Singapore celebrates its National Day on 9 August this week and there is sadly no celebratory buzz in the air. Many have commented that there are hardly any Singapore flags displayed by Singaporeans at their homes. Even those buntings hung along the road by the state look insipid this year no thanks to the staid and same old tired design of using smiley multi-racial faces.
I will like to share my thoughts on why so few Singaporeans are hanging up the flag or feeling the celebratory mood. I think it is because many are feeling angry with the Government and disconnected with the country. To want to display the flag voluntarily, one needs to be motivated by patriotism and real love for the country.
Patriotism and deep love of the country has to be built over time and through pride in what the country represents to us. It is not about the numerous skyscrapers and fancy cars nor is it about taking part in government organised grassroots events and doing what the G tells us to do. Neither is it about working at a frenetic pace in a crowded city state packed to the gills with millions of people.
A large part of patriotism is about having a proud shared history, culture, heritage and a common bond among people who grew up and lived together in the same land. It is that deep happy feeling of knowing this is a warm home where we are truly appreciated and will be taken care of even when we are old. It is that sense of pride in knowing that our human rights are respected and civil rights are protected in our country.
Attachment to our country also comes with that warm fuzzy feeling we get when we revisit our well-loved childhood and dating haunts and our common heritage places many of which have sadly been demolished in the name of progress (For eg, I miss the lovely long stretches of sandy beaches of the original Changi beach, the smoky Satay Club and the Esplanade fronting the sea, and the many rustic open-air hawker centres where we dined under the stars.)
Love for our country also comes about when we know that we have a real say and ownership in our country and that we can be proud of the values our country stands for. What are those values at this point? I am not sure as I have mixed feelings about my country. And what I do not like is overshadowing some of the things I like about Singapore. What we are seeing as displayed by our country’s leaders puts us to shame about our country. We smell the stench of hypocrisy, elitism, selfish greed, and there is fear in the air as we see the ugly incessant fight for political power through unethical oppressive means.
It is not that we do not feel anything for Singapore. I am sure many Singaporeans do but at the same time, it is perhaps a love that has not had the opportunity to put down deep roots yet because of our relatively young history as a republic and our political situation under the PAP (let’s not forget many citizens did not get a chance to vote for years due to gerrymandering and the GRC requirement. Residents in Tanjong Pagar GRC still have not had a chance to vote despite waiting for over 30 years!)
This is my country, Our country. I know there are many, many fellow citizens who share my longing to love our country passionately. And we do have much to love about it when we look beyond the politics and oppression of civil rights. Putting aside the usual accolades of being a modern metropolis, I like how most Singaporeans are generally easy going and friendly (case in pt – I am sure everyone who’s taken taxi rides here have had several cosy chats with the drivers). We may not be very expressive but we are friendly, kind and quite helpful too (just look at the generous donations and outpouring of assistance whenever there are news reports on people who need help).
At this point, the cynics may ask what about the kiasu Singaporeans? Yes we have our share of the selfish people here, as with every country. However, I do think the frequent Singaporean bashing has been overdone, in particular by the MSM in its sensationalising of its local news stories. Hand on heart, do you meet more nice fellow Singaporeans or Ugly Singaporeans in your daily life? It is definitely the former for me.
It also warms my heart when I see the different races yakking away comfortably over teh tarik in a mix of English/Mandarin/Malay/dialects and our very own quintessential Singlish. I also love seeing the increasing number of Singaporeans expressing their views on socio-political matters both online and in MSM forum pages. And I thoroughly enjoy the humour and wit displayed in the hilarious memes, cartoons and spoof videos! Who knew the supposedly passive Singaporean can be this vocal, creative and passionate?
When I see this new wave of passion, I have renewed hope that our collective dream for a better, happier Singapore can come true. With hope and courage I believe we can remake Singapore according to the values that we want and make it into a country that we and future generations will be damn proud of.
For me, I want Singapore to be a nation known, not just for its prosperity, but more importantly for its warmth, fairness, compassion and generosity of spirit and heart. I truly look forward to the day when many of us will proudly fly the flag not only during National Day but whenever we feel like it just cos we love our country and are proud of what it stands for.