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Amor patriae, or Do You Love Your Country? July 23, 2008

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.
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Do you love your country?

After being away for awhile, i realise that i actually DO love my country. Not the politicians who run it, not the traffic jams, and certainly not the mentality, but the country – the food, the people, family, Singlish and all. But do i fit into the definition of ‘loving my country?’ I believe that loving my country also includes being responsible for the country, and criticising the people we have elected to represent our country when things are not right or presenting suggestions when we can. As National Day closes, and loosely-packaged propaganda starts passing through the mainstream media, and even more so when this National Day’s theme is ‘Celebrating the Singapore Spirit,’ i felt that it was time to ask the question: do you love your country? What is the Singapore Spirit?

Is the Singapore Spirit one of materialism, working hard in the hope that one day, you will make it rich, and attain the 5Cs, with the accompanying social status, sending your kids overseas for education? I would like to say no, but it’s the Singapore Spirit that the Gahmen believes in. As MM Lee, a staunch apologist for the system he has toiled to build up, said ‘As long as we have a dynamic economy, we can solve problems.‘ But in doing so, people become objects – statistics and numbers. The Government believes that the key to solving problems is a stable economy, and that is an important factor. But in the pursuit of this economical system, every aspect of the country has been geared towards it – the school system, procreation programmes, and the very unpopular theme of importing foreigners at the cost of the people.

Is there more to being human than just being a number? If Singaporeans felt that there was, there wouldn’t be procreation problems, and the Government would have fully stabilised its power. I believe there is more. But in a place where this belief cannot be realised, it becomes hope. The Government also wants us to believe in that. Teacher hopefuls applying to teach are promised a chance at ‘moulding young lives.’ But moulding young lives and maximising their potential – in what aspect? Children are exposed to the cruel reality from the very beginning – do or die, dog-eat-dog. And it’s not because teachers don’t want to do more – appraisals are made every year, and teachers have to do more to earn their bonus. Students have to do well, too.

It makes me wonder how much is actually learnt at school then. But in doing this, schools are a mirror of society – you don’t have to know more than what is necessary for your grades. Grades. Salaries. Numbers. ‘Objective statistics.’ That’s what Singapore measures everything with. Ministers always give particular public bodies ‘grades’ because of something they have managed to achieve, etc. That’s why most of us are relegated to giving our suggestions on the Internet, where more serious political discourse takes place than what you see on the MSM. Perhaps the MSM, being a Government body, emphasises this aspect of concrete grades, statistics etc., like having an abstract replacement birth rate and all, and the forums are made up of complaints of people who have not been treated as they have expected.

But in being fully grounded in the material, the Government’s Singapore has lost one very important aspect – spirit. Spirit is something you can’t measure specifically. And spirit has to be built up. And one wonders why Singapore is so soulless. It is the fascination with the material, with objective numbers, that Singapore is soulless. We don’t have a rich and illustrious history, or a defining moment – even if we did, these defining moments have been lost in the mad rush to develop the country, or even worse, moulded to fit those in power, for history is always written by the winners. Singaporeans are not stupid – we know this as well.

A country is like a human being, and to use an example from Aristotle, any living thing is a combination of material and soul. Since the material is already there, shouldn’t the soul be developed as well, so that the entire living creature can be dynamic and can bring forth its fullest potential? But when the mind (analogy: the politicians) remain too fixed on the body, the soul gets neglected, and this is a reason why so many Singaporeans pack their bags and leave. Because the living thing is not getting any better. They don’t hate the country. But they want to be taken care of, they want to be seen as humans. And although the Government prides itself on making difficult moves, this is one move it cannot afford to neglect. Not in the long run.

If i return and feel that i am just treated as a tool, as a number, i would pack my bags and leave too. There is more to life than being a money-making statistic. Singaporeans see this and want to believe in it. But for most, it remains an unfulfilled dream.  If we want to love but the lover is shunned as one who hates, then you can’t blame the lover for giving up and leaving.  It takes two, and if we are expected to love the country, we should be loved as well, shouldn’t we?  How can, then, one love a statistic, a number?

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