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OurSGConv's 1st Citizen Dialogue

When I was asked if I wanted to participate in <a href="https://www.oursgconversation.sg/">Our SG Conversation</a>'s first public citizen dialogue, I jumped at the chance to spend a few hours with fellow Singaporeans who were passionate about helping shape Singapore for future generations.
It did not take long for our small group conversations to gain momentum as individuals shared their struggles, and then their hopes.
<ul>
<li>A patient and caring husband who had spent the last few decades taking care of his wife who suffered from schizophrenia wanted more to be done for the mentally-ill and the caretakers who devoted their lives;</li>
<li>a cancer survivor who wished that better criteria for means testing for healthcare subsidies would not deny people who really needed financial assistance;
<li>mothers and fathers who wished, from the bottom of their hearts, that their children did not have to be subject to the enormous stresses of an overly ambitious, yet possibly misguided education system;</li>
<li>many who reminisced simpler days and longed for a resurgence of the kampung spirit where people cared for each other, regardless of race, religion or creed.</li>
</ul>
These were but a few of the very heartfelt conversations shared.
To be frank, the beginning of my small group conversation began with complaints that the government was utterly incompetent and wasn't solving the problems citizens faced. But that quickly fell away as we came to the realisation that the building of the country required the ingenuity and will of all Singaporeans, wherever life has placed us.
What really got to me was that despite the very diverse group of citizens assembled, there was so much consensus on where the country ought to be headed. One of the main themes that emerged was the need to (re)establish values in a society that most agreed had become overly materialistic and competitive. Singapore needed to be more compassionate and caring, more creative and daring to innovate.
And being pragmatic Singaporeans, we immediately set to work out how the education system needed to be changed, how policies needed to be rewritten and how government agencies and political leaders needed to espouse these values we all felt had been eroded in our hasty climb up the ladder of global meritocracy.
But it is impossible to speak of Singapore without asking the same hard questions of ourselves as Singaporeans: a compassionate Singapore is made up of compassionate Singaporeans. And thankfully, these are changes not entirely subject to the bureaucracy of government policy.
We need only choose to exhibit the traits which we think the country currently lacks, and if enough of us do, a significant change would begin, and the country's countenance, once cold and hard, would melt. Yes it is a naive thought, an overly optimistic hope perhaps, that our whole society could change simply because it chose to. But for that one brief moment, when 60 of us &mdash; most of whom knew nothing of each other &mdash; gathered into a room and shared our hearts out, there was a common foundation and strength that makes me believe that this is change we can enact from the ground up.

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