I have a mild adversion about doing such things. I still remember how some citizens, a few years back, were fined for not hanging out their flags properly.
The exact details escape me now. But I think in one case, the chap didn't hang his flag properly, a heavy storm came along, and the flag became crumpled, messy or something like that. The chap didn't bother to tidy up his flag. Later he was fined by the government. Some obscure offence having to do with disrespect to the state flag.
So I looked at my own flag, still in its plastic packaging, and I couldn't decide whether to hang it out or throw it away. Hanging it out would entail a risk of getting fined, a small risk no doubt, but why take any unnecessary risks at all. At the same time, throwing away the flag seemed vaguely wrong and a bit wasteful (I am quite environmentally conscious - I will blog more about this in future). I considered using the flag as a rag, but I was afraid the strong red colour would run.
Unable to decide, I left the flag on the dining table for the time being. A few days later, when I looked around for it, it was gone. I asked Mrs Wang, "Do you know where's that flag?"
"Threw it away," she said.
"You threw it away?"
"Yeah. Down the rubbish chute. Why do you ask? Were you planning to hang it out?"
"No, not really."
"Well then, that's why I threw it away. Our place got too much junk, anything we don't want to use, we just gotta throw it away. Otherwise we kena one big mess, how?"
Mrs Wang is a true blue Singaporean, pragmatic to the bone.
Yesterday my little daughter came back from her playschool with a little national flag painted on her cheek. Apparently the theme in class that day was National Day. All the kids had a little national flag painted on their cheeks or hands.
It was some kind of non-water soluble ink. I was a little annoyed. She looked cute but the ink wouldn't wash off easily. It's still on her face right now. I think it will take another day or two before it comes off completely.
But my mild annoyance really stemmed from the fact that nowadays I doubt whether patriotism is a desirable value to instill in our kids. In fact, I believe that one day, patriotism will become widely viewed as an odd, useless anachronism. Something like the way we regard communism in North Korea and Cuba today.
Globalisation is changing Singapore - and the rest of the world. I see this very clearly in my own work. The world is shrinking quickly and getting more and more interconnected. I believe that the optimal approach would be for the kids to grow up with a very global, international perspective on life. As it is, they are already living in a country heavily populated with non-citizens. I can easily imagine that in the course of their own adult lifetimes, they may well end up living, studying and working for substantial periods of time in half a dozen different countries. They could easily end up holding multiple citizenships or PR status.
The kids need to grow up being very open and receptive to the idea that they may move and move again. Home will be just any place where they stay for more than three or four years. It is important that they are not handicapped by any dubious concepts like patriotism. By any strange notions that they belong to any particular corner of the planet. By any odd idea that they should be loyal to any specific red dot on the global map.
New horizons would open up for them, if they could see themselves as true citizens of the entire world. They must learn to be able to be comfortable, make friends and interact with people of all sorts of different cultures, anywhere in the world. I'm going to have to scrub harder at that little red-&-white smudge, on my daughter's cheek.