death by paper cut

{August 10, 2009}   Uniquely Singapore – Taking A Chance On You

on friday, i took part in what i believed was the most meaningful and least propagandist national day celebrations ever. classes were sent out to designated places (mostly cultural enclaves) to take photos that reflected what “uniquely singapore” means. we had a presentation of the photo montage upon our return.

hardly anyone took photos of singapore’s skyline or national day slogans. the kids instead zoomed onto  the little details that we often overlook. there was the photo of a green dustbin with the words “singapore litter free”, the disengaged trishaw rider smoking a cigarette lost in his own world, the upgrading of hdb flats, and the danger sign in four languages.


i believe that we will hit a brick wall if we try to narrow down how a singaporean is defined because even within database of ic holders we are very diverse and come from very different backgrounds. whether  or not we are old and retired 1st generation singaporeans, or workaholic 3rd generation singaporeans or newly arrived permanent residents or foreign workers and domestic helpers in transit, we are bound by one fact – as long as you find yourself on the shores of singapore you are all taking a chance on this nation of possibilities. it might work out, it might not. but you’re (on most parts) willing to give it a shot.

while working at it, our realities and dreams mix and blend, we reach out for kindred spirits and the kindly ones, get in touch with fellow diaspora or decide to stop being a diaspora and grow roots here if circumstances allow. or even leave, if singapore is found to be not a good fit. by then, our individual sweat, blood and toil would have benefited a collective good.

in this respect there is little meaning in trying to capture an original or unique entity to parade on a pedestal. we are a mish mash of cultures with constant lines of fracture. its the different perspectives that make us interesting, not a rally call for homogeneity. it seems to me that what binds us together is a search for self  and success in this constant state of disequilibrium. we put on the table whatever we have and use what is available to synergise. what then sets us apart is the spirit of enterprise and the surprising end results.

we are bigger than the sum of our parts.

happy birthday singapore. thanks for day off too.


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