As Singapore celebrates her 49th year of independence in another few days, let us celebrate the success of Singapore as well as look upon the next and coming years with optimistic anticipation. In countries with a rich and long history, people are united by the pride of their common history, but what about us? We are still a young nation with not much history to speak of except about Sang Nila Utama and Stamford Raffles.
Without much past to talk about, perhaps we are united by our future. All of us may have different goals for the future, but we all converge on the idea of wanting a good and successful future. How that might be defined depends on the individual, but we are generally moving in the same direction together. Over this 49th year, we’ve seen and heard a lot of talk about the Singapore identity. Despite being a “born and bred” Singaporean, I cannot define a Singaporean. All I know is that I know a Singaporean when I see one. You know the feeling you get when you know you’re around Singaporeans? I can’t put a word to describe it. No word can do the feeling justice. Has not having a well defined identity left us a divided society? Honestly, I think not. I’m sure that many of us who have Facebook accounts will agree that the pride and love we have for Singapore is diminishing. A case in point: each year a national day song is released, a tsunami of negative comments flood Facebook. For example this one: “…after listening to the song, I feel like burning my passport”. Is our pride for our country built on such flimsy foundations that one song could cause it to collapse? I’ve watched this year’s National Day preview, I must say that they have outdone themselves this year. As a gauge, I didn’t even check my phone once during the show and I am one of those the Chinese would term as 手不离机 (one that cannot be kept away from electronic devices). Last year, everyone dissed the Parade because of one song. This year, I hope they won’t either. Don’t discount the efforts of the performers and organizers because of one song. Don’t squander the chance to celebrate our Nation’s birthday as one people because of one song. Don’t throw away all pride for Singapore because of one song. Everyone has their likes and dislikes, but we learn to see that not everyone can see eye to eye and sometimes we need to give and take.
In 2014, we stand proud that Singapore is a pretty successful country. Unemployment remains low, taxes remain low, abject poverty is well taken care off. No one is refused medical treatment because of money. We’re doing fairly well as compared with many, many countries in the world. But why is it that after all that being said, pockets of unhappiness still exist? Perhaps economic development and finance is not all that we care about now. In this day and age, most of us demand for more than a stable income. We want to have greater work-life balance. We want the pace of life to slow down. We want quality over quantity. As a city, are we prepared to take ownership for ourselves? If so, we will no longer be a cleaned Singapore served by an army of cleaners. We will no longer be just a visibly green garden city. We will be invisibly green – where the virtues of cleanliness and environmental consciousness reside in our conscience and guide our actions. As a people, we continue to have dreams. When there is a crisis, we band together, taking care of each other. We know a society is built not in ease, but in how we handle hardship together. We have the courage and vision to be different. We will respect everyone, regardless of what he does for a living. There should be no divide between the rich and the poor – everyone has a role. The government must ensure our basic needs in clothing, food, housing, transport, healthcare and education continue to be affordable. Singaporeans who have done well should help look after their fellow countrymen who have not been as fortunate. A society cannot be built if we are pulled in different directions. Our personal values like filial piety and respect, guide us in building our families and our society. We will support every Singaporean child, much as every Singaporean elder, allowing families to live happily with and within each other. We will create a culture that supports the pursuit of happiness and balance.
Our children and our children’s children must continue to feel the pride of raising the Singapore flag. We are now at the crossroads of our lives, and we choose our future together no longer as a young nation, but one almost 50 years old. Majulah Singapura!