Thoughts on Singapore’s 50th Birthday

So here we are, on a four-day weekend for Singapore’s 50 years of independence, and all I can think of amidst the celebratory mood is:

Good gods I hate this place.

Maybe “hate” is too strong a word, but I certainly don’t love this place. While it’s not literally the worst place in the world to live, with so many candidates scrambling for that title, I can’t muster much love for it either. The last time I probably felt anything positive was as a kid during the 25th anniversary. How the passage of time shifts our perception!

It all comes down to one thing: Our culture.

To be more precise, it is the collective behaviour, the volksgeist if you will, of the average Singaporean. If I had to sum it up in one word, it’s materialism. The quest to acquire wealth has transformed words like “pragmatism” into a way of dismissing people’s concerns or simply treating like dirt in order to get what they want. This is reflected in the way our government says that people are our resource – ask any typical Singaporean on how they’re worked and you will get the feeling they’re being mined for their riches.

This is not a rant against the government, or the People’s Action Party; as much as there are policies in place that place wealth above the common good (eg. not too long ago only GDP growth was a factor in ministerial performance bonuses),  I have no doubt if the shoe were on the other foot, many Singaporeans would act in the same way. I have met plenty of people attempting fake sincerity with only money on their minds as they sought to use me for their own ends. More than one acquaintance and friend have described a relationship (in the connection sense, not the sexual or romantic sense) as merely a swap of benefits.

With such an outlook on life, it’s a no wonder we’re the most emotionless and unhappiest lot; even sex is a problem. I suspect Singaporeans love travelling because it is an opportunity to escape this toxic culture, even for a little while. Right-wing Christianity and militant Islam are growing as they seek to fill a void in the lives of many unhappy people. It even affects me – too often I have realised I act in the same ways I’ve come to dislike. Truly we are affected by the culture we grow up in.

Maybe I might look back on all this in the future and laugh at it. That would be a good thing, I hope. In the meantime typing all this out has just made me even more depressed. So eh, happy birthday or whatever, Singapore. I’m going to bed.