For 364 days a year, we complain.
Then, for one day in August, we somehow become the most patriotic brothers and sisters, banding together to celebrate our Mother(land)’s birthday.
It’s ludicrous if you look at it this way: All year round, we see countless remarks from Singaporeans about how Singapore is a terrible place to live in, and all it takes is for one day dedicated to celebrating the country for people to become patriotic.
Conversely, there is another group of Singaporeans that will roll their eyes at the patriots for such an absurd display of love and pride for the country—Call us hypocrites, for we sing praises about Singapore and flaunt our patriotism on our social media accounts for that one day, only to go back to complaining after.
Yes, Singaporeans Hate Singapore
And it is true that there’s a lot to hate about Singapore.
Right off the bat, there is the recent E-Pay and Preetipls saga, which once again put a spotlight on racism in Singapore—an issue that has been bubbling just beneath the surface for quite awhile now. It has caused quite the brouhaha, causing a divide as many took to polarising ends of the debate on what constitutes unacceptable behaviour.
It is a harsh reminder that despite a growing number of Singaporeans taking on a progressive mindset, Singapore is still a largely conservative society. Racism is but one one of many issues our ‘divided’ society struggle with. It is also the reason behind the longstanding fight for and against 377A.
Along with all of that is the perception of a ‘strict’ or ‘authoritarian’ government among Singaporeans, especially the very outspoken ones on forums, Reddit and Quora threads, and social media comment section. From their view on censorship (fake news law) to how they crack down on the most minute of things like having to regulate PMDs and drones—disgruntled Singaporeans have time and again seen these as signs that the government is running the country with an iron fist.
Corruption is also an issue that people are increasingly discussing, but this is a whole other debate for another day. I am also in no way qualified to make any judgment on this, as I lack the political knowledge. However, one doesn’t need to that knowledge to know, from the kind of nasty comments online, that what many people belief.
High Cost Of Living
I penned a letter to our government last year and in it, I talked about the hopes and fears as a young Singaporean.
I spoke about the reality of hopeful Singaporeans fearing for our future here because of the high costs of living here. Singapore is an expensive city to live in, we know. However, it is when we start to realise that sooner or later, we have to juggle being a full-time worker striving for success in our career, a reliable provider to our own children, and also a caregiver to our aging parents all at once that it becomes overwhelming.
Heck, how can one not feel the pressure when the moment we ‘start our life’ with a new home is the moment we enter a 10 to 25 year debt?
I’ve met underprivileged families. Families with more than two children and that lives in small, basic rented one-room flats, because that is the best that they can afford. I am also aware of the truly impoverished and the homeless who live among us but who are hidden away from sight.
There is always a small part of me that fears falling through the cracks to that state one day, and I am sure it is the same for the rest of the Singaporeans.
Highly Competitive Society
It is also because of these worries that Singaporeans are aware of the need to work hard, spend smart, and stay prudent for rainy days. It is also for this very reason that a lot of people hate Singapore—We are extremely competitive.
It is not like our parents time, where degree holders are highly sought after. Today, everyone is a degree holder, and it is one’s expertise or experience in the industry that makes one valuable to a company. Which means that it is now about aiming for excellence in school and also when we start our first job.
Yes, nothing comes easy, but this also comes at a time where we are also being encouraged to chase our passions and turn them into our career. All of us want that, and it is definitely achievable if one works hard for it. But the truth is that most don’t get there because the need to be financially stable makes it a struggle to even find that balance between passion and profit.
It’s also a harsh truth that in whatever we attempt, it’s a constant fight to be better than all the 3.7 million employed individuals in Singapore who can easily displace us. Because Singapore is that competitive.
There’s many other little things that add up, and it will possibly turn this article into 50 page thesis if I were to touch on everything in detail.
On the other hand, there’s also a lot that we are thankful for. And often, it is when we come home from vacations overseas when we feel it.
But We Also Love Singapore
We aren’t happy with our people and our leaders, but on the other hand, it speaks volumes about how much people actually care.
In the case of the recent ‘racism saga’, a lot of emotionally-driven responses were posted across social media pages. Maybe it turned out to be a whole lot of noise, but we can take comfort in knowing that people care enough to fight for justice and awareness.
It is idealistic, but I believe that at the end of this episode, Singaporeans hope for our society to progress towards being more racially harmonious and not just tolerating.
We often criticise the government for their inaction on various issues from racism to 377A, but if we stopped to think about what they had done, however, we will see how they try.
I am not pro-government and neither am I a leftist. However, I have to acknowledge that we have a government that is attentive of the issues of our nation. Not everything is ideal for everyone, but we cannot deny that we have a government that is constantly worried about the welfare of our society and always looking at ways to progress the nation.
What is sad, is if our leaders completely disregards the issues that we worry about.
It’s been said before, and it needs to be said again: We are privileged.
For all the imperfections that make us hate Singapore, we are blessed with so many luxuries.
Over the past year, I’ve spoken to many millennials who shared their stories of when they volunteered overseas: In certain parts of the world, it is normal to have no access to electricity, normal to have cockroaches crawling around in their home, and it is normal for students to skip school just so that they can walk two hours to a lake for water.
There’s also one who told me about ladies who were catfished and lured into prostitution from a young age, and whom have to face authorities who are indifferent to their plight.
Knowing these, we can be thankful that at least we have easy access to all the basic amenities we need, like water, food, transport, healthcare, and entertainment.
We can also be thankful that we are given largely equal opportunities, whether it is education, jobs, or the chance to build our own homes.
It’s also encouraging to know that for all the squabbles we have over unpopular opinions, we have a relatively healthy society with equal opportunities for everyone to speak and to suggest or even execute new ideas for the good of the country and the people.
Last but not the least; Our safety and security. Singapore is one of the safest countries in the world, and all it takes is for us to travel to any other country for us to know this better.
For what it’s worth, I think it doesn’t matter if we complain about Singapore all year round. And it doesn’t matter if we are hypocrites to be one-day patriots, because we, at least most of us, know that this is ultimately a place that has given us a lot for us to call it home.
The very fact that one can be wherever one is and reading this article through our phone, desktop, or tablet shows how much privilege one already has.
Most of us are proud to be Singaporean, as much as we are ashamed or shy to admit. I know this from the way we love to see Singapore-inspired stuff overseas, and how we are more than happy to #SupportLocal.
At the end of the day, most of us know that for all the flaws that we have as a nation, it’s a darn good country to be born in and to be living in.
So let’s celebrate that.
Also read: Home Away From Home – Is Living In Australia Really A Match ‘Mate’ In Heaven?.
(Header Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)