It must be such a slap in the face for the PAP-run government to read the latest Gallup Poll findings that found Singaporeans to be the least positive, unhappiest people in the world. And this is on top of being declared as the most emotionless people in an earlier poll by Gallup.
How utterly depressing for Singaporeans to read this as a tumultuous year comes to a close. And how disappointing it must be for our government to be labelled an epic failure in creating a happy people when they are more used to being lauded for economic achievements such as having created the best airport, best port, etc.
I wonder though how Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father ex-PM Lee Kuan Yew feel about these poll findings. I can just imagine them having a dinner conversation at home over this…
Lee Jr: “Papa, there is a poll that found Singaporeans to be the unhappiest in the world. What do you think of it?”
Lee Snr: “That poll by Gallup? Rubbish! Absolute Rubbish! It is a western conspiracy to discredit all our achievements and all that I have done for the country. And you know there are polls and there are Polls.”
Lee Jr: “But Papa, there have been increasing complaints from Singaporeans saying they are unhappy about all sorts of things from the high cost of living and lack of work life balance to the immigrants and overcrowding issues. I know that many of the views are from the lunatic fringe online but still, the Gallup Poll findings are starting to bother me. I think…”
Lee Snr: “What are you bothered about?? These people are just being daft as usual. They don’t know what is good for them. They are bloody ungrateful after all I have done for them to turn this barren piece of land into one of the richest countries in the world! What are they unhappy about? They have a job and a roof over their heads and we take care of everything so they don’t need to think so hard! We are even installing CCTVs all over the island to take care of their safety!”
Lee Snr adds: “You know what I think Loong? I think you have been too soft. Stick some spurs into their hides and show them who is boss and tell them to stop complaining! They will live and repent if they keep harping on the unimportant stuff. Now enough of this happiness nonsense and tell me how you are going to increase the overseas investments and how you are going to achieve the 6 million population target.”
Of course, this is an imaginary conversation, but it may not be too far fetched to imagine it along this vein going by the pattern of behaviour and things said by both autocratic men over the decades.
Happiness seems to be an illusion or a delusion in LKY’s austere, pragmatic mind. In an interview not too long ago, he was asked to rate his happiness on a scale of 1 to 10.
LKY’s reply was:”Personally, when I was prime minister, I would say five. Now I would say six because I don’t have that day-to-day fret.”
When asked what it would take for him to get to nine?, he replied firmly:“Nothing would take me to nine…Then I would be complacent, flabby and walk into the sunset.”
If we think about it, Singapore has been very much shaped by him, his ideas and his values. Singapore has become Singapore Inc – all business and no nonsense. With a leader like LKY who doesn’t think much about happiness, should we be surprised by how this nation has turned out? Singapore is wealthy by GDP measures and ironically quite barren in the universal intangibles that really matter.
But the key question as we enter a brand new year is this – should we let what Lee & Company think, bother us, much less allow them to shape and define our happiness?
And should we be depressed by polls that claim we are emotionless and unhappy? Absolutely Not! I like to think that going through a period of darkness is essential to truly understanding and finding out what we really want in life and for our country. And when we do, we should take charge and take control to get what we want. Think of it as a painful but necessary rebirth or as growing up pains.
Government leaders are but fellow citizens who are voted into office to do an appointed job. We, and all political candidates and leaders, will do well to remember this.
While the government should play a role in shaping a vision and future for the country, they do not own the country and they should not, ever, take control of our lives and our happiness. That fate is in our hands. It is for us to tell them what we want for Singapore and what will make the people happy and fulfilled.
The top-down days are over. Everyone knows it (except perhaps the stalwarts and old guards of PAP). To them, I can only say, wake up and hear the people roar.
I am so loving the increasing display of heartfelt nationalistic passion by the usually reticent Singaporeans and the rising tide of thoughtful comments and vocal socio-political discussions. It shows the people are defying fear to take ownership of their happiness and to create a common community with heart. I am confident that if this continues, we will come into our own and make a shinier future together.
Who knows, Singaporeans may even be declared as one of the world’s most expressive and happiest people in the world one day!
With this thought, I will like to wish all fellow Singaporeans a very Happy and Fufilling New Year.
Be Happy and don’t be afraid to show it! 🙂