That’s always the line that’s used to try to spur you to action. But that quote makes one assumption – that the country is a land you’re bounded to and so it is in your interest to better its condition
But does the same apply today when we live in a truly globalised world where air travel is cheap, safe and relatively quick compared to the ’60s. Not happy with the cost of living? Move to a cheaper country. Not happy with tax rates, move to somewhere with good rates.
So what incentive is there to ‘serve the nation’ when it seems like most politicians are in the pockets of self-serving corporations?
This is what i’ve been struggling with lately with regards to me being a Singaporean in Singapore Inc. I love my country. I love how clean, efficient and safe it is. But I wonder if the price the people are paying for it is too high. And if it is, I wonder if anybody’s bothered to fix it.
You see with comments from the founding leader of the nation criticising how Singaporeans are getting lazy and choosy over their jobs while at the same time allowing cost of living to go up, wages to stagnate and then praising the foreigners for helping build this nation, I can’t help but feel like a child with a parent who envies the neighbour’s kid. I feel disappointed that my leaders make almost every attempt to mollycoddle the neighbours while my every effort is never good enough.
It’s said that we’re choosy over the jobs we take because 3 out of 10 jobs have been left unfilled for months on end. But what sort of jobs are they? Surely we can’t just take any job after getting retrenched. If i have non-negotiable expenses of 2k to make a month, i sure cannot settle for a 1.2k paying job now, can i? It makes more sense to remain jobless and continue to hunt for a job.
It’s said that we’re not willing to put in as many extra hours than our foreign counterparts. But, and i don’t intend to whine, how can you expect me to live up to my duties as a son and husband, expect me to make babies for my country, live a healthy lifestyle(which includes a balanced one), constantly upgrade myself and still expect me to be at the office for 12 to 16 hours a day? Most of the foreigners are lucky in the sense that their families are back at home so there is no expectation for them to go back and spend time with kids or their partners.
Yet, despite all this 2nd-class treatment and mixed signals, I still feel that citizenship holds a purpose. Not one of economic purpose but a social one.
I think it goes back to the concept of ‘home’. It’s not just about safety in numbers – that in some way, regardless of how we may disagree with each other, we can rely on Singaporeans to rally together when a threat presents itself to our family. Just listen to stories of Singaporeans stranded overseas and how other Singaporeans help them out(when they can’t get easy access to our embassy). It’s about the roots to, and the creation of, a common memory across many generations of people. It’s about the stories one will tell to their kids and grandkids that they were part of the building of a nation and how things have changed in part because of what they did and how they pursued their dreams and that these kids too have a purpose beyond just their existence.
And yet I wonder, how many people think about the society they live in? I fear that many are so caught up with trying to make a living that all they have time for is to work aimlessly and endlessly to the point they suffer a disconnect from the people around them which makes building the true meaning of nationhood an uphill task. It’s no secret that many people today live in cramped HDB spaces and still have no idea who their next door neighbours are.
I am Singaporean and I wonder what stories I will tell to the next generation…
That food used to cost so much cheaper?
That people loved to complain back then too?
That everyone was apathetic?
That everyone aspired to migrate?
No. I can’t have that. I can’t be telling my children and the neighbours children and my nephews and nieces that. That I came from a generation who felt nothing and hence did nothing. That I came from a generation that expected to own a piece of the nation’s future but never did anything to earn that privilege other than talk and pay taxes.
There’s so much expectation for the country to engage her people…but perhaps…just perhaps her people should engage her. To teach her that times have changed and that we must respect each other if we are to build a future…not just for ourselves or for this country but for our children.
So that they may live in a better place than ours and so that they will have inspirational stories to hear that didn’t revolve around the heroes of World War II.
By the way, Happy Belated National Day.