What National Day this year means to me

I am not sure why, but ever since my late teens, I have felt a strong and deep love for my nation.

Loving my country does not mean always agreeing with the leaders of the day. Rather, I felt a sense of rootedness, that was most evident when it flailed against disconcerting constant shifts, such as the almost systemic erasing of spaces I knew.

The national anthem, sung at every national day parade, easily brings tears to my eyes. I suppose I rant about issues, because I feel so strongly about them. Somehow, no matter how cynical life has made me, I am somehow unable to be wholly apathetic about Singapore and where it is heading.

So when the question was put to me – “What does SG50 mean to you?” – I pondered a bit, and came up with the following:

Beyond the ubiquitous marketing, and slapping the logo onto everything anyone can think of, SG50 heralds a coming of age to me.

Although it may sound hackneyed, my hope is that SG50 marks the cusp of a subtle yet certain shift in our nation’s direction.

The previous 50 years and more, consisted of a struggle towards economic survival and attaining stability at all cost.

In the next 50 years, whilst continuing to work hard and work smart, my dream is for our nation to be more compassionate, more inclusive, and more of a first-world city. In the way we run our politics and parliament, in the way we treat our foreign workers, in the way we care for the elderly and those less able amongst us.

We press forward, because kicking back and completely relaxing is not an option for us, given our geopolitical reality. But we must consciously look around us even as we pursue industry, and we will pull alongside those who fall behind, because that is what it means to be human, and that is what it means to foster solidarity as a nation.

So whilst our nation’s 50th year of independence is a year of reflection, not least due to the passing of our founding Prime Minister in March this year, to me, it may also be a year of inflection, as we begin to pursue a better future relevant to our hopes and aspirations.

This better future is not necessarily a more economically glorious one, but one in which we can hold our heads up high with regard to the way we treat our fellow-men and foreign workers, and one in which we have a strong assurance of what we stand for, and who we are as a nation, the people of the tiny, all-but-irrelevant, city-state of Singapore.

Happy Birthday, Singapore.

Majulah Singapura – may we move onwards, but move onwards as one, and leave no man behind, in the truest sense of the phrase.

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