The following letter was sent in by a reader.
This is home truly, where I know I must be
Where my dreams wait for me, where the river always flows
This is home surely, as my senses tell me
This is where I won’t be alone, for this is where I know it’s home
By now, you should be very familiar with the lyrics of “Home”, one of the most popular and much-loved Singapore National Day songs. Whenever this song is heard, many Singaporeans will feel that warm, mushy feeling. When the song ends, we are thrown back into the harsh reality that Singapore, today, really does not feel like a wonderful home for many Singaporeans anymore.
Culture of money-chasing
The national culture in our country revolves around pursuing or having money, at any costs, perpetuated by our country leaders. Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, a Cabinet Minister, could not have put it better when he recently said that only the wealthy or corrupt will serve at zero cost. This mindset is what alienates our leaders from a growing group of Singaporeans, who are willing to sacrifice their time and energy for positive causes their hearts call out to, be it for helping others in need or for saving the environment and animals. The character traits of being willing to sacrifice and not expecting monetary rewards does not come easily to people, but we should not allow leaders who do not possess such positive traits to mould the culture of our country and people.
Culture of winning-at-all-costs
The culture of expecting to be rewarded handsomely has become deeply set in Singapore, resulting in a win-at-all-costs belief system. While a certain amount of competition is healthy to motivate the people to constantly improve their skills and knowledge, the culture as practised and promoted by our leaders is that of doing anything to win. Winning in the context of politics is to secure a Parliamentary seat. As observed time and time again for so many years of Singapore’s short history, our leaders will seemingly resort to anything to win. Recent incidents remind us again of this culture, such as how Mr Lawrence Wong, a Cabinet Minister, demonstrated the fine art of character assassination towards Dr Chee Soon Juan (of SDP) on national television in order to win a national debate, as well as the uncanny timing of a poison letter, widespread sensationalisation and wild accusation about Dr Daniel Goh (of WP) by the media. The issue of Aljunied GRC’s management has also been used as the main weapon by the PAP, in their attempt to eliminate an up-and-coming party that is fast growing in popularity in Singapore. All these cases are obvious attempts to prevent legitimate opponents from challenging the ruling PAP in the coming elections, regardless of how their powerful propaganda system has made it appear to be.
By promoting such a culture of gutter politics at national level, it is no wonder that in our schools and workplaces in Singapore, we can often see politicking in order to gain an advantage over fellow students and colleagues. We no longer treat each other as a fellow human being whom we can co-exist harmoniously well with, or cooperate well with. Instead, we become only concerned about our own well-being, and everyone else is either an enemy or someone whom we can take advantage of to achieve our personal goals. Do we want Singapore to be a warm and caring home where we can feel safe and cared for, where we can achieve our dreams together with our fellow Singaporeans? Or do we want to live in a home that is a hostile battleground filled with enemies at every turn, at every stretch of our life journey?
Taking care of our families and livelihood
Everyone needs to take care of our livelihood, and to support ourselves and our families, and we want to lead the happiest and most comfortable lives we can. For this to be possible, we need to have the means and resources, ie. have a job or business that can sustain our needs. That then leads to another serious problem about our future that our leaders do not seem to be very concerned about, as compared to their single focus on removing their political opponents.
The constant politicking by PAP leaders is very clear proof of what our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong means in his speech some years ago, when talking about having opposition MPs in Parliament: “Instead of spending my time thinking of what is the right policy for Singapore, I am going to spend all my time, I have to spend all my time thinking what is the right way to fix them [opposition MPs], what is the right way to buy my own supporters over, how can I solve this week’s problems, and forget about next year’s challenges.”
Singapore is at a very critical stage of our nationhood. We have passed the Initial growth and growth phases, and we are now in the maturity phase. If you look at the simple chart in this article, you will see that the next phase would be the decline phase. Life was tough during the growing years, and our first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his first batch of colleagues did an admirable job of directing Singapore to where she is today.
But that is then. Nokia used to be the sole powerhouse in mobile phones for many years in the past, but is reduced to its current sad state, because of the lack of new innovative ideas and positive change. In the same vein, the PAP leaders we have now is of a totally different breed from the first batch of PAP leaders, even though they belong to the same party. Constantly referring to the glory of the past 50 years is not going to help improve Singapore’s future, or help our current PAP leaders gain attributes needed to bring Singapore to enjoy further growth phases beyond maturity. In order to cement their ruling power in Singapore, PAP has cultivated a system that involves many connections, expecting strict obedience from the people, and eliminating political opponents, so that no one can challenge their power.
While that serves PAP leaders’ aspirations very well, what about Singapore’s future? What about the aspirations of Singaporeans for the future? Countries that were far behind Singapore in terms of economic success have either overtaken us or will overtake us soon. Many Singaporeans simply cannot envisage our current leaders to have what it takes to bring Singapore further success. Many Singaporeans do not feel assured that we would have a better future ahead in this country we call home. Government policies that had worked in the growing phases are no longer applicable in Singapore’s current and future phase. Yet, there appears to be no silver lining ahead.
Growing social divide
Singapore had been able to overcome challenges in the difficult years of nationhood in the past because the people then could trust that their leaders were fighting with them, side by side. But that trust can no longer be applied to our current PAP leaders. The number of Singaporeans trusting them is fast declining. Their latest PAP slogan, “With You, For You, For Singapore”, does not resonate with many Singaporeans today. Our leaders have become far too distant in their social status, as compared to many ordinary Singaporeans.
Below are just a few examples of why this social divide is a serious problem in Singapore’s society and contributing to the growing unhappiness with PAP leaders. Mr Charles Chong, PAP MP, had referred to ordinary Singaporeans who are not wealthy as “lesser mortals”. Mrs Goh Chok Tong, wife of our former Prime Minister, had commented that having a salary of S$600,000 is “peanuts”. Dr Koh Poh Koon, a PAP candidate, had commented, “Everybody has a car, we have two… We are professionals.” These are not remote examples. PAP leaders and MPs have time and again demonstrated that they and ordinary Singaporeans cannot be compared in the same breath. With current leaders like these, how can Singaporeans feel passionate about fighting alongside them in overcoming challenges? That is why more and more Singaporeans feel that they are simply dispensable foot soldiers maintaining their Imperial rulers’ well-being.
Creating a positive Singapore
Of course, it is not an easy task to bring Singapore to the next level, from where we are today. But we have to first resolve the critical issue of our leaders. Without enough positive leaders in Parliament, we will not be able to positively transform the culture of Singapore. Without positive leaders whom Singaporeans can trust, the country will not be able to unite and move in the same direction. And that is what Singaporeans want for Singapore, to continue to grow in success, so that our lives and the lives of our families can be well. And most importantly, Singaporeans want to have a home where we can all live in happiness till end of our lives.
May the Force Be With Singaporeans on 11 Sep 2015!