~ By Ghui ~
In the article “Love Singapore, Our Home?”, Jen said “True love for the country is nurtured deep from within, and it is expressed joyously when we feel real ownership and gut-bursting pride for our country which goes beyond love for the food, lifestyle and infrastructure.” (here) I wonder how many Singaporeans feel this spirit of patriotism and if so, to what extent and if not, why not?
Separating Singapore from the PAP
Given that the PAP have held onto power for almost fifty years now, it is sometimes hard to differentiate the PAP from Singapore. But we have to remember that Singapore is an entity separate and distinct from the PAP. The PAP form the present government but Singapore as a country will exist whether or not the PAP remain in power.
There are often insidious ways of conflating the two. An example would be the yearly National Day buntings which feature PAP MPs together with national insignia. While seemingly innocuous, this has the effect of implying that celebrating Singapore and celebrating the PAP are one and the same.
Perhaps this is not intentional but it is nevertheless damaging to fostering a spirit of patriotism because party politics wax and wane while devotion to one’s country should endure.
I can understand if the image of the sitting President is used in conjunction with the symbols of statehood. The office of the President is not affiliated with any political party and the President is the symbolic head of Singapore. In that regard, the office of the President is synonymous with the national identity of Singapore but the same does not and should not apply to PAP MPs.
If Singapore’s identity as a country is synonymous with the PAP, what will happen if the PAP is no longer in power? The PAP is facing stiffer competition from opposition parties and backlash for some of its policies. If Singaporeans are subconsciously equating the PAP with Singapore’s national identity, would their frustrations at the PAP not affect their patriotism?
Genuine patriotism is not something that can be created by the mere singing of nationalistic songs. It has to be developed over time through cohesion and pride in a national identity.
A good way to start would be to recognise at both government and citizen levels that the nation of Singapore is above and beyond the people or the parties who rule it. Loving Singapore does not equate to loving the PAP and being frustrated at the PAP does not equate to disloyalty towards Singapore.
There are varying degrees of confusion when it comes to PAP and its role in nation building. The PAP were indeed instrumental to the development of Singapore as a nation but it would be inaccurate to equate them to the national identity of Singapore. Singapore has had a long and varied history. It had once belonged to the British East India Company before becoming a Crown Colony and it was once a part of Malaysia – in short, while not independent, Singapore has existed way before the PAP was even formed.
Many that have come before the PAP have contributed to the Singapore that we have today and it would be incorrect to somehow imagine that the PAP is Singapore and vice and versa.
As rightly pointed out by Jen, National Day is a time to celebrate Singapore as a nation. It should not be politicised for it is only when Singaporeans are able to clearly separate the country from its government can true patriotism really begin.