Why Singapore will never be number 1
It is not exactly divine revelation, but Singapore has to undergo a change in character (you could say Singapore has to develop some character) before she can be considered a world-class nation.
Despite the myriad of cultures and religions, every person above the age of 3 is able to sum up Singapore’s predominant character traits. They are kiasu and kiasi.
Kiasu refers to a fear of losing out. Singaporeans are obsessed with being number one. We proudly boast having the best airport, the best zoo, the cleanest country. If there’s a list, we need to be on the top of that list. Occasionally, our organisations even brag about coming in first in a one-horse race.
Kiasi refers to a fear of failure. We always play it safe. This explains many things in Singapore - why we cannot chew gum, hold protests (however civilised), or speak ill of the powers that be. If there is a failure, we’d rather not talk about it. You’ll probably need to find out from foreign news sources that we failed. And even then there are usually actions taken to distort the reality field around such failures.
These 2 traits are the yin and yang of Singapore’s character, but unlike yin and yang, these 2 traits do not co-exist. In most cases, you cannot be number one without some probability of failure.
So we do the wise thing. We pick battles in which we will surely win. You will find Singapore on top of many a list, but if you look closely they are safe victories. You will not find allusions of grandeur, or attempts to embrace and uphold noble ideologies. You will instead find the base of Maslow’s famous triangle - bread and butter issues. Lifts that stop on every floor. No free press. No crazy democratic ideals. No discussion. Casinos.
I am not sure what history will remember us by; whether the eat, drink and be merry existence would suffice to bind us together as a people. It would have been nice to know if we had the guts to spit in the face of the world superpower because we believed her a bully, or stand beside her because we believed her cause righteous.
The way we are, it seems we want to be remembered simply as the country who turned a blind eye to everything around her so long it did not affect her diet of rich foods or quest for opulent livery.