After much fanfare for the past year or so, we are FINALLY here: August 9, the day that our forefathers declared our independence from our noisy neighbour up north.
While many Singaporeans chose to make use of the long weekend to travel, we opted to stay home. Strangely enough, it never occurred to us to go for an opportune holiday, we simply decided that we wanted to remain in Singapore to celebrate the golden jubilee of our nation.
Maybe we are patriotic, I don’t know. I never thought of us as that. We are just Singaporeans who love our nation deeply. At the same time, we are not entirely blind to the faults of our leaders and our government. But we know that it would be a massive injustice to equate our home with our government.
Like most Singaporeans, I love many things about this country. The food, for instance. The well-connected public transport system. The cleanliness. The greenery. The crisp air. The Singlish. The malls. The parks and playgrounds. The convenience. The relative safety. The education system. And like most Singaporeans, I dislike many things about this country. The education (yes, it’s a love-hate thing). The kiasu parents. The one-track way of evaluating and assessing our young. The crazy car prices. The ridiculous property prices. Policy makers who live in ivory towers and have no clue of the struggles the rest of us face. Social media lynch mobs whose mouths are larger than their brains.
But as I stood at the bridge connecting Gardens by the Bay, Bay East to Marina Barrage while watching the Black Knights take to the skies, I was moved. By the stunning and thrilling performance, of course, but also by the infectious joy and happiness that connected my fellow countrymen and me.
Despite what many critics and naysayers proclaim, Singaporeans are not a bunch of emotion-less, joy-less people. As a nation, we may not be adept at showing our emotions but this does not mean that we do not feel. I only have to look back at the past seven months to find great examples that show just how good and kind and compassionate we can be: the kindness rendered to us when we paid our last respects to Mr Lee, when Singaporeans rushed to pull up a truck that was pinning a man down, those who helped out frustrated commuters stuck during the massive MRT breakdown.
As we take a step towards the next 50 years of our short but fulfilling history, I think it’s time that we aspire towards Singapore 2.0. While the past 50 years was all about economic viability and progress, now that we have achieved that, it’s time we look at the heartware and build a better Singapore.
A home that is more compassionate to those who may not be measured by the same yardsticks as everybody else. A home that allows for responsible, open conversation without the fear or threat of being incarcerated. A home that accepts, encourages and allows for divergence. A home that respects all individuals, regardless of who they love, where they studied, what they look like.
Happy birthday, my beloved Singapore. It has always been you, and it always will be. Let’s make the next 50 years a beautiful one together, shall we?