By Toh Teck Sun
It was many many years ago, that former Indonesian President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie belittled Singapore as just a little red dot.
Over the years, we turned the insult on itself and came up with a slogan of sorts: Our Little Red Dot, Our Home. On National Days, we attached a little red ball at the end of a stick and waved it about with pride.
I cannot recall anyone ever calling us the little red dot again other than that we complained too much, though we occasionally infer that small though we may be, look what we have achieved. We are the number one or two in many spheres of human endeavours and can often punch above our weight in regional or even international affairs.
More appropriately, we know when to sit on the fence or when to take sides, but always gingerly. We want to enlarge our circles of friends.
It is an existential equation, not a question of choice or ethics.
This red-dot metaphor came to my mind with the haze blown into Singapore from Indonesia being in the news again.
It made me a little uncomfortable when I read that the Indonesian Deputy President was quoted as saying that we should complain to the winds that blew the haze to Singapore.
I guess at the back of his mind was, that little red dot again. It then occurred to me that calling ourselves the Little Red Dot carries a ring of defiance.
Why don’t we call ourselves the Little Green Dot. It sounds more conciliatory. It also fits in with what we have done to turn our country into a garden city. With climate change often in the news these days, green is also the in thing.
But it is not without justification that several developing countries have argued that they have to strike a balance between achieving economic growth and protecting the Earth.
Anyway, Indonesia is already doing its best to reduce the haze. We should reciprocate by cutting down the noise, particularly on social media.
A little humility can go a long way – we are just a green dot, not a red one.