I returned from Malaysia two days ago. Then leaving for the U.S. in less than a week’s time. Singapore turns 51 tomorrow. The recent trips (including the one mom and I went on three years ago) to Ipoh, Perak, turn out perfect in rekindling the mother-daughter relationship between us two. I turned to doing the laundry, helping her to prepare ingredients for homecooked meals and sitting with my Gran in the afternoons watching the teevee and surfing channels. These, all thanks to the absence of internet in the house. I got to know my 1-year-old baby cousin for the very first time, secretly wishing that he stays like this forever. I almost wanted to have a doll-eyed, plump but tiny human being like him in my life at some point. Perhaps no movie-nights with love for at least the first 5 years since the baby is born is worth all the entertainment of watching him looking all cute prancing around, staring at random spaces in the room (not ghosts) and surprised by the weirdest noises and facial expressions the adults around him are getting him to noticed. He knows he’s a likeable being – smiles when you compliment him, when he sees girls of his age and when he sees himself. He gets entertained for a long while when you put him infront of the mirror with his limbs hold down (to make sure he doesn’t move about and smashes the mirror). He grins, showing his teeth, and bites so much because of those growing milk teeth.
The other grown-up cousins had many questions about Singapore. Do they have pasar-malams (street markets) in Singapore? What do students learn in schools? What is the progression in the education system like? Are there trash on the roads? No way, there can’t be! On the other hand, their dads / my uncles do not all have kind things to say about Singapore. Something along the lines of “Singapore is great… but she may not survive without the heavyhanded care of the Gahmen”. Yesterday, mom and I were talking about how the Opposition is often disdained in the Singapore society. She, as well, finds no need for the Opposition to exist in here because it is an almost perfect society now – what is there to oppose to? I used to think of the same way, that I have everything to thank for: food, water, safe streets, luxury of shopping for my wants despite being considered in the lower middle-income tier, money for education and opportunities for further education… I still have everything to thank for. But something I never considered was to read the perspectives of the Opposition and the people who got exiled because of the dissident voices… they make public. We tend to think of politics like a power play situation: “They’re just here to overthrow the good guys”…
When we attempt to explore the flipside of the dominant history, we come to realize the guys who continue to stay on in their homeland (despite the tricky situation of getting thrown into jail or warned for their words) and persist to bicker with the Gahmen are the few who are passionate about making the current seemingly-perfect policies and laws even better for the Singapore society. Different does not all the time equate to dissident or subversive. Therefore, the term “Opposition” is a misleading one. But I still don’t have a clear standpoint as to who I think is right. Perhaps, some decisions were needed to be made in the context they were made in. The alternative options that were not chosen would have shaped a different path for Singapore. But now we are aware of the decisions that were already made at the time and at that context, today, we learn from the consequences of these decisions. Are we as a society mature enough to open our ears to an alternative telling of the national history and then evaluate both sides on our own?
Our residential area, a rental public housing area, is under the “Opposition” and mom says she wouldn’t open the doors to them when they are here for their walkabouts. Her primary reason wasn’t about the fear of losing the ricebowl once she sides with them but more towards showing gratitude towards the government who has granted us all of the good things. If more of us consider to hear the different voices and accept them as part of the team of people who seek to improve our lives, this may seek to influence the Gahmen’s standpoint to consider them (e.g. this means less censorship on party materials and more representation in the parliament) and we can then truly thrive as the poster child of a pluralistic society to the rest of the world. My hope for Singapore’s 51th is for it to become a more open society and most importantly, for it to progress beyond just economic means.
Prior to going for exchange, the kind of care and worry I get from the people around me – Mom, Dad, Sis, Grans, some good friends and colleagues – makes me feel fuzzy and warm inside in a good way. You seen it in movies and the dramas you watch on your teevee but you never envisioned it having them to painstakingly get you to remember their words of advice, being around to spend time together and buckle you all well-prepared to fight the war you start on your own and that they have no control over. I deserve less for what I have done for every one of them. It is only through the scarcity of time I have left here that I realized the little things like nagging and meeting out for karaoke sessions express so much more than just for the sake of doing it for our own personal enjoyment. Cheesy… but thank for all of these Godmother-alike human beings.