The way I see it, Singapore's priority is in ensuring the country's progress and the country's survival. The citizens of Singapore are secondary.Poet-playwright Alfian Saat put it more succinctly, several years ago. He wrote: "If you care too much about Singapore, first it’ll break your spirit, and finally it will break your heart." With hindsight, he would have added, "And you could suddenly lose your job too."
Once you start accepting the above as the predominant strategy of the Singapore government, you will be able to accept the policies they come up with.
Ask nothing about what your country can do for you. If you want something, you will have to fight for it.
Personally I would have thought that being a citizen comes with certain responsibilities to the nation eg national service, loyalty, taxes, etc. However the government seems to say that we should expect nothing in return. In fact the expectation of nothing in return is "good" for the country and thus "good" for me.
I am not eloquent enough to express what I feel. But I do know that I have given up thinking so much about what Singaporeans should have, and how Singapore should care for Singaporeans etc. It's every man for himself.
Anyway, at a personal level, I agree with Dr Oz Bloke. In fact, I already realised it many years ago. When I say "personal level", I mean the way I think, plan and make decisions about my own life.
I usually place little weight on the possibility that the Singapore government might actually do something good for me. If it happens, that's a plus, but before it happens, you certainly don't want to count on it.
In fact, disbelieving the government was probably one of the best career decisions of my life. In contrast, making the mistake of trusting in the wrong government message could well hurt you for a long, long time - click here for an example.
Personally I have little to complain about - I know that. Personally I'm smart enough and sharp enough to get by quite well on this little red dot. But I know that many others are not so fortunate. When I look at the bigger picture, I do find it hard to " give up thinking so much about what Singaporeans should have, and how Singapore should care for Singaporeans" (Dr Oz Bloke's words).
That's why I often write posts like these - 1, 2, 3 and 4. I guess somewhere deep down inside I subconsciously still harbour some foolish hope that the Singapore government is going to do the right things for these people. Maybe I need to do some mindhacking here, and just rip that silly thought out of my head, once and for all.
The government isn't here to care for you - the ministers have already told you straight in your face that they're doing their jobs just for the money. What did you think - they would serve the nation out of a sense of patriotism, of loyalty? Remember Lee Kuan Yew's words. "Those are noble sentiments, but we live in the real world."
I guess I just hate unfairness and injustice. When I was a Deputy Public Prosecutor, I was like that too. Some other DPPs would regularly leave office at 6:30 pm. I would work obsessively to 10 pm, 11 pm, trying to fix unfairness and injustice everywhere I saw it. Believe me, there's plenty to fix within Singapore's criminal legal system.
Any DPP who regularly goes home at 6:30 pm is either too stupid to see the unfairness and injustice, or has decided to close his eyes to it. You can't always blame them. It does get emotionally exhausting. It can even make a grown man cry. When the tears run out, you just grow numb. Or cold, like a robot.
As I write this, I now recall what an older, more-experienced DPP once said to me. He saw me looking frazzled and angry at work, as I worked feverishly on a case trying to squeeze some fairness out of the system. In a kind tone, he said something like this: "If you care too much about this job, it’ll break your spirit, and it will break your heart."
Maybe he had been reading Alfian's poetry, LOL.
And maybe the best way is really just not to care. On that note, here's one of Alfian's poems, entitled "Apathy":
There are no extra drugs
In our coffee.
We sleep with our lights turned off.
On the television we watch
With tabloids on our laps: the news,
What are revolts? Rashes on a map.
Strikes are some dishevelled men
Handy with paint and plywood.
Conspiracies? Only in yellowed novels,
Stalked in thriller aisles beside
That other elusive delusion, romance.
Numb does not describe us,
We have nothing to offer for thawing.
We still fly our kites
In designated parks.
We watch our ports in wonder
And still think of ships loaded with wealth.
To the camera we still proffer smiles.
To the orators who slammed
At the tin-sheet sky with their fists,
To the rabble-rousers and rebels,
The ones who weighed the strength
Of a rock in their hands,
The ones weeping from tear-gas,
We owe them nothing.
The window offers another view.
Our hands do not tremble
As we part the curtains
To witness a riot of sunlight.
The pandemonium of traffic,
We fall asleep under a moon
Whse luminous nakedness
Makes no ripples
Among the grey clouds.
We sleep on headlines
Plumped like pillows,
Stuffed with cotton;
Plucked by the hands
Of the silent and dying,
From the gaping mouths
Of the silenced and the dead.
This poem is taken from Alfian's second book of poetry, A History of Amnesia, which was shortlisted for a Kiriyama Asia-Pacific Book Prize.
I think I'm probably rambling a little. I don't even know what this post is supposed to be about. I'm a little tired. I just took my last CMFAS paper today - yes, the last of those annoying exams that I discovered too late I didn't actually have to take.
Oh, I passed. Isn't that nice. I've already got my results, because the exam is computer-based. You get 2 hours to click your way through 100 MCQ questions on a computer screen, and then the computer instantly calculates your score. Your exam certificate is printed out and you collect it from the exam invigilator on your way out of the room.
Very efficient. MCQs are inherently efficient. Your opinions are unnecessary, your ideas are unwanted. Just click on (a), (b), (c) or (d).
I just read this on Alfian's latest blog post. It's funny:
After reading the ST yesterday, my Mum had a talk with me. I'd expected the usual nagging about the number of times she had told me to steer clear of the political and to be a good little quiet boy.
But while putting on her tudung, on her way out, she said:
'Alfian, if you live in Singapore, you must be like a robot. If they tell you to walk straight, you walk straight. You stray from the path and they will get you. Last time the government said stop at two children, and then they told us to have three or more. Singapore is like that.'
If only we were robots, and not real, live human beings. Then we wouldn't be asked to breed for the sake of the economy. Like pigs, ducks or chickens. Oh, don't forget to lay the right number of eggs.