Singaporeans have been labelled a lot of things. Uninspiring. Unhappy. Rich. Poor. Oppressed. It is not that the world labels us as such - most of these labels we chose to stick on ourselves.
Labels, much like their stationery counterparts, have a particularly sticky side to them. What we believe we are is more than just a self-fulfilling prophecy, it is the course we chart for ourselves. It is the course we chart for other Singaporeans, and inevitably, our children.
We have been traditionally hard on our own. For some odd reason, it has always been harder for Singaporeans to gain the approval and respect of fellow Singaporeans, even if the rest of the world readily acknowledges some measure of success. Even brands like Razer, founded by a Singaporean and attained global recognition, markets itself as American to sell to the local market. I confess to being part of the fanboy mob who years ago shook our heads at Sim Wong Hoo when Apple’s iPod took over Creative’s mp3 marketshare. Shook our heads, as if we knew better.
Now with social media accelerating highly-emotive sentiments, we have grown even more eager to criticise and paint the worst possible picture of people around us. “Businesses are out to exploit poor, impoverished workers”, “mainstream media reporters suck at their job”, “public servants just want to line their own pockets and do not care about citizens”, “the vocal minority is all emotion and no logic”…the list goes on.
Even now, I paint a picture of those painting pictures. This passive-aggressive internal war needs to stop if we are ever going to get anywhere or do anything worthwhile.
I want to believe that Singaporeans can be self-starters who are able to find innovative solutions to today’s problems; compassionate people willing to sacrifice a little of their own for those who need it more; able to overcome obstacles and ride the winds of change fearlessly; are a formidable force for good for others in the region and beyond.
Because we can. Because we are. We are.
I head off for my reservist duties next week. It pains me to be missing the birthdays of both Anne and Caleb, but I understand that putting country before self means actually sacrificing small bits every now and then. But what is really amazing about my reservist unit is that my fellow soldiers blow my mind when it comes to committing to the country.
Just last night I sent out a quick message to get some tedious paperwork done prior to my in-camp training next week. These brothers responded almost immediately and set themselves to work. Late at night. On a workday. No questions asked. No ignoring the call for help and pretending someone else will do it. Heck, some others who work overseas actually fly back on their own time and dime to serve in two-week long military exercises. To every young Singaporean male out there who wonders if National Service will be a waste of your time, I tell you this: it is what you want it to be. It restores my faith that there are other Singaporeans out there willing to go that extra mile. It makes me run harder, hold on longer, and march farther.
It is time we held each other to nobler standards and believed in each other a little bit more. I want to believe that I can serve without worrying that a dagger might be plunged into my back. Or that when I make mistakes we can recover from them together, growing from strength to strength. It is time we started building and stopped tearing down.
It’s 7 in the morning and the sky glows pink. It’s a new morning, Singapore. Stand tall. Stand proud. Be strong.