Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Singapore Dreamers Anonymous

Do you believe in the Singapore Dream?

Getting 5 or 6 C’s. Hardworking in early life. Letting your money work for you towards the end of your career. Retire at 60 or preferably earlier. Having children (2, 3, 4 or more if you could afford it) who will probably achieve more than you. Putting them in “good” primary schools.

The Singapore Dream is also about being carefree, apolitical and safe (because it’s apolitical).

In discourse, we are often wary of the dominance of and orientation towards the mostly Caucasian, mostly male, mostly middle-to-upper income, mostly middle-aged, entirely heterosexual model.

In the Singapore Dream, is it the same, minus the White Man?

Is the Singapore Dream meant for the person who’s mostly Chinese, mostly male, mostly middle-to-upper income, mostly middle-aged, entirely heterosexual, mostly English-educated (and bilingual), mostly apolitical and mostly a supporter of the ruling party? Well, these factors all contribute to a very healthy level of financial and emotional stability.

Is the Singapore Dream an opium, an addictive aspiration, a clever distraction for all of us?

Is it entirely material? Does material make us happy? What about rights and the wellbeing of others? Are rights and wellbeing part of the Singapore Dream? Maybe wellbeing, but what about rights? Some say if you have wellbeing, who cares about having rights?

Does the longevity of a particular brand of ruling which calls itself a democracy lead to a fulfillment of the Singapore Dream of the citizen? Is there a relationship in the first place?

What are the economic, cultural and political factors, mechanisms and conditions that motivate us to conceive of the Singapore Dream?

The presence of mechanisms that empower, with their positive results, may serve to invisibilise and disempower certain aspects of us, our identities and other aspirations; in order words, to oppress.

We have good and subsidised education to empower us with, among other things, social responsibility and civic consciousness (see obedience to the state). We chase the papers and certificates because the mechanisms have been in place for us to do so. Other talents, in the area of music and sport, are not emphasized.

If we failed in this system, we are compelled to be personally responsible because the infrastructure has long been established to help us. I see the same thing for health in Singapore. There are mechanisms (campaigns, subsidees) in place for healthy living and if you fall ill, it’s your fault. If you cannot find a job, it’s your fault too, because everything has been provided for you.

The Singapore Dream exists in a setting mostly often described as meritocratic. Provide the same mechanisms for everyone and let them thrive on their own. It is perhaps the very same system that results in and exacerbates the inequalities we are facing in our society.

Is compassion and graciousness part of the Singapore Dream? Do they precede the material aspirations that so dominantly define the dream? Or are they, along with other intangibles, only considered after the Singapore Dream is fulfilled? How can the “values” of meritocracy be reconciled with the notions of compassion and graciousness?

I think the Singapore Dream is the middle-income curse. The middle-income person may not harbour the Singapore Dream, but may be judged by others who subscribed to it. You are deemed “successful” and “happy” not because you believe it and live it, but because others have labelled you so.

The lower income group wishes to be more stable. The middle-income is too busy chasing the Singapore Dream. The upper-income is either contented or desire higher positions of power and comfort. So is there space for rights, charity, and wellbeing for all in our society?

You do not merely “unsubscribe” the thing called the Singapore Dream. It is more than just a dream or an aspiration. It’s a structure that affects you in every possible way. It tells you who you are and allows others to judge you.

The Singapore Dream reveals more. It makes us believe, among many other myths, that financial stability comes at the expense of rights and it is incompatible to desire for both. The Singapore Dream obscures certain realities, some we take for granted and others we were not even aware existed. For one, the Singapore Dream doesn’t deal with the free and fearless articulation or expression of opinion.

Ultimately, Singaporeans want to be happy, but their happiness is framed by the Singapore Dream. What can we do about it?

1 comment:

Fendy@ERA said...

For ppl who have dreams...