Soul Food

Dear readers, a question came to mind, and its very basic nature confounds me.
"What does your country believe in?"
I ask this not to make a mockery of the nation or pass some snide hidden remark; I ask this because I find myself unable to give an answer.
Over lunch a few colleagues and I engaged in small talk, and somewhere someone commented that as a nation we sat on the fence regarding a lot of issues.
It is true.
We don't seem to have a strong stand on the China – Taiwan issue. You don't see our leaders being very vocal about terrorism. In fact, we tend to slink away in a corner, hoping to stay unnoticed, playing it safe.
However, we are extremely vocal about internal matters. The smallest measure of political dissidence draws the heavy guns like a shark to a drop of blood in water. A large majority of newspaper headlines cover our economic growth and how well we're doing.
As a people, we're afraid to stretch outside of ourselves. We're the Asian family down the street; whose parents cane their children and tell them to mind their own business while the husband in the next house beats the living daylights out of his wife.
"Don't put your elbows on the dining table. Don't shake your legs. Sit up straight. Don't stare at other people."
I used to take pride in the fact that Singapore, while insular, tried to hold on to her own principles even if she didn't impose them on others. WIth the casinos being built here despite the public outcry against it, my faith is shattered.
<span lang="la">Nihilo sanctum estne?</span> (Latin for "Is nothing sacred?")
We are empty, without and within. Maybe I'm wrong. I'm almost begging you – convince me that I'm wrong.
I may not agree with America's brash handling of world affairs. I may even fear for my safety and that of my family if I lived in London or Australia; with them being ardent supporters of the "war on terror" and all. But I wouldn't have to be afraid of accidentally doing something.
The prevalent message I get from our leaders is this: don't screw it up. Everyday, every moment, every message seems to boil down to this. Don't screw it up. We've come a long way. Don't screw it up. We're a multi-racial society. Don't screw it up.
Don't talk, don't speak. Don't do anything.
So dear reader, please help me out here. Please. I want to want to stay in Singapore.
What do we believe in? What are we passionate about?

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