It's all about Amelioration

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A National Identity Issue

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It was once said that we only attract  talented immigrants with expertise so as to create economic synergy.

It was also said that we should attract  immigrants to fill the lower end jobs to support our rising middle class.

But nobody was ready for or should I say none was reported about wholesale immigration of any occupation or class. And suddenly the fingers were pointed at its own citizens for their low productivity and fertility.

“Now, we feel foreigners who come here are intruding into our space. But we forget that that’s what our parents did before – intruding into the space of those who were here before them.We should remember that immigrant children will one day be like us,”

–  Minister for Home Affairs, Wong Kan Seng

photo by JasonDGreat


There we are people, the open truth, we are all just immigrants, dispensable, replaceable and replicable. When your Minister of Home Affairs utter words like this, you listen  and you be smart about it. It just accentuates my claim that we are mere commodities to the government and they still wonder why Singapore is suffering from a brain drain.

The word xenophobic has been mentioned quite a lot recently. But what are we Singapore citizens afraid that the foreigners might take away from us? Our national identity?  Do we even have a national identity?

We measure a nation’s identity by its culture, belief structure, national heritage and ethnocentrism. The negro/black community for example is a great example of how strong a national identity can be despite having throngs of them emigrating to Europe and North America. The apartheid era in Africa, famous icons like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela,  hip hop music and dance are all elements of national identity that the black community can identify with regardless of boundaries.

In our shores, has our mere 50 years of independence created an identity for us? Our foundations were laid by first generation immigrants and along with them came a hybrid of culture and religious differences. Yes, all of us are infused by the notion of racial harmony by government driven campaigns and by saying the pledge, but is 50 years long enough to forge a common identity of Singaporeans instead of by ethnic groups (we are one of the few nations in the world to have our race stated in our identity cards mind you)?  I highly doubt so.

How about our sense of ethnocentrism or patriotism? The only events in the past 2 decades I can think of is during the Malaysia Cup in the mid nineties. Never have I seen national pride so evident as we come in our red T shirts, banners and flags to support of our beloved national soccer team. However, the pride of the Malaysia Cup was short-lived because of some pretentious  government official who wanted to strive for the World Cup 2010 by splurging more money. How typical.

Of course we have our Singlish, yummy food like nasi lemak, chili crab, durians, as national identities,  but all this to me are just superfluous and pompous  marketing tools created by our tourism board.  How about our historical landmarks like Fort Canning or Raffles Hotel? Well, every country has a history which can be over commercialized for monetary reasons, but whether its citizens can relate to it as a national identity is another issue altogether.

To me, our national identity is based on economic, pragmatic ideals with one driving factor – money. To think of it, what motivated the first generation of immigrants to our shores is also based on purely economic pursuits.  We work the longest hours in the world, striving for our country’s economic success in hopes that the equity can flow down from the top. This is the reason why we get xenophobic when foreigners start competing for our jobs and tertiary places.

However, this is where the problem lies. A national identity forged by pragmatic,  economic reason is not relevant ever since we had globalization and a significant rise of the middle class . Immigrants of yesterday had a binding goal, spearheaded by the government, to transform Singapore into a first world country.  That was their national identity. Now that we are a developed nation, the late generation X and Ys of today are born in an environment of decent modern comforts, thus that national identity began to change considerably. The new generation will have lesser difficulties of uprooting themselves for greener pastures as long as the society fits their ideals and conducive to making a living. The government is deeply concerned by rising emigration trend especially the young educated ones,  but instead of solving the core of the issue, they focused on the symptom instead, by opening our floodgates to immigration.

If the ruling party fails to engage the younger generation of Singapore and empower them to play a role in building the country, what they’ll get is more and more dis-chanted citizens who will question the need to do National Service, dismayed by the rise in cost of living , and more crucially question their loyalty to the country. We just want to be heard. We want to keep the country we love alive, but we need to be listened to. No where it is more apparent than in the blogosphere. Don’t just shove policies down our throats and lump our statistics with the new Permanent Residents to make the figures look better. A majority of us are all immune to news of stellar GDP figures and how prosperous the nation is because we cannot empathize, and if we can’t empathize, we feel disconnected.

On the flip side, it is  naive and a risk  if the government thinks that the majority of new generation of immigrants will stay for good and contribute in boosting Singapore’s fertility rate and economic growth. Only they will know whether the cost of integration like health care and education subsidies  will outweigh  the potential economic benefits. Talk about a double whammy.

A national identity is created by memories that spur patriotism. An engaged citizen who is given freedom to contribute in shaping its country’s growth and given a listening ear  will no doubt create binding ties with the country, filled with memories to cherish.

And as I quote a fellow blogger, “We can’t make a national identity, if we aren’t regarded as citizens with voices.”



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Written by Nabs

May 27, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Posted in MIND, Politics

7 Responses

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  1. Interestingly, the level of education our immigrants have is on average much lower than that of Singaporeans.

    Meanwhile, the Singaporeans who emigrate are disproportionately from the more highly educated segments of the population.

    twasher

    May 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    • Many thanks for dropping by and sharing the link. Those stats were based in 2009, but today, with all due respect, it’s clear that not all of these foreigners here are “talented.” Don’t need for stats, its apparent on the streets.

      It’s baffling isn’t it, some of the things our ministers are saying these days and the policies they are introducing. Low fertility rates is a real common problem among developed countries today. However I sure don’t see such countries offering permanent residency or citizenship as loosely as we do.

      Generic growth is a must if we are to remain relevant in this globalized world. We should have been focusing on productivity and private sector growth since last decade, but currently to make up for policy flaws we are mass immigrating to GDP growth.

      Nabs

      June 2, 2010 at 10:28 pm

  2. […] in a Strange Land – It’s all about Amelioration: A National Identity Issue – Musings From the Lion City: Singapore “National” Team? – The Temasek Review: An open letter […]

  3. enough of top down “lectures” the ruling cronies.
    It’s is as if WKS comments give a sense of helplessness, “one day, they’ll be like us”. It is obvious then that this govt has got no Fxxxing clue how to solve our population issue. So vote them in, pay them high salaries and continue to “enjoy” their sarcastic remarks!

    hahaha

    June 1, 2010 at 6:14 pm

  4. I am one of those who have taken the “blue pill” and realized the Singapore govt for what it is and this was back in the late 80s. That was when I started planning my future outside of Singapore and I emigrated in the late 90s. Now that the flood gate has opened with all sorts of people into the country, I am so glad I made my decision to leave and that my son is born in our newly adopted country.

    Ex-Singaporean

    June 3, 2010 at 12:06 am

  5. Your article hit the nail on the head.

    I’m currently researching on nationalism, national identity, and ethnicity and chanced upon your blog.

    I especially agree with your paragraph: “However, this is where the problem lies. A national identity forged by pragmatic, economic reason is not relevant ever since we had globalization and a significant rise of the middle class . Immigrants of yesterday had a binding goal, spearheaded by the government, to transform Singapore into a first world country. That was their national identity. Now that we are a developed nation, the late generation X and Ys of today are born in an environment of decent modern comforts, thus that national identity began to change considerably. The new generation will have lesser difficulties of uprooting themselves for greener pastures as long as the society fits their ideals and conducive to making a living. The government is deeply concerned by rising emigration trend especially the young educated ones, but instead of solving the core of the issue, they focused on the symptom instead, by opening our floodgates to immigration.”

    Will continue to watch your blog from now on. 🙂 Cheers and I hope you continue to write more about such issues to do with Singapore.

    ooze

    September 18, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    • Hey, thanks for reading the blog.

      The tiny little island that we call home certainly brings about much food for thought aye? Whatever it is, a national identity should not be created by a government, because one day we will all realize that such an identity will belong to them not us. And Singapore will become a soulless city, one that is merely a playground for the rich and foreigners.

      Appreciate your comment, incites me to want to write more. => Cheers!

      Nabs

      Nabs

      September 25, 2010 at 5:14 pm


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