There’s a blog post that has been popping up on my Facebook feed titled “Siao ah, go back to Singapore for what?”. I’m not linking to the post because I refuse to drive traffic there. I had initially not wanted to dignify the post by responding. But I really can’t stand it anymore.
That blog post is incoherent. It has two parts that are distinct and have nothing to do with each other. The first part is about the writer’s life in Shanghai. About how even though he only earns marginally more than what he did in Singapore, he is able to live a far more comfortable life because things are cheaper in Shanghai. The second part then talks about why Singapore isn’t worth coming back to. It’s the usual cliched drivel about how Singapore being too sanitized, no identity, stagnant arts scene.
Throughout that entire blog post, there’s only one thing that is consistent – the writer is selfish. Whether a place is worth being in depends solely on what what that place can provide for the writer. If it has all the “right” conditions that benefit the writer, then that place is worth being in, if it can’t give the writer what he wants, or make his life better, then it’s not a good place to be in. Selfish.
If anything, it’s this sort of selfish, self-entitled attitude that would make Singapore a place not worth calling home. If most Singaporeans think that someone else (e.g. the government) must make all the conditions right for ME to flourish – a conducive environment for MY creative talents to be recognised and appreciated, have an arts scene that I enjoy, have the economic conditions for ME to enjoy the lifestyle I want – then Singapore is doomed.
And that is what the writer sounded like. All taking. No giving. Want everything to be swee swee for him. Not willing to suffer to make things happen. Not willing to fight for the things that he complained is lacking, not just for himself, but so that other people can benefit too.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that there are many things that are wrong in Singapore. Loads. I agree that Singapore is too sanitized. That we are too cold and clinical. That we ought to do more for the last, the lost and the least amongst us. That there should be more delineation between state and religious views. That we can do with less censorship. That we can benefit from more risk taking. That we ought to have more critical voices.
But I am not going to sit around and wait for someone else to make that happen before I think Singapore is a place calling home. Because if it is to be, I know that I have to part of the process of making that happen. Rather than bemoan that something isn’t the case, that Singapore is lacking this and that, I would rather do whatever I can to make things happen. And hopefully to get some friends to join in the fun.
And yes. I know that it may be thankless, it may be painful, it may be a lot banging head against the wall without any visible results, but it’s something that I am willing to do. Even if there’s no recognition. Even if at the end of it all, my efforts don’t bear fruit. It’s ok if I don’t benefit from my own efforts. So long as I believe that what I am doing is advancing the cause, even if at a glacial pace. That somewhere, somehow, some time in the future, that little drop that my effort represented will accumulate with those of others into an ocean that will bring our nation to a higher level. And I choose to believe that that is the case.
Whether Singapore, or anywhere for that matter, has an identity or is worth calling home, depends not on anyone else. It depends on us. What are we willing to do for the place? Are there enough of us willing to suffer to build it into a great home? Are there enough of us willing to work hard to build that common identity? If most of us are like the person who wrote that blog post, then Singapore truly would be a terrifying place to be in.
Thankfully, I am surround by people who aren’t like that guy… So that gives me hope.