Tuesday, 14 March 2006

Guilty as charged. That friend mentioned in her blog entry? *raises hand*

At the risk of sounding rather hypocritical (after all, I left Singapore didn't I?), I think I need to put in my two cents worth regarding the Paved with Good Intentions article.

Here's the main reason why I began questioning whether it was the Singaporean Dream, or simply the dream of Colin, the author of the article:

But I had the job, and more important, the income. They brought me a measure of social acceptability. Parents' friends would nod approvingly, non-lawyer friends would remark how much lower their salaries were. I made enough to afford membership in a club I never had time to step into, and for season parking in town. I had credit cards and designer ties. I could share war stories about work that might have seemed glamourous to non-lawyer friends, weaned as they were ona diet of Ally McBeal. I was in the secure embrace of the Singaporean Dream...I then made a classic Singaporean evaluation: if I'm going to suffer, then by god, I'll suffer for more money.
The thing is, I don't think that was ever the Singaporean Dream. It was a pure and simple materialistic dream.

Unless I had lost my memory sometime in the past and was raised overseas, growing up in Singapore never provided me with the Singaporean Dream.

Maybe it was because I was raised by parents who were determined for me to chase my dream (which was not The Dream - in fact, for the longest of times, I wanted to be an archaeologist, probably the anti-thesis of THE Dream).

Maybe it was because I had alternate influences (which is hard to imagine considering Singapore ain't that big, or possesses many varied types of influences).

Maybe it was because I have always been a rebel, refusing to quite settle into the norm of things and am so unique and special that pursuing the Singaporean Dream seems to have virtually unaffected me!

Yeah, right.

Thing is, I'm not that unique and special (I hope to think I am a little, just for the benefit of my fragile ego). Most of my friends who are born and raised in Singapore do not chase the so-called Singaporean Dream.

I'm not saying that Singaporeans aren't materialistic. I have met people who would fit Colin's description to a tee, but they don't all come from Singapore. Materialistic people are the same everywhere. So if it is indeed the Singaporean Dream, why do I meet more people who do not dream the Dream than I do people who dream the Dream?
My experience in Singapore was, however, very different. There were always people telling you what and how you should do things, and imposing penalties fordeviation. There were 'right' schools, 'right' professions, 'right' strategies.

Have I been living in a black hole for the first 20 years of my life? Because in all honesty, that has hardly happened to me.

I was always free to choose my own path in life, albeit somewhat restricted due to the limited choices around (which I have to agree, may be a reflection of the Singaporean government wanting us to do what is "right"), but it has never been that big a problem.

I chose to go to Cedar Girls' Secondary not because it was the "right" school to go to, but because I liked what the marketers said when they came to my primary school to promote it.

I chose to go to Yishun Junior College because it offered the strand of history that I wanted to study (we shall not dwell too long on the fact that they decided to scrap that idea after I enrolled....), had a rather entertaining Literature lecturer and I had met some brilliant people there who are still my nearest and dearest friends.

I chose my extra-curricular activities without pressure and my final profession without someone telling me what to do. Well, God actually told me what to do, but that will simply bring my argument to a different plane.

I had freedom, amidst restriction.

And yes this is where it starts to sound hypocritical. Why did I leave then?

I chose to leave Singapore because of certain aspects of its lifestyle and culture that I did not agree with. And as much as I will not make Singapore my home if I had a choice, I will be able to live with it if I had to.

But I did not choose to live in Australia because it's utopia. As Faith said, I'm just happier with Australia's set of faults. At the moment at least.

Which begats the question - just who have Colin and his wife Jocelyn been hanging out with? Just who are their circle of friends and spheres of influence?

Is their experience a Singaporean nightmare, or just the unfortunate result of a completely different set of upbringing? Is it Singapore's fault that they have a chip on their shoulder or is it their community's fault?

Perhaps they've cast too big a net when they determine that everybody in Singapore dreams The Dream, or plans The Plan?


kabluey said...

Hi Melody,

Chanced upon your blog from Faith Toh's entry on "The Singapore Dream".

Just wanted to ask, since i am an ex-YJCian as well and took Literature. Were you thought by a rather eccentric but ever lovable Mr Spencer? :) Or if you are as old as i am, the ever charming and handsome Mr Wilks? *smile*

As for my opinions about living in Singapore, i myself am looking to move. But, i am moving for a combination of reasons and mainly personal ones... ie. moving to be with bf and moving away from dad to live a life of my own choosing for once.

I normally blog at xanga.com and you can find me at http://www.xanga.com/kabluey

faith-t said...

wow. what's up with JCs and hiring foreigners to teach Lit? I was taught by a Mr... OH MU GOSH I FORGOT HIS NAME... oh well.

All the best Kabluey on stating a new life with the Hubby!

For the record, I don't think leaving is bad (otherwise I'd have knocked Mel's block off long ago *grin*)... I just think, dissing the country (any country) is not cool.

-ben said...

When the act of "dissing" one's country is discouraged or even prohibited, patriotism slides into nationalism.

I'm no starry-eyed transplant. In the words of another blogger (faith-t, I believe), I prefer the faults of my host country. After a number of visits back to Singapore, I have long learned the perfect answer to shut up inquisitors who spit out the question, "What does USA have that Singapore doesn't?"

Land and space.

There's no arguing that.

Stating any other reason will only lead to long, drawn-out arguments that's a complete waste of my time.

Melody said...

kabluey - wow, what are the chances of that? I was taught by the crazy Mr Spencer...although I do know of Mr Wilks *winks* Good luck with your move!

Ben - if the act of dissing someone is discouraged or even prohibited, will tactlessness and rudeness slide into one of respect?

-ben said...

> Ben - if the act of dissing someone is discouraged or even prohibited, will tactlessness and rudeness slide into one of respect?

I believe not, for respect has to be earned. Demanding respect by the prohibition of tactlessness, rudeness, satire or outright criticism, does not and cannot work. One has only to look at the recent fiasco of a certain religion of peace and some cartoons.

By the way, I think Peter Costello is a very brave and wise man. Kudos to him for standing up to the PC-Nazis/weenies.

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