Communism is defined as a system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people.
Over dinner one day, I casually asked my friends what communism is, but, none of them could answer.
Mind you, these were the same friends that used Animal Farm – a satirical book based on the communist regime in Russia – as their literature text in secondary school. Yet, it was not significant enough to leave a mark on them.
So, how did a political ideology that so many of our forefathers fought fervently for become so irrelevant to today’s youth?
Disclaimer: This article is not a debate on whether communism or democracy is better. Instead, I will focus solely on how communism came to become obsolete in Singapore.
1) History is written by the victors
The PAP (People’s Action Party) literally had a hand in writing our history syllabus since they ruled the education ministry ever since our independence.
Many would call this repression of information while others say it’s propoganda. However, my take is that no politician with a sound mind will spend years trying to bring down his adervsaries, only to hand popular support back to them on a silver platter.
That is why PAP made sure to mention Barisan Sosialis, Operation Coldstore and The Big Split in our textbooks as briefly as possibly: enough to make sure the populace does not know the full story but just enough so that they won’t be ignorant.
And when they do mention about communism, it’d usually about what an unachievable and lofty ideal it is.
2) Communist states are not aspirational
We often hear our friends telling us that they hope to one day emigrate to countries like the United States, France or Taiwan.
Never have I heard any of them telling me that they would like to be citizens of China, Russia, Cuba, Laos, Vietnam or North Korea – the last five remaining communist states in the world.
This is because communism today is no longer fashionable or aspirational unlike during our forefathers’ time. Because, more than half a century has passed and time has proven that communism just does not work for reasons like corruption and foreign oppression.
Just look at North Korea today and how it has resorted to becoming a hermit country to limit the flow of information to ensure its people’s continual obedience or China that is juggling the ironical juxtaposition of a communist state with a capitalist market.
More importantly, Singaporeans who are too used to having luxury goods will never be able to forgo our capitalist system. This is because not only has it given our parents well-paying jobs, it also introduced consumerism to us – a.k.a. shopping. Shopping has become such a favorite past time of Singaporeans that I don’t think we will ever be able to get used to state-issued rations or not having the option of hundreds of brands selling the same shirt.
3) We are much more educated
This is unlike in the past – before the implementation of compulsory primary education and introduction of the Internet – where many of the illiterate immigrants gathered at libraries where there will be volunteers reading newspapers like the Sin Chew Jit Poh (now Sin Chew Daily) to them. Often, these papers will have a political slant, depending on who funds it.
As this was the only source of information for them, many believed every word that was written, especially since it could be published on a newspaper, this mean that it must be credible, right?
However, since we now have access to many different sources of information, we learn today that that can be the furthest thing from the truth because we are able to do our own cross-checks to discern what is true and what is pure propaganda rubbish.
4) We’ve become Singaporeans
Furthermore, many of the Chinese in Singapore did not identify themselves as Singaporeans as many of them were immigrants from China who were here just to earn money to support their family back home – much like the foreign labourers that we detest so much today.
And the ideology that was adopted back in the Mainland was communism. Hence, it’s inevitable that many of them believed wholeheartedly in it. Just ask yourself, would it be easy to convert you, a Singaporean used to democracy, to believe in communism if you were sent to Russia to work?
Thankfully, with most of us being born and bred here, that is no longer the case because we all see ourselves as full-fledged Singaporeans.
Today, communism has become obsolete in our capitalist and open market Singapore where every citizen is infected with wanderlust and need the flashiest and most expensive everything. Now, the only place they can belong in Singapore are in books, like Animal Farm, where they will continue to be uninspiring to the generations to come.
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