed the nation.
This is disturbing thing to say – that an entire nation has failed. They say “Throw enough mud on the wall, and some will stick“, and true enough, even sometimes even I wonder if it is indeed true if there is failure in Government and policies.
Last Saturday afternoon, with the sun scorching at its mightiest, I drove down to Starbuck’s Siglap to pay homage to my regular flat white. When I pushed through the doors, I was greeted with lively greetings ringing and the barrista that took my order did so with the chirpiest of moods.
This was a young Malay boy, perhaps in his early 20s. His assistant was a young Chinese girl. Both had so much fun, playing behind the counters, chatting with customers, enjoying each other’s company so much that their cheer was contagious!
I finished with Starbucks, crossed the road to the kopitiam to have a late lunch. I ordered noodles. Two women, one of Chinese nationality and one local worked the stall. I observed them having warm chit chats, hearty laughs, a lot of co-operation and on the whole, enjoying their work together.
I then drove home. One of the streets I passed housed a Church, a Chinese temple and a Hindu temple not far apart from each other on the same street.
Traffic was heavy but not a mess, not the kind of mess that you’ll experience in thick cities like Jakarta, Bangkok or Shanghai. It was slow, but gradually moving. In the heavy traffic, I thought about racial integration. Hari Raya, Thaipusam, Deepavali, Chinese New Year, Christmas, it is not uncommon for all races to celebrate with each other.
I drove past an advertisement for a new play, Othello, to happen at the Fort Canning. I thought about the last play I watched: it was Hansel and Gretal by Wild Rice. I recalled the creative execution by framing an old European fairy tale in a local context. Then there was the satire. I also recalled how thick the sarcasm was and how little it did to hide the deep animosity the script writer probably had for Government and establishment.
So have we failed in our policies?
Here’s what I think: If our failure means we have not been divided by language, race or religion for 48 years, then I say we should fail more!
If failure means that Singaporeans are today aware that this is a nation, with an identity, with a social fabric that is worth defending then I say let’s fail more!
If our failure means that we have very low unemployment rate, high rates of home ownership, opportunities to pursue whatever line of work, play or life we want… then we should continue to replicate this type of failure!
Today, we cannot say that we have “arrived”. We must never, ever think that we have “arrived”.
What we should do, is make this Singapore a better place.
A kinder place.
A Singaporeans first and foremost place.
But in so doing, we cannot repeat the errors of history. Singaporeans First, does not mean a “Singaporeans’ Singapore” – no, this is dangerous and we cannot fall into the trap of fascism. What is thought worthy though, is that we ought to explore the various ideas of a Singaporeans First policy.
The points system that some countries use to evaluate for employment or residency, is this feasible?
How our Fair Employment Act can co-exist with a “Singaporean First” ideal
The progressive wage and how it could possibly be a better system than minimum wage to help our poor
WorkPro and how its implementation will affect the expansion (or not) of our labour base, in the light of tightened foreign labour
A Singaporeans First ideology. Is it just empty rhetoric? Are our policies reflecting this? Will this deepen policy making and enrich the one and only resource that we have – ie. Labour?