Monday, August 08, 2005

Happy National Day

Happy National Day

40 years ago, this Nation was born out of BLOOD, TEARS and PASSION. 40 years later, we need to spend million on a National Day Parade to “initiate” passion. Other than that, there is no spontaneous display of patriotism, least passion around the island.

The National Flags have to be “pushed” in HDB heartland via some display competition so that we could have some symbolic display on the flats. Many young professionals are contemplating of emigration out of this place while we are infested with many so called “Foreign Talents”.

National Day has become a platform for political competition instead. Look at all those big posters and HUGE banners in places like Potong Pasir, Hougang, Aljunied GRC etc. Those places not expecting a contest in the coming General Election did not have their PAP MP faces printed all over the places. One example is Ang Mo Kio GRC.

The question I have asked in the past National Days is always the same: Who are more important when we celebrate the National Day? Are MPs and Ministers or the Citizens of the Nation more important?

PAP has been talking about “social cohesiveness” for so many years but what have they done to enhance social cohesiveness? It seems that our National Identity is eroding very fast but they have not reacted to this problem yet.

How do we end up in this sorry state? Many people have lamented about the apathetic nature of our people, particularly the young ones but not many people really look into the root of this problem.

We used to have a vibrant society in Singapore whereby civil societies strive and citizens participate actively in political and social activities. People feel passionate about their beliefs and dreams for our society, be it a merger with Malaysia or an Independent State.

All these have been destroyed under the notion of clearing out “communist threats”. Student movement were curbed and destroyed. If you look at the constitutions of our university student unions, you will still see the many restrictive rules set out to prevent social-political activism. Even the student political organizations have dwindled in size.

Many of our citizens have been convinced that social-political activism is detrimental to social stability and economic development. Thus, with the promise of economic prosperity, citizens surrender most of their political rights (eg. Demonstration, freedom of speech etc). When time pass by, it would be natural for their apathy towards social well being and consciousness to grow.

Even on the economic front, the distribution of wealth has grossly tilted against the lower income group. Under the rationalization of “productivity”, distribution of economic growth is so unbalance that the income distribution continues to worsen for the past two decades. If economic growth as in GDP increases by 8% while low-income earners get only 3% pay increase, it means that 5% of the GDP increase must have gone to someone’s pockets. GDP is the aggregate of all income generated in the economy. It is interesting to note that our million dollar ministers could only realize such problem of widening income gap after so many years of imbalance income distributions!

The situation becomes worse when many are unemployed while those top income earners keep justifying their higher pay increase with their “trophy” of cost cutting in which workers have been retrenched or forced to take a drastic pay cut by means of “outsourcing” exercises.

It is natural for many of our fellow citizens to feel disgruntled when they feel that they have been shortchanged in the whole process. So what is left for them?

The source of weakness in our National Identity building is that we over-emphasized economic development. This singular pursuit has made us neglected in building up our social, cultural as well as political consciousness. This has come back to haunt us in the way we manage our economy and the distribution of wealth and income.

We may be “wealthier” in digits and figures as compared to forty years ago, but we are definitely not “RICHER” as a citizen of a Nation. We only “make belief” of our success by trumpeting our economic success as “miracles” while our other contemporaries are moving towards to foster greater strength in their National Identity. If we do not correct this bias in our National development direction, we will even lost the very soul of our Nation which this country is first built upon.

Goh Meng Seng

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