Sunday, December 18, 2005

Singapore Spirit

Xeno Boy asks a good question.

This is a complex cultural question. During my undergraduate days I was an active member of a fraternity. We went through some pretty rough times during my sophomore year (2nd yr). We had bad leadership from the officer corp. This put us sophomores in a crisis mode. All junior year (3rd yr) we worked to realign ourselves. We had to stop coasting and barely surviving. We needed to find something to rally around, an idea to live for. Working with the alumni and our very good alumni advisor by senior year we had unveiled the Leadership Initiative. With it came our belief in who we were, where we saw ourselves going... A year, of course, is not enough time for a cultural revolution, but because of that idea our successors are far more coordinated and have something to rally around.

Related to this is what Singaporean youths rally around. Firstly I'd like to point out that there are subsets within the wider category "youth." Generally anyone under 35 is considered a youth. But it could be constructed as anyone who isn't an adult but older than 14. Still in the process of identiy formation is the best way to put it. There are indeed subsets, from the blog world you can see the divisions already.

You have the safe, prod along types who while privately holding views contrary to the authorities, tow the public line. You have the "celebrity at any price" sort of crowd. You have the "as long as I'm one of beautiful/cool" crowd. You have those who have to worry about bread and butter issues. You have the "sit there and complain" group. You also have the "thinking" group. The "activitst" group. You have the "good deeds and volunteerism" group. The "pursuit of wealth" group. The "rebel without a cause" group. The "i just don't care" crowd. I mean they can and do intersect of course and I'm sure there are more subgroups out there.

It's hard to say what we're all collectively fighting for or what we believe in. Sometimes the reality of our state system forces us to make certain decisions or join certain subsets. What did our parents fight for? They're also broken up in subsets. While the Nantah students were busy defending Chinese culture, my parents were busy being enterpernuers, trying everything from being tailors to HK superstars (i take pride in that fact) to finally hitting it big in property. I don't think my parents cared too much about the Nantah crowd. They were poor, non-university educated folks. My dad has an O level certificate and my mom has a vocational license. They just kept trying idea after idea.

The national rhetoric may have been that the previous generation fought hard for independence and survival, but that's the whole Epic myth created by every nation. The political elites (winners and losers) may have been in an epic struggle, but everyday folk may have been more worried about getting blown to bit by Indonesian terrorists, shot by Communists or just trying to survive financially. Of course they get swept up into the national creation myth. I'm sure while the Founding Fathers of the US were busy debating rebellion, the everyday farmer was busy tilling the soil and sort of paying attention to what's going on, but not being active. Later on he would have picked sides and fought for either cause.

There has to be a creation of something to fight for. In my opinion all cultural ideas carry hints of politics in them. Politics is a close relative of culture, they work closely together. The state has tried to create a cultural identity without introducing politics into it. But civic conciousness is linked to political partisipation. The politically active tend to be concious of their rights and duties of a citizen. The creation of a civic mind is intertwined with politics, culture, ethics and morals.

So what are we fighting for? As a whole, I don't know. But I know some of us believe that things can be better. That begs the question as to whether we're willing to fight for it.


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