SG50: First Things First

To Be A Good SingaporeanI was thinking about what would make an appropriate first post of the year (somewhat making this whole thing about ‘firsts’ way too special than it deserves to be) and I skimmed through the list of things I had wanted to write about before the end of 2014. From which, I have chosen the title I had bolded and underlined and been thinking about for a long while now– ‘To Be A Good Singaporean’. You see, there are many shoes I have consciously been trying to fill from the times I can remember: that of being a ‘good daughter’, ‘good student’, ‘good girl’, ‘good friend’ and a ‘good leader’. But it was only recently that I have decided, that as a Singaporean who has lived, breathed and embraced this tiny island as home for the past 17 years of my life, it might be time I add ‘good Singaporean’ into the list. So this one’s dedicated to the country I’ve called home all my life and my hopes for us as we turn 50 in 2015.

There have been remarks circulating about how much we point fingers at our government in times of crisis (or sometimes, in times of non-crisis). But little does it occur to us, that there are a billion things that us, the majority, could be doing from the ground up to change the things we are dissatisfied about. Here are a few:

1 Echoing the numerous local journalists who have mentioned these hopes we may pursue together before: one of the woes I’d like to actively work against is the fact that we are a cleaned city instead of a clean city, when it very well should be the latter. Bending down to pick up flyers strewn on the ground or clearing up our trays at the hawker centre– are they not the little things we could be doing that would slowly change this?

2 I read somewhere that Singaporeans should also be learning how to laugh at each other. According to the 2011 Gallup Poll, Singapore (in)famously ranked as experiencing the fewest positive emotions in the world, which is a pity because we have over 2,000 not-for-profit organisations and many more voluntary welfare organisations championing acceptance and love towards the marginalised, hoping to effect positive change in society. It appears that we have positive intentions but little being translated into positive emotions. That, can be worked toward: starting with laughter. Let’s passionately play out the amiable people we want to be.

3 And on the Straits Times a month back, a journalist had written about the importance of ‘living the pledge’, this meant having our deeds match our words. Like when we recite in the pledge to be united “regardless of race, language or religion”, the migrant worker bias is only proof of our hypocrisy. It should be an aim to practice what we preach.

When it comes to being a good Singaporean, the overarching idea I would think, is to be mindful that we are all working toward ‘a better Singapore’. Whether we are in the private sector or the public, in school or in offices, whether we are permanent residents or citizens, the tangible objective should be common: that is, to make this place we live in better so that we, ourselves, may lead better lives or lives closer to what we’d imagine as ‘ideal’. Whilst the criterion for ‘better’ could differ from person to person, let’s be open about our hopes for the country and have healthy debates about what could be done (or should be). Only when we learn to carry out productive discussions about our personal hopes with this common goal in mind, can we expect that these hopes will one day, indeed, be realised. 

At the same time, it is important that we consciously steer clear of the distractions of hyperconsumerism, for example, which (in Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica’s words) “makes us forget about fundamental things and waste human strength on frivolities that have little to do with human happiness”. After all, “the tie is a useless rag that constrains your neck”. This 2015, may our choices reflect our hopes, not our fears.

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