Did you feel that this year’s National Day celebration was somehow… different? It’s a strange feeling. Maybe I’ve been on the “other side” too long. Or maybe it really did feel different – and in a good way too.
There seems to be more spontaneity, more anticipation of the big event (the annual parade). It felt that more Singaporeans were more willing to participate in the celebrations.
I was taking the train at Serangoon this afternoon, crossing over to the NEL line when I saw in front of me a crowd of people wearing red. Apparently, they were strangers and not a collective group going somewhere together. And when I reached my destination in Hougang, I saw red again.
The past week or so, there were also more National Day videos online, apparently created by groups (including the Singapore Police Force!) and individuals expressing their love for Singapore. A group of young Singaporeans also took the initiative and the opportunity on National Day to spread some kindness as well – check out this great bunch over at StandUpFor.SG.
And of course, there were the political parties and the Government-led agencies which were extending greetings in various ways.
But the thing which caught my attention was the palpable affection among ordinary Singaporeans. It is almost surreal – but awesome to behold. I don’t remember feeling like this on any National Day. To me, they had always been one big propaganda campaign. But this year seems different. Even PM Lee’s National Day message, filmed at Bishan Park, while nothing to crow about as he delivered basically the same message as previous years, nonetheless was kind of refreshing. It’s the first time that he has delivered the message outdoors.
[I have to say, though, that the video itself seems rather odd. The background, as some pointed out, looks like it’s from a blue-screen or something. See for yourself.]
It has set me thinking that our society or Singaporeans aren’t a divided bunch, as some have claimed. Perhaps that sentiment comes from the results of the general election last year – when the ruling party lost a GRC for the first time, and had its votes drop by some 6 per cent.
But not voting for any one party does not mean the people are divided. In fact, it means the people are taking charge – which is a good thing. We talk of empowerment, right? But of course what we want to see is Singaporeans having more space, especially political space, to take the initiative and do things for themselves. I hope the Government will realise that this is a good thing, a very good thing, in fact, and should be encouraged.
Many a times, if you read what is online, it’s pretty negative. An alien visiting Singapore who only gets his information online would probably think that Singapore is the worst place on earth. But he would be wrong. There are problems and serious issues we face, there is no doubt about this. No one has claimed otherwise. But to be immersed in such negativity can only be toxic – not only to oneself but also to the wider community. It is an almost instinctive reaction to adopt such a mindset. The recent furore over our “foreign players” table tennis players is an example. Many were slamming the sports schemes without knowing, or even bothering, to know what it is about or what it encompasses.
That is not to say that I am not guilty of the same negativity. I probably am one of those who are most guilty of being negative, or tend to see things negatively in the past. But in the last one year, I have made a conscious effort to rid myself of such mindsets. And the truth is, when you do, you see things differently – and you become more hopeful, more empowered. I dare say even more courageous, even. [It’s almost blasphemy to speak of things positively in a sea of seemingly dark hopelessness.]
Not all about Singapore is bad. We have come very far from earlier days. And I am proud of Singaporeans, in the same way that I am proud of my country. Sure, there are issues and causes we face and there will continue to be those which I will continue to champion – and I will do so with the best of my ability.
At the same time, I also know that to do so, I would also have to avail myself to several things:
1. An open mind.
2. Gather information.
3. Make effort to see things from both sides, or all sides.
4. Arrive at an honest opinion after all these.
And if my opinion is supportive of any one issue, or any one political party, I will have the courage to say so – even if I risk being assailed, in cyberspace especially. This is what I have tried to do this past year. And truth be told, some of my friends have wondered what has happened to me. Actually, nothing much has happened to me, except perhaps being more able to see things from different sides – and being a happier person.
And one should not be afraid to change one’s position if one comes into more or new information. It would be silly not to.
National Day 2012 has left me with a strange – but upbeat – feeling. It is a feeling which perhaps has emerged from seeing things around me and how many more Singaporeans are stepping up. I am very heartened by this. And if more of us do so, we will indeed arrive at a place where we will be able to say that we truly love Singapore, our home – and honestly say that this is indeed our nation.