Home, surely, starts with what is made in Singapore
SINGAPORE - Of late, I have been wearing many different hats. Besides being a singer, I have been playing the role of judge and mentor in The Final One, the latest singing competition reality show on MediaCorp Channel 5, as well as serving as Creative Consultant with Nexus at Mindef. Talk about having an identity crisis!
But I do not feel alone — I am aware that I’m in very good company of my fellow Singaporeans. We are a nation undergoing an identity crisis. Some have described Singapore as going through its teenage years, throwing tantrums, rebelling against the parental government system that has raised us (quite well, I must add), and now trying to find our place in the world, from both a personal and national perspective. Sacred cows are being analysed to death even if they aren’t quite slain, difficult questions are being asked of our leaders, of society and of ourselves.
This is definitely a time of awakening for many of us. It is a time of change and negotiation, and it can be uncomfortable and upsetting.
We find ourselves in limbo, somewhere between being a first-world economy and a somewhat provincial mindset that refuses to let go of what is familiar and comfortable. And so we cling on to nostalgia and everything local. In our fierce march towards being international and global, something has made us look back and realise we can’t make sense of the future if we don’t understand and cherish our past. And define it, too — put things on record.
I am an optimist. Even in the depths of my despair as a moody, brooding, overweight teenager, I always knew the tumult and the searching would be over one day, and I would be able to make sense of everything.
But we have got to be steady. And I use this word in its local Singlish context. Steady. We must not lose our heads. We must not go on a mindless tirade that adds unhappiness and noise to the already very unhappy and noisy blogosphere and chatrooms and forums, some of the scariest places on earth, inhabited by “ghosts” that wail and screech but have no physical form.
Okay, so I am not totally in tune with the communication and social platform advancements of the 21st century. But I have a proposal to make. Please hear me out.
YOU SAY MELTING POT, WE SAY ROJAK
One of the good things that has emerged from this state of flux we are experiencing as a nation is the recognition of all things local, and the need for us to support local, made-in-Singapore products, services, talents, artists, brands, et cetera. We can’t and probably don’t want to stop our nation’s march into the globalised future, but there will not be a future for us as a people if we do not embrace, grow and preserve what defines us.
And we can do this without cutting off our new immigrants. It is not a zero-sum game. These new immigrants (whom we were descendants of just three generations ago) do not take away our Singaporean-ness. Maybe we just aren’t steady enough in our own identity and skins. If we grow and support a very rich, proud and steady home culture, they will be assimilated into it, and might become happily-Singaporeanised much sooner than we can say: “Eh, so where you from ah?”