It’s uncanny how every expat or exchange student I talk to agree with me on almost all things politically related to the general public of Singapore.
Was reading George Orwell’s 1984 in Starbucks this afternoon when the Afro-american gentleman sitting at the next table asked if I was reading it as a literature textbook, because he studied it in high school.. out of curiousity from his accent I asked if he’s American to which he said yea, he grew up in Utah/Texas (can’t remember where exactly), went to through the whole law education, passed the bar (because I told him what I was studying) and stopped practice because he couldn’t stand the grey area of law. Back where he’s from, he learnt things to be “black or white”, so, well. He became an entreprenuer and came to Singapore with his 6 kids and wife to start new subsidiary businesses, and will be going to expand his business in KL. Since they’re staying in a prime housing estate here, I’d say his business is thriving. I mean, he does have a family of 8. lol. Anyway, I digress.
Yadda yadda for 5 mins, and the inevitable question pops up: “So how do you find Singapore so far?”
Like any other foreign person I’ve met in S’pore, he launches into familiar topics from the narrow-mindedness of the people here, the famous Singlish and how he had to get use to it, to the way Singaporeans don’t really open to to casual conversations with Strangers from Overseas (my honest opinion would be because average Singaporeans don’t really know what to talk about to expats due to their general unworldliness & tendency of resisting the use of standard English in conversations) but he doesn’t see that in KL (Malaysia boleh! Pardon my sudden bout of patriotism)… etc.
The wife Lynette and myself agreed that Singaporeans’ apathy towards everything outside Singapore and their general gratification of earning SGD3-4k a month is a result of ideological conditioning (to borrow sociological jargon) paramount to the way this country is run. For Singapore to have its present economic prowess in comparison to neighbouring Asian countries, there need to be a sacrifice, in its people. The truth of all the hoo-ha about how Singaporean media is filled with stringent censorship and its education system a conspiracy of churning batches of propagandised clockwork oranges is that most Singaporeans can’t do much except to complain, and nothings’ gonna change because they know the clever control of manpower makes or breaks the efficiency of operations in the governement’s ministries, which translates into the quality of life and comfort level in their everyday lives.
So they have learnt to swallow income tax hikes and ERP hikes and GST hikes etc and be contented with SGD3.50 per hour jobs becuse whatever’s good for the economy is good for them in the long run, so says the governement.
It took me till today to realise the fantasy of living an ordinary but meaningful life has been entrenched in national education. A very good example is one of the mandarin national day songs in which the lyrics go (loosely translated):
“I never cared that I’m not someone important, being ordinary is a kind of happiness… looking at the lives of famous people who’re constantly busy, I’m glad I can control my own time, living an ordinary life is great…”
The encouragement towards mediocracy and against achieving greater things in life is indeed important. That’s how they retain potential their brains within the borders of this island I guess. And that’s why I see so many Singaporeans so happy with the cleanliness of their Garden City and are proud of their Changi Airport and Singapore Airlines while they banter against the lack of freedom of speech & their alien expat colleagues during coffee breaks in fluent Singlish. Great job, PAP. 😀