The National Day Parade is not just a pretty little thing with pomp and ceremony. It is also a platform by which the leadership communicates the country’s ideals, plans, vision and direction to the populace.
Spanking new building aside, here are 8 things one can observe about the parade:
#8 “It’s less about the money.” There is a conscious effort to steer away from the economic powerhouse story
Through the lenses of a 21st century Singaporean, economic success isn’t a very visionary narrative to discuss anymore. How much more money and power can this country possibly aim for? It may have worked in the past when the country needed pragmatic goals, but more and more Singaporeans are tired of the race towards material success. You’ll find very little of this in the Parade and even where there is a need to showcase historical developments, it was rushed right through.
#7 “No Lee Kuan Yew. You’re on your own.”
There is no mention of Mr. Lee, no moment of silence, none of the (overused in my opinion) crying scene from the separation and more broadly, no mention of the old-guard leadership. If one were to read a little further into the message, it is no longer what “the government can do for you” but rather “what can Singaporeans do for each other”.
#6 “Nevermind the guns.” Less military muscle display
Taking a break this year is the showcase of military muscle. There is no aerial display, no assault boat display, nothing from the civil defence, no tactical manoeuvres. Not even a mention of the newly minted counter-terrorism team that rolled out in June this year. Might be a diplomatically smart thing to do given the military tension in the South China Sea of late.
#5 “Stick together people”
One of the more memorable pieces of technology this year, is a tiny little bracelet handed out to all 55k spectators. All the little bracelet does, is to emit a little glowing light. It is also centrally and remotely controlled. The colour and beat patterns change according to the show. Now, one little blinking LED isn’t a big deal but when fifty-five thousand lights rhythmically glow together in the dark, it is a beautiful symbol of what every person can achieve when they cohesively move in one direction.
#4 “Do something for the community”
Central to the theme of NDP 2016, is the story of the “Singapore Stone” and this chap named “Badang”. The organisers tell the audience the story is real but to be honest, I have never heard of the folklore before. The underlying message behind the story of Badang is his selflessness and contribution to his village. It is clearly a message asking Singaporeans to consider how they can contribute to the community.
#3 “Look after one another”
There is no community without unity, or so they say. Care and concern for every member of society is a rich message this year. Right at the start of the show, you’re quickly taught simple sign language to the song “Count on me Singapore”. Closer to the dramatic finale, you’ll be asked to sign together with members of various voluntary welfare associations.
#2 “Dare to dream”
There was no mention of schools, degrees and academic success. The message of “dreaming big” was more about what one can achieve through skills, art, architecture and hard work rather than through mere schools and studying.
#1 “Something for the LGBT also?”
There are more than a few rainbows being used in the show. And I do mean more than a few. Then there is also the rainbow coloured unicorn (another LGBT symbol) flying off to the tune of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” (also the theme song from the Wizard of Oz; a movie strong in symbology in LGBT nomenclature). Are the organisers using the NDP to demonstrate something that cannot be easily said in words?