Step up, Singapore!

Now that election fever is way, way, way over, the hard stuff begins for the SG government. And boy is the work hard. Neither the issues nor sentiment towards the ruling party have abated. In fact, they’ve probably escalated over the past few weeks with reports about all things foreigners, record pricing for public housing, problems in the health care sector and floods; all of this not helped by perception that the PAP is back to its old ways.

I wasn’t expecting an overnight change in the system, but I believed that as Singaporeans experienced political awakening and discovered alternative points of view, we’d see ideas, debates on ideology and positive movement. Instead of considered points of views and constructive feedback and suggestions, a good number of posts and comments on Temasek Review and occasionally The Online Citizen are now angry rants and dribble that fuel negativity on already sensitive topics.

Reading those sites, you’d think Singaporeans are racist and xenophobic, and the country is on the verge of a violent revolution against the government and foreigners (the source of all SG’s problems, so it seems). I guess access, truth and online anonymity set people free; unfortunately a lot of them aren’t mature enough to handle it nor understand that freedom still comes with responsibility.

Much is to be desired with the system and the ruling party. Their policies haven’t worked for a long time contrary to what SG looks like to a visitor. It’s fair to blame the government, it’s right to feel angry, but where does it stop? Heaping complete responsibility onto them and not taking any is tantamount to agreeing with what they’re doing no matter how much you complain online.

Recently, a newly elected MP paraphrased JFK’s famous line: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. That he should’ve delivered it in a better manner shouldn’t detract from the fact that it’s a good wake-up call. Singaporeans need to start doing things for themselves. Only then, will SG become the place they want to live in. In case you’re in doubt that you need to take responsibility and can make things happen, here’s a post by Robin Sharma, one of the world’s top success coaches.

Do Your Part

Big question for you: “What are you doing to help build a new and better world?” Don’t blame the politicians. Don’t blame those around you. Don’t blame your parents or your background. Doing so is playing the victim and this world has far too many people playing the victim when they could be sharing their brilliance and making a profound difference. Mother Teresa said it so much better than I ever could: “If each of us would only sweep our own doorstep, the whole world would be clean.”

Blaming others is excusing yourself. Telling yourself that you – as an army of one – cannot have an impact is giving away your power. After a hurricane a while ago, a couple of college kids got their hands on empty school buses and drove them into the ravaged area when everybody else said the city was impenetrable. A little man in a loincloth named Mahatma Gandhi freed an entire nation. A woman named Rosa Parks sparked a civil rights movement because she refused to sit at the back of a bus. Ordinary people really can do extraordinary things. I love what Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, once said: “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.”

Live by what I call the Jennifer Aniston Rule. In an issue of Vanity Fair, Aniston said that she gives herself one day to play victim after experiencing a challenging event. After that day of feeling powerless and sorry for herself, she wakes up and takes ownership for the way her life looks. She takes personal responsibility for her part in the problem – even if that only amounted to 1%. That’s personal leadership in action. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from. “The ability to triumph begins with you. Always,” offered entertainment superstar Oprah Winfrey.

What don’t you like about your life or the organization you work for or the country you live in? Make a list. Write it down. Shout it out. And then do something to improve things. Anything. Start small or go big. Just do something. As you experience your power to choose, guess what? Your power grows. And as you work within your sphere of influence to make things better, guess what? Your sphere of influence expands. So do your part. Today. Now. The world will be better for it.

Advertisements

Will the real Singapore please stand up

I’m an apathetic Singaporean. I don’t know when it happened exactly but I can point to a few factors that have contributed to my indifferent attitude:

  1. Growing up, TF was constantly condemning the PAP, telling me absolute power corrupts, and at one point planning to migrate.
  2. I spent some of my more impressionable years overseas which made me realise a) there’s more to life than the SG way of life. b) I love space and I dislike crowds.
  3. I don’t identify with the obvious Singaporean traits.
  4. I’m not enamoured with SG’s selling points. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to be in a country that is clean, safe, efficient, etc but that doesn’t evoke love.
  5. It’s easy to not bother when things hum along nicely in your life.

I’m fortunate that the last point describes my life in general. However I’ve always had the sense that another SG lurks beneath the gleaming, spotless, modern city. So a few weeks ago, I decided to look for real hard truths; not the ones perpetuated by PAP.

I swallowed the red pill and found myself surfing over waves upon waves on the Internet. At times, the effort almost crushed my will – the same old topics, the same old responses on blogs that reinforced my third point. But finally, I crashed onto a golden stretch of cyberland.

Son of a Dud by Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Temasek Review and The Online Citizen offer a more critical look and intelligent discourse on what’s happening around SG. I particularly enjoy Mr Jeyaretnam’s blog. I love his not-subtle-at-all blog name, and his fact based write-ups that are sprinkled with economic theories. I confess I don’t understand some of it but it’s great to be learning new things.

Anyhow, these sites have been an eye-opener. While I didn’t experience a Matrix awakening, it has come as a shock that the SG I see, the one covered in the local media and the one portrayed on TV in such glorious programmes as Discovery’s “Living Cities” is on polar opposites with the ground level.

Turns out that the real SG is struggling. Incomes haven’t risen for low wage earners; at the same time there’s a considerable increase in cost of living. Not everyone has enough in their CPF to retire, yet there’s no social safety net for those in need. Skilled and experienced Singaporeans have lost their jobs to foreigners and haven’t been able to find employment. Singaporeans are feeling lost in their own country and are deeply unhappy with foreigners.

It’s all very fascinating and interesting. SG almost has a dual identity – the astronomically rich, educated, beautiful, sophisticated side that PAP so desperately wants to showcase, and the less fortunate, troubled side that they hope will disappear quietly and quickly. Contented vs Discontented, Ardent supporters vs Growing anti-PAP sentiment, Million dollar salaried ministers vs state bankrupt opposition leaders, Posh condos vs urine stained HDB lifts, Kids who are so rich they are buying friends in school vs Kids who are so poor they can’t even take a bus to school.

I don’t know which SG will prevail and I’m struggling now with its split personality. I don’t know yet that I’ll care more for SG but I’ll try to figure ways to help Singaporeans ‘cos might as well contribute positively while I can.