So former radio DJ Divian Nair and a group of people have gotten together to start this thing called We Are Majulah. The group posted a video titled “I will not die for Singapore”, which has gone fairly viral. In the video, Divian said that when he was asked some time ago whether he would die for Singapore, he would have answered that he wouldn’t. And he couldn’t find a good reason to die for Singapore.
Reflecting on that incident, Divian felt that there was something lacking as a social glue to bring Singaporeans together. He felt concerned that without such a glue, Singaporeans don’t have it in us to come together in times of crises. I think he is wrong.
In March 2003, Singapore faced one of its toughest crises since independence – SARS. A good number of healthcare professionals who were at great risk of contracting SARS – they worked in hospitals, either directly coming in contact with SARS patients or with other patients who might have contracted SARS. During that period, everyday when they turned up for work, they were putting their lives on the line. They could have contracted SARS. They could have died.
And indeed, a number of healthcare professionals did contract SARS. And one doctor did pass away because he contracted SARS in the line of duty – Dr Alexandre Chao. Nevertheless, despite the risk, the healthcare professionals continued to soldier on.
If anyone had asked those healthcare professionals before or after the SARS period, or even during the SARS period, whether they would die for Singapore, I don’t think any of them would have said yes. Yet, their actions spoke very differently. They were willing to face the threat of death to perform their duties well.
It wasn’t just the healthcare professionals. People working at the airport carried out their duties diligently despite the risks. Would they have said that they would die for the country if asked? Probably not. But again, their actions spoke very differently.
And this is why I think that Divian too pessimistic to think that just because Singaporeans seem coy to express their… patriotism (for want of better word) and love for nation, we don’t have it in us to pull together in times of crises. We aren’t good at expressing what we really feel. It’s like asking Singaporean parents to praise their own kids. Or to tell their kids “I love you!”. Very difficult. But often parents ARE proud of their kids and most parents DO love their kids. Just that they don’t say it.
Similarly, just because we don’t thump our chests and proclaim loudly our undying love for Singapore, doesn’t mean we don’t love Singapore. While we may balk at the idea of saying “We will die for Singapore”, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t willing to risk our lives for our fellow Singaporeans or, if that dreadful time ever comes, make the ultimate sacrifice to defend our way of life.
And there are numerous other examples of Singaporeans going out of their way to contribute to Singapore.
I know of two people (one is a good friend, another is the father of an acquaintance) who have every reason to hate Singapore. They were detained under ISA. Many people (including both of them) maintain that they were wrongfully detained. Yet they have been very selflessly and actively contributing to Singapore in different ways.
Then there are those whose love for Singapore have driven them crazy. They feel deeply that there are things that aren’t quite right in Singapore. But because they love Singapore so much, they feel compelled to do something about it. And so they do the crazy thing of joining the opposition.
So I think that Divian was too pessimistic.
We can always do better.
It can only be a good thing to have people passionately doing things to get other Singaporeans thinking about how we can pull together more as a nation. Even though the video does sound fluffy and are, at parts, cringe-worthy, I still applaud their effort. At least they bother to spend time and effort to try to bring us together as a people. Which is more than what can be said about a great many of us armchair critics.
And unless proven otherwise, I believe that their intentions are pure, that they aren’t propaganda for PAP or any political parties. Yes. I know. The way to hell is paved with good intentions. But unless anyone can put up a coherent and convincing argument why their pure intentions will lead to more harm than good, I will continue to believe that this is something worth having.
[Featured image: Logo from We are Majulah site]