Heritage and home – Why so sentimental?

Below is an interview with Mr. Tan (not his real name). We asked Mr. Tan how he felt about the demolishing of heritage buildings and open spaces giving way to malls and condos.

I came from a country in which my 100 year old high school was demolished to make way for a shopping mall. That location unfortunately grew into a CBD area, and it just wasn’t practical having a school there – never mind its rich heritage or well-preserved traditional buildings.

Granted, I still moan about it to whoever tells me they’re going shopping there; I let them know how MY school once sat at the same spot and how these money-grubbing developers just can’t leave it alone; but I wouldn’t go to the extent of boycotting the mall, know what I mean?

Change is the only constant, as we all know very well.

People come from near and far to Singapore for better job prospects, our ancestors worked hard hoping that their future generations would have better lives than theirs, parents pushing children to score better so they’ll have a place in top universities – all requiring one sacrifice after another – so what’s the big deal about a building that will serve no quantifiable benefits?

In fact, in MM Lee’s book ‘Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going’, he’s asked for his family home to be torn down for redevelopment when he dies, instead of preserving it as a historical building. He knows very well that the value of land here will continue to soar and that the population will continue growing, so it only makes sense to make room for these people.

Nothing wrong with that, right?

Does this make him heartless? Someone with no sense of heritage? Or is he just being pragmatic?

Let’s face it, Singapore didn’t get to where it is today by holding on to every bit of historical building.

Instead, it has held on to memories: memories about getting abandoned by Malaysia, memories about recession, memories about war, memories about struggle – and all of these sit at the heart of the people who understood that economic progress is the way forward.

From a businessman’s perspective, this is the ideal place to run a business: the location is strategic, the talent is international, and the prosperity has always been at the heart of political decisions.

Most importantly, it’s a place where tough decisions are swiftly and efficiently made. No room for feelings.

Businesses and economies don’t have time to wait for people to get comfortable about change, and if it means contributing back to the economy and creating jobs, perhaps it’s best to confine sentimental values to just memories.

Take a picture and move on, you know?

And anyway, it’s not like we’re leaving behind a horrible wasteland, right? I mean, just look at the wonders of technology that are MBS and Gardens by the Bay!

Trust me, future generations will thank us!

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Najib A.

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