Sunday, August 15, 2010

I confess watching the YOG opening ceremony...

...and utterly regretted it.

Pre-teenage cousins and young kids glued their faces to my TV box (we had a family gathering), having been told by their schools to support the YOG. If they aren't participating, at least give their support in spirit by watching the YOG opening ceremony.

I was in the same living room with these starry-eyed future generation of Singapore, accompanying them in their eagerness. I was all ready to give credit and accolade to the organisers, the working committee, the supporters and the event itself.

Deep down I hoped it to succeed. I wanted it to succeed.

I lingered on the thought that no matter what comes may, a Singaporean is still a Singaporean. We will roll up our sleeves, grit our teeth and gird ourselves with the 'never-say-die' resolve to see it through. So there I was fully prepared to swallow my pride and to hold my criticisms that the over-publicised event might actually pull it off. I even berated myself for being cynical and skeptical about the whole thing.

SGD380+ million dollars, mind you! It's a huge sum of money.

But whatever resolve I had died after some time into the show. My pre-teen viewers cringed at the ridiculous 'alien', my young audience were befuddled with the boxer, and I felt the commentator tried too hard to lift the spirit of the games. Seriously it wasn't even his fault!

One of the audience remarked, "Why boxer? Why is he totally clueless about what he wants to do? At least footballer we understand." Another queried, "Where is this held, huh? Is it Marina?" And the final icing, one young one piqued, "Aiyoh, what kind of alien is it?

Wow... such a pale contrast to the recent National Day. At least with the National Day parade feedback I gathered, people enjoyed the lights, sounds, colours and singing. Especially the freebies in the goody bags.

We have these too at the YOG. But seriously something is amiss. This is Singapore's Youth Olympics to the world. There were lights, colours and singing alright but missing in SPIRIT!

Spirit comes with youth. You just can't buy. It comes along when the youths feel this is a 'cool' event to be in and the word of mouth spreads like a wildfire. From my interactions, most of them don't give a hoot about it.

It showed throughout the whole event amid the aplomb of bursting pillars of fire, zooming spotlights and fantastic stage show by the water front. There was an absence of the spirit of the youths in the event. It felt like it was all for show, a disappointing wayang of sorts. I pondered whom the event was for and if the budget given was even worth the spending. Bluntly put - disappointing show.

By the agonising looks on our faces, we switched to another channel. We concurred it was too painful to watch.

And I thought National Day needed more spirit and patriotism.
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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

(Old Classic) I am a Singaporean, by Dan E

Read the post by Under the Willow Tree on an old classic.

Brought back nostalgic memories. Blogging was a raging fever in 2006 and the government then was 'apprehensive' and 'suspicious' on the new internet media. During those times Mr Wang's blog was just 'Mr Wang Bakes Good Karma', and mrbrown was just er... mrbrown and the 'tur kwa' man!

Anyway this is an absolute wonderful piece of old classic which I am re-producing here. I remembered reading and immediately felt kinship with the author. Wow... how many of us go through life in Singapore like he did?

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I am a Singaporean, by Dan E

I was born in 1970 at the KK hospital and grew up in a kampong near the old airport. My parents stopped at 2 after having my younger sibling.

I moved from my kampong to a HDB flat in the west-end of Singapore when the government exercised the Land Reclamation Act on my kampong to build new flats.

I schooled through PSLE, O-level, A-level, and took a 2.5 years Army conscription break before disrupting to return to NUS for a degree course.

I followed the Singapore dream: study hard, serve the country, work hard, listen to the government and have a good life.

I remember vividly an illustration from the National Education text in primary school where it depicted a happy family of four walking towards their car from a high-rise apartment.

I observed the property market riding waves after waves of increase and read the dosage of how “investors” harvested profits within weeks without even seeing the apartment they bought. Inspiring.

And I quietly wondered how I can afford a high-rise apartment. But I thought that the government has a plan and I went for my Reservists and IPPT.

I watched my mother fell sick, admitted for emergency treatment and ICU observation. I saw the hospitable bills piled to intimidating figures but I have one and just only one mother – priceless. I knew I had enough CPF savings to cover her.

I thought I knew, but the CPF Board knew better. I watched in horror as the clerk punched her calculator and calmly informed me that the combined CPF of my 3 family members could only pay for less than 15% of the $25,000 bill.

I wiped out my first few years of cash savings in one cheque. Little did I know, then, that this one cheque would go on to change my Singapore dream.

I researched the CPF and learned about the limited medical scheme, housing scheme, and the ever-rising minimum sum requirement. I found out that I can’t access my money even if I have a dying mother requiring an operation for which I have no cash to pay.

I finally understood why some old people say, “in singapore you can die but you better don’t fall sick”.

And I went for my Reservists and IPPT – but I began hating it for its inflexibility and infringement on my personal life.

I started asking “why”. I questioned and discovered that no one had a satisfactory answer, (or perhaps they just didn’t want to answer) – except for slogans like “More Good Years”, “Swiss Standard of Living”, “First World nation”.

No one, in fact, could tell me what constitutes a “Rainy Day” or who can decide if its going to be a rainy day. Certainly not the weatherman, I know.

I took up a job that led me away from Singapore, relocating to a few locations. Someone called me a quitter subsequently.

In Japan, I concluded that World-class transportation network is quite a bit more than just 4 lines running through the city.

In Taiwan, I realized that Singapore is really a western society that happens to speak functional Mandarin. I learned what is civic participation, media independence, and how absolute power will corrupt absolutely eventually.

I now know it is the electorate’s responsibility to ensure that the government does its job – not the other way around.

I married and bought my own high-rise apartment (not a cent from the CPF) – all outside of Singapore. I found out that I don’t need a car to complete the picture in order to be happy, or to support my ego.

I watched the post-911 GE and the recent Lee-junior GE. I saw Martyn See’s documentary on CSJ. I observed the emergence of political forums and their haste relocation from singapore, the evolution of the “persistently non-political” blogs, not to mention the blogs’ coverage of GE-2006.

I read with interest the emergence of civic awareness that are well articulated and presented on the Internet.

I am amused at the PAP’s apprehension of this new media, as well as its instinctive need to “fix” this emerging trend. I wonder how the new fix will reconcile with the new slogan, “Open and Inclusive Society”.

I continue to be amused by a shriveled 80+ years old man who persists in putting on his gauntlets and meeting his imaginary opponent in a cul-de-sac. And yet when the time comes for reckoning he backpeddles and calls out for judgement without trial.

I pay the government to do its job of providing governmental services to the country, including a fair, equitable and non-partisan method of upgrading older estates.

I didn’t pay to be told what can or cannot be expressed as opinions, be it constructive, partisan or otherwise. I have my wife at home to discuss freedom of expression – it is not the call of a civil servant or a minister employed by my tax dollars.

I have this to tell the civil servants and ministers: create more jobs, keep prices steady and try to move singapore upwards a little more in the Happy Nation Index. And stop complaining about how you cannot cope with rising oil prices, globalization, terrorism – you need to think really hard and come out with solutions.

And you do really need to worry about losing confidence because you are already there: through non-performance.

I am a Singaporean, who now understand the separation of State and Government, and who knows government must be managed and can indeed be changed (as opposed to some misguided musings).

I am a Singaporean, and I want a democratic society based on justice and equality. And I believe we will slowly but surely dismantle the obstructions accumulated from years of apathy.

So say we all.
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