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I am Singaporean (Why I Am Cynical) – I November 7, 2006

Posted by The Truth in I am Singaporean, Vol. I.

I am Singaporean.

I don’t say it proudly, or say that people should come to Singapore to admire our concrete jungle. I state it in a matter-of-fact, i’m-neither-proud-nor-am-i-unhappy kind of tone. I am, in addition to that, horribly cynical. I don’t think, for one, that it’s healthy to wholly believe some flag-waving man for aims which sound as lofty as ‘nation-building’ or ‘speaking pure English’ when i firstly do not believe in them, and nor do i see it happening, anyway.

I am studying in Germany, and i express my own views. If it doesn’t sit well with you, please go away. This is Singapore. Taken from another lens, namely, a lens 10,000 miles away.

Coming to Germany has been like a breath of fresh air – a place where, shall we say, freedom is the keyword? In comparison to home, Germany looks like the Land of the Free – no one is going to discriminate against you if you’re politically active, if you laugh at the Chancellor (it goes on in public radio) or if you study really unusual subjects. What can i say about Singapore? In comparison to Germany, i do feel that my countrymen are manacled and shackled not physically, but ideologically and mentally.

How so? Let’s take the first 3 examples, shall we? In terms of political activism, the government tends towards the view that political activism = bad. No reason why. It’s just bad. The one-party (which is probably a realistic euphemism of saying ‘autocratic’) government which has kept food in your bellies and made sure you had a job must be good, because it’s been ruling ever since the country was born. I mean, even leadership of the country is a matter of familial inheritance. The government wants homogeneity in the political beliefs of its subjects, namely, the people, while it tries to stir up variety amongst the people.

During the May elections, while the Prime Minister celebrated his victory, his old man delivered another scathing oration on how a multi-party government cannot function in Singapore, just because his portion of the votes suffered a sharp decline. Is every vote to the opposition a personal affront to this man? Apparently so. He refers time and time again to combating Communism, Malaysian ultras and all in the good ol’ 5o’s and 60’s – but it’s all history. They’re going to Hell and you’ll be reciting your good deeds at the pearly gates. So lay back and enjoy life already! Apparently not however because like every parent expects his/her child to grow and prosper, so is this man no different. Psychologically speaking, the Singapore-LKY bond can be said to be that of a child to its parent – only that the child is trying to escape parental control now, and the parent, unknown and afraid of this, sees no alternative but further tightening the iron grip.

It’s the same with freedom of press. Need i say that Singapore ranked almost at the bottom of the list for a Reporters sans frontières survey for press freedom? I mean, you don’t get nude girls in the papers (which is good, for the sake of public decency) – but at the same time, the newspapers are, if anything at all, the mouthpiece of the government. That’s not so bad. What’s bad is the open censure and punishment of people who express views another way – again, another aspect of a subtly totalitarian government. So mr brown gets taken off Today, because this government is worried that what he says will stir up disenchantment and revolt in our little city. Much ado about nothing.

One thing about Singaporeans (the youth especially) is that we do thrive in passive resistance. So every 4 years, some of us mark crosses in the opposition box or draw turtles (thus nullifying your vote) and we listen to the mr brown show despite governmental criticism of him and all. Well done. But who speaks up? I’m afraid no one will – because speaking up has been shown to be a dangerous activity and if you get into trouble, your friends will not want to play with you anymore. Sad, but true. Everyone would rather wait for some brave soul to speak up than speak up themselves. Everyone wants to blend into the background, preferring anonymity over everything.

Sadly it’s the same with academic freedom in Singapore too. I tell someone i’m studying German at the university and they go ‘what?’ It’s no surprise that education here is very tightly focused on the sciences and engineering subjects – and of course, is influenced by politics as well. So the government feels that Life Sciences, for example, is going to be the Next Big Thing and announces that it is going to invest 5 billion bucks in a science park, et cetera. So students flock to study Life Sciences (some against their natural interest, but because well, next time got job la) and as things are now, a Bachelor’s in Science in this subject has been inflated so much that it is now nearing worthless.

Sad, sad reality. I wonder how many students who studied that subject because they thought that it would get them a good job realise what they’re in now. A very lum pa pa lan situation…and guess what! Now there aren’t enough engineering students…so the government tries to attract students to the engineering sector. Politics la, politics. Difficult game of chess to play there. And all along, the Arts, which are perhaps the most difficult subjects in university to study because it involves more understanding than learning – they’re classified as subjects which are studied because the students weren’t good enough for the sciences.

That view was prevalent in JC already – don’t tell me it’s not prevalent in university. Don’t tell me that all subjects enjoy equal value. That is bollocks.

More parts to come. When it strikes me to. And well, if you read this and feel that i don’t know better, that i’m a wastrel, i’m not. I’m just daring to say what others don’t.



1. Guangyi - November 8, 2006

And so going Germany makes you more brave? Haha. “I’m just daring to say what others don’t”.

I beg your pardon, but there are certain ways why the Singapore system works for its situation. Of course, I don’t believe in perfect solutions. Yet, please do not entirely disregard that Singaporeans are in fact starting to THINK already. I feels that this post hurts Singaporeans (myself auch).

2. The Truth - November 8, 2006

No lah…it doesn’t mean i’m braver. But at least people are starting to THINK. that’s good.

3. The Truth - November 8, 2006

And well, this is my viewpoint and mine alone. There’s a disclaimer there already.

4. xizhen - November 9, 2006

hi guojun, i study in germany too (in würzburg) and got here from sam’s. hope i don’t scare you by suddenly announcing that i read your blog 🙂 anyway, despite your disclaimer that one should go away if the content is not to one’s liking, i decided to comment cos i thought it might be interesting to other people. 🙂

first of all, the part abt academics. alot of germans in fact also care alot abt job opportunities and all, which is exemplified by the fact tt pple nowadays talk abt doing praktika with big companies or doing a semester overseas so as to “beautify the CV”. one possible reason why germans don’t totally swarm to one area as the govt dictates is that alot of degrees here still bring along good job prospects, e.g. psychology which seems to be quite unpopular in singapore. also, in germany if one has a degree he is assured of better jobs already so they might not think so much abt the demand, unlike singapore which is swarming with graduates. i think the difference btwn germans and singaporeans isn’t all that great.

wrt political freedom, i would just like to point out that many systems over here are not functioning well and may in fact collapse if not handled properly. it’s got to do with history and how alot of policies are hard to reverse once they’re implemented, but i think it does show that all this political freedom is not entirely good for the country or people, even though they may treasure it alot.

i know this is your viewpoint and yours alone, but hope that my typing out my opinion will give u another POV.

5. guojun - November 9, 2006

tsk…actually i know that. political freedom may not be entirely good, but what about NO political freedom? I just feel like its a farce. Secondly, although all of you are my so-called ‘seniors’ now, i have my own experiences. I know things aren’t that efficient here also. But then again i don’t like what’s at home. okay? I’m not mad or anything, but i saw a lot of things in the 2 more years i spent rotting in Singapore. Maybe you will get a new POV also when you get back to Singapore. Heh…

6. xizhen - November 9, 2006

hi guojun, if i sound like i’m trying to use my “experience” to prove my point, i’m not, really, and i really do not have any more than you do – i also just started uni this sem. plus, i’m younger than you are 😛 yep, i just want to explain my POV. we are entitled to our different opinions and no doubt yours has made me think abt it too.

7. guojun - November 9, 2006

what? you just started this sem too? i thought you were in 3.Fachsemester already. I admit i’m living like a hermit in Trier. hahahaha…

8. CZ - November 12, 2006

Interesting dissection of the political situation back home. Insightful but tinged with slight emotional biases. True, it is regretful that Singapore’s success is solely measured in terms of its economic strength at the expense of qualities such as “free speech”, but it has ensured that people are fed and jobs are available. As the country matures, changes happen. Perhaps your dissatisfaction with the way things work will be the driving force to push for more freedom in singapore. But beware, political freedom for freedom’s sake is really just a novel idea as achievable as utopia itself. Rather a stable and reliable government than one that promises plenty but deliver nichts. Having said that, we should also not lose our ability to question, defy and “rebel”, because then, can we prevent what is called “ultimate power corrupts ultimately”.

Maybe you should consider joining one of the youth wings in the opposition parties of Singapore. Check out how things are and experience for yourself the political landscape. In this way, you can contribute to the political diversity back home? But with uni and stuff, you might get really busy soon…. and moreover I’ve heard of horror stories from years ago about how student activis were kicked out of NUS and NTU to prevent them from becoming credible oppotion in the future. But such things shouldnt happen anymore I guess….. I hope.

Anyway, you might come to realise soon that the Singapore brand name will do you more good than harm in a foreign land like germany.

9. guojun - November 12, 2006

hello…erm…i can’t join opposition for particular reasons…it’ll torpedo my future too. hahahaha…yes victim of the system too, is i. And i’m already getting really busy too.

Apparently it’s happened before. I’ve heard of it too. Oh well.

The Singapore brand doesn’t do me harm, nor good. People just goggle and ask “where?” again. Haha…

10. sherri - August 31, 2015

To the singaporeans who are studying in germany and acquired the study visa from the german embassy in singapore, could you tell me how it went? because my is coming very soon, 3 days, and I am afraid they will reject me or something because I google german study visa and found so many were rejected. none from singapore but I am not sure. I am applying with a letter of obligation instead of block account and I dont know it that would sit well with them. Please advice me and any help is appreciated! thank you!

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