Monday, June 06, 2005

Spirit & Soul of Our Nation

I have written this piece dedicated to the coming 40th National Day celebration.

It is time for us to reflect upon our own Nation, what we have achieved throughout the 40 years of Nation Building beside economic prosperity.

We, as citizens, have totally neglected the development of our political landscape. We should reflect on such neglect so that our nation could grow stronger.

Goh Meng Seng

Spirit & Soul of Our Nation

When the people of United States of America was fighting against the British colonists more than two hundred years ago, they have created a great declaration of independence that has signified the values, vision, spirit and soul of their new nation. However, such spirit and soul of “Freedom” and “Liberty” could only be “formally” institutionalized in their laws and constitution back in the 1960s. This is about 180 years after their independence.

For a young nation like Singapore, we do have great virtues and visions during our foundation years of independence. At the very least, in the face of the multi-racial and religious environment, we have embraced EQUALITY, Democracy and Justice. These are all embedded in our National Pledge which is recited by our children everyday in their schools.

“We, the citizens of Singapore
Pledge ourselves as one united people
Regardless of race, language or religion
To build a democratic society
Based on justice and equality
So as to achieve happiness, prosperity & progress for our nation”

However, we are just like USA which has gone through turbulent times in history to get the actual spirit and soul of their nation building implemented through their laws and governments. The Americans have fought civil war over the liberation of human slaves. Have gone through difficult times of struggle for equal rights for their non-white citizens. They have specifically included Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in their government to enforce this spirit of equality. The only difference in Singapore is that after 40 years of independence, our citizens have little concerns about how laws are being changed unless they affect their pockets. The process of de-politicization is so successful that most of our citizens are only concerned about “bread and butter” issues. When Singapore no longer offer them a comfort materialistic living, they would just leave this place altogether.

There is no will nor interests in the politics of Singapore among our citizens anymore. After the political cleansing of late 60s and 70s, the whole generation of Singaporeans has been practically de-politicized and we have become a political desert in this world. Our citizens have chosen to let PAP to do whatever they want to the direction of this country, as long as they could provide them material prosperity.

The spirit and soul of this Nation depends NOT on PAP but on its people. If the people lose interests in every political amendment to the constitution and laws that govern them, we have lost the spirit and soul of this Nation altogether. Unfair laws have been passed without any strong dissidence from the PEOPLE, not merely oppositionists who are directly affected by it. The recent out cry on the Film Act is one great example. Nothing was heard from the people when this act is being amended to include political films. Nobody asked why such discriminative law amendments is necessary when it only benefits the ruling party to extend their monopoly on the powerful media tool of films. Nobody asked why such great discretionary powers are given to government and ministers when there are so many “mandatory” laws passed to restrict judges’ discretion in their course of duties.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are election laws being amended to disadvantage the opposition parties which the citizens are aware of but have no political will to send a strong signals to PAP that they do not want such laws. They have even turned a blind eye to gerrymandering by PAP, continue to vote PAP and allow them to win almost all (except two) seats in parliament.

The American pledged their lives to fight for their believe, their believe of liberty and rights. In Singapore we are politically culled by the atmosphere of FEAR and apathy, despite having our children reciting the National pledge of Justice, Equality and Democracy everyday.

We only “talk” about racial harmony and equality but did nothing specifically in setting up “Anti-discrimination” law, nor setting up “Equal Opportunity Commission” of any kind to protect citizens against discriminations of all sorts. The citizens did not see the necessity of setting up such laws too!

We only “talk” about Democracy but did nothing to protect and enhance the system of checks and balance. Instead we have allowed the ruling party to make amends to our constitution, to discourage political competition and thus weaken the element of checks and balances within the system. Electoral participation has dropped tremendously over the four decades of independence. Less than one third of Singaporeans have participated in the voting process for the 2001 election but it seems that nobody really care about that.

I have met friends who are even “HAPPY” about not being “FORCED” (voting is compulsory in Singapore) to go to the polling stations so that they could enjoy the “holiday” fully! I practically told them off that in other countries on this EARTH, people shed blood to fight for their right to vote their own government.

I have even heard about PAP supporters feeling “ANGRY” about people complaining of not having the chance to vote during the General Elections! This is absurd and it demonstrates that they preferred their party to be “unchallenged” at all!

I have even heard about those in the 30s or even 40s who did not have a chance to vote at all in their whole life! This is the sad situation in Singapore. It is not only about having deprived the citizens their political participation in the long run. It is about the “spirit” (or the lack of it?) and apathetic attitude that Singaporeans hold towards exerting their rights to the Nation via the participation in the electoral process. Such deprivation of citizens in exercising their voting rights will have great consequences in demolishing their sense of ownership and belonging in the long run.

We are developing towards a Nation without Soul. A Nation without Spirit. This is the result of a combination of multiple factors. We used to have people with great ideas, ideals, passion and spirit towards all the spheres of life on this land. All is gone within four decades of nation building. The Americans started off with a majority of them indifference to nation building, but they worked towards better nationhood over the two centuries, never let their spirit and soul of the Nation diminished. Throughout the centuries, they have fought bravely in different times to enhance such spirit and soul of their Nation. Our people started off with great desire for an Independent Nation but such zeal of political struggle has eventually destroyed totally by the era of white terror. Total apathy has replaced our Spirit and Soul of our Nation. We have started from “one extreme” to another extreme.

The sand storms of our political desert will eventually wipe us out as a Nation. If we do not awaken the souls of this Nation, we will eventually be buried under the tons of sands of this political desert.

Goh Meng Seng

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

T D S R not an accurate measurement.

At various times throughout our life our financial commitments will alter. Our entry level salary will off course be low and if we are fortunate we gradually increase through middle age when it is most likely to peak. In the case of a growing family along the way we may need to change to a slightly larger home and repackage our home loan at which time the current TDSR rules come into play and cause additional upheaval.

When one reaches retirement, unmarried children contribute in the expenses but could not include as income as their names are not in the property.

Adjustments may need to be made as and when the children move out. Retirees may need to downsize their homes to reduce their home maintenance costs. By this time, one may be able to reap some financial gain from the sale of their home, which with an element of frugality, good luck and planning may have been paid off over the years and increased in value.

While a small percentage of people may not always live within their means the majority are prudent and are to can think for themselves and manage their finances. We cannot eradicate every element of risk.