It’s Singapore’s 42nd birthday tomorrow. The only way I remember this is by making the link between Singapore and my fat uncle who is a Snake like me and born in the year Singapore gained her independence, which makes them both 12 years older than I am.
Personally, the 9th of August would have no significance for me at all if not for the fact that my brother was born on this day 24 years ago. I remember it very clearly because I was a six-year-old kid for whom public holidays were the best thing ever just for the wonderful lineup of kids’ programmes on television. Unfortunately, on this particular day, my brother popped out into this world and I had to miss a TV adaption of some fairy tale because I had to go to the hospital to meet my sibling for the first time.
I am still on leave and incidentally, I was hanging around the Singapore River today. On the way to the Chinese snuff bottles exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum at Empress Place, I actually passed by the spot where Sir Stamford Raffles landed in 1819.
So this is what I did on my day off. I woke up late, had a nice little French lunch with the boyfriend at Le Pont de Vie, went to Funan Centre to get a Blue Tooth thingie for my iBook G4 to communicate with the latest love of my life – my Nokia N95, then went to the ACM. After that we went in search of a Parma Ham Baguette because I had a craving. We walked to Robinson Road where I gave up my search at Pret A Manger and had a Salmon & Egg Sandwich instead. We walked even more after that to the Planet Fitness at Far East Square because Sniffles (that is new name for boyfriend) had to pick up some stuff. I went to Mr Teh Tarik while waiting and got miffed as I was standing there because three different people cut in in front of me and they could because there was no queueing system. Like, am I invisible? Dinner was lousy bak kut teh along River Valley Road.
We walked quite a fair bit today and it would be pretentious to say, oh, what a beautiful country I live in, as if this is the first time I’m looking at it. I also wouldn’t go so far as “to shout it from the mountain top, I want the world to know…” that I love my country but it would be just enough to say that I appreciate it. I really do. I’ve lived overseas in some really great cities (oh… now I’m sounding like this year’s National Day song!!!) and I could have lived there forever, just like how I can live here for the rest of my life too. I guess what I’m saying is that living in Singapore isn’t so bad. We don’t have the resources or the luxury to take our chances with democracy the American way. Many decisions made by the government piss me off. It’s not so much the decisions but the fact that we play no part in making them nor can we challenge them. It’s hard for people to feel any affiliation to a country when they have no say in how it is run. At the same time, too many voices will just result in all talk and no action. Unchallenged authority gets things done because it is not afraid; it does not sway with the way the wind blows. It just bulldozes its way to results.
During my time abroad, I saw the flaws of the places I was in: gross inefficiency, the government was a lot of talk and the people just kept whining. Or they took to the streets and went on strike. Nothing got done. I saw all this as an observer and outsider looking in and I couldn’t criticise because it wasn’t my own country. But in Singapore, the invisible gag is also ever-present. Yes, I’m in my own country and yet I am still an outsider. The leaders at the top make the decisions and we just “trust and obey, for there’s no other way.” It’s as if two universes exist in this country – those in power, and the rest of us. And I’m almost afraid to say this but, I think most of us are pretty contented with that.
Yes, in case you haven’t realised, I don’t really have a stand about the sad state of democracy or the lack thereof in this country. What to do? I’m a Libran.