Written two days ago:
Today we’re on the roads. We are exactly midway in our retreat to the United States and by tonight, we will be in Colorado Springs resting before our flight back to Chicago tomorrow. Moments away from my siblings have been time for myself to read, watch films online and write. Sometimes, I think about the impending 2016 and the exciting (or scary, uncertain) things ahead. Other times, I immerse myself in the thoughts of authors I have come to respect greatly. Kishore Mahbubani has been one such author, his Can Singapore Survive was thought provoking to say the least.
This is the last in a series of three pieces (find the first here and the second here) on my hopes and dreams for Singapore by 2065. Inspired very much by the ideas of Mahbubani, we discuss 2065 at this point as we will soon welcome a new year, which begins the chapter that tells the story of the next fifty years for Singapore. I believe in the power of individuals and that of our influence. So to secure these dreams of 2065, it depends on me as much as it depends on you. This is exactly what this last piece is about – individual responsibility.
It is undeniable that good governance has brought us a long way in the last 50 years. We learn in history that Singapore’s economic miracle can be attributed largely to the judiciousness and principles of governance in our early years. I read over and over in Can Singapore Survive about the standard of excellence that Singapore’s public service upholds and I begin to develop a new level of appreciation for the good governance that we enjoy to today. Mahbubani argues that this is abnormal – societies similar to ours tend to experience political instability or a decline in standards of governance (or both) over time. Then, it is only a matter of time that statistical probability kicks in and Singapore suffers from this similar decline. I am not saying it will happen, I am saying it might.
Relevant to the previous piece on the importance of foreseeing failure, we must be prepared for the unthinkable to brace ourselves for any downturn as effectively as possible. This is one. The ‘preparation’ against this would be individual responsibility. A simple way to begin is to start picking litter for ourselves in public spaces. We are notorious for the army (literally) of cleaners we employ to keep our Garden City clean. I hope to propose to you how beneficial it might be for us to take individual responsibility and pick litter up for ourselves. This simple move will not only benefit us economically by reducing the amount spent on employing these cleaners, but also feed our Singapore soul. This act of taking personal responsibility for problems of the nation will bind Singaporeans together in a way that exists only minimally today – the solidarity from the knowledge that we, Singaporeans, care for one another and our shared problems, will be food to our Singapore soul. Imagine that.
We’ve had enough nation building in the past 50 years in the literal sense. The physical infrastructure will suffice for now as our pioneers have, with foresight, created a generation of Singaporeans leading these institutions that will pursue improvement endlessly. It’s time to build the nation’s heart and soul, and it begins with us Singaporeans. I finished the inspiring read last night and it ended with a rhetorical question: Do Singaporeans know what the national anthem means by heart? Why or why not? A question well asked – if we are to take individual responsibility for the nation and its future, then perhaps we could start from the fundamental virtues our pioneers built this nation upon.
Majulah Singapura, here’s to a great 2016!