I have so much on my mind these days – so many ideas, so much worries and so much to say – that I end up saying nothing at all. College education is a bullet train, and getting off in the middle would waste more time and cause more injury than hanging on. We’re so close to being financially and emotionally responsible for ourselves that it’s exciting and terrifying in equal measure. In a world that prizes speed so much, it’s hard to just find yourself sitting back down and thinking. It’s as if every time you try to slow down you get a head rush.
This is so especially in Singapore. Every time I think about how much it costs to live in this city, I want to puke. Everything requires payment. Everything is structured in rules. Everybody is in this mindless marathon that sometimes I wonder if they feel like they’re a cog in a machine? And that is what Singapore is: it’s a smooth operating machine. We’re the air-conditioned nation. We’re a corporation, not a country.
The arm of the government (or should I say Government) is so extensive that I feel it everywhere. I see it in places we’re not supposed to see. I see it in the conditioned minds of citizens where we’re so used to working, and not thinking, that we are no longer our own person.
I’ve been keeping tabs on the Yale-NUS debate, and it’s struck me how strange Singapore is. Something people don’t get about Singapore is that there is no decision made by the government that is not a pragmatic one. There are no ideals. There are no beliefs. The only conviction is one anchored in economic development. Perhaps we are shaped by our heritage, our profound fear sometime in history that we will starve to death without Malaysia, but this pragmatic mindset is definitely not something of the past. The decision to rope Yale in for a liberal arts college in Singapore is not because the education ministry truly believes in the ideals of a liberal arts education. We are embracing liberal arts because this is the direction the wind is blowing in.
We are not innovative enough, we’re told. We are not productive enough. We need creativity as a nation to survive, to do well in a new kind of economy that doesn’t rely on cogs in a machine anymore.
I love Singapore to bits. I love my home. I love what the government has done with the country in an overall assessment. We are not without problems, of course, and the conditioning of the government has altered our people somewhat. But I still love Singapore and I will defend my country and all of its nuances and quirks fiercely.
But I HATE this pragmatic mindset taken to its extreme. I HATE IT. I HATE IT.
This is because I believe in believing. I believe there are certain things that are right and certain things that are wrong, certain things that are good and certain things that are bad. Liberal arts should be pursued for its sake, for the ideals of critical thinking and higher learning. Democracy. Freedom. Equality. These are big words, but ideals are to be striven for. They shouldn’t be pursued at all cost, of course, but there are certain things that are absolute. Certain things are not contingent upon their economic value.
So, I wish that we, as a nation, could mature to embrace a post-materialistic mindset.