The Guardian recently published an article quoting living in Singapore as making a deal with the devil. We get the sparkling metropolis that we love to hate, but we have to toe every line presented to us. Amongst other comparisons, we’ve also been compared to North Korea, based on our media system.
We’re nowhere near North Korea. We’re not starving and we’re all mostly living relatively better lives than many of our Southeast Asian neighbours. To compare our media censorship to that of a regime so closed off and unforgiving is an insult to North Koreans who get put to death for watching K-pop.
If Singapore were really as horrendous as the article claims, someone would be sitting in a cell somewhere or even dead, after his allegations about misappropriated CPF funds. Han Hui Hui would not be able to organise protests (laughable as it seems, seeing that permission is required, but permission was given all the way up until Hecklegate, even when the whole country knows her stance on our ruling party) nor would they both be allowed to keep their blogs.
Sure, we are nowhere near the freedom of speech that Americans are entitled to, but comparing us to North Korea is a tad bit too much.
It’s true that many people of my generation are aiming to leave Singapore for good, but that’s quite true for many other countries as well. Ultimately, even after so many have left, even more have chosen to stay. A perfect country does not exist. Peace and absolute freedom would be utopia indeed, but how many countries have achieved this?
There are valid points to the article, including our inane laws about the most trivial of things such as our inability to import chewing gum, and a plethora of smaller offences. Almost every foreigner who talks about Singapore will definitely bring up the fact that we are liable to get fined or punished (severely, in their eyes) for small offences.
There are a great many things I hate about Singapore – frequent MRT breakdowns AND increasing public transport fares, our infamous 377A law, the country’s obsession of clean toilets – but it’s a bit dramatic to think of it as a Faustian deal. We all have the choice to leave if we don’t like it here, after all. You gain some, you lose some.