Many liken Singapore to Communist North Korea – its dictatorship governing, conformist society, enforced corporal punishment and censorship. As the result, Singapore raised its people as tight-lipped puppets deprived of the ability to think independently and creatively.
Singaporeans are not the only ones unable to reason with such treatment. As Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak puts it…
“When you’re very structured almost like a religion… Uniforms, uniforms, uniforms… everybody is the same. Look at structured societies like Singapore where bad behavior isn’t tolerated. You are extremely punished.
Where are the creative people? Where are the great artists? Where are the great musicians? Where are the great singers? Where are the great writers? Where are the athletes? All the creative elements seems to disappear.”
Time and again, Singapore’s restrictive government has been listed as the culprit behind its inability to produce innovators. And I disagree with such judgement – it’s almost too easy to pin all of Singapore’s shortcomings on the government.
As Singapore enters its 50th year of nation building, new challenges such as coping with foreign worker influx and the rising costs of living have presented itself. Singapore retains its position as the world’s most expensive city for the second year running, making a livelihood in Singapore becomes a task with increasing difficulty. As a reference, the cost of owning car in Singapore left Hollywood stars agape as it adds up to US$154,000 for a Prius. And these are just few of the many grouses Singaporeans harbor other than being trapped in a society discouraging one to find their own identity.
In my opinion, no one has been able to reiterate the struggles of a modern day Singaporean as coherently as 16-year-old Amos Yee, who has been charged for making offensive remarks against Christianity and on Singapore’s founding father Mr Lee Kuan Yew in a YouTube video.
“Most people in Singapore are struggling to make ends meet. And it is reported that Singaporeans work the longest hours in the world. We are one of the richest countries in the world, but we have one of the highest income inequalities, highest poverty rates, and our government spends one of the lowest on healthcare and social security.
The money spent on the public is so low, it’s more representative of a third world country. And yet the amount of taxes is one of the highest in first world countries. And political leaders in Singapore earn more than quadruple the amount earned by political leaders in the United States. They are acquiring so much money — why aren’t they spending it on the people? What are they actually spending it on?”
Issues on Amos Yee’s defamatory remarks against Christanity and the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew aside, I believe Singaporeans are just as curious as Amos on how the government spends all its money. I am the least acquainted with Singapore’s politics and am just a kid who have yet to complete university so my words hold little or no credibility. Withstanding that, my educated guess would be that all the money is held up in the reserves for the future generations of Singaporeans to come. If there’s anything or anyone I would liken Singapore to, it would be a shrewd and far-sighted businessman rather than North Korea.
Singapore’s success in nation building would not be possible without leaders and politicians who look long and far into the future, envisioning Singapore as it is today. The safe nation boasting world-class infrastructure, quality transport and education system we now live in comes with a price – the blood and tears of every Singaporean.
Our forefathers had sacrificed their lifetime building Singapore from a fishing village to a bustling, modern metropolis, facing trials and testaments of another time. Despite the many new and emerging challenges we face as Singaporeans today, the legacy has to be passed on.
I can’t argue on how Singapore’s high standard of living has made life difficult for us but I would like to remind Singaporeans on how two-faced you are – relishing the goodness Singapore has to offer and not wanting to pay for it. If you don’t like the rain, I don’t think you deserve to stay for the rainbow. But it’s understandable as humans (especially Singaporeans) grumble and complain. We shriek louder in pain than in joy. If I were to take nit-picking seriously, I would start with Singapore’s hot and humid weather which I never fail to curse at all the time.
Back to the topic on creativity, Singapore may not be the best breeding ground for innovators but no one is stopping us from being creative! I may hate the rigid education system, the little emphasis on arts and creative development in our country but things are slowly changing with growing appreciation and recognition for the arts.
Singaporeans are a tech-savvy bunch and I reckon it is that tough getting access to censored materials, albeit using underhanded means. Furthermore, Singaporeans are among the most well-travelled people in the world. Surely all your learning and exposure isn’t all limited to this tiny island! Now, I don’t see how one’s creativity is sacrificed in the pursuit of economic progress of the nation.
It’s August 9 today, the day we celebrate our country’s independence. Unlike how I wrote to express my gratitude being born as a Singaporean last year, it’s different this year as I’d like to wish Singapore a happy Golden Jubilee! (Though remarkably, I was prompted to write this after coming across these screenshots of unjust on twitter… Déjà vu! )
To our dearest founding father Mr Lee Kuan Yew, I wish you could be here to witness the most exhilarating NDP after 1965 but I am heartened to know that you are now in a place better than anywhere else on Earth. May more young Singaporeans uphold your altruistic values and share the same passion you had for building a home.
P.S. I pulled all-nighter and wrote this in a sitting so pardon me for any grammar mistakes or any inaccuracy in this. It’s been a long time since I written anything #nowIcanfinallygotobed #HappyBirthdaySG #SG50