“Buenos Aires from where you are?”
The (rather handsome) young man looked quizzically at Jo.
Jo tried again in her (what I presume sounds like) Yoda-speak Espanyol, “From Buenos Aires you are?”
The light of comprehension slowly dawned over the young man’s face and he got really excited.
“Si! Yes! YES!” he started thumping his chest and pointed to his heart saying,”Argentina! I am from Buenos Aires! My heart! My soul! I am Argentino!”
For some weird reason, this rather unexpected proclamation of patriotism caught me by surprise and I felt a wide grin plaster across my face.
As some of you might know, I had my pocket picked recently while I was in Buenos Aires. We went to the police station to get my theft report filed, and there was a loooooong line there. And since Misery LOVES company, the young man was one of the many other victims we (tried to) talk to during our five hours in the waiting room of the police station.
You heard it right. The young man was a (very fresh) victim of a crime and there he was proclaiming his love for the city/country that spawned the scumbags that had just screwed him (and a roomful of other people) over.
It got me thinking if I was/could ever be this proud of my country.
The Universe seemed to have an answer to that.
Fast forward a few hours later.
We were back at the hostel watching the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games with the other hostelites. Random areas of the common area would erupt into cheers as their countries’ athletes marched across the screen. When the Singapore contingent, led by Feng Tianwei appeared on the screen, I just could not bring myself to cheer. It took someone else to prompt “Singapore in da House” that I let out a weak whooop and raised my fist a little.
Don’t get me wrong.
I am relatively proud of Singapore. I am definitely impressed by what we have achieved over the span of our very short history. Having traveled a fair bit, I am pretty sure that there are very little other places that I would rather stay in.
I like Singapore. It is just getting harder and harder to Love it with a capital “L”.
There is just too much hate and negativity disguised as patriotism and civic-mindedness on our little island these days.
I’m talking about all the online trolling and belittling of every single effort/achievement that we have. I’m talking about some of the bullshit that “alternative news media” such as the 他妈shit Review seemed hellbent on peddling just to drive their readership. I’m talking about ignorant plebes that read some nonsense online and mindlessly perpetuate the junk that they have been fed, hiding behind the anonymity of online handlers and the cowardly mentality of a mob.
It is toxic.
I know that Singapore is far from perfect. I know the government’s policies are questionable at times. I know the Mainstream media constantly shoots itself in the feet with (sometimes) blatant disregard for the truth.
As citizens, We can make them better. We NEED TO make them better.
But the mudslinging does not help.
It damages the credibility of the few that are trying to (and can) make a difference. It strengthens the ruling party’s perception that the masses are ignorant and deluded.
At the recent General Elections, there were calls to action to vote for the opposition just so that “we” can “take the ruling party down a notch” and “to show them who’s the boss”.
Can anyone else hear how FUCKING RIDICULOUS that is?
In the voting booth, you vote FOR someone because you believe that he/she is the right person for the job. You don’t vote AGAINST someone just because you don’t want him to be prom king/queen.
Before this, I’ve always thought of the internet as the ultimate debate arena. Where all the great ideas can come together and have their time in the sun. That the greatest minds among us would be able to sort out the ideas to come to a consensus on the best way forward. Democracy at its finest. Instead, what we are seeing more of these days is people rallying under banners they know next to nothing about and hissing venomously at anyone who dares to say otherwise.
We might need a better form of governance, but I personally think what we need more of is an intelligent, informed public who is mature enough to make communally beneficial decisions. We need a public that critically digests the information available and does not lash out every time the reeds rustle. We need a public that can stop saying “YOU SUCK!” long enough to say “Here’s how we can do better”.
The good news is that I don’t think I am alone in this matter. I believe the internet amplifies the noise of the naysayers while the moderate-minded few keep their silence, in a vain attempt to keep the moral high ground.
I have had enough of keeping quiet.
I believe we can rise above this. I believe we can do better.
Anyway, regardless, what I want to say is…
Happy National Day, Singapore.
I still love you but I sincerely hope that one day I too could say loudly and unabashedly, “Singapore! I am from Singapore! My heart! My Soul! I am Singaporean!”
And I hope most of my fellow Singaporeans can too.