Firstly, I would like to congratulate and thank you for winning the Olympic bronze medal for Singapore.
As a Singaporean, I am very grateful for what you have done and what many of us couldn’t have done. You had the grit, belief and courage to stand on a world stage and go where not many of us have gone before – and bring back an Olympic medal for Singapore.
This is only the 2nd singles medal that Singapore has ever won, and the 3rd medal ever, and the plain truth is we would not have been able to achieve this without you, not perhaps in another 10, 20 or 30 years, after our programme to train more local talent bears fruit. You have once again represented the hope that Singapore has in achieving pride on the international arena, as you and your team mates had in the last Olympic Games.
Thank you, Tianwei.
When Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei won a silver medal in the badminton single’s finals yesterday, Malaysians rallied behind him and Malaysians cheered him on. They patted him on the back when he won the silver medal and showed their continuous support even if he had not won the gold medal. Because he dared to dream and he dreamt for Malaysians. And the Malaysians dreamt with him. Because they stood together as one people, with pride.
So, many have said that you are not born in Singapore and because of this, we cannot be proud of you. Because they say, you wouldn’t be proud of representing us. I’m really sorry that it has to come to this.
You had dared to dream for us, but we had forgotten how to dream.
But do we have the right to take personal attacks, or make snide remarks at you? Truth is, it’s not about you. The debate, at this point, isn’t really about you. You, like many other foreigners who have contributed greatly to Singapore – some of whom are now Singaporeans like you – have become a symbol and a pawn for our unhappiness towards how we think we’ve been unfairly treated by the government. Singaporeans are unhappy not because of you. Singaporeans have learnt not to be happy, because we have learnt to.
For a long time, we’ve been unhappy but we’ve not learnt to speak up. And now that we are beginning to find our voice, we’ve learnt to voice our anger and displeasure. Because that’s what we remember. Or choose to remember – anger.
Tianwei, I would like to apologise on behalf of Singaporeans who choose to get angry at you when they shouldn’t. Their anger was transferred onto you because they felt that they felt that if their anger towards the government wasn’t being responded to, they would then get angry at the people that they feel the government was favoring over them.
I’ve been rethinking about my thoughts about my government for the past two weeks again. My government might not have done some things as well as they could – they could help the poor and the elderly achieve a more respectable lifestyle. They could devise policies to ensure real wages respond more adequately to inflation. They could ensure transport and housing policies respond to the rise in population faster. In these areas, yes, they didn’t do as well.
But I’ve also been thinking and learning to appreciate once again that there are some things that they have done well – they have given us a standard of living that is financially more sustainable than many others, they have ensured that we can walk around at night safely and freely. Yes, I still think they can allow us to have more freedom to express ourselves and speak up for what we believe in. But with great power comes great responsibility. We’ve learnt to speak up online but we’ve equally learnt to abuse it. Perhaps it’s no wonder why the government is threading very carefully with regards to whether they should open up in this area – because of the implications of how we might only cause further rifts among ourselves.
See, Singaporeans have learnt to be angry and unhappy over the many years where we’d felt that the government wasn’t responding. And perhaps sometimes the government wasn’t. And sometimes the government was. But if anything, the government has also forgotten to explain to us what they are doing adequately. And which is why Singaporeans feel that they’ve been kept in the dark, that their concerns are not being met, that they’ve not been heard.
I cannot be sure if the government has finally heard us, but I would like to give them one more chance to make it better, not right – because we are kidding ourselves if we think Singapore is not good enough.
But the government has to learn to explain better what it’s doing. The government needs to look at their governing principles again and live up to these principles. The government has to believe again. It’s no secret that the government has looked at economic growth and prosperity as the highest priority for Singapore but with our knowledge economy and a more educated population which has a achieved a higher attainment of living, thanks as well to the government, it does mean that the government would need to also shift their focus on to the social and psychological well being and welfare of Singaporeans.
I know the government has realized this. And I know the government is responding. But is the government not responding fast enough or is the government not explaining well enough? The government has to ask this of themselves. And if the government is not explaining well enough, perhaps it’s about being more transparent in the communication. Perhaps it’s not just about using The Straits Times to say what they want us to hear but to say how things really are, so that we can learn to trust them again.
But for now, Singaporeans will still be angry. They have to. Firstly, we don’t understand or know if the government is responding. Because the government isn’t sure how to let us know, without making us feel offended even further, as well. Secondly, the years of accumulated anger is finally being let out with our new found voice through the online medium and it has sparked an emotion within that many do not know how to rein in responsibly. And thirdly, we do not seem to know how to respond positively to our negative emotions but have learnt to express them through our frustrations and misplaced anger.
And thus we have learnt to get angry at you, Tianwei. Even if we have disagreeing viewpoints, we can still express them in non-personal ways. So I am very sorry.
The state of Singapore is both the responsibility of my government and my people. We’ve learnt not to communicate over the past few years and we’ve lost sight of each other’s priorities. We’ve become like a bickering couple who haven’t been talking to each other and have learnt only to misunderstand each other. We’ve learnt to sleep in different rooms in the same house only to erupt now into anger because one doesn’t understand the other. Because we’ve closed off our communication channels and stopped talking to each other even if we are sleeping under the same roof.
And now we’ve learnt to communicate with each other through Facebook and through blogging, but instead of hearing each other, one has been quick to anger and the other has been slow to respond.
And then we’d welcome you to our humble abode. But like any couple who have forgotten how to show respect and understanding towards each other, we’ve forgotten and have learnt also to show anger to those whom we had used to welcome with open arms – when we were then also welcomed into this home, with open arms.
Now anyone who comes in is screamed at, kicked at and passed over. What right do you have to come into my home, when I don’t even feel at home? When I don’t even feel that this is my home? Sure, one pays the bills and the other feels stifled. The bickering couple who refused to divorce – because we can’t. Because we rely on one another. Because there’s still a sense that we’ve built this place together and we both still want a part of it.
And then we invite you in and because we no longer talk to each other, we talk to others. But when one invites someone else in, the other views with suspicions. And then hostility and aggression. And thus we berate you when who we truly want to scoff at is our partner.
But do things need to be this way? Can the couple learn to love again? Can we learn to respect and understand each other again? Can the government learn to listen and can we have the patience to hear them out?
Can we learn to talk again, and be honest with one another?
And truth is, we can. I don’t remember when we learnt to stopped trusting each other. But we need to learn to trust again. Otherwise we will continue to live with each other with suspicion and anyone whom we welcome into our home, with disdain and fear. Even when sometimes our friends from overseas who visit us come with good news and good tidings.
Even when sometimes, our friends, like you, Tianwei, come into Singapore and become a member of our family, come and win an Olympic medal for us. Even when you do something that we hadn’t been able to do for so long and rightfully, we should be so proud, and so happy for you, and for ourselves.
But truth is, we’ve forgotten how to be proud of ourselves. We’ve forgotten how to be happy. We’ve learnt only to grow angry and instead of look within ourselves for happiness, we’ve learnt to look outside to blame for our anger.
My dear Singaporeans, this coming national day or for the new year and many to come, do you want to continue to be unhappy for the rest of your existence or do you want to perhaps, stop and ask ourselves why we are unhappy? And if so, can we learn to be happy again? And even if we are no longer speaking to our partner or that we don’t trust our partner, can we start to perhaps try to understand each other and try to learn to find the respect that we used to have for each other, again?
Can we learn to remember that this is a home we and our parents and their parents have built together? But we do! But instead of bickering and being over zealous, can we put our egos aside and recognize that all of us actually want the same for each other – for the betterment of Singapore? What are we all really trying for? For a country where we respect those who have it the worst but whom we will still care for, for the elderly who have given what they had to Singapore and should be given time to rest and appreciate the tills of their hard work, for a Singapore which prides meritocracy, yes, but one who also respects the equality for each of us to be.
And we can. But in this chapter, in this home of ours, can we start afresh and anew? Can we forget our past unhappiness and look to forge a new consciousness? Can we learn to invigorate this new found passion and strength with positivity and unity? Can we come together and share our views to work towards a common direction? Can we?
For Singapore and Singaporeans to have come this far to where we are, we have only ourselves to thank, and the government to thank. But it wouldn’t have been possible if either one of us were not in the picture. Singapore is where we are because we forged a common consensus based on common belief, because we held on to each other even when times were tough.
And now, in this new chapter, we’ve come to a point when we need to have a new understanding towards one another, where we’ve moved on to new and different chapters in our life, where we’ve learnt to appreciate other aspects of our lives, and of others, which we’ve never had to before. And in this new chapter, we are still learning of each other’s needs, new found beliefs and reenergised passion. Here, we are at another turning point in our nation’s history where we decide how we want to chart our path. The government needs us to work with them, just as we need the government to work with us.
Here, in this new chapter, we have a chance to make things better, a chance to make things perfect. Here, we can choose to work with each other, have a new appreciation of each other to be able to achieve the dreams that each of us want, together. We can do this if we believe, trust and use our new found passion to build new connections.
We can, my fellow Singaporeans. We can. I yearn to see the day when we will be there for one another, regardless of who he or she might be. Where, because of the respect and understanding I have for you, I will cheer you on and walk alongside you, because I know that you will be there for me, and put a supporting arm around me as well. I yearn for the day when we will create solutions for the betterment of all of us, whether you are considered less well-off, young or old, whatever your colour or beliefs you choose to hold, whether you choose a life that is different from another. I yearn and I know the day will come when we can finally hold the hand of our partner and say again, thank you for the trust and respect you have for me. Thank you for making this place a better place where we can live at ease, in happiness and in the beauty of one another.
And when the day comes when we win another Olympic medal that we will cheer each other on, with pride, passion and belief.
And as one.