It’s no secret that Singaporeans are often feeling disenfranchised and disenchanted with life here. Gintai writes in his blog post ‘Is this my Singapore? My home and my country?‘ about the benefits of being a Permanent Resident in working in Singapore, while citizens are finding it difficult, what with stagnant wages and skyrocketing costs without the eventual relief of being able to chuck it all in and move back home.
Things getting more expensive, while salaries don’t seem to be going anywhere. Physical treasure troves of history and memory such as Bukit Brown and Old School slowly disappearing to support a population we weren’t actually prepared for. A government we cannot seem to connect with. And always we’re getting more stressed, more tired, more frustrated.
As Gintai writes:
We are not proud to be Singaporeans. We curse our fate as citizens of this country. How to have an inclusive society when there is no morale? How to fight and win a war when citizens are dishearten and felt cheated?
I know many who agree with him. And I completely understand where they’re coming from, because I often feel this way too.
But when I’m on the buses and trains, when I’m walking along the streets and wandering the malls, whenever I ask myself if I feel like I belong here, I always find that the answer is yes. Yes, this is my home, and I do belong here, even if I’ve been told time and time again by various people that I’m “not like any other Singaporean” or that I’m “the least Singaporean person”.
I belong here because I make it so.
There is one thing that Singaporeans can do that no one else can. We can speak out, take action and change what is going on in our country. We can sign petitions, participate in events, vote. When my non-Singaporean friends were made to stand on the other side of the cordon at Pink Dot last year, I was able to be part of that massive sea of pink, and be proud to stand up and be counted for the freedom to love.
Sure, it may not seem like much, and sure this privilege we have has also been restricted and controlled by the government, but that is another thing for us to fight for.
When I’m overseas, I air my views about issues too. I support movements and protests from all over the world. But I don’t usually feel a complete sense of ownership over the struggle, because it isn’t a situation I have lived through, or personally understand, or coming from a government supposedly representing me. So I take my cue from friends from that particular society or country, supporting them and learning from them, but never feeling comfortable enough to do anything that might raise my voice above theirs.
In Singapore, though, I do feel the sense of ownership. Because these are things that are supposed to be done for me, and done in my name. If I don’t speak up when things are going wrong, who will? And I find that knowledge to be liberating, because I know what is wrong, and I know what I want to change, and I’m not afraid to say so because this is my country.
We may feel like things are going against us, like we’re being cut out of the picture. But we’re also the only ones who can do something about it.
I’ve said before that I don’t think of myself as a patriot, or feel patriotic. I don’t really see the point in forcing my mind to be restrained by borders and arbitrary lines in the sands and seas when everything I’ve seen and learnt in life shows that we’re all in it together. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love or believe in my country, because I think it’s clear that I do. And that is why I still belong here.
I was born here and raised here. I have my family here, and friends. And memories and stories: exams passed and failed, photos taken, food eaten, roads walked, tears cried, accidents suffered, people loved, people lost. This is my turf; Singapore is in my blood. And no matter where I am or where I end up in the world, it’s not something that can be taken away from me. If even I can’t purge it from my system, how can anyone else do it for me?
We know where we stand as citizens of this country. In the meantime, there is nothing we could do.
I disagree. There is so much we can do, so much that needs to be done.
If we no longer feel that this is our Singapore, then it is up to us to make it the Singapore we hope for it to be. No one else is going to do it for us.
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