Longing for a belonging

There was a time, when people said that Singapore won't make it…

At an Indian New Year celebration, the Prime Minister spoke about his thoughts on social cohesion in this country. He remarked “Singaporeans, new arrivals, people who are on permanent residence here, people who are on employment pass here, all participating in one big Singapore family.. so that we feel that this is a place which is special, which belongs to all of us and where we all celebrate one another’s festivals and happy events together.”

You can interpret this to say “What?! Singapore belongs to everyone?! But I pay taxes, I work, slog and slave in National Service! These foreigners just come, milk this land for what it is and go home!”

Or you can can interpret this to say “Yes, Singapore belongs to everyone – it is my home and everyone else is a guest. Let us be good hosts”.

I feel sorry for those who voice the former argument. When you become cold and calculative, making argument for the money you have paid, the service you have given… life becomes like it is: a mathematical formula where the world owes you a penny of favour for every ounce of work you do.

Actually, it is an insult to measure my citizenship by the taxes I’ve paid, the CPF i’ve contributed, the offspring we’ve given birth to, the National Service I’ve served and the hardship I’ve faced. I may not have much of a choice in doing those things, but when I gave them, I gave them to the country because I am a Singaporean. It is not about me. It is not even about my children. It is about an entire nation’s past, present and future’s worth of children – bigger and greater than you or me.

Is that what we want society to be? To be selfish, to be entitled, to say that “No, you can’t celebrate your festivals here because Singapore belongs to me”? Have we become that little brat that clings on to his toys and plays alone, because he thinks this world is made up of him and him alone?

Do we really want to be “..of preference above other nationalities”? One moustachioed man in Europe believed strongly his nation was above all sometime during the Second World War, look at what happened.

I beg of you fellow Singaporeans, free yourself of these feelings. The Prime Minister is not belittling our nationality and he certainly is not belittling Singapore. All he is seeking, is merely cohesion, tolerance and integration. Is that too much to ask for?

“…No matter their country of origin, what matters is that they, and their forefathers, made a conscious choice to be Singaporean..Being Singaporean is not a matter of ancestry, but of conviction and choice…” – Goh Keng Swee


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