In Singapore We’ve Forgotten: I Think That I Am Better Than You (Part 1)

This is a two-part article to understand the real problem facing Singapore now and how we can overcome it. The second part will be published tomorrow. 

The problem that Singapore faces now is not that we are in a transition. It is that we have forgotten. We have all forgotten.

On the one side, we have some who say to the others – “you are so ‘elitist’ and you care only for yourself”. On the other, we have Singaporeans who say – “you are too ‘comfortable’ that you no longer work hard enough for Singapore”. On both sides, we have Singaporeans calling out at each other, claiming that one has forgotten his roots, of Singapore’s struggles and that they are giving it all away. On both sides, we’ve relegated the other to ungrateful people who think only for themselves.

But yet, isn’t this what both sides say to the other. And if both sides are claiming the other selfish, who is right or who is wrong then? And if both sides are saying the same thing, then what are we bickering about?

It is perhaps sad that Singaporeans don’t realise that as we criticize the other, that we aren’t actually that different. On the surface of it, we’ve taken the symptoms to be the problem – so Singaporeans are too “comfortable” and we need to fix that. Or Singaporeans are too “elitist” and we need to fix that. But is that it?

Yet, perhaps what is most disconcerting is that we have learnt to point the finger at the other but we have forgotten to point the finger at ourselves – all of us are party to this.

We Think That We Are Better Than The Other

The problem in Singapore is this – we think that we are better than the other. Some might think – I have worked so hard for Singapore and now you are telling me that I am not doing enough for you. How dare you, you lazy bugger. And some might say – don’t you see what you are doing? Singaporeans are unhappy because you no longer care about them. At least I do! But who is right? Who is to say who has a better argument? Who has the better heart? The better argument is that which we choose to believe in, and for now, Singaporeans have drawn ourselves down the line – half of whom align themselves to one side and the other to the other side.

But our nation is divided. What good is there when in our bickering, we tear the nation apart?

The problem is we think that we are better than the other. We think that I have a better education and I have committed myself to Singapore – what have you done? We think that I care more for others and you do not – do you even care?

Yet, aren’t we saying one and the same thing – I am better than you. I know better than you.

So what if we might know what needs to be done for Singapore? So what if we think we care? So what, if amidst all these, what we really care about is ourselves and to pride ourselves? So what, if amidst all these, we want to protect our pride and take every offence at someone whom we think are trying to make us feel lesser?

But aren’t we all making each other lesser? Aren’t we all calling one another names and labeling another? It was an illegal protest. You don’t care. You just want our money. You are too comfortable. You are “lousy”. You have defamed me. You are slandering me. And this never ends. As we take potshots at one another, seeing who has the louder voice.

Amidst all these, we continue to think – it’s because I am better than you.

So, we might call our government elitist. And our government might think the people too comfortable? What is right? The truth is that the people in our government thinks that it’s better than the people. And the people think that they are better than those in government.

This battle of wits will never end if Singaporeans don’t realise this. This will not end if Singaporeans don’t stop and take a look at ourselves.

Singapore at the Crossroads: Economic Growth but Social and Psychological Growth?

The problem in Singapore isn’t that we are not contented, that we’ve learnt to let it all go to waste, that we don’t care about Singapore. No, it’s not.

The problem in Singapore is that as we’ve grown so fast economically, we have no time to stop and think about our lives and ourselves. We have learnt to keep pumping along that now, as we have reached a stage where we are wondering – where is all the money taking me to? – this is when we have finally stop to ask, what is it I want? What do I truly want?

This is why some Singaporeans have started to slow down to look at their lives and started to question – what is the life that I want? Is Singapore moving too fast ahead for me and for the people around me? Why are people so unhappy and angry? Why have we learnt to shout at one another?

Yet, the economy keeps chugging along, as those still chugging with it look at the others and ask – what are you guys doing derailing our economy? Have you started becoming too comfortable? We are doing this for you and you don’t want to come onboard with us?

So, who is right? Who cares for Singapore? One group might think – why are we moving so fast when we are leaving the rest behind? Look at our poor and elderly. The other group would say – but if we don’t move fast enough, we would not be able to take care of our poor and elderly! Beneath all the bickering, Singaporeans care for one another. We might believe differently about how to care. But we do.

The problem isn’t how we have decided to chart our ways differently. The beauty of life is that we are all different, isn’t it? The problem is that we’ve forgotten to look at ourselves.

For some, we have stopped and asked – but why are we unhappy? Why are we angry? Yet, we do not know the answer. For others, we haven’t stopped but keep going and we tell to the others – stop mopping around and being unhappy! Start doing something useful with your life and maybe you will become happier! What is common is that we know that Singaporeans are unhappy but we do not have the answer.

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9 comments

  1. Kaffirlime

    hullo, am thrown by your use of the word ”contended”, and not for the first time.
    it means to contest or dispute something. which does not seem right, going by
    the context you’ve used it in. do you perhaps mean ”contenTed”? being happy
    or pleased with something? see para 15 in this column

  2. Anthony Sim

    Hi Roy

    It is good to just read something that reflects on our position in life. Its not about statistics, government policies or who should be blamed.

    Apparently, the big picture lies within us and how society has conditioned us to be way we are now. A nation of proud wealthy and highly competitive people fearing if we just stop to consolidate, our world will crumble. A nation who have adopted Zero tolerance as the means to success and will not accept failure as a reason to succeed.

    Such is the endemic culture that people become more impersonal and find productivity is well spent with people within their categorial status or higher (like networking for the executives?) even outside of business hours. Or Singaporean battlers with inferior complexes fearing humiliation of their lack of success or inability to communicate effectively or maybe still working on a second job to make ends meet.

    This is the kind of divide apparent in Singapore.

    If people start to overcome their fears and stress and begin to mingle with a wide spectrum of people, disregarding any discrimination and exercise tolerance, then will they only realise everyone is the same but with different opinions and there is a more reason to be less angry and stay happy.

    Apart from financial stability and security, Singaporeans must embrace empathy and tolerance towards anyone which is so lacking in this society.

    Where is the humour? Don’t worry, be happy.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi Anthony,

      Thanks for this comment – you might have just captured what I was hoping to say in the article a lot more succinctly actually!

      And it’s true – I think we have stopped looking out for one another that we have learnt only to look at ourselves and our own wants. In doing so, we see and hear only what we want to hear, that we have drawn ourselves apart.

      We need to stop to listen to ourselves and to one another, and Singapore is in a very good position to do this.

      But the government and the people need to realise this. Only when we do this will our society grow together and will we move to a next level and balance.

      Thanks for this!

      Roy

  3. Pingback: In Singapore We’ve Forgotten: I Think That I Am Better Than You (Part 2) | The Heart Truths
  4. Pingback: IN SINGAPORE WE’VE FORGOTTEN: I THINK THAT I AM BETTER THAN YOU (PART 2)  |  The Temasek Review - Temasek Review Emeritus - The Temasek Review - The Online citizen - The Real Singapore
  5. stooffi

    hehe i also think you meant moping and not mopping.

    but anyway thanks for this! it was a good read. i always question why we work so hard, and i do too, always get told to just do something useful that generates money and that’s the path to happiness.

  6. naj

    You just put my thoughts into words. Well put. Ive been struggling with school lately and times like these make me feel like i am only worth living as a “student” , which is definitely not true. I like the part where you said we’re sort of socially awkward people even though we live in a modern society. I think thats a good point to highlight because I feel that talking and sharing our genuine interests with people our age has become less popular in our culture. Hence we tend to assume badly of one another and we mumble some sayings or even curse words to get our “message” across, yknow?? This is something i feel is a problem we need to work on, because tbh, its pretty shameful lol.

    I feel embarrassed to say this, but i feel socially inept and its led me to lose out with potential friendships. Partly because of the way school and my upbringing has shaped me, but im working on it though. Just need to kick off that kind of mentality with myself. :p
    And ive also did some “soul searching” as well …and its good that this article sheds light on the issue we dont really say much about.

    Also, the part where you mentioned how we compare ourselves to be “better” than someone else is something i could relate as well. I tend to become intolerant of people who are “different” from me in school, like eg the slacker who doesnt do her hw and updates her hangouts on fb everyday. Or maybe the girl who tops the class but doesnt really have a lot of friends. Ill give a frown and simply feel sorry for them. But as i learn more abt these people(whom have both become my friends in school) ,i begin to realize the existing sides we have in our society- namely the laidback idealistic mentality and the practical work-ur-ass off types. And that is something thats worth pondering about…

    Xx

  7. naj

    You just put my thoughts into words. Well put. Ive been struggling with school lately and times like these make me feel like i am only worth living as a “student” , which is definitely not true. I like the part where you said we’re sort of socially awkward people even though we live in a modern society. I think thats a good point to highlight because I feel that talking and sharing our genuine interests with people our age has become less popular in our culture. Hence we tend to assume badly of one another and we mumble some sayings or even curse words to get our “message” across, yknow?? This is something i feel is a problem we need to work on, because tbh, its pretty shameful lol.

    I feel embarrassed to say this, but i feel socially inept and its led me to lose out with potential friendships. Partly because of the way school and my upbringing has shaped me, but im working on it though. Just need to kick off that kind of mentality with myself. :p
    And ive also did some “soul searching” as well …and its good that this article sheds light on the issue we dont really say much about.

    Also, the part where you mentioned how we compare ourselves to be “better” than someone else is something i could relate as well. I tend to become intolerant of people who are “different” from me in school, like eg the slacker who doesnt do her hw and updates her hangouts on fb everyday. Or maybe the girl who tops the class but doesnt really have a lot of friends. Ill give a frown and simply feel sorry for them. But as i learn more abt these people(whom have both become my friends in school) ,i begin to realize the existing sides we have in our society- namely the laidback idealistic mentality and the practical work-ur-ass off types. And that is something thats worth pondering about…

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