I’ve always sat and wondered about issues larger than life, worried about the survival of the human race, and perhaps even brainstormed an idea or two regarding solutions to alleviate poverty in Africa. Eccentric, one may comment. However, I am but an ordinary teenager, a jubilant soul fantasizing about endless possibilities offered to me like a buffet for selection – grab the largest plate and pile it, embody kiasu-ism!
So is Singapore.
Singapore shines on the global stage as a young nation on the ascendant. Like the 16-going-on-17 me, Singapore is unafraid to take on the world with dynamics and energy. Nonetheless, akin to every other sorrowful and paranoid teenager, Singapore has what I would call “identity issues”.
The heated debate about our identity as Singaporeans seems to have erupted way before our independence as a nation. Unlike homogeneous countries such as Japan and India, Singapore has a whole pool of different races. Unlike the more religion-based countries like Iran and Iraq, Singapore is a mixing pot of culture and religion. Unlike countries such as China and Egypt with deep historical roots stretching way back into the dawn of time, Singapore is a mere 50 years old. Technically and logically speaking, none of the groups will mix or get along with one another. With such challenges laid in front of us like the storm Sang Nila Utama faced, it is only natural for us to fear, panic and doubt. How are we going to differentiate ourselves when we are divided within?
I believe the answer lies in the past, the present and the future.
In the past, we’ve witnessed our forefathers brave the rain with a united voice, and this moving incident has made its way as one of PM Lee Hsien Loong’s favorite anecdotes. What is it that united them? What made them stand tall and proud, belting out the national anthem and NDP songs in the ruthless downpour? I think I can safely say that it is the sheer pride they felt when our military marched past them, armed to their teeth with the very weaponry and lives they lay down to serve and protect the nation. It is the common knowledge that they have pulled through the toughest of times with no natural resources aside from their own hands, sweat and diligence.
Recently, we’ve experienced the heaviness of the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The entire nation gathered, paving the road to bid farewell to the beloved man. As if history was reenacted, rain fell. Yet once again, the people of the little red dot stood their ground. Fast forward three months, and we hear the proud song playing at the podium during the SEA Games ceremonies. Albeit off-tune, the sincere harmony from the crowd bore the intense emotions of Singaporeans, and it brought tears to many. Why? It is that unsaid, untold and silent emotion felt by many, bonded through a common event.
The future of Singapore lies in our hands. I foresee brightness, advancements and even greater heights conquered as a nation. I foresee an even stronger nation of intellectuals and technicians, of commoners and millionaires, of children and adults, of men and women, of Malays, Indians, Chinese and other races. I cannot grasp how exactly Singapore will progress, but I know Singapore is on the right track. What Singapore really needs to help people identify themselves as Singaporeans, is a common event where all are involved in. “Common” is hard in a society like ours, but it is achievable.
I would like to blatantly propose the idea of revolutionizing the National Day Parade. Leave a segment entirely to the youths – let them plan, let them innovate, let them shine. Leave another segment to the aged – let them present to society the wisdom and weathered experiences they have to offer. Leave segments for the working, the ill, the disabled and many more groups: hear their voices, their heartbeats, and indulge in their passion. Is it hard? I hope not. What will it bring? I’d like to think it brings endless possibilities.
In the next 10, 50 or even 100 years, I pray that as Singapore blossoms from a bud of the Vanda Miss Joaquim into full bloom, its teenage dream’s will still be alive and will be even more hardy than ever.
This essay was submitted for the “My Singapore, My Future” essay contest organised by The Opinion Collaborative Ltd, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s nationhood.
Comments from the judges –
“Really aspirational, and some nice imagery.”
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