It must be interesting to revisit certain concepts and ideas at different stages in your life. The idea of ‘Home’ is a very easily empathized one – everyone tries to define Home in their own contexts. Surprisingly the last few days have made me question how much of Singapore I find home in, and what it truly means to me. This is but a preliminary but honest reflection though – I simply record my thoughts to track how they evolve.
I landed in Singapore just a few minutes shy of the end of my birthday. I’ve always enjoyed birthdays but this was a new experience for me – ‘celebrating’ it remotely. Everyone was wishing me , my closer friends and family having more enduring wishes than the rest. I was being congratulated, thanked and commemorated (in its own humble way). Yet I was absent of the people that I wish I had around me.
Perhaps more significantly then, I spent the last 15 minutes of my birthday coming out of immigration and into the embrace of my family. That’s all that mattered to me – that I could spend my birthday with someone and with my family at that. I was mentally prepared for some sort of a future like this. I chose the desire to travel over the desire for stability. It’s unique to our generation but I feel I live it out a lot more obviously. This new world demands us to understand complexity and in order to fully embrace unique solutions to existing problems and potentially new ones, we must break out of what we understand to be the ‘tried and tested’ way and look out into the horizon. We must visit new places, see how people approach similar problems or even different ones, and learn from them.
Travelling is therefore partially an individual indulgence, but more so (and if you know me well, it makes sense) a strategic endeavor to reinvigorate my frame of mind. I want to build better societies and in order to do that, I’ve decided to consume knowledge and experiences around the world. I always decided though, to keep Singapore as a home-base ; after all it was where I was raised and developed. I associated by culture and mannerisms to the society here. Most of my best friends are here.
I left Singapore hoping I’d come back to some form of a better society. I had planted the seeds in the form of The Hidden Good and the various other youths I had hopefully mentored. I had kept a watchful eye and given input when possible – doing as much as I possibly could while overseas. It seemed hopeful. I was hoping for a society more open, more caring and more active on progressing as a society, ground-up .
When I landed, I was surprised to see that in nine months not much had changed. Granted, this was the first time I was returning back home and also nine months isn’t necessarily a long period, but I was disappointed to see that people, mannerisms and structures looked more or less the same. Maybe it’s just me, but familiarity wasn’t as friendly to me. I wanted to see family and friends because of the love we shared, but honestly, I could have met them in Russia and I would have probably felt the same.
A lot had happened, you see. LKY had passed away, attitudes had shifted on topics like sports, youth and rights., and society was a lot more vocal on both being positive and critical. I had hoped to see some of those tangibly in the past few days – but nothing caught my eye.
I love this country. I had the similar warm fuzzy feeling when I landed in Singapore that I only get when I land here. I got excited when I heard Singlish being used regularly again. I smiled when I was at Zouk and saw that we knew truly how to have a good time. But I want us to be excited about progressing. We seem to be happy with being here, but growth isn’t just about earning more money.
There has to be an excitement to grow as a society in our values and decisions. What are aspects of society we need to address? These are the topics that must be on our tongues. These are the things that must show progress year on year – not the height of our buildings but the height of our inequality gap. Not the amount of green in our wallet, but the amount of green we stand to lose in our environment. Bread and butter issues are definitely relevant, but there must be a point where we realise we’re sufficient and decide to act on humanity to progress.
I can travel around the world and not give two hoots whether other societies make progress in those fields , although I’m definitely impressed and try to take points when they do. But when my own country and society seems to lack the vigor for those to make any tangible change in the past nine months, I end up as disappointed as I am now.
I’m granting that this is just preliminary though. I’ve only been here for a few days , not even a week, and have a lot to catch up on. But at the surface, things look unchanged and that’s something we should think about.
We must decide our lives cannot be just names on paper. We must live, and by live I mean that we must embrace aspects of our humanity that are crying to be brought out. Our care for others, our desire for justice, our sense of rationality. Inactivity and apathy are worse demons than the thoughts of the evil and perverse. For where the latter has lost sight of what is right, the former knows it and decides to let the latter persist instead of disrupting them.
We cannot be stagnant. For our future. For a better society.